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Jessica Abbott (NPC)

A childless mother near the edge.

0 · 308 views · located in Season 3

a character in “The Walking Dead: Online”, as played by Captain Calamity

Description

.: Jessica Abbott :.

Image


Description:

 Portrayed By Kate Beckinsale
 Civil Engineer
 39
 Female
 5'3" / 161 lbs
 British / Canadian
 Scar on her left thumb from an injury while cooking.
 Likes to dress in slim black clothing alot. Like loose fabrics and ladies vests. She wears very flowing apparel.
 Mother of Samuel Abbott.

Traits:

 3 Strengths
Intuitive: Jessica is a great judge of character and intent.
Thoughtful: Her intuition helps her gauge how people are, knowing just what to do or say.
Confident: She sees second-guessing yourself as the most limiting thing you can do.

 3 Flaws
Pack Animal: Her loneliness can be crippling; she needs support... a group.
Emotional: Jessica is sensitive and reacts strongly to certain things -- for better or worse.
Gossiper: She sometimes has a hard time not playing detective -- a double-edged sword.

Personality:

 Fears
Losing her job, losing her son, never falling in love again, dying young, bugs.

 Aspirations
Find happiness, move out of the country somewhere, learn French.

 Dominant Emotion
Empathy

 Demeanor
Jessica prides herself as a great mother and caretaker, doing good by those around. She has a deep concern for the well-being of others, especially those she cares about. She is cheerful, charismatic, bright, intuitive, and friendly. Although she hates it, she spends a lot of time in her head -- constantly thinking, worrying, hoping. It can be difficult to get her to relax and admit her feelings sometimes because she puts up a facade so that nobody worries about her. Since the divorce, she has had to appear strong for her son.

 Quirks/Oddities
Can't whistle or snap.

 Skills/Proficiencies
Excellent Math Skills, Juggling, Archery, Kayaaking, Swimming, Track & Field, Sprinting, Sailing, Cooking, Relaxing Conversationalist, Good Judge of Character, Senses Deception, Acute Sense of Smell, Wine Knowledge, etc.

Equipment:

 Usually carries her purse with lipstick, keys, make-up, kleenex, phone, nail file/clippers/polish, etc. Always keeps a picture of her kid with her.
 Has a good luck bracelet that she wears; woven by son.
 Keeps her old wedding ring on her, but doesn't wear it.
 Trained to use a bow, but could learn how to handle a firearm easily.

History:

 Born in Toronto, CA to two loving parents and a brother.
 Meets best friend in 3rd grade; goes through high school together.
 Gets her Engineering degree from the Technical Institute of Toronto.
 Moves to Los Angeles to begin job as a drafter for a firm in Burbank.
 Meets husband; marries two years later; has first kid one month after.
 Kid has complications; remains in hospital for a month and a half.
 Starts own firm with old co-worker; begins civil engineer work for LA in meantime.
 Divorces from husband after catching him in affair; moves out with son.
 Buys house in West Hollywood.
 Takes son to comic book store on his birthday; epidemic hits.

So begins...

Jessica Abbott (NPC)'s Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

When the others had left, Rafiq went to work on Nasir’s body. He knew that it was impossible to give his friend a proper burial, especially being in the sewers, but at least he could try to leave him behind with some respect. With some difficulty, he managed to move Nasir to the side of the wall. He covered the head wound with a cloth he knew Nasir kept in his pocket. When he wanted to place the hands in a dignified position, Rafiq noticed the leather bracelet his friend wore most of the time. It had been given to Nasir by an ex-girlfriend, but he somehow had not gotten rid of it. Rafiq unclasped it and put it on his right wrist. It would be the one thing to remember his friend by.

He then prayed for Nasir, saying the Salat al-Janazah out loud. He was not entirely sure he was doing everything correct, only having been to an Islamic funeral two times in his life, but it would have to do. In his mind, he not only prayed for his friend, but for his parents as well. And everyone else he may have lost.

Niobe was walking towards him. “You’re muslim,” she said. It was a statement, not a question.

He nodded. He was definitely not the most religious person, but in this moment, it somehow felt good to acknowledge his heritage. “Cool,” Niobe said without judgement. Rafiq turned around and wiped some dirt – or was it blood? – of his face. “Thank you for staying with me,” he said. Niobe shrugged in a way that indicated that it was only the natural thing to do. Then she pointed to the way the others had left. “We better go. This place should be safe from those walkers, but I’d rather not find out.” Rafiq nodded in agreement. After everything that happened, he was still alive. And he was determinant to stay that way.

---

Rafiq woke, still groggy from a deep sleep. He looked around and saw other people laying on the floor as well, asleep or trying to. For a couple of seconds, he was confused and disoriented. Then, everything that had happened rushed back and he groaned. He remembered now. Everything had gone to shit.

Only one man was sitting up. He scratched a dog behind its ear and looked at Rafiq with a faint smile. Rafiq did not recognize him. Earlier, Niobe had lead him to some sort of maintenance room. Sarah and Molly had already been there, as well as some other people. An older lady – was her name Annebelle? - had hugged him and a boy had looked at him curiously. Rafiq did not recall much of what happened after that. Exhausted from fear and grief, he had simply fallen asleep on the floor.

“Good morning. At least, I think it is morning,” the man said quietly as to not wake the others. “Here, have a couple of cookies.” Rafiq took them eagerly, not realizing until now how hungry he was. “Thank you,” he muttered.

“They tell me your name is Rafi?” The man inquired. “Rafiq,” Rafiq corrected. “Rafiq,” the man said, “I’m George. And this is Charlie.” George’s voice had gone a pitch higher as he had said that in an endearing way. The man clearly loved that dog. Rafiq smiled at Charlie, who came over and licked his hand. It felt good to find some friendly people.

He looked around and saw a woman he did not recall from last night. She was sleeping next to the boy, with her arm around him protectively. Rafiq figured it must be the mother. Niobe and Carl were not here. George noticed his searching gaze.

“They are out on watch,” he said. “I’d rather be safe than sorry.” Rafiq nodded, he could see the sense in that. “Do you know what happened?” he asked George. After everything, he still had no clue what was going on. George shook his head. “I don’t really know. One moment, everything was fine, the next, the dead are walking and killing everyone. Annabelle thinks it is the wrath of God.” He patted Charlie on the top of the head. “Personally, I think it is some type of epidemic. But it is widespread. The entire nation was hit. Maybe the entire world.”

Rafiq swallowed the last bite of his cookie. The entire world? That would mean that no rescue was possible. That they would be stuck in this situation for as long as the epidemic lasted. George seemed to have the same thought. “It seems we will have to adjust to this new world for at least a while. And the best way to survive is to stick with the right people.”

George gestured to the people around them. “Apart from Niobe, who somehow is born for surviving the bloody apocalypse, these are probably not the people best suited for the situation we are in. But they are good people. And that is what’s important.” He looked at Rafiq intently, as if he was making a decision. “You seem like good people as well. After what Niobe told me you did after what happened to your friend... well, I feel you would do the right thing when it came down to it. You can join us if you promise me one thing: to put the safety of this group above anything else.”

Rafiq nodded and shook George’s hand. “I can do that,” he said. And he meant it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

Unsure on what to do, Rafiq picked up the backpack. It was heavy with food and two sleeping bags, but he would manage. He placed the bands on his shoulders and fastened them.

The man in the wheelchair looked at him curiously.

“What are you doing?” He asked. “Are you guys stealing from the shop?”

George sighed and crouched down next to the man.

“Sir, how long have you been trapped in there?”


The man closed his eyes in a way that made it seem like thinking about the progress of time pained him. It was difficult to make out his facial expression, hidden beneath a layer of wrinkles and dark red spots.

Just as Rafiq began to wonder if he had forgot the question, the man spoke up. “I think a day. Maybe. I was here with Regina. Like we usually do. Coming to this shop I mean. She’s lovely. She is the only one that still takes me out of the house. Have you seen her? Regina?”

George smiled faintly. “No sir, we have not. You see, there has been a... uh...”

“Crisis,” Rafiq spoke up, realizing that George was not sure on how to explain the situation to the man. Quickly thinking on the spot, Rafiq managed to spun a story to the man about how a virus had affected some people to become extremely violent. It was not that far from the truth, Rafiq figured, but he did not dare to mention that the dead were actually walking. He was not sure how the man would react to that.

“I see. That’s horrible,” the man said faintly. “And you boys are taking the opportunity to plunder this place.”

“No, that’s not...”

“Don’t lie to me.” The man slowly raised himself an inch from the wheelchair and gestured towards Rafiq. “I know how you people are.” The comment made Rafiq take a step forwards, anger flaring up at him for a second. Then it went away again. He was not entirely sure if the man was being racist or referencing something else.

The man must have noticed his movements, because he carefully glided a meter backwards with his wheelchair. “Look, I do not condone what you are doing. But you saved me from them,” he quickly glanced towards the bodies in the corner, “So I will give you time to go. I will wait here for the police and explain things to them. They surely will be here soon.”

“I don’t think that-“ Rafiq was about to say that the police would not come, but George cut him off.

“I think that’s for the best. We go.” And with that, George walked back towards his own backpack and shot Rafiq a look that said ‘do not argue, follow me’.

As they left the shop, George barred the door. Through the glass, Rafiq could see the man sitting in his wheelchair, watching them.

“We are just leaving him in there?” Rafiq asked.

“You heard the man. He wants us to leave.”

“Yes, but he clearly does not-“

“No. But what else do you want me to do? We can’t take him with us.”

Rafiq swallowed hard, not sure how to react to that. He knew George was right. It would be impossible to take the man into the sewers. Yet, this did not feel right to him. Not at all. It made him feel sick to his stomach. Was it going to be like this? Survival of the fittest? Leave the weak behind? He was not sure he was ready for that.

“But, at least I could go back and tell him the real situation,” he said in a last attempt to do something. “I should not have lied to him. He needs to know.”

“But you DID lie to him.” George scratched the stubble on his chin and looked at Rafiq with a hardened expression. “And I think he’s better of not knowing. Look, I locked him inside the shop. Maybe he gets lucky and the bombs kill him quickly.”

With that, he walked away.

Rafiq followed him in silence.

---

They got back to the maintenance room without incident. They had not spoken for the entire trip, but there was a silence acknowledgement they would not tell the others what had happened.

Annabelle was the first to greet them. “Where are the others,” she asked with a hint of panic after seeing their faces.

“Don’t worry. We just split up to cover more ground.” George hugged her briefly.

Molly was playing cards with the boy Samuel. Jessica was standing near the other door, which was halfway open to let her see into the tunnel.

Rafiq put the backpack down next to the table and sat down. He was disgusted and ashamed with himself.

“You’re okay?” Molly asked.

“Yes, just tired. How are you?”

“I’m alright.”

They looked at each other awkwardly. He and Molly had been through hell together, but they were still complete strangers.

“Have you brought a lot of food?” Sam asked excitingly, seemingly not very worried about the current state of the world. A thought struck Rafiq how both the old man and this young boy were, in a way, still complete innocents. It made him shiver.

He pushed the backpack towards Sam. “Have a look. I also brought you a couple of comics.”

“Really? Awesome!” The boy turned over the backpack and pulled everything out. He quickly found the comics and rushed over to his mother.

“Look mom! And I’ve not even read these yet.” He picked one out and showed it to her. “Well, except for this one. You bought that one just two weeks ago.”

Jessica squeezed him in the shoulder with affection “I remember. Go on, you can read them over there,” she said. She mouthed a ‘thank you’ to Rafiq. He nodded.

At least someone was happy today.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

“Another can of beans.” Rafiq placed it next to the others.

“Well, at least we won’t be lacking for beans for a while,” Molly said while scribbling it down in the notebook. Feeling useless because of her ankle, she had asked Rafiq to help out making an inventory of everything that they had. Figuring out rations was probably a good idea.

“I don’t like beans,” Sam said from behind his comic. His mother looked at him reproachfully. He did not notice, as he was already back in the wonderful world of the Marvel universe. It suddenly hit Rafiq that the kid was probably reading the last story Marvel would ever publish.

The door flung open and Niobe and Carl sashayed in. Annabelle peeked in behind them, smiled and then returned to her watch duty.

“Where is George?” Niobe asked, dropping a stuffed backpack near the others.

“Hello to you too,” Jessica responded with a tinge of sarcasm.

“Yeah, yeah, where is George?”

“On watch,” Rafiq said and nodded towards the other door. “Did something happen?”

She simply looked at him for a second and then went to find George without saying another word. Carl shrugged at them apologetically.

“What’s her problem?” Molly asked indignant.

“Nothing,” Carl said. He reached over to a bag of potato chips, but thought better of it when he saw the way Molly was looking at him. “Sorry,” he muttered. “Anyway, we ran into some people. Niobe wants to talk with George first before we decide... uh... on things.”

Rafiq looked at Molly, who seemed equally confused. “Things?” He asked, “what things?”

Carl thought for a second but then figured there was no point in lying.

“We got to Capitol Records, where we ran into a bunch of-“


BOOM!

The sudden noise made him shut up as a shock all went through them. For a moment, they all just sat there. Stunned.

BOOM!

“The bombs!” Rafiq shouted, “Get down!” He hoped he could hear them, but if they did not, they all seemed to have the same idea, as they all crouched down on the floor. Jessica ran to her son and covered his ears.

BOOM!

BOOM!


Annebelle scrambled back into the room, having realized that the room was safer then the tunnel outside. Jessica had told them earlier that this room was as earthquake proof as an underground place could get. They had hoped this would be the same for bombs as well.

BOOM!

BOOM!


It felt different from an earthquake though. There was a lot more noise for one thing. And it was apparent that the danger came from above. Rafiq had instinctively wrapped his arm around Molly, who in turn was holding his other hand.

The bombs went on for a while longer, but then eventually died away. Rafiq could feel his heart racing and sweat was trickling down his forehead.

Once they were sure it was over, Rafiq helped Molly up. She was a bit pale, but otherwise not in any visible signs of panic. The others seemed to cope as well, considering the situation. It was unnerving to think what would have happened if they had not been here. This was not the moment to just sit down though.

“We have to make sure the others are okay,” Rafiq said. He picked up one of the flashlights they had collected earlier.

“What about Sarah?” Molly asked. Rafiq swallowed hard. He did not want to think it, but if the girl had not gotten underground, she was probably dead. It made him feel sad.

“One thing at a time,” he heard himself say, although it came out a lot colder then he meant too. He turned around and left the room. Carl and Jessica followed.

The tunnel was dark. The bombs must have cut of the power, Rafiq thought to himself. Thankfully, George would not have gone far.

Just as that thought came into his head, they could make out George and Niobe leaning against the wall. They appeared alright.

“Oh my God, you are okay.” Jessica said loudly and ran towards them. George held up a hand and indicated for them to be quiet.

“Yes, we are alright,” he said in a low voice, “and you guys?”

“We are all fine,” Rafiq whispered. “What’s happening?”

Niobe took a step away from the wall and looked at something a bit away from them. It was a train, derailed. “Just before the bombs fell, this group ran inside that train. They have not seen me or George. We were lucky. That railcar not so much.”

They carefully shuffled closer to the train. Those people might be in need of a help. At the same time, they might be trouble. Or worse, they might have died and turned into walkers. George lifted his gun and Rafiq and the others did the same.

Suddenly a light fell upon them. It danced away and around them. Someone inside that train was trying to get their attention.

“They are trapped,” Rafiq said.

“That they do,” George said in a flat tone.

Rafiq was the first to reach the train. Through the glass, he could make out a number of people. There were ten of them, including a little girl. They would outnumber his little group, but then again, they did not seem particular dangerous. It was quite a mix match of people.

The woman with the flashlight was shouting something, but he could barely make it out through the thick glass. It was clear what she wanted though. Getting out.

He looked at George, remembering what happened earlier that day with the man in the wheelchair. If he did not want to help these people...

Thankfully, George was not that cruel. “Alright,” he sighed, “let’s try to get them out. Still, be careful everyone.”

Rafiq gave the woman in the train a reassuring smile, which seemed to ease her tension a bit. She said something to her fellow people and backed away. Together with Carl and George, Rafiq tried to pull the door open. With the way the train had fallen, this proved to be quite difficult, as the door was heavy and gravity against them. Yet, they managed and after a couple of grunts and cursing, the door swung open.

The woman with the flashlight was the first to get out and was about to say something, until she saw the gun in George’s hand, who was pointing it straight at her. “What the...” she began.

“Look,” George said, “we don’t want to do you guys any harm. But I’m sure you understand that we have to make sure you are not the wrong kind of people.” He placed a deliberate emphasis on the word 'we'.

A man propped his head behind the woman. He was angry, “Come on! We already had a shit day!”

George narrowed his eyes, but focused his attention on the woman. “You seem like a reasonable lady,” he said, “I only ask of you people to get out of the train one by one and see if you are carrying any weapons.”

The woman nodded. “That is only sensible,” she said.

They did as George asked and got out of the train one by one. They all lifted their hands in the air upon coming out, indicating that they were not holding any weapons.

“Alright,” George said, “that was not that bad, was it?” As he said that, he lowered his gun as a sign of goodwill. They all just stood there, not sure what to do next.

At that moment, they could hear another bomb falling in the distance. It was not close enough to do any damage, but nearly all of them looked up at the ceiling regardless.

Another bomb fell, clearly audible this time.

Later, he would be amazed at the fact how he was the one who had made the decision. But at that moment, all Rafiq could think of was to get everyone to safety.

“George!” He shouted, “we have to get back to the maintenance room! We’ll figure this out later!”

Niobe and George briefly exchanged looks.

Another bomb.

Niobe nodded.

“You heard the boy! Let’s go!”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes Character Portrait: Marie Thornes (NPC) Character Portrait: Phillip Wilson (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

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Dyomie Thornes
Marie Thornes


Dyomie sat down, giving her injured leg a break, Marie looked down at her worriedly, but Dyomie just ignored her gaze. That would be something to address later. Then they heard the bombs starting in the distance. Marie sat down and curled into her older sister, Dyomie watched Phillip with great intensity to make sure he wasn't honestly stupid enough to go running outside at this moment. She was about to stand up and say they should get deeper into the metro tunnels when heavy footsteps could be heard in the distance. Dyomie looked and sure enough Natasha was scrambling towards them.

"Son of bitch," Dyomie said, shaking her head. In all honesty she hadn't thought that this woman would actually make it back to them. Phillip in a completely emotional scene ran towards his girlfriend and hugged her. This is exactly why she was never in a relationship, way too cheesy.

"Come on, we have to hurry," Natasha said. She nodded to Dyomie in approval of keeping Phillip safe, the thief cringed at that, Great now a cop is approving my actions. This is just fantastic, she thought. They all grabbed their bags and started to move hastily down into the tunnels. Dyomie held a flashlight as they got deep enough no light could be seen. The walls and ceiling rumbled around them as the bombs hit the ground, sending small pebbled raining on their heads with a boom that made Dyomie and Marie want to ever their ears.

It was Dyomie who had heard the voices first. She pushed Marie against the wall, hoping the others would do the same. "There are people up ahead," Dyomie mouthed, she handed Marie one of her walkie-talkies as well as pulled out her pistol. She dropped her bag on the ground, "I'm going to go talk to them, if things go wrong find another tunnel to go," she whispered. At this point Dyomie felt it was a bit redundant to say 'and protect Marie with your life', plus it would also put Marie in a worse mindset. Without any answers, Dyomie nodded and walked up to the corner. She looked around the corner and saw a train cart that was trapped, a few others were moving around it trying to help whoever was inside.

"George! We have to get back to the maintenance room! We'll figure this out later!" a boy shouted to the others.

A woman nodded, "You heard the boy! Let's go!" As the people moved it looked as though they were coming towards them. Dyomie crept around the corner, staying close to the wall, her pistol cocked and ready to fire if needed. She then stepped out in front of them, a safe enough distance between both groups.

"Stop there or I'll shoot!" Dyomie yelled at them, her pistol raised, "What do you want?" Her hand was steady and her eyes narrowed. There was no way they were going to get passed her until she knew for sure they were safe.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Hawke Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes Character Portrait: Marie Thornes (NPC) Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Phillip Wilson (NPC) Character Portrait: Sarah Hawke (NPC) Character Portrait: Nathan McDonald (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Steve Hilpin (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Molly LeFleur (NPC) Character Portrait: Everett T. Bronson (NPC) Character Portrait: Oliver O'Brien (NPC) Character Portrait: Dax Faraday (NPC)

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.: Calvin Hawke :.
# Sarah Hawke #


BOOM! BOOM! B-BOOM!

Thunderous quakes shook the ground as dozens of convicts shepherded a hooded man down the halls towards the kitchens. Their riotous noise-making was almost enough to overpower the sound of the distant bombs dropping, but not quite. The captive was corralled across the kitchen tile and thrown into the walk-in freezer. Sarah struggled on the tips of her toes to see what was happening, but the halls were packed with too many bodies. Through the heads of the men ahead of her, she managed to see Oliver force himself into the freezer with a bearded man and the prisoner.

BOOM!

Another explosion in the distance, followed by the aftershock of a neighboring building crumbling to the ground. Sarah looked at the mob of strangers scrambling for cover all around her, feeling absolutely lost and alone. A passing shoulder knocked her to the ground, and Dax -- having witnessed Sarah's fall -- limped over to help her off her hands and knees.

Her eyes lit up when she saw who it was, his bright red hair like a lighthouse amongst the chaos. "T-Thank you," Sarah managed to blurt out. Dax pulled her to her feet, nodding curtly.

"This way," he ordered, starting down one of the side halls. She took his arm, helping to steady the man as they moved away from the frenzied crowd. Sarah looked over her shoulder one last time, hopelessly checking for Oliver in the mass of convicts. She hoped that whatever was happening behind that freezer door had nothing to do with him -- however serious it looked.

If only she knew...


* * *


Inside the freezer, Bronson slammed Calvin against the metal rack, cuffing his right hand to one of its legs. Oliver closed the door behind him as he entered, turning around just as Bronson ripped the bag from Calvin's head. He squinted against the crystal blue fluorescent light -- a bandana crudely tied around his head and mouth in a makeshift gag. His reddened eyes glared back and forth between his two captors as he sat on the freezing plate floor, shackled to the rack behind him.

Oliver shook his head, running one hand over his face to calm his nerves. He waited a beat for Bronson to speak, but knew that the man probably felt he had nothing to explain. Since things had gone down, Bronson had assumed total authority over the surviving convicts, including Oliver -- so much so that the men had coined the monicker "The Warden" for their bearded leader. The assumption was that his orders went without question, his means and deviances without mention -- and in return he would provide security, safety, and sustenance for those who followed him. And the cycle continued, and continued... leaving Oliver as the only real voice of reason. Had things gone down differently, Bronson would have likely killed him during their escape from the prison bus, but he recognized that Oliver was the only reason they survived in the first place. He wondered how long that immunity would hold out for -- given the way things had been going lately.

"What the hell is this, Everett?" Oliver asked, jabbing a finger at Calvin.

Bronson sighed, dramatically. "Now why would you go and use my name -- my God-given birth name -- in front of our prisoner?" Oliver rolled his eyes, as if that was the point here."Are you fucking stupid?"

"Explain this before I get pissed," Oliver replied, already tired of these games. Calvin wrestled with his wrist against the pole, testing the strength of his bindings. Bronson served up a sharp kick in the knee to shut him up, and Calvin yanked his leg back in pain.

"Maybe if you had been around today when I needed you, we wouldn't be in this situation," Bronson chided, circling the floor. "This man murdered my brother," he explained, turning to look at Calvin. The two glared at each other for more than a moment, reveling in their dislike for one another. "He was smart enough not to resist me when I found him, and so I've brought him here to serve his sentence."

Oliver shook his head at the ego of it all. "Serve his sentence? Listen to you! Did you really just break out of prison to start another one?" he scolded. "You ever think of asking him why he killed your brother?"

"Finally, someone with some sense," Calvin chimed in from the floor. Bronson delivered another sharp kick, this time to his shin. His handcuffs rang taut against the rack as he winced in pain, grasping for his leg. Oliver leapt forward, placing his arm across Bronson's chest as he wound up for another kick -- this one aimed at Calvin's stomach.

"You really gonna put hands on me, boy?" Bronson asked, calmly. Oliver eased up, eyeing the man with suspicion. He knew from their time together in the joint just how unpredictable the man could be. It was a very calculated impulsiveness -- one that treaded the fine line between genius and suicidal. But there was something in Oliver's eyes that Bronson didn't like. He wound back, quickly striking out with his elbow against Oliver's jaw. The man reeled backwards into one of the other metal racks, gripping it with all his strength to keep himself steady. Cansan d bags of food clamored on the ground as they were knocked free of their shelves. Bronson was already on him again, this time driving his knee into Oliver's stomach. His limp frame dropped to the ground, effortlessly. This was the real Everett T. Bronson... the "Warden" that everyone whispered about. He reached down and drew a knife out from Oliver's waistband.

BOOM!

The Warden turned to Calvin, examining the knife in his hand like a surgeon with his tools. He inched a few steps closer to his prisoner, pondering his fate...

BOOM!

Another bomb dropped as he placed a foot on Calvin's chest, pinning him against the rack. His other hand grasped Calvin's handcuffed wrist and braced it to the pole, holding the knife close. But, no... it didn't add up. His brother was an idiot -- too much so to be considered his right hand man. Besides, such a small knife would take too long for a proper severing, and Bronson hated doing a messy job. He backed off a bit, watching Calvin wreathe and squirm against his restraints in protest.

BOOM!

Dust sifted down from fresh cracks in the ceiling, falling past Bronson's judging eyes. What was his brother to him? What punishment fit the crime? He supposed that in a way, he was his eyes and ears. Always the talker, never the thinker -- his dear baby brother. That seemed fair enough -- an eye for an eye.

Having finally decided, he looked Calvin straight in his... for the last time.


* * *


+ Niobe Kajja +


The bold young woman kept her weapon held high as she popped out from behind the corner of the overturned train car. The girl kept a steady aim on Niobe as others from the group crept out from behind the car. Niobe watched as the girl's eyes widened and she adjusted the grip on her gun.

"Easy there now, kid," Niobe muttered, keeping as still as could be. Another girl came up from behind the armed one and put her hand on the gun, lowering it.

"There's a little girl with them," she said, nodding in Lily's direction. Dyomie noticed what she was talking about and dropped her guard a bit. Natasha joined them, sauntering out from her hiding spot with her weapon drawn -- Phillip close behind. They looked just like the rest of them... as if they had just been through Hell and back.

BOOM!

They all braced themselves as the entire platform shook again, the metal rails ringing like church bells as parts of the ceiling crumbled from above loosening the tracks. Niobe sized up the four newcomers.

"Look," she called out, "this is the most people I've seen in one place since this all started... so I know I'm not crazy when I say we need to stick together if we're going to have any kind of future here. None of us know each other, I know... but that's the situation we're in." Harper looked at Nathan -- and Steve, who stood behind Lily with his hands on her shoulders. "There's no more how do-you-do's, no more shaking hands and talking about the weather. There is only one thing... survival."

BOOM!

The hanging silence was stifled by yet another explosion. "She's right," Rafiq added, pushing to the front of the crowd. "We can't keep pointing guns at each other when the real enemy is out there." He pointed up towards the streets above. "We have to go deeper into the tunnels until the bombings stop."

Dyomie squinted her eyes, still unsure of what to do. "We don't know you people," she protested in defense of her situation.

Niobe lowered her weapon, slowly -- too tired to put up with anymore of this. "And you're not going to at the other end of a gun," she preached.

Jessica lovingly squeezed her son's shoulders as she edged towards the front of the group. "There's a junction about a quarter mile down the tracks that could hold all of us. It might be tight, but the foundation should hold until all of this settles down," she advised, looking around the group.

Jack crossed his arms. "One of our friends is still out there," he protested, pointing behind him. "Calvin could have made it somewhere safe before the bombs got this close..."

Harper's gaze lowered to the ground. "So the best possible scenario is that Calvin's holed up somewhere with a bunch of psychotic escaped convicts?" Molly stood next to her, chewing her lip in thought. Something they had mentioned caught her ear, and it all suddenly added up in a flash.

"Calvin... Hawke?" She asked, hanging on their every breath. Harper looked around at some of the others, not quite understanding. He was enough of an established film personality that anyone with a TV would know the name, but Molly's face didn't show the excitement of a fan... it showed nothing but worry and panic.

"Uhh, yeah... Calvin Hawke," Harper replied to the girl.

Molly looked Rafiq dead in the eyes. "That's Sarah's brother..." she said, loud enough for everyone to hear. Rafiq furrowed his brow, sad that she wasn't here to rejoice in the news that her brother is alive... or at least, was a minute ago. Only time would tell how many deaths they'd be mourning in the inevitable aftermath of the bombings.

"Who?" Harper asked eagerly, her interest peaking.

Rafiq shook his head. "One of our own is missing too," Rafiq replied, somberly. "Sarah." Harper traded a look with Nathan through the crowd.

"Two of our own," George corrected, bristling at the thought of his poor dog.

Rafiq nodded. "His dog went with her..."

Niobe holstered her gun and took in the group. "There's nothing we can do for them now," she insisted. As much as they all hated the thought, she was right. It was only them now -- they had to keep moving. "Jessica, lead on..." Niobe commanded. The group slowly started trudging along, helping each other around the wreckage of the train cars and debris. Dyomie glanced back at Marie and the rest of her group, slowly stowing her pistol and following suit. Jessica pulled to the front, guiding the group deeper into the blackened metro tunnel. The pitter-patter of over a dozen different footsteps trailed behind her as more bombs thudded against the surface above. Niobe gritted her teeth as she ran, hoping she knew what she was doing. Whatever this new world was, it was clear that the rules were made up as you went along.

If this really was the end... she had a feeling it was only just getting started.


.: END OF SEASON :.

The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

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Previously on TWD:O




... 1 Week Later ...


+ Niobe Kajja +


Niobe stooped over a wooden table down in one of the metro offices, barely lit by the makeshift hanging chandelier -- a clever device comprised of a flashlight and a paper plate with a hole in the center. Lillian had doodled all over the plate, covering it in little atomic bombs and explosions. It might have been too soon -- but cute nonetheless. On the table in front of them lied a series of pistols, a shotgun, and a scoped hunting rifle

"38, 39. 40... 40 bullets," she muttered, finishing her count. She looked up from the table at George who had been silently counting himself. He met her gaze across the table and sighed, running his hand over his face.

George began to pace the room, adjusting the waist of his pants as he stood up to walk. "Even with five bullets in eight guns, we wouldn't have enough to arm half the group."

Niobe chewed her lip in thought. "A few people have their own personal guns," she reasoned, trying to better the situation.

"Only a couple," George replied with a scoff.

Niobe narrowed her eyes. "Do you mind telling me what the fuck your problem is?" she asked, coldly. George turned around with a puzzled look on his face.

"Whatever are you talking about?" he asked, rhetorically.

"Cut the shit," she snapped back at him. "Ever since the other survivors got here, you've turned into a sarcastic, degrading narcissist." George shifted on his feet uncomfortably speechless. "All you ever do these days is mope around... What -- is this about your stupid dog? Get over yourself, George! You think the others don't notice that you go on runs exclusively with Rafiq. What the hell do you guys even do out there? You never seem to come back with anything..."

Niobe's heart was racing -- her cheeks flushed. There were a million other things she wanted to yell at him about. How she has no idea where her parents are... how she had to evacuate her home without grabbing any of her most sentimental items... how her parents and everyone she ever knew was either dead or near enough to it... George stared at her with disappointment and pity... seeing nothing before him but a woman coming unhinged. Who was she to judge him? What better time than now to give into your vices and let yourself go. What else was there to do but enjoy what time he had left?

He looked at her, incredulously. "Where's all this coming from?"

"Probably from the reeking stench of alcohol all over you," Niobe suggested, grabbing her pistol from the table and tucking it into her waistband as she started to walk out of the room.

"This is about what happened at the Capitol isn't it?" George asked, accusingly. "We're all going to be dead eventually anyways, so why does it even matter? What's the point?"

"The rest of them-- the group... they can't know," Niobe insisted. "It'll crush any hope they have left.

"Like it did to us?" Niobe continued to the door and reached for the doorknob as George rolled his eyes. "What does it even matter?!" he called out over her shoulder.

Niobe bit her tongue, leaving the room as she seethed in anger.


* * *


Desperate to distance herself from George, Niobe stormed through the hallway, brushing past Jessica in a huff. Jessica turned to her, her arms full of laundry -- and took the poor girl in. She'd been pulling the night owl shifts ever since Wayne got sick and took over his share of the daily supply runs with whoever was available. The stressful week showed in her face, her eyes, her voice...

Niobe slowly turned to her, and upon seeing Jessica's face - softened her demeanor. All this pent up frustration and energy was locking her up and killing her muscles. "I-I'm sorry, Jessica... it's, uhh-- it's been a day, Niobe admitted, rubbing the bags under her eyes. She hadn't looked in a mirror for over 24 hours and could only imagine what kind of hell she looked like.

Jessica nodded, smiling faintly. "We're all right there with you, hon'," she assured her.

Niobe sighed. "It's just hard to tell what really matters anymore..."

A brief silence hung in the air as they considered those words. Maybe George was right after all. Life was indescribably different now. One's role in the group wasn't decided by status or age... but by skill and aptitude. It was amazing the ways people decided to apply themselves when faced with finding things to fill their time. At the moment, Jessica had laundry on the agenda. A significant contribution, nonetheless.

"Where is everyone today? It's like a ghost town around here," Niobe asked.

The two started walking down the hallway together as they talked. "I haven't seen anyone around the rec room other than the kids and the old folks... Wayne and Molly are still on the mend in there too. I think Jack's on watch with Carl. Some of the others might be out on runs."

"Guess it's my day off then," Niobe joked, trying to force a smile. Jessica watched her carefully, sensing something was wrong but not knowing how to broach topic.

They came to a junction in the corridor and slowed to a stop. Niobe turned to Jessica and gave her a tight hug. It was kind of her not to make a big deal out of how Niobe acted earlier. There weren't many other women around her age, so it was nice to have someone she could call a friend.

"Thanks-- for this," she whispered.

"Anytime you need to talk," Jessica offered breaking their embrace. She waved over her shoulder as she lugged the laundry down the hallway towards the bunks and rec room. Niobe watched her go until she disappeared around the corner and immediately fell back against the wall, sliding to the ground as she burst into tears.

Luckily no one would be around to see it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Annabelle Mae McCallister

---

Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.

Come, my people, enter you chambers,
And shut your doors behind you;
Hide yourselves for a little while
until the fury has passed by.

Isaiah 26, 19-20




“What are you reading?” The little girl’s high voice rang through the room.

Annabelle closed her Bible and looked up. Lily was standing a small distance away, holding one of Sam’s comic books.

“The Bible, sweetie.” She beckoned the girl to come closer. “You do know the Bible right? God’s word?”

The girl nodded solemnly. “Yes. Mom reads from it sometimes. Not to us though. She has this children’s Bible for me and my brother. She says that is easier.”

“I’m sure she is right.” Annabelle looked at the girl with all the warmth she could muster. Lily had not mentioned a brother before, as far as she was aware. In fact, Lily had not talked much of her family at all. Considering the situation, this was not entirely strange, but it made feel Annabelle uneasy all the same. Instead of a family member, the girl had clung onto James. The man was nice enough, but not really a good influence on a kid. In that regard, Annabelle was happy that Jessica tried to take care of the girl on top of her own son.

“Your brother? What’s his name?”

“Harry. He and I were...” the girl suddenly stopped talking and looked away in pain. A terrible memory was plaguing her, Annabelle had no doubt. She quickly changed the subject.

“Well, if you want, I can read the Bible to you.”

The girl nodded in the way children when they did not really want something, but were too polite to say so. Annabelle laughed. “Alright, maybe not.” The girl turned red. “You know what, we could ask Jack to look for a children’s Bible on one of his runs. Would you like that?” The girl nodded again, this time more sincere.

Annebelle knew that Jack would be able to find such a thing. A couple of days ago, he had asked everyone if they wanted to have something other than food or basic survival gear. Initially, Annabelle had objected of course, but the man had insisted. So, she had told him about how she loved to knit. The sweetheart had brought her all the stuff she needed the next day. The first sweater was nearly finished and it would be his. Jack was a good man. Troubled, but a good man at heart.

“Why is God doing this to us?”


The sudden blatancy of the question startled Annabelle. Lily was looking at her most sincerely though.

“I... I don’t know, sweetie.” And that was the truth. Ever since this all startled, Annabelle had wondered the same thing. She knew God had a reason for everything, but what it was, she had no idea. Annabelle did not, could not, believe that this was God’s wrath or punishment. God was good. God was love. He would not do this to harm his children. Would he?

“But know that God is looking out for you. For me. For all of us here.” She rubbed the girl on the cheek. “Go on Lily, go read your comic.”

“Okay.” The girl walked away.

Annabelle looked down at her Bible. She had read certain passages over and over by now. Somehow, she kept coming back to Isaiah, and the verse troubled her. The text spoke about singing of joy while the dead return to life. But Annabelle had not much to sing of joy about. While unconsciously touching her wedding ring, she thought about her husband and children. Her sisters. She prayed they were alive and well.

Suddenly someone dropped in the chair next to her, returning Annabelle’s thoughts to the present. It was Jessica.

“Pfft, I think I’ve seen enough laundry to last me a month,” the single mother said exhausted.

“I should have helped you.”

“Ow come on Annabelle, I already told you, you do enough for us as it is.”
Jessica took a small sip of her water. The woman never ate or drank more then she had to, preferring to give most of her rations to her son.

“I suppose you’re right,” Annabelle said, although she did not agree with that. She felt responsible for all these people. She knew it no longer mattered much, but up until two weeks ago, she was a congresswoman, elected by the people of California to represent them. These were the people she was supposed to represent. The least she could do was try to help them out. Speaking of helping out...

“Has Harper spoken to you?” She asked Jessica.

“Harper? Not about anything in particular. Or wait, she did mention this Calvin Hawke again yesterday”

Annabelle sighed. “Yes, well, she does that every day.” Truth was, Annabelle wished they could help that man out. What happened to him sounded horrible. But at the same time, it also sounded dangerous and ill-advised. A lot of people could get hurt. And she did not want that.

“No, she wants to organize our group better. I think she wants to be our leader.”

Jessica laughed. “She’s welcome to it. Who else is there? George? He’s spending most of his time drunk, angry or both.”

That was true. George had the qualities to be a good leader, but he seemed to get more paranoid with every passing day. Annabelle was not sure what to do about that though. He had saved her on that first day, when that first walker had come towards her. She still owed him for that. At least the benefit of the doubt if nothing else.

"Maybe I should have her and George sit down together..." A plan began to form in her mind. She trailed her finger over the cross on the front cover of her Bible. God surely would not want her to just sit around and do nothing.

"Wait, maybe we should all sit down together. It is time we finally came together as a group and form a long-term plan."

Jessica nodded in agreement and was just about to say something, when a head appeared around the corner.

“MOM!” It was Sam. “Lily has the comic I want to read!”

Jessica rolled her eyes at Annabelle. “I better deal with this.”

Annabelle chuckled. It was good to know that even through all this, children would still be children.

She returned to her Bible, her head filling with ideas of forming a council.




For behold, the LORD is coming out from his place
to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,
and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it,
and will no more cover its slain.

Isaiah 26, 21

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Harper Hopkins Character Portrait: Stephanie "Stevie" Darden Character Portrait: James Marshall (NPC) Character Portrait: Jack Cavanagh (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Niobe Kajja Character Portrait: Carl Dupree (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC)

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Stevie wheeled around once she heard Schantz' uncharacteristic scream of panic, and lunged into the car through the driver's seat. She shelved her handgun near the pedals and shoved her arms underneath Schantz' armpits in an attempt to drag her across the console and remove her from the reach of the walkers.

"Quick, help us!" Stevie called back to the two who showed up. "Take the gun!"

The pretty black woman and the curly-headed man with the glasses sprang into action; she rotated about the car to distract a few of the walkers from the window, while he snagged the Ruger and followed suit. Stevie pulled Schantz into the driver's seat, Schantz kicking her legs frenziedly, narrowly escaping a series of bites and scratches. Schantz yanked a utility knife from her jacket and held it up tepidly, still weak. Stevie grabbed the knife from her hands from behind and then pulled the driver door shut, cramming a protesting Schantz uncomfortably into the seat as she scrambled feet-first over the console. As she slid into the passenger's side, she slammed her feet against the door, knocking the three gathered walkers back a few feet.

Stevie noticed that the other two had easily taken care of the walkers they'd drawn away, and had looped around to the back of the vehicle to grab the unconscious sandy-haired man off of the ground. She let one of the walkers that had reeled back come closer to the open passenger door as she flicked open a blade on the knife, and sank it into its forehead with a fast jab to stab through its skull.

One of the other walkers had resorted to crawling on its hands and knees back toward the door, and raised one hand to grip the door itself, and before Stevie knew it, had taken a hold of her right foot with its other hand. She let out a desperate shout, cuing herself to stab the knife ahead, but as she let the blade run downward, it sank its teeth into the yellow leather. She let out a loud scream as she drove the knife into the biter's skull. "Help!" she shouted as she kicked her foot. The walker's teeth stubbornly held fast onto the boot.

The black woman whirled around within view of the door and drove the Mazda's antenna, which she'd wrenched off of the hood just moments before, into the eye of the other walker hovering nearby and pulled Stevie from the seat. The other stranger set the unconscious man into the spot Stevie had just occupied and slammed the door behind them. Schantz cast a concerned glance out the window, but knew better than to try to get out again after getting her leg battered by the door.

The pressure that the walker's teeth had dispersed onto the boot was miserably painful. Stevie held back a scream and dug the knife into the walker's skull again in an attempt to loosen its trapping jaw. No luck.

The other woman pointed to the sidewalk and began to drag the deadweighted walker toward it. "This way, now!" she cracked sharply. Stevie hobbled her good foot over and obeyed the woman's command to stretch her leg out. "You've been bit?!" she asked hastily.

Stevie set her foot with the attached walker down on the sidewalk's edge as the man in the glasses directed Schantz to try to drive the remaining blocks to the metro station for help. "Hey, hey, you can't take that!" Stevie shouted.

"It's not far, and we'll get together from there!" he responded.

The woman smashed her foot down on the walker's jaw, just so that it would loosen Stevie's foot, but not without excising another pinch. It almost felt like her foot was very quickly run over by a large truck. Stevie shut her eyes and fought back another shout of pain.

She kicked off the walker as the woman looked down at the boot to inspect the bite. Curiously, there was no blood; just a set of incisor indentations and two embedded teeth. But no blood. The leather boots had been the right choice, after all, when she'd picked them out to wear nine mornings ago. The woman looked up briefly at Stevie and nodded. "Can you walk?"

Stevie nodded as she only slightly winced in pain. "Yep," she said, then saw the Nissan cruising up out of the corner of her eye. Lisa was plastered against a window with a white face, looking back at the wrecked truck, while Althea very calmly drove ahead. "Hey!" she called to the man, "wave them in, they're with us!" He nodded and pointed ahead for them to follow the Mazda, then looked to the couple of walkers that came upon them after the several they'd just dispatched.

Just then, several gunshots rang out, mowing down four of the dozen or so walkers who'd just come into view.

# # #

Harper followed Laura, one of the women from the Hollywood sign who'd opted to accompany them a week earlier, to the largest common area of the station, carrying her vest and helmet with her. "What's going on?" she asked as she walked in.

James gestured toward the wall, where the few guns that the group possessed were propped up along with items such as a few golf clubs, Nathan's metal bat, and a few garden tools. "Take your pick, kid, I know you can shoot," he scratchily instructed. "Jack says he's heard gunshots and our three ain't back yet. Got a hunch that this has got something to do with it."

Harper knew she wasn't strong enough at the moment to handle a bat, choosing instead to grab the scoped hunting rifle. "You sure about that?" she asked somewhat skeptically.

Jessica popped her head in, panting heavily. "There's a car coming," she managed between breaths, "Tara. George. Not going good. People out there. Better go!" she insisted.

Harper followed James and Laura down the long tunnelway to the exit of the station according to Jessica's instructions. They met Jack at the top of the stairs, who motioned for them to follow closely behind.

"The hell's going on out here?" James growled raspily.

"A crashed truck down the way there," Jack responded as the Mazda drove up, "and we've got two coming in."

The Mazda slowly wheeled its way closer, followed by the Nissan. Not far behind was Jessica, who stepped out to assist Schantz in getting out of the car. The Nissan also parked; a tall black woman exited and immediately ran to the Mazda to help extract George from the seat and drag him to safety. A smaller woman with shorter blonde-brown hair exited to help, both following Jessica's lead.

"They're fine," James barked sharply as the group ogled the scene, then turned their attention the other scene in the street. "Carl and Niobe, see 'em? Let's go!"

They made a run for it down the street. At one point Harper climbed into the bed of an abandoned truck and decided to peel off the walkers closing in on what turned out to be a small trio.

"Just like shooting deer," she murmured, hoping to assure herself as she concentrated on landing shots with the assistance of the scope. She let off about four shots before climbing down from the truck bed to join them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Natasha Dean Character Portrait: Dyomie Thornes Character Portrait: Phillip Wilson (NPC) Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown

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= George Remington =
% Jessica Abbott %


There had been hazy nights before. Mornings where he still woke up in a drunken stupor. But whatever this was transcended all past transgressions. George rolled to one side, clutching his swollen face in agony. He gazed at his bloodied palms through watery and swollen eyes, the rest of his surroundings catching up to him in a blur. The sting of the cold stone subway platform still clung to his skin, even as he righted himself -- dust falling off of him like somebody shaking out and old rug.

His vision focused more and more with each slow blink of the eyes. But nothing around him made any more sense still. Two blurry figures stood atop an overturned Metro train, firing careful shots into undead stragglers running rampant across the platform -- pouring into the tunnel from the streets above. Dead bodies fell limply to the ground as bullets found their targets time and time again.

George struggled to his feet, wobbling a bit as he regained his balance. He felt around his body with his hands, trying to assess what kind of bodily harm he had succumbed to -- but honestly, his entire body ached.

A stranger's face ran past in a blur, offering him nothing but a passing glance as the woman hopped the tracks, disappearing behind the train. George rubbed his eyes, trying to get his mind back into focus, but everything was just a daze.

"That's him right there!" a familiar voice called out from behind him. He spun around, nearly losing his step -- but Jessica caught him by the arm before he had a chance to fall. "Help me get him out of here," she shouted to the blonde haired woman next to her. The wide-eyed woman grabbed George's other arm and started ushering him across the tracks as Natasha and Dyomie emptied their clips into the wave of walkers rushing into the tunnel.

Schantz limped close behind the rest as they retreated toward the commons. "C'mon, you two!" she shouted to the girls on the train as she hobbled across the tracks. "This place is done for!"

Natasha cast a sideways glance at Dyomie who just kept firing away. She shrugged back at Schantz. "Go on! We'll hold the fort!" she called back with a wave. Schantz knew it was bullshit, but she wasn't in a position to argue. They might be suicidal, but at least they had guns.


* * *


"Over this way," Althea shouted -- waving the beam of her flashlight back and forth at them. The hail of gunfire drummed in the background, further down the halls behind them. Jessica and Lisa pulled George's limp frame through the doorway and rolled him onto the ground -- unconscious once more. Schantz followed last, closing the door behind her as she braced herself against the frame weakly.

Rafiq came rushing up from the small crowd. "What-- is that all of you?" he asked, worriedly. "Who are these people?" Lisa and Althea looked at the group of strangers surrounding them, not a familiar face in sight -- save for Tara's.

"Oh, Rafiq!" Jessica cried out, pulling him in tightly for a hug. "We were so worried about you and Molly... we thought--" She looked around the crowd, her spirits fading fast as she realized whose face was missing. She looked back at him, crushed. "Oh, Rafiq..." she said, sadly.

"What happened to George?" Lillian asked, kneeling down to inspect him.

Tara looked at Jessica and the others. "It's a, uh-- long story, kid."

"What about the rest? Marie just left to go find her sister and Natasha! They're still out there!" Phillip protested.

Tara cut him off, sharply. "All our friends are out there. If they aren't here now, they ain't comin'. You didn't see what we saw." She wiped some of the blood from her nose with the back of her sleeve with a sniffle and went to sit down.

"We're not just leaving them out there," Phillip demanded, moving for the door. Jessica reached for him as he forced his way out the door, but it was too late.

"We can't keep spitting up like this!" Wayne shouted. "We have to stay together. We're stronger that way."

Rafiq nodded, shutting the door behind Phillip. "He's right. We can't keep running off like this. If this is who we have, then we have to leave before more of those walkers get down here."

Jessica chimed in, rolling up her sleeves. "Where did you pack my blueprints?" she asked, walking over to a nearby table. Rafiq ran over to a roughly organized pile of bags and backpacks and fished one out of the back. He unzipped it, puling out several blue sheets and laying them out flat. Jessica squinted her eyes, tracing her finger across familiar angles and notations. "This room here... that's us," she began. "Since the main entrance is full of walkers, that means Platforms A and B are completely compromised. But-- the service tunnels should lead us back to the street." She bit her lip as she roamed further down the blueprint. "It would let us out right on Santa Monica boulevard."

"You think that's far enough away from all this?" Wayne asked, unsuredly.

"We have to hope so," Jessica replied, brushing her hair out of her face. "We can leave out the back as soon as we're ready."

"And the others?" Annabelle asked, somberly. "Phillip is right. They might need our help."

"We're no good to them here," Tara mumbled. "We've got the kids... injured... sick..." she gestured at Annabelle, "old."

"And not enough weapons either," Rafiq admitted, trying to help reason. He reached into his pocket and fished out the note he had been working on. "Look, I started writing a note... for whoever comes in here after us. We'll write down directions and leave it here on the table under the lamp for them to find."

Tara shrugged. "It's the least we can do, I guess."

"Let's get to it then, folks. Grab what you can," Rafiq said, rubbing his hands together. "And somebody wake George up..."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi

---

They took another corner.

The group walked through the corridors in near grim silence. Only Jessica would occasionally order them to stop so she could look at the blueprints. She and Rafiq were leading them, both holding a flashlight to light the way. The bombing had disrupted the power in this area of the tunnel system. The lights were not completely gone, but flashed faintly in and out of existence. It made the entire atmosphere eerie.

Rafiq tried to walk at a brisk pace, so they could reach Santa Monica Boulevard before the horde of walkers potentially could. Still, he couldn’t walk too fast. This wasn’t a group of athletes he was with. Wayne was still feeling ill, Schantz and George were injured. Sam and Lily were children and Annabelle a grandmother. Apart from Jessica, the only ones who still seemed capable were the two new woman, Lisa and Althea, but Rafiq didn’t know them or what they were made off. On top of that, most of them had a backpack with them, burdening them even further. It was a necessary evil though. They needed the backpacks, for there might not be time in the near future to scavenge for food.

They took another corner.

His own back was sore and he felt emotionally drained, but Rafiq tried not to show it to the rest. Without ever meaning too, he had become the leader of this band of misfits. Niobe, Harper, Jack, Dyomie and James, people who would all be a better fit them him, were not here. Part of him wanted George to take over, but the man was not thinking clearly at the moment and besides, he seemed to be distracted more and more of late anyway. At least there was Jessica, who shared the responsibility with him.

“Is everything alright, dear?” Annabelle’s voice suddenly came from behind.

Rafiq and Jessica turned around to see what was going on. Wayne had sat down on the floor, his backpack clutched in his right hand. The children took the opportunity to sit down as well.

“Just dizzy,” Wayne said, “need to stop walking for a sec.”

“What’s wrong with him?”
Asked the dark-coloured woman, Althea. Her question seemed genuine.

“The flu,” Wayne responded, “or something. Nothing to worry about, I can assure you.” He flashed his white pearly smile at the woman, clearly in an attempt to charm her. Althea looked away uncomfortably. The warning look Lisa gave him made him shrunk back.

“We can’t stay here for long Wayne,” Rafiq said, knowing that another walk was the last thing Wayne’s body needed, but also knowing that they had no choice.

“It’s not far, anyway,” Jessica said, pointing at something on her map, not entirely realizing that Wayne couldn’t see it. “Me and Rafiq can scout ahead and see if Santa Monica is clear.”

“Can I come with you?” Sam looked at his mother, the fear in his eyes betraying his calm demeanor.

“Honey, I -“

“I can go,” Lisa dropped her bag on the ground and stepped forward, “you stay here with you son.”

Jessica mouthed a silent ‘thank you’ to Lisa and showed her and Rafiq how to get to the Metro Station. Suddenly George was standing next to them as well. “I’m coming too.”

Lisa looked him over and said, “No, you’re not.”

“Excuse me? Who made you boss!”

“Nobody did. In the state you’re in, you’ll just be a liability. “ She exchanged a knowing glance with Althea, “Among reasons.”

“Like I care what you think. Come on, Rafiq, let’s go.”

Rafiq turned and looked at his old partner. “No George. Lisa is right, we’ll be faster with just the two of us.”

He braced himself for George’s reaction, expecting it not to be pleasant, but instead the old man just stared at him, flabbergasted. Jessica laid a hand on his shoulders and pulled him back. He followed her and took a sip from his water bottle. Rafiq had the feeling it did not contain water.

He and Lisa found the door towards the subway station easily enough. Rafiq opened it carefully while holding the hunting knife in his other hand. Lisa had raised her gun.

The station was empty, save for one walker who for some unknown reason was cuffed to a railing. The creature wore a police uniform and his gun was still in its holster. Rafiq walked up to it, stabbed it through the earlobe and took out the gun. He gave it to Lisa, who checked it.

“Still fully loaded. Did not fire a bullet once.”

“You would expect a gun to see more use these days.”

“Who knows. A free gun is a free gun.”


They went over to the escalator, which surprisingly was still working. Red spots of blood were coming and going as the steps went up and down. Rafiq stepped on one of the clean ones and rode upwards. For one moment, he allowed himself to feel the rush he always had when he got on an escalator. The things had always fascinated him. He remembered days as a child where he would ride them a couple of times in a row while his mother did some shopping. For that one moment, he could almost feel normal again.

As he and Lisa got to the surface, they stepped off the escalator and into the afternoon sunlight. The immediate vicinity was clear of walkers, though there were some in the distance they had to be careful of. It was not entirely clear whether they had been spotted or not. To their left was a row of food shops, a gas station the their right.

“If some of these cars work, maybe we can fill them up here,” Lisa suggested. The streets were filled with cars, apparently abandoned in a hurry.

“Maybe. But I do not wish to leave. The other group could be coming right after us.”


He pointed towards a building opposite the street. It was a bit taller than the surrounding buildings and the roof would give a good vantage point. It turned out to be a spa centre, specializing in skin care. Yet, as they walked up to it, they saw something else.

A large message was painted on one of the windows, reading ‘Carry, I took Stella to my parents. Please come!’ Underneath the message were the bodies of a man and a young girl, both shot in the head and chewed on by walkers. “Ow God,” Lisa stammered.

Rafiq passed the scene and peered through the windows of the spa. The place was dark, but as far as he could tell, there was no walker activity inside. Still, the place looked large. He rather had a bunch of other people with him to clear it out.

“The area is safe enough. Let’s go back,”
he said. Lisa agreed.

As they made their way back, something Lisa had said bugged him.

“What did you mean about George, when you said: among reasons?”


Lisa looked at him, as if she was trying to assess his character. George had looked at him the same way a week before, but something told him Lisa would not appreciate the comparison.

“I don’t find this George very trustworthy,”
she said.

“That’s not all though.”

“No, it’s not.”


They were silent for a while and Rafiq began to think she no longer wanted to talk about it. Then she said: “He shot at us. Or at least, I think he did.”

Rafiq felt like he should feel shocked. The fact that he wasn’t was even worse.

“Shot at you?”


“Yeah, but like I said, I’m not sure. I was in another car, some distance away and everything was very chaotic. But before all hell broke loose, I thought I heard a shot. Look, he may have aimed at a walker, I don’t know. But something seems off about him.”

Rafiq knew better then to defend George. He hoped it wasn’t true, but he hadn’t been there.

They turned the last corner of where they had left the group.

What they found was downright bizarre. Two people were holding down another person on the floor, who was resisting heavily. A fourth person was slumped against the wall.

The scene was dark and it was hard to tell who was who.

It was Lily who spotted them first.

“Something happened,” she said matter-of-factually.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt

0.00 INK

% Jessica Abbott %

"STOP IT! You're killing him!" Annabelle shouted from behind the pile of tussling bodies. Wayne laid another one into Henry as him and George struggled to hold him down. Tara sat back, slumped against the stone wall -- trying to catch his breath. Her right cheek sported a brand new shiner, courtesy of the enraged stranger. Althea and Lisa knelt at her side, making sure she was alright.

"Get off me! the man spat, kicking his feet out wildly. George rolled off of him, too exhausted to continue wrestling with the man. Wayne stood up, begrudingly. Taking a few steps back with his fists still balled up.

The man wiped the blood from his lip and spit on the ground, sitting up just barely. He rose to his feet and made like he was going to charge Wayne again.

"Don't do anything stupid, man..." Wayne pleaded. Henry looked around the room at the others, panting heavily in his drunken stupor. The world had fallen to shit outside and here they were, a bunch of people fighting each other. He took a step towards Wayne.

*CLICK*

"Lillian!" Jessica shouted out. The girl was pointing a pistol right at the man's head. Jessica quickly snatched it from the girl's grip, shooing her away from the men. "Where did you get this?" she demanded, holding the girl by the arm.

Lillian shook her hand off. "Seriously? There are guns lying around literally everywhere..." she said sarcastically.

Jessica couldn't believe what she was hearing. She looked at Rafiq who shook his head in dismay, shrugging his shoulders.

"Enough of this!" Jessica shouted. "Rafiq tell me you found something?"

He nodded his head, happy to be able to deliver good news for a change. "We found a spa... it looks sturdy enough to be able to house the lot of us. And it's close. Only a few blocks south of here."

Jessica nodded. "Good... take everyone up there," she requested, grabbing him by the shoulder. She turned to the others. "George, Tara... stay behind with me. I'm gonna need help with our new friend."

"What about me?" Wayne asked in protest.

"Rafiq's gonna need your help getting everyone up there safely," Jessica replied.

Everyone began to disperse slowly as Rafiq took Wayne, Lisa, Althea, Annabelle, Samuel, and Lillian to the surface. The girls helped Tara up before heading after the rest of the group. They slowly made their way down the dark corridor towards the service exit Rafiq had found. Once they were gone, George took the gun from Jessica's hands and turned to the menace who had shown up on their doorstep, looking at him one drunkard to another through blurried eyes.

"Better start talking, mate."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt

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Henry stares at the form of his father hunched over, dead from the looks of it. A large wound smack dab in the center of his forehead. Still dripping blood and showing fragments of bone. Henry doubles over, retching at the sight. He's got a strong stomach but the sight of his own fathers head split open just doesn't sit well in any situation. It takes him a moment to notice the blood covering his mouth, still dripping in globs down the front of his shirt. Then he hears the sound of crying and peers around the door to the other side of the room where he see's Elissa. She's cowering in one of the corners, cradling her arm left arm with her right and holding in her left hand what looks to be a chairs leg - where she got it he isn't sure as there's n broken chairs in the room with them.

"What the hell did you do!" Henry screams suddenly, eyes wild and brimming with emotion. He stalks over to her in three quick strides, glowering down at her . "What did you do!"

Elissa startles and looks up at that moment. She's still sobbing, fat tears rolling down her chubby cheeks and leaving streaks of makeup behind. She shakes visibly, and Henry can see that she's holding some sort of bite wound on her arm. Probably from his father in self defense. "H-Henry it isn't what you think!" She sobs loudly, drawing her knee's up to her chest. "His heart monitor stopped, there was something wrong with him, he....he was different." she rubs her arms, chills running through her body. "He attacked me...He wouldn't stop! I didn't mean to hit him so hard!" Henry runs a hand through his hair, listening to her blubbering.

"He just kept coming at me, for gods sake he bit me! And I only....wanted to knock him out." She finally finishes her explanation.

Even if he's angry, he can't deny that he feels a certain sort of relief that the man is finally dead. He would have been content of course to wait for him to pass - after all he wanted to say a proper goodbye, wish his father a good afterlife in hell and shove all the horrible nonsense he grew up with back into the mans face.

He slides down to sit beside her, facing his fathers body still. In his hand he still holds the bottle of Vodka, which he now pops open and brings to his lips. He lets the slow burn engulf him for a moment before offering it over to Elissa...She declines instantly, she stifles another sob. "What are we going to do?" she questions wearily.

Henry knocks his head back against the wall. Lets out a sigh he's been keeping in, and turns to look at her.


"I suggest we find a shovel."




Henry see's red.

These people come down here, beat him up, and then think that hes the one who has stuff to explain. Like hell.

"I have nothing to talk about with you, Mate" Henry mocks and stumbles a step away from the man. His head pounds, an angry tempo mimicking the rapid pace of his heart. Fresh sweat breaks out over his forehead. He winces as a sharp pain rockets up his spine. "Christ, couldn't just have been some of those things, had to be real people." Henry glares at the three strangers, mouth turning down into an ever deepening frown.

"You expect me to be all dandy with a bunch o' you coming down here, probably bringing all those things with you. Beating me up and acting like I'm the one at fault!" his voice rises steadily, to match the anger still coursing through him. He glances at the two of them individually, noticing at last the shiner on the woman's face. 'Oh yeah, I did that.' he barely remembers hitting her though and is slightly mortified that he hit a woman in a first place. Even if he's know for being tough he never really saw himself as being intentionally cruel - she hadn't done a thing to him, didn't even have a chance to defend herself. These facts sat wrong with Henry, in a way that few things managed to do. He isn't known for being kind or courteous but that didn't mean he felt nothing at all.

Knowing full well they probably have trouble following right on their heels he just barely calms down. Still, the lasting effects of alcohol coursing through his veins linger and keep a bit of that anger in place. He looks the woman right in the eyes and sighs, pointing to his own cheek where the mark on hers is. "I don't pride myself on hitting ladies." He's already in pain, and he figures it doesn't much matter what happens now. "Go ahead. He motions to himself, allowing her to get a good hit in if she wants to. Its something he see's as letting her take revenge for herself if she wants to. Whats more pain added on after all?

The setting changes from season-2 to Season 1

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt

0.00 INK

...

The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt

0.00 INK

% Jessica Abbott %


Tara's hand balled up into a tight fist as she narrowed her eyes.

@#! SMACK !#@

But it was George that threw the punch. His already swollen hand collided with Henry's stomach with a sickening thud, doubling the man over onto his hands and knees. He wretched onto the ground in his drunkenness as the girls jumped back in surprise.

"Listen here, you fool..." George snapped at the man, "We've been in these tunnels for over a week, and the last thing we need is some drooling drunkard telling us our affairs."

The man struggled to his feet, pointlessly pulling at his already wrinkled and dirtied shirt in an attempt to straighten it. He glared at George. "And yet you still let a drooling drunkard lead your people?" he said with a laugh.

Jessica stepped forward. "He is not our leader," she muttered, jabbing a finger at George.

"But you're right... this is all his fault." Tara added.

George spun around to face the accusatory women. "Whose side are you on?" he barked at them, waving the gun around non-threateningly as he gestured.

"The side that lives, George." Tara replied, crossing over to Jessica. She turned back to the two men behind her. "I get that you were trying to protect us George, I do. But this is a result of your actions. Our friends are scattered outside... who knows where? You saw what happened the last time we encountered strangers. Do we really have to attack every person we come across now? Is that who we are? Are we that scared?"

Tara's words rang out inside the cold stone foundation of the tunnel corridor. They weren't rhetorical questions by any means, but the weight of them silenced the four of them while they attended to their own thoughts. Who knew who anybody was these days. You slept and fought next to strangers, people with no names, no histories.

George shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "Tara..."

"Save it," she said, sullenly. "I just want to go and find my friends. Can we do that?"

Jessica nodded, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder. "Of course we can."

"What about him?" George queried, looking at the new stranger. The man leaned back against the wall with his hands on his knees, spitting the remnants of the foul taste in his mouth onto the ground.

Jessica cinched her backpack tighter around her shoulders. "He already heard where we're going. There's nothing we can do stop him from following us..."

"Yes, there is." George answered, firmly.

"Nothing we will do," Jessica replied, correcting herself. She looked at Henry, looking him up and down. "Don't go that way," she advised to him, gesturing towards the way they. came from. With that, her and Tara set off quickly up the stairwell towards the street exit to the spa.

George watched them begin to go, and started to follow -- turning back to take one last look at what could possibly be the only man who truly understood George amongst all these other people... the group whose trust he had deservedly lost. Henry held George's stare as he cleared his throat, spitting another glob of red phlegm onto the ground -- and then disappeared from sight as George slipped past the corner.


* * *


Lillian kicked at a crushed soda can on the ground, ricocheting it against the receptionist's desk next to her. It skittered across the floor to a stop near a bunch of other littered trash and rubbish. She wished she were back in the tunnels. It smelled weird in the spa -- some amalgamation of lotions, oils, and incense. Lily scrunched her nose as she pushed through a door into one of the next rooms. Lisa popped out from behind the open doors of a wooden cabinet and beamed uncertainly at the girl.

"Oh... hi, sweetie. What are you up to?" she said, taking towels and stacking them in her arms.

Lillian kicked at the floor, sighing. "Nothing. It's boring in here," she complained. She jumped up on the counter next to her and started to re-tie a shoelace that had come undone.

Lisa managed to smile at the girl's childlike angst. She couldn't even begin to imagine what it must be like to be a kid at a time like this. Not quite old or strong enough to contribute, but smart enough to not be left completely in the dark. She didn't know which was better -- protecting them from the truth or protecting them from this world. Perhaps one would lead to the other. "I'm sorry, honey." Lisa said, placing the towels on the table behind her. "At least we're safe here though, right? That's a good thing."

"We're not safe here..." Lily replied, blunty. "There's no food, there's walkers everywhere outside, weird people attacking us... and we don't have any weapons! Stupid Jessica took my gun!"

Lisa furrowed her brow, closing the cabinet and crossing over to the girl. "That wasn't your gun," Lisa said softly.

"It wasn't hers either," Lillian replied, snarkily.

Lisa crossed her arms. "Lily, it's dangerous to be around weapons you don't know how to use. You could have hurt that man back there. You don't ever point a gun at a person unless you intend to kill them..."

"That is what I intended to do."

"I'm serious," Lisa said, her tone changing.

Lillian tied the knot on her shoe tight and hopped off the counter to face the woman. "So am I. That man hit Tara. And he was about to hit somebody else too until I stopped him." Lisa frowned at the truth behind Lily's tirade, not knowing what to say to the girl. "Calvin told me to look after everyone, so that's what I'm doing. Nobody else is..."

"Who's Calvin? Lisa asked.

"My friend..."

Lisa raised an eyebrow. "And where is he now?"

Lily looked away -- a clearly sensitive subject. "The bad guys took him away and we couldn't stop them -- cause they had guns..." She brushed past Lisa, childishly pushing over her neat stack of towels on the table as she walked by. The woman watched the girl disappear through the door into the back of the spa. Althea walked in behind Lisa looking refreshed.

"Found some tubs with water still in them. I think it's safe enough to use to clean up a bit. Wouldn't drink it though..." she said, rubbing her hair dry. She looked at Lisa who had tears in her eyes. "What's wrong? I thought I heard loud voices in here..."

Lisa rubbed her eyes. "Oh, nothing. It was just Lillian." She sniffled lightly "Said she pulled the gun on that guy cause her imaginary friend Calvin told her to..." she continued, laughing slightly.


* * *


Jessica pushed the door open slightly, peeking out onto Santa Monica boulevard to see if it was still as clear as Rafiq had promised. Several walkers straggled about, heading north to join the dense group already collecting around the main metro entrance. She looked past a few abandoned cars at what looked like their destination, nestled between two taller buildings on the far side of the street. She shut the door, turning back to George and Tara.

"I think if we go quick and stay low, we can make it across."

George scoffed. "You think?"

Jessica shot a look at him. "Is anything certain anymore?" It was enough to shut him up. Tara pulled her hunting knife from out of her bag and slung it back over her shoulder. Jessica looked at George who was checking the clip in his pistol. "No guns," she warned. George rolled his eyes and stuffed it back into his waistband, standing to turn and kick a piece loose from a network of pipes against the wall next to them. The metal bar clattered against the ground loudly as George bent down to pick it up. The three of them looked at one another, silently psyching themselves up for what lay ahead.

"On three?" Tara said, quietly.

Jessica looked past her shoulder. "How about four?" she asked, gesturing behind them. George and Tara turned around to see the last person they expected to find...

Henry. In all his drunken glory.

He nodded to them, saying nothing. And they nodded back.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Bethany Whitfield

---

His lips were on hers. His mouth was as passionate as ever, just as intense as their first kiss. Romance novels often described how a man’s tongue would explore a woman, but Diego was far beyond that point. He was on familiar ground and loved every second of it. She could tell.

Bethany let it go on for a while, feeling the same intense longing to touch him. It had been three days now since the last time they had sex, and even that one had been quick and inside some dirty room. Diego grabbed her behind more firmly and pressed her closer against his body. She could feel his heat. She could feel him. All of him.

Yet, she had to break it off for now. It would have to wait. She turned her head away from him and checked the alley again.

“I think it’s gone,” she said to her husband, “we can go on.”

Diego was slightly out of breath, which she knew was just an act, and leaned with one hand against the wall. “A pity,” he said, “I could have used a couple more minutes.”

“I know you do, dear.” She responded with a last kiss on his mouth and moved into the alley. Diego picked up his metal baseball bat and followed her.

They moved through the streets like cats, staying to one side and always keep an eye on their back. It had been just the two of them since it all happened and so far it was working. Both still alive, reasonably well fed and without any injuries. The only real problem had been the fire, destroying everything they had, including the suitcases. Bethany felt like cursing again. They had enough cocaine to last Diego a long time, he didn’t use that much after all, but then some idiot had decided to burn a pack of walkers by setting their building on fire. It had destroyed everything, including their apartment. She had a suspicion that the arsonist had died in his own fire, but didn’t really care either way.

Part of her wanted to leave all this drugs business behind, but she knew that Diego would sooner or later need some of it. Without it, he could go into withdrawal and they could not use that right now. Rehab would have to wait until they found a place that was safe and secure.

So now they were on their way back to the spa, retrieving the final two suitcases they had been unable to carry a few days back. If they were still there. Gonzales could have picked them up by now, but it was more likely he was dead. So many people were these days.

“Watch out,” Diego hissed and she was pulled backwards. In front of her eyes, she could see a rotten hand clawing out, just where her head had been a second ago. It had come from her right side, so she hadn't heard it coming. Bethany felt a mixture of shock and excitement well up in her. Adrenaline pumping, she watched on as Diego took his bat and bashed the walker’s head in. The first swing made it stagger, the second made its eye and nose explode, the third got through the skull and into the brain. Another walker appeared and without thinking, she took the bat from Diego’s hand. Swinging with all her might, she bashed its head against the wall, crushing it between bat and stone. It completely tore open, blood, flesh and brain spattering everywhere.

“One swing,” said Diego, impressed.

Bethany wiped the bat clean on the clothes of the walker the best she could before handing it back to her husband. She gave him a playful peck on the cheek.

“You know me. Always going full throttle.”


---

They didn’t move fast nor with any apparent purpose, so the effect was not immediately apparent, but it appeared to Rafiq that the number of walkers in the street was slowly increasing. It made him feel uncomfortable. He hoped the others would show up soon. If they had to move again, he wasn’t sure they would ever be able to find each other. He particularly missed Carl, Niobe and Marie and hoped they would come back soon.

George was looking through the binoculars, not saying a word the whole time. That suited Rafiq just fine. Jessica and Tara had vouched for the new guy from the tunnels, Henry, but George was still angry about it. That was probably the main reason why he had been volunteered to take the first watch on the roof. Rafiq had felt it was best to join him up there.

Although he knew it probably wasn’t the best timing, Rafiq had then told him what had happened to Molly. He had expect some loud angry cursing, or even a slap in the face, but instead George had just stared at him. For a while it looked like the message didn’t even come through, but then tears filled in the eyes of the older men.

“I miss Charlie,” was the only thing he had said.

Rafiq hadn’t known how to respond to that.

So they had just sat there, on the rooftop, looking at the walkers on the street and the entrance to the metro station. Hoping that some familiar faces would show soon.

“Someone is coming,” George suddenly said.

Rafiq perked up and looked the metro station. There was nobody there.

“Where?” He asked, “I can’t see anybody.”

George pointed a way to the left. Near the gas station were two figures, a man and a woman. Rafiq didn’t recognize them, but they were clearly still human. Probably stragglers looking for a safe place.

“They are heading straight for this place,” George said. He took out his gun. Alarmed, Rafiq stepped in front of George. “There is no need for that,” he said, “there are just two of them. I’ll see what they want. You,” he gently lowered the gun in George’s hand, “you stay here and watch for the others.”

Rafiq quickly got off the roof and rushed down the stairs. Thankfully, the building was not too large and he got to the main lobby before the couple did. Jessica, Sam, Annabelle, Althea and the new guy Henry were still there. They all tensed as Rafiq rushed into the room.

“Someone is coming,” as he said it he could see some of them reach for a weapon. “Just two,” he added quickly, “they are probably just looking for a place to hide.”

Just a few seconds later, the couple stepped in. The man was fit, handsome and looked to be from somewhere in South America. The woman was older, but still exceptionally beautiful. Even Rafiq could tell. She was the kind of person that would attract all the attention the moment she stepped into a room.

The woman looked at them with some confusion, then composed herself. The man raised his baseball bat, which was red with blood.

“What are you doing in my spa?” She asked without any apparent concern that she was outnumbered.

---

When the people did not respond, Bethany bopped her head sideways.

“Well? Are you going to answer me?”

A young man stepped forward, deliberately standing in front of the child in the room, blocking the boy from her view. Clever, she thought to herself. Protecting the weakest member of your group from the unknown.

“We’re sorry,” the Arabic man said, “I didn’t know this was your spa. We were just looking for a place to wait for our friends.”

“And you thought the best way to do that was to break into my business.”

The man, who was about the same age as Diego, turned slightly red. “Yes, no, well...”

“She’s just messing with you,” Diego laughed. Bethany couldn’t help but smile.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “you’re welcome to the place. I doubt we’ll ever open it again. I’m just here to pick up some stuff.”

“What stuff?” Another man asked, much older than the other one. He was also a bit ruffed up for some reason.

“None of your business stuff,” Diego said to him, raising his tone with a hint of threat. Bethany briefly touched his hand as a warning.

“You’re Bethany Whitfield?” an elderly and somewhat overweight lady asked. Bethany nodded, asking with her eyes how she knew that. The woman picked up on it. “I saw your name on one of the rooms. I thought it was a beautiful name. My name is Annabelle.”

Bethany didn’t really know if the compliment was sincere or not, but she took it all the same. “How nice of you to say, Annabelle. This is my husband, Diego.” Diego nodded in response. Out of politeness, the others introduced themselves as well. It was funny to Bethany how civility hadn’t completely died out yet. The only one who didn't introduce herself was a dark-skinned woman, who was sitting in the waiting area and seemed to be observing the situation.

She turned her attention back on the younger man, Rafiq, who looked like the one in charge, although Bethany didn’t really know why.

“Look, we won’t bother you long. Just need some of my personal belongings. Hope that isn’t a problem?”

Rafiq shook his head. “Can’t see why not.”

With that, she and Diego made their way up the stairs. To her annoyance, Rafiq followed them.

“We know the way, thank you,”
she said with all the authority she had.

“There are other people in the building,” Rafiq answered, with more backbone in his tone then Bethany had expected out of him, “No need to alarm them with your presence.”

Bethany looked at Diego, who shrugged in a ‘what-are-you-going-to-do’ way.

They got to the meeting room where they had left the suitcases and stopped. Rafiq’s eyes got larger and said, “You want to go in there?”

“Yes,” Diego said, “what we want is in here.”

“But... uh... there are dead bodies in there.”

“Dead bodies?” Bethany exchanged looks with Diego, who looked just as confused as her. What was this Rafiq talking about? There hadn’t been anyone here when they left. Bethany opened the door and looked inside. There were indeed five bodies in the room.

“Wait,” Bethany said to Diego, “is that Gonzales? And that Kimberly and Thea? What were they...” She didn’t understand what had happened. Gonzales, maybe, but why were Kimberly and Thea back here? Although it probably didn’t really matter anymore why, it made her feel uneasy all the same.

Then she looked at the table properly. Diego noticed at the same time. They walked towards it and both opened a suitcase. It were the ones filled with money. Useless.

“Where are the other two?” Diego asked.

Bethany looked at the door where Rafiq was standing. He looked back.

“What two?” He asked, “this was how we found it.”

Liar, Bethany thought to herself.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

0.00 INK

% Jessica Abbott %


"I'm telling you, it was Oakland..." Rafiq protested, shoving his hand back into a bag of potato chips. Annabelle bundled up some of the woolen bathrobes tighter around her feet, much like the rest of them had -- into various makeshift beds around the cold tile floor of the spa. The Sun had long since set, and the night grew colder with each passing second of the blackening nuclear shroud.

"It doesn't matter," Wayne chirped quietly from his corner. Sam lay asleep next to him buried next to Jessica in his own assortment of robes and towels as he snored softly. "Coulda been Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco... it doesn't make any difference. It'll be Chicago next week. Portland after that. We might be losing cities, but we've already lost-- shit, probably half the world..."

"Language," Jessica chided, softly. Wayne rolled his eyes and dug for another handful of chips as Annabelle wiped her mouth dry after a botched sip of her iced tea, appalled at Wayne's blatant pessimism.

She pat her shirt dry with the towel draped around her shoulders and placed her drink to the side, behind . "They wouldn't bomb Los Angeles again would they? I mean-- with one of the big ones?"

George's halting footsteps interrupted that thought, signaling his return from the rooftop where he had posted up with his fellow drunken compatriot, Henry. That was -- until the hazardous ash started falling from the sky. "You talking about the grand finale," George jabbed, setting his rifle against the wall and rolling up the sleeves of his shirt as he searched for a place to sit. "It's a genius plan, really... use the first bombings to lure all the walkers into the city center-- and then... He mimicked an explosion with his hands quite dramatically as he found an open spot on the floor and settled in. He looked around at the others' tired faces, barely lit by the lantern resting in the center of their circle. "What better way to solve the whole 'end of the world' problem, eh?" He was surprisingly chipper after his brief stint on watch, especially considering the havoc he had that night. But a heavy silence descended on the group as the logic of it all rang true. Any doubt at all the city was safe would be reason enough to get out of Los Angeles, but George's observation wasn't without reason. They may have been sitting in the eye of the storm all along, oblivious to the real disaster that lay ahead of them. Now with the group divided again, any imminent escape seemed fruitless at best -- at least at the moment.

"You're on watch by the way, mate--" George called out to Wayne on the opposite side of the circle. The abrupt breach of silence prompted the man to stir to action immediately. He checked for his pistol beneath his shirt and, once satisfied, stepped through the sea of legs towards the stairs to the second level where more windows lied. Tara was still somewhere up there with the other girls, keeping an eye on the boulevards to the west. Wayne trudged off towards his duties, attempting to pass by Diego -- who had been leaning against the frame of the door to the stairwell, eavesdropping on his guests' conversation. He stroked his chin bemusedly, looking from Rafiq to each of the others in the circle as Bethany stepped in front of Wayne, blocking his way.

"So..." the stubbly man began, strutting towards them. "When's check-out?"

Jessica sensed George's hairs bristling on his skin-- and interjected. "Listen, we didn't mean to break in here or anything... but it's not exactly safe outside. Surely, you understand that-- right?"

"Of course, I do. I absolutely comprende," he said half-mockingly, "it's just that I think some of your friends may have taken something that doesn't belong to them."

Jessica furrowed her brow, looking around at the others. "I'm sorry-- I'm not quite sure what y--" Diego turned around mid-sentence, cutting her off. He walked back to the door frame and reached behind it -- pulling a briefcase out and setting it on the floor. He set his shoe on top and slid it across the tile towards the circle.

"Look what I was able to... sniff out," he quipped as the briefcase slowed to a stop. A playful grin spread across his face as he motioned at the luggage with his finely attended eyebrows. "Why don't you open it, Rafiq?"

Rafiq flinched at the sound of his name, suddenly aware of everyone's eyes on him. His lips twitched as he tried to decide how to respond to Diego's command. "L-Listen," he started with a stammer, "it wasn't my idea-- we just thought t-that--" his neck craned towards the stairwell, hoping Wayne would be there to help him explain. Diego tracked Rafiq's eyes and rounded on Wayne like a dog on a leash. It was his fault after all, and Rafiq was in no mood to take the brunt of the punishment. "Look, it's all here! We didn't do anything with it or nothin'."

Diego hung his head, rubbing his hands over his face in disbelief. He crept forwards, closing in on Rafiq as he crouched down over the briefcase. Rafiq quickly kneeled down, flicking the clasps open and popping the top, revealing its heart-breakingly empty interior. He had been duped. His heart froze in his chest as Diego came to a stop above him. "Why don't we go for a walk," he insisted, adjusting the pistol in his waistband. Jessica watched George's eyes flick towards his rifle -- leaning on one of the columns adjacent to him. She moved closer to Sam, praying that the situation would defuse quickly. Her other hand fumbled for her knife near her bag under the covers. Rafiq swallowed hard, his eyes darting around the floor as he desperately tried to muster up a plan.

"I think this guy should join us," the blonde woman advised, quite matter-of-factly. She sidled up next to Diego, eyeing Wayne up and down.

"Like hell I should," Wayne protested, backing away with his hands in the air. "What are you trying to insinuate, "Sun-Tan Barbie" ...?!"

Diego was in his face in a flash. "What did you just say to her?" Both fists were clenched like two small wrecking balls. Bethany placed a hand on his shoulder from behind. Her cool touch immediately began to simmer him down.

"Easy, honey--" she purred. "These are our guests," She crossed over to the lantern on the floor and crouched down. Whether or not she meant to be seductive didn't matter cause she did and she was. Bethany swept the lantern off of the floor and held it up above her head, illuminating the room with its vibrantly orange glow.

"Let's give 'em the grand tour."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt

0.00 INK

- The Spa -

"Somebody needs to do something," Annabelle demanded, her face flushed red with seriousness. She stood adjacent Jessica and George outside the arch to the main hallway, talking in hushed tones. Rafiq and Wayne had just been dragged away to God knows where by the spa's owners. The couple's vague threats and accusations were unsettling to say the least, but it was possible that they weren't entirely without merit. What did they really know about each other, after all?

"You wanna borrow my gun?" George offered, mockingly. "What are we supposed to do? We're their guests. Besides, if Wayne and Rafiq were poking their heads where they shouldn't have-- then that's on them..."

"My, my... aren't you the diplomatic one," Tara muttered under her breath as slipped into the room behind George and the others. Lisa and Althea flanked behind her, likely the ones responsible for the shoddy patch job on Tara's nose and face. They had done the best with what they had, but the poor girl had taken a punch and some pavement during the hasty retreat from the tunnels, and the evidence was still quiet evident. The girl had certainly seen better days, but -- then again -- who hadn't? Just because they were in a spa didn't mean they were on vacation. They widened their circle to allow the others to step into the conversation with the rest of them, though there faces betrayed their obvious eagerness to know what was going on.

Lisa pulled her sleeves down around her arms, rubbing them to warm herself against the creeping cold. "We passed, uhh-- is it Radeef?" she asked them, timidly.

"Rafiq," Jessica corrected, a bit coldly. These newcomers had barely been with them for half a day and they had already made themselves at home. Though that seemed to be the trend these days. Nobody knew a damned thing about each other anymore. Instead, a person was defined by what they could do or what they might do.

Lisa nodded emphatically with a broad smile. "Yeah! Him and that Wayne guy and that odd pair who are claiming to own this place..." she listed them all off on her fingers, as if it were too many people to keep track of.

"They do own it," George said, trying to return them back to their original train of thought. "There's pictures of them all over the back offices." The others looked around at each other, accepting the news whether they wanted to or not. "That's why I'm saying-- unless we want to be back out on the streets, we have to play by their rules. That's the only way. I think we've made enough trouble for one day."

Tara couldn't believe her ears. "We?"

George's gaze bobbled to the floor. "You know what I--"

"What? You... what? What did you do today, George? "

"I-I just meant that--" he stuttered aloud.

"You shot a bunch of innocent people and broke the group up." Everyone's eyes darted to Tara in all her bluntness. But it wasn't an uncontrollable outburst -- it was a statement of fact. At least it was for Tara. The truth therein was arguable, depending on who you asked. Tara jabbed her finger into his chest with each name she rattled off. "Harper... Nathan... Steve... they're gone. Because of you, George."

"James..." Annabelle added quietly.

Tara nodded. "I saw Niobe and Carl too, but I don't think they made it into the tunnel before--" Her voice cut out as she suddenly found herself unable to find a word that could describe what had happened. It was too many things to too many people. The group was in pieces now -- and like a shattered mirror, she wasn't quite sure how to put them back together again.

"I was trying to help you," George reasoned, weakly. "You were all bloodied up, being c-carted through town by these strangers-- the likes of w-which I've never seen. Heavily armed and all..." Everyone's eyes rested on the poor English pilot as he pleaded his case, somberly. None of them wanted to relive those moments. He looked Tara dead in her swollen eye. "You looked like you were in a bad way and I tried to save you. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat. That's what we're here for, right? To help each other? Strength in numbers and all that..."

"To be honest," Tara began, "I don't know what you're here for." She turned her back to him and stalked off down the hallway, anxious to distance herself from the rest as she went to go cool off. The groups attention wandered back to George, who shifted uncomfortably.

"I'll, uhh--" George cleared his throat, tugging at his collar. "I'll go back out on watch, I guess... since when is preoccupied and all. " He rasped, a bit shakily. He stepped away, taking to the staircase in the other direction. The others watched him go and looked at one another awkwardly, unsure of what to do.

"I wish we could have all seen it through his eyes," Lisa bemoaned. "For clarity's sake, I mean. We've all made mistakes--"

Jessica scoffed, zipping her jacket up as the cold became too much for her as well. "No," she began, "Tara's right. He's got some things to atone for still. But he'll be OK. She sounded pretty convinced, despite the facts.

"I just hate seeing people hurting is all," Lisa said, craning her neck back towards their makeshift circle of beds, scattered across the tile haphazardly. "Hey-- where's your boy?" she chimed suddenly, turning to Jessica. The single mother spun around and spotted her son's empty sleeping bag as panic instantly gripped her heart.

She wished she knew the answer.

* * *


The gallon of orange juice crashed against the ground, splintering open as its liquidy sweet contents seeped all over the grocery store's polished tile. Lillian hopped back, reflexively -- managing to almost save her shoes from the inevitable splatter. Orange splotches stained the once clean fabric-- something to serve as an unfortunate future reminder of her past clumsiness.

"Shit!" her babysitter, Amber, exclaimed from beside her. The fright had nearly caused her to drop the handfuls of different colored lipsticks she had in her hands. "Lillian-- damnit..."

"You're not supposed to say that word," Lillian threatened, digging her foot into the ground around the spill as a store clerk shuffled into sight behind her. Amber caught his eye and gestured down at the mess.

"I'm really sorry, sir--" she shrugged, "kids... y'know?" The scraggly-haired clerk rolled his eyes and pushed past them through the rubber doors into the storage room to grab a mop.

"Must be great to be a kid and have everyone clean up after you," Amber groaned as she retook her cart and continued down the aisle. Lillian jogged up and leapt onto the side of its frame as her babysitter struggled to keep it rolling straight. "Get off you little brat," she snapped at her. Lillian dropped down with a childish scowl, falling in line behind the even brattier girl.

"You're a hot girl. Like you ever have to do anything..." Lily snapped back, sassily.

Amber tossed the lipsticks into the cart, screeching it to a halt. "What did you say to me?" she asked -- lividly.

Lillian started skipping away. "Sorry-- I don't like to repeat myself."

She turned the corner and danced across a row of televisions and plasma in the electronics department, all blaring the same channel at different volumes. She stopped for a second, lured by the digital cacophony washing over her as she stood complacently -- her eyes darting from screen to screen. A man with white hair uttered the same words no matter which television she watched. A few other nearby shoppers noticed the screens as well, reading the subtitles as they appeared on the screen:

'--Detailed reports are varied at best, describing the affliction as some sort of rapid mutation reminiscent of existing familiar viral strains. Police are establishing quarantine zones and escalating activity in some of the greater metropolitan areas as confirmed reports are corroborated across the seaboard.--'

The reporter covered her ears against a background of departing helicopters and masses of people moving quickly in every direction. Lily slowly peeled away from the screen and scanned the checkstands for Amber, unable to see through the maze of legs and bodies beginning to hurriedly move across the floor. The newscaster continued chattering behind her.

'--Meanwhile, similar reports are surfacing out of Beijing, Paris, and London confirming the reports that the virus has in fact spread transcontinentally--'

The televisions soon faded out behind her as well, becoming nothing more than a distant muffle as she wandered towards the store's entrance, the most likely place she thought she might find her missing babysitter. Lily peeked down the aisles as she wandered past them, searching for any sign of her teenage handler. She passed one of the checkout kiosks where an irate black man seemed to be in the middle of chewing out the cashier over some sort of nonsense. The girl over the counter listened to him aptly, her nervous expression nearly comical as she smiled and nodded over and over apologetically.

"I don't care what your store's policy is, it's just 12 items. What difference does it make?" the man protested, irately.

"I'm sorry, sir--" the girl blurted out. "It's just that the store's policy says--"

"Do you know who I am?" the man continued, grabbing a Wired magazine from behind him and slapping it down on a counter. "That is who I am."

The girl barely looked down at the publication in front of her. "I understand that, sir-- I just--"

Lillian's little legs passed the squabbling adults, rounding the corner of the last set of shelves until their voices faded away too. In truth, she didn't actually want to find Amber. The girl smelled like lip gloss all the time and was generally unpleasant to be around -- a typical text-crazy firecracker like most girls her age. She was, however, Lily's ride home. That counted for something at least. Lily ducked under a passing cart with rolled rugs draped across it, its handler oblivious to how close they had come to clocking the small girl in the head.

Lily ran her hands over her head, flattening her hair back down as the cart rolled through the mechanized doors leading out to the parking lot outside. Rows of cars filled the parking lot as raucous car horns squawked back and forth at one another -- dozens of anxious drivers all stuck in an unfortunate gridlock.

The doors slid closed again with a clunk, bringing Lily's attention back to the checkstands behind her. By some miracle, Amber's pitifully cliched Uggs came marching through the end of the hair products aisle. Lily felt the relief wash over her, thankful that she wouldn't be appearing on the side of a milk carton anytime soon. She had apparently doubled back to the hair products and make-up section to grab a few things, and Lily stupidly realized that was the most obvious place to have looked for her.

Girls were so predictable sometimes.

Lily waved her arm at Amber, squeezing past a couple loading their cart with some firewood to try and get her attention-- and the babysitter's eyes flashed her direction. A blinding white light silhouetted Lily against the floor in front of her. She looked up to see Amber shielding her face with one hand-- falling backwards onto the tile. A figure leapt across her peripheral, grabbing Lily by the arm and pulling her into the nearest checkstand. The older man, her savior, hit the ground with barely any grace at all, rolling across the tile long with her-- his cowboy hat toppling off his head onto the floor. Amber reached her arm out towards Lily from across the aisle just as a blinding white light splashed over her shrieking visage -- the sound of a revving engine drowned out by the glass it had shattered... right as it crashed through the storefront.

"LILY-- LOOK OUT!!!"



* * *



"Look-out..." Sam called down to her, perched atop a stack of boxes. He held a hammer in one hand-- the other holding tightly onto the windowsill next to him. The grated screen of an air vent hung slightly above him, it's metal plating winding its course across the ceiling from wall to wall. "Y'know, like-- you keep watch and make sure no adults walk in here..."

Lily scrunched her nose, hopping off the table and wandering towards the door. "Sounds boring," she groaned. She peeked out the door into the hallway, lowering the beam of her flashlight so it wouldn't spill outiside. "What are you even doing?" she asked with a hint of annoyance. She didn't know why she hadn't asked earlier when he was stacking up the cardboard boxes.

Sam began loosening some of the screws on the screen with the corner of the hammer's blade. "There's something going on with those two people from the spa," he began in a hushed tone.

"What'd they do?" Lily asked-- attempting to hide her obviously peaked interest. She closed the door again behind her and walked over towards Sam and his boxes.

"They didn't do anything," he replied, smirkingly. "I think Rafiq and Wayne took something from them..."

A mystery. Just what they needed. "Bullshit," Lily said, mockingly.

"I'm telling you, it's true. This vent runs along this wall into the hallway and through all the rooms here," he explained, excitedly. "They're in the big room with the table-- next door. I wanna hear what they're saying,"

"That's a dumb idea," Lily challenged, "you're gonna get caught..." She realized she was mostly just saying that because she hadn't thought of the idea herself.

Sam turned back to finish prying the screws out. "Only if I don't have a look-out..."

Lily tried to contain a smile as she walked back over to the door to post up outside. She looked back over her shoulder at the young boy, his tongue hanging half-say out of his mouth as he carefully worked a screw out of its place with extreme concentration. She pushed the door open just enough to look through the crack-- when suddenly the whole door was yanked open. Lily lost her grip on the handle and fell forward onto her hands and knees. Henry jumped back-- also not expecting to have run into anyone in the dark. His flashlight clattered against the round, skipping out of reach.

And then it happened.

The sound of tumbling boxes -- bursting from their foundation and spilling across the floor -- followed by a loud crack. Henry hurried over to the flashlight, kicking it as he reached to picked it up. He swung it into focus over Lily as she struggled back to her feet. She held her hand out in front of her, blocking the light from her eyes.

"A-Are you OK?" he stammered. She could smell the liquor on his breath even from where she stood. She didn't answer -- instead whirling around and darting back into the room. Without her flashlight, she realized quickly that she couldn't quite see where she was going. But what she felt was unmistakeable. "Hey-- Where are you going?" Henry stepped into the room, scanning it with the light. It danced across the fallen boxes on the floor, illuminating the red sheen of the pool of blood at Lily's feet. Her hands shook by her side as the beam finally came to rest on Sam's motionless legs, splayed out next to one of the massage tables-- its metal edge still rich with the boy's dripping blood. Lily stared at the spreading pool of liquid as it seeped around the toes of her shoes-- covering up the stains left by the orange juice all those days before.

Henry hiccuped, moving a few steps closer. His eyes too fell upon the horrible scene laid before them. "Mother of God..."

Thunderous footsteps came rumbling down the hallway outside, signaling the approach of the others. It was then that Lily realized that she was still the look-out. She kneeled down beside Sam, the warm blood soaking into the threads of her skirt. She had to warn him.

"They're coming, Sam--" she whimpered. "Just hold on... they're coming."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Bethany Whitfield


The sound of the crashing boxes was still ringing in her ears. The unexpected sound put her and the other three – Diego, Rafiq and Wayne – on immediate high alert. Had they missed something? Was there still a walker about? They all ran out of the room and turned a corner. From the sound of it, Bethany figured it came from the storeroom in the back.

She had been the first one out of the room and had thus gained a bit of a head start on the others. She first saw the man (what was his name again?) standing unsteadily on his feet, looking at something on the floor. She then noticed the girl, who was...

“Oh Christ...” Bethany muttered under her breath. There was a lot of blood. Too much blood.

The girl was gently tucking the boy’s hand. “Sam,” she said in a whisper, “be okay. Please, be okay.”

Bethany quickly glanced at the drunk while stepping past him, his face had gone completely pale, and then crouched down beside the girl. It was difficult to see in the shine of the flashlight, but she thought Sam was still breathing. Bethany took hold of his wrist and felt for a pulse. She wasn’t quite sure what a good rhythm was supposed to be in a situation like this, but at least she felt something. He was still alive. She tried to release Lily’s grip on the boy, but the girl was resisting.

“Come sweetie,” Bethany said compassionately. She had not much experience with children, but that didn’t really matter right now. It was basic human decency at work.

“I... I won’t leave him alone,” Lily responded. “I can’t.”

“We need to make room. I’m sure somebody here knows what to do and they will need room.”

“Will he be alright?”


Bethany knew that lying would get them nowhere. “I honestly don’t know.”

At that moment, the lights came on. Diego must have found the light switch, Bethany thought, but she didn’t look up to check. The scene in front of her was now in clear view and it was gruesome. Sam had fallen down from the stack of boxes and first hit one of the massage tables before crash landing on the floor. His left leg was at an unnatural angle, twisted at the knee and already starting to get swollen. Sam had fallen on the back of his head. A large pool of blood was forming at the boy’s head, mixing with another smaller pool coming from either his back or shoulder; it was hard to tell. Bethany wasn’t sure, but she thought she could even make out some bone fragments mixed in with the blood. The boy appeared to be unconscious. Small mercy.

The others from downstairs had heard the commotion as well and had come up to the room. It was like all hell breaking loose.

“What has happened?”
“What was that sound?”
“Is it a walker?”
“SAAAAAAM!!!!”
“OW GOD!”
“FUCK!”
“IS IT A WALKER?!”
“NO, NO WALKER!”
“SAAAAM!!! SAAAAM!!!”
“LET ME THROUGH!”
“PLEASE! HELP HIM!”
“Ow God...”
“WHAT HAPPENED?”
“He.. he fell...”
“HOW?!”


The mother and one of the other woman had knelt down near Sam. Bethany had moved Lily away from the body, but already lost the girl to the clutches of somebody else. The brunette clearly knew what she was doing, first checking the broken boy’s chest, then went on to listen at the mouth and nose for breath and felt the cheeks for respiration. She said something to the mother, but Bethany couldn’t hear what with everybody trying to get into the room. They all wanted see what was going on. To do something. But it was only getting crowded. It was not helping.

“ALRIGHT! EVERYBODY OUT!” Bethany shouted at the top of her lungs. That got everybody’s attention. The situation was so severe that everybody immediately knew what she wanted and they backed away from the room. Before closing it, she locked eyes with Diego.

“Get the first aid kit,” she said, “there should be one in my office.”

He nodded and as he sprinted away, she closed the door and turned her attention on the woman doctor (at least Bethany hoped she was a doctor). The mother was muttering at her son’s side and clearly in a state of shock.

“What can I do?”

The doc looked up and her eyes sent a chill through Bethany’s spine.

It was one that said ‘there is nothing we can do’.

Yet, there was also an understanding between the two women, two complete strangers, that they had to do something. For the mother’s sake, if for nothing else.

“Help me stop the bleeding first.”

---

Rafiq Chedidi


The silence in the hallway was deafening. The blood. The shock. The fact that it concerns a young boy. The strange realization that accidents still happen, even with bloodthirsty zombies creeping around everywhere. Rafiq’s hand was shaking uncontrollably. He clenched his hand in an attempt to control it, but it only seemed to help slightly. He felt so helpless. Once again, he was completely helpless. Molly...

Everyone was standing with their back to the wall, having made room for Diego when he went to look for the first aid kid. Annabelle was standing to Rafiq’s left, holding Lily in her arms and stroking her hair. Although the girl’s cheeks were still wet with tears, she was no longer crying. Her focus had hardened again, just like it had been before the accident. The girl had only allowed herself to act like the child she was for the shortest of times.

It was her that broke the silence.

“What will happen now?”


“I’m sure Lisa will be able to patch him up again, darling,” Annebelle said soothingly.

“Don’t lie to me,” Lily responded with indignation, trying to wrestle free from Annabelle’s embrace, “I know it’s bad. I know he will die.”

“You don’t know that. It’s in God’s hand.”


“Like he cares anymore,”
the girl said, breaking free from the hold.

Rafiq crouched down beside her, looking her straight in the eyes and hoping that his voice was the same way as if he was speaking to an adult. “What happened in there, Lily?”

“Sam fell.”

“Yes, but how?”

“Because...” the girl thought for a moment, as if she had to decide whether a lie would be in her best interest. It took a couple of seconds and everyone in the room was looking at her, but Lily did not seem to notice. Or she didn’t care.

“Him happened. The drunk one.”
She pointed straight at Henry, who for a moment did not seem to realize what was happening, before standing up a little more straight and holding up his hands.

“Now, hold on a minute...” he said. Lily did not seem to care and went on.

“Sam and I were, uhm, playing with the boxes. Building a tower, that sort of thing. Then he came in and scared us. Like... like it was a joke.”

“That’s sick!” Wayne exclaimed.

“Wowowowow! That’s not how it happened!” Henry jumped forward, but was knocked back again, because just at that moment Diego came by with the first aid kit. It made Henry fall back to the wall and falling down.

“Sorry dude,” Diego murmured, before rushing to the storage room, not realizing the situation he just disturbed.

Lily looked at the man on the floor defiantly. “That is how it happened! You scared us and now Sam is dying!”

Henry’s eyes opened wide, confused and angry. “You’re lying! You lying bitch!”

“You say what?!” One of the woman said shocked.

Henry tried to crawl towards Lily, but George and Wayne stopped him in his tracks by holding him down by the shoulders.

“Now, calm down!”

The man was wroth and drunk and did not hear what George was saying. He appeared to become more dangerous by the second. “She’s lying! She’s lying!”

“He’s drunk.”
“He completely lost it.”
“We can’t have him around the kids.”
“SHE’S LYING!”
“We can’t have him around us.”
“What should we do with him?”
“We should lock him up?”
“She’s lying.”
“And then what?”
“We can’t just lock somebody up.”
“Then what would you have us do?”
“Shit, I don’t know.”
“She’s.. lying...”


Rafiq’s head was racing. The instant Henry had lost control, he knew what had to happen. It didn’t even matter much if it happened the way Lily said it happened. Nobody really knew Henry and the man was clearly unstable. Potentially dangerous. Too dangerous to keep around. Rafiq knew it had to be said.

“We kick him out.”

Everyone, including Henry, looked at Rafiq.

“But that’s dangerous. With the nuclear fallout. The walkers.”

Rafiq knew that. It may be a death sentence for the man. But they didn’t know him and he was threatening the group. He was threatening Rafiq’s group. Rafiq was no longer going to put any of his friends in danger. No longer. Not anymore.

The Rafiq of old would not have done this. But the world had changed and so had he.

“We kick him out. I know it’s hard, but it’s our only option. We have to think of ourselves.”

Some people nodded, others stared blankly at the floor. Rafiq locked eyes with George, who nodded in understanding, but appeared to not be fully behind it at the same time. You are our drunk George, Rafiq thought, you are part of the group. It is not the same.

The drunk man saw what was happening, having lost his fight upon realizing that his entire standing with the group had dissipated within mere minutes. Rafiq couldn’t help but feel some pity for the man. But instead of changing his mind, he steeled his heart. It had to happen.

"Anyone objecting?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

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- The Spa -


Lily watched as all the adults yelled over one another. Random limbs webbing together in efforts to hold Henry and herself back from one another like some back alley brawl taking place in the hallway.

"You guys! YOU GUYS!" a voice boomed out above the nonsense. The limbs ceased flailing, and the group parted to reveal a bleary-eyed Jessica standing outside the doorway to the storeroom. Everyone traded ashamed looks, straightening their shirts and sleeves and dusting themselves off from the ground. All eyes were on her now. Bethany crept out just behind her, also curious what was happening,

"Do we really need to be doing this? Right this very second?" she asked, tiredly.

Rafiq spoke up first. "We're sorry, Jessica... we were just--"

"I don't care," she said, quite honestly. "Just-- please..." She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples, gesturing towards Annabelle. "Annie, I thought he might want to see you. You'd make a happy sight when he wakes up," Jessica said-- her exhaustion evident in her drawling speech.

Annabelle put her hand over her heart. "Oh, bless my heart. Of course, honey. We should say a prayer for him anyways. She steered Lily over towards Althea by her shoulders. "Why don't you stay with Althea here, darlin'-- just while I--"

Lily squirmed out of Annabelle's hands and straightened her shirt, raising her eyebrows at Annabelle in an 'are you serious?' kind of glare. As much of a kid as she still might be, she hating being corralled like an animal. She turned and stalked down the hallway-- away from all the noisy adults. "Don't worry," Althea assured her, "I'll keep an eye on her." She turned and jogged down the hall, catching up with the small girl just as the two of them slipped out of sight around the corner. Annabelle breathed a heavy sigh and turned to join Jessica, watching the others as they all waited patiently to continue their argument. Bethany held the door open for Jessica who took the handle and closed it behind herself and Annabelle, leaving them all with a knowing look as she too disappeared.

Rafiq looked back to the group and more specifically -- at Henry. The drunk leaned carefully against a tall metal rack -- smart enough not to have made any further movements during the distraction. George and Wayne lingered close-by, in case his drunken bender did eventually will him to do something stupid. Tara stood close behind Rafiq -- keeping a safe distance from the man who had already hit her one time too many for one day.

A melodic voice suddenly broke through the tense silence -- an observer, from the outside. "You guys are quite the HBO drama, aren't you?"

Wayne glowered at Bethany -- her lithe frame leaning against a metal sink fixed to the wall. "Hey, Sunshine-- I'd keep quiet about things you know nothing about."

Bethany cocked an eyebrow at his cutting response, before rolling her eyes and looking around at all the strangers surrounding her. They somehow still didn't understand. "I think we already established that since you are guests in my spa... I can do whatever I want. So why don't you back off, Chris Tucker?"

George did his best to stifle a laugh. Wayne ignored him, rapidly changing the subject. "So what are we doing with boozy over here?" he posited, jerking his thumb at Henry.

Tara pushed past Rafiq. "You heard the man. He goes."

"N-Now just you wait a minute--" Henry blubbered, "you're gonna believe a bratty little shit's fairy tale story over my word?"

"Over the slurred word of a drunk? Yes." Tara said, bristling as the man stepped nearer, her fists already clenched. She didn't realize how badly she actually wanted this.

"The truth is, none of us know who you are -- and people are more dangerous than walkers anyways. I think we've all realized that now. It'll be best if you just go." Rafiq tried to make the cruel words sound somewhat polite. But there was no way to send someone to their possible death nicely.

"Someone going somewhere?" a voice asked from behind them. Diego stood in the doorway, shutting it behind him. He rubbed the blood from his hands with a towel before stuffing it into his back pocket.

"Henry's taking a trip," Tara replied, cooly.

Diego nodded, clearing his throat. He stepped over towards them and fished something out of his pocket. "Then you think you can bring back any of the stuff on this list?" He held out the torn piece of paper to Henry, who reached for it -- but Tara snatched it from his hand first.

"What is this?" she demanded, scanning it with her eyes.

"Stuff Lisa says she'll need. Stuff for the kid," Diego answered with a solemn tone.

Tara ended up asking the question on all of their minds. "Where are we supposed to get all of this?" She shook her head as her eyes trailed down the list. The handwriting was hurriedly and messily scrawled, some of the words long and disorienting -- even at first glance.

Bethany crossed her arms. "There's a hospital not too far away from here," she offered, dryly. It seemed the most obvious choice... which was the problem.

Rafiq waved his hands in front of him. "No way they'd still have anything left worth taking. It's been over a week..." Bethany shrugged and looked down at her feet.

"Got a better idea, friend?" Diego asked.

"I do," Henry called out, wiping his hair back from his face.

Tara turned to him, threateningly. "I don't care what you have to say,"

"Then plug your ears." He straightened himself upright, tugging down at his shirt -- looking around at the others in the hallway through his blackened eyes. "My father... died today." The room grew uncomfortable, as one-by-one they exchanged quick glances with each other. "It's not a big deal... I knew it was coming. Kind've softened the blow for all the rest of this actually now that I think about it." A half-hiccup-half-burp barely escaped his mouth -- deftly blocked his balled fist. "But there's a medical clinic in this plaza that we used to take him to -- about three stores that way." Henry raised his arm to point between George and Tara's heads to the wall behind them. They looked at one another first and then behind them, as did everyone else.

"Through there?" Diego asked, walking up to the wall and running his hands across the cool worn drywall. He looked over his shoulder at Henry, who nodded gruffly. "They're all adjacent walls. That's not a problem. I can get through there," he said through a wry smile.

"That way we wouldn't have to go outside..." Rafiq said, thinking aloud.

"Anyone able to confirm this bullshit?" Wayne called out from the sidelines, gesturing at the drunk in the corner.

Henry glanced at him with one raised eyebrow. "Why is everyone so damn hostile? I'm trying to help you here!"

"I think what Wayne's trying to say is: what's in it for you?" Tara explained.

Henry rolled his eyes, rubbing his hand over his face. "Look, you wanna kick me out? Fine. At least give me a chance out there. There'll be gear in the clinic to help me to get far far away from all y'all." Their plain silent expressions looked back at him. "You at least owe me that much..."

Rafiq looked from one face to another, searching for any idea of how the group felt about all this. It was the most humane option on the table, unfortunately. He didn't like the idea of following this stranger on some expedition to retrieve supplies that may not even exist though. But what other option did they have?

"I guess that's the plan then," Rafiq sighed, reluctant to accept it for what it was.

Diego tagged Wayne on the shoulder. "We'll need tools to cut through this drywall. Come with me." The two of them went to the door of the storage room and quietly opened it, stepping inside. Tara pushed past Rafiq with her tongue in her cheek as George watched her stalk off.

"I'll go round up some of our masks we use for the water treatments. Might help keep whatever's in the air out there out of, well-- you." Her bobbed with each step as she headed the other direction, back towards the front offices and steam rooms.

George looked over and met Rafiq's weighted glance. "You made the right call, Rafiq."

He shrugged. "Somebody had to."

Henry leaned back against the wall, slumping down to sit on the ground. "Thanks, kid."

"I didn't do it for you," Rafiq replied, coldly. He rubbed his arm, glancing over his shoulder at the door to the storage room -- knowing full well that every second wasted was a second closer to losing another member of the group.

"Let's go round up the rest of what gear we have," he offered to George. The Englander nodded, and sprung into step beside Rafiq, who had stopped in front of Henry. He looked down at him on the floor. "We're your chaperones. Let's go."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

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"You're not telling the truth."

Lily spun around to find the source of where the unfamiliar voice spoke up from. Althea had done a fine enough job of staying under the radar during the past several hours. But now she drew her spine up to her full, formidable height, folding her arms across her chest and staring at the young blonde girl with not a single slip of warmth in her dark eyes. She stepped forward and looked down at her.

"Tell me what you were building with those boxes," she interrogated smoothly, her eyes continuing to bore directly into Lily's.

Her eyes blinked wide just for a moment before she opened her mouth. "I dunno, a town or some shit," she blurted out fast, her eyes darting to her left.

"You just said it was a tower," Althea retorted back, tilting her head. "And what are you doing, walking around on a ton of cardboard boxes? You're old enough to know you can't stand on one of those. Don't you know that's dangerous?"

"I-"

"-and that guy? Seriously? He's not in any state of mind to pull himself together, much less jump out and say 'boo.'" She jolted her head in the direction of the room Henry was still in and narrowed her eyes. "What's the matter, girl? Too scared of some slow guy saying 'boo'? Of course not. And that's why I don't believe a word you're saying about why your pal is bleeding all over the floor in that room. What happened, Lily?"

Lily glowered back. The two stared at each other almost fatally. Finally, Althea lifted up a finger, pointing it into the air frustratedly and gritting her teeth intensely. "You might get your way this time, girl, but next time you won't be as lucky." She paused. "Next time, you think of you getting shoved out there, kid. Just unlucky. All the bad things people do? They always come back around."


# # #


Lisa was silent as she internally counted Sam's faint pulse, staring intently at her watch. It was important to keep the atmosphere calm. "He's got pretty low blood pressure," she reported softly as Jessica re-entered the room. The woman pulled off her jacket and tennis shoes, bundling the shoes up inside the garment and handing it to Jessica. "Here, set it under him," Lisa instructed gently as she carefully lifted Sam's shoulders and head upward, "this oughta help get the blood flow to his heart. That's what we need right now."

Diego popped his head back through the door frame with Annabelle not far behind. He looked down at Lisa and nodded triumphantly. "Looks like we're going to get him some help," he reported, eyeing the pool of blood on the floor just briefly. His face flashed an unseemly shade of white before he swallowed and then looked back at Lisa. "Good news, right?"

"Yes, Diego, that's terrific news," Lisa responded calmly as she still watched Sam's shallow breathing, not allowing her voice to raise to its normal relatively high decibel range but instead keeping it at a respectable whisper in order to keep things calm for the boy. She glanced up at Diego with an apologetic expression. "Look, I hate to ask this, I know how bad it is... but I'm wondering if maybe we could get some more towels to soak up his bleeding. And to clean up the floor." She looked over at Jessica. "After we get him in a safe place I'll take care of that and you stay with him."

Diego looked down on the floor, eyes scanning about as though trying to survey the area. "Where do you think we should put him?" he asked. "This is no place for a kid with a busted-" He stopped his sentence as Jessica's eyes flashed. "... who needs help. We've got plenty of beds. You know, for clients when they come in." Annabelle's face peeked from around Diego's arms, which were folded nervously across his chest as he pressed a knuckle against his cheek anxiously.

"Perfect," Lisa answered with restrained enthusiasm, still trying to keep her voice low. She looked down at Sam, then bolted her eyes back at Diego. "Maybe we can carry him to one of those beds. Can you and a few talented gents carry him in a robe if we put him on it?"

Diego blinked vacantly. "I'm not following."

Lisa pursed her lip. She wasn't thinking of the right word. She lifted her arms up as though pinching the corners of a large sheet. "You know, put him on a robe, and get a few people to carry him by holding up the corners?"

"That might be a little dangerous," Annabelle offered, her eyebrows knitting together with concern. "Is there anything else we can use to transport him?"

"Anything with wheels?" Lisa added, "because if not, the robe is our best bet. It may not be ideal but we don't exactly have a gurney here."

"I can grab a few bedsheets," Diego spoke aloud as he set out down the hallway, leaving the three women silently staring down at Sam for several long, uncomfortable seconds.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Samuel Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Annabelle Mae McCallister (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

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= George Remington =

George sifted through the shelf with both hands, his flashlight gripped in his teeth. Rolling around behind a bag of dry food was a familiar can of dog chow, which he grabbed -- rolling its metal frame around in his fingers to display the logo. A yellow lab grinned toothily on the cover, traces of green fields behind him with his tongue lolling out. A happy dog. A familiar dog. George chewed his lip, blinking vacantly as his mind wandered. That was, until he felt Rafiq's stare from out of the corner of his eye. The young man wiped the sweat off of his forehead with his sleeve and leaned his crowbar against the doorframe with a heavy sigh.

"Diego's working on the next wall now. It'll be your go once he needs a break. Henry's on watch out front to make sure we don't draw any walkers." Rafiq rattled all the info off breathlessly, continuing to sop up the beading sweat on his cheeks and forehead. His eyes eventually fell onto George's hands.

George held the can of dog food up. "For when he comes back,'" he said as he reached into his backpack, swinging it around his shoulder and stuffing the can inside. "I sure hope she's been feeding him..."

Rafiq scratched at the stubble forming around his chin. "I'm sure they're both fine, George. Sarah--"

"--is already dead," George finished quite bluntly, cutting him off. The man straightened up, zipping the bag closed and slipping his arms back through. He shook his head, running a hand the length of his face as he looked up at the ceiling, chuckling softly. His sad, hollowed eyes finally fell upon Rafiq. "We all are..."

Rafiq grimaced. "W-Why would you say something like that?" He quipped, bridling with anger. Was it possible the man was still drunk?

"Because it's true," George replied, tiredly -- as if just now admitting it to himself. "Niobe told me everything-- from what she found out from our neighbors... whatever they call themselves. The Capitols?"

Rafiq's eyes narrowed, trying to comprehend what George was saying. It was all too much to take in at once. He inched a few steps closer, aware suddenly that he was being let in on a secret nobody else knew about. George continued, lowering his voice to a hushed tone.

"I've only taken her at her word since then. Never even seen these Capitol people-- but then Henry confirmed it when he told me about his father. About how he passed in the hospital..." George shook his head again, as if he was hearing it all over again. "He came back, Rafiq. No bite. Nothing. And he still came back..."

Rafiq's eyes widened at the thought. "S-So we're all... infected?" He stammered, still searching for the right answer. A different answer. Anything else.

George simply nodded. There wasn't anything left to say. Except one thing. "When we let Henry go... I plan on leaving with him."

Rafiq wasn't sure if someone needed to pinch him or what. It seemed like his whole world was suddenly being turned upside down. He had always shared a certain kinship with the man, ever since he had sort of forced Rafiq into some sort of post-apocalyptic apprenticeship-- but it seemed like he was suddenly confiding alot in him-- despite how much they'd grown apart since George's unravelling. "What are you talking about? You're seriously going to leave right when one of us needs our help?"

George shrugged. "What? You need me to protect you? You think any of those people want me with a gun in my hands after what happened? Nothing I do will help. There's no going back for me. You saw what I did..."

"Actually, I didn't. I have no idea what you did, and I don't care. I know what kind of man you are, George. At your best and at your worst. And we need you."

George sighed. "You're just one man. The others-- they won't be so willing to forgive. The best thing for everyone is if I just go."

Rafiq slammed his fist against the flyer-laden cement column next to him, random pieces of paper falling to the ground. "Damnit! You heard Jessica-- back in the tunnels. We can't keep splitting up like this! We're too few already..."

"I'm sorry, Rafiq... I am. But there still have to be consequences... even in this fucked up world, where nothing seems to be going right-- it leaves alot more room for the wrong."

A stiff silence deafened the room with nothing other than the occasional clinking of Diego's sledgehammer echoing from outside the door. The two of them just stared at each other, leaving the rest unsaid. George slung his backpack off his shoulder again and tossed it near the door, walking past Rafiq and grabbing his crowbar on the way out. "Guess I should help pick up the pace, eh? Life's too short."

"Sam's sure will be," Rafiq jabbed over his shoulder. "Don't do this, George..."

But the man was already gone.


* * *


% Jessica Abbott %


"This has been the longest day of my life..." Jessica sighed by the candlelight as she gently stroked Sam's hair. His brown locks fell back over the gauzed wound with each pass, a sharp contrast against the dirtied white linen. Annabelle leaned against the metal rack behind her, a blanket pulled across her lap-- her eyes heavy with sleep. "Hard to believe that this morning I was doing laundry and trying to figure out if
I should have beans or canned fruit for lunch. The day escalated quite nicely, if I don't say so myself."


"Today tested us all, my dear--" Annabelle bemoaned. "I'm just not certain if we passed or not..."

It was the first attempt at humor that Annabelle had made since Jessica had known her-- and it made her genuinely laugh out loud, which she promptly stifled with a snort. Something about the dryness and seriousness of the delivery was just too much. The sweet old woman didn't have a drop of darkness within her. Not so much as one bad bone-- not that she had seen yet. It was a quality sorely needed and horribly undervalued these days.

Annabelle smiled sweetly. "It's so heartwarming to see you in good spirits, dear..." she continued. "Nobody could have ever guessed that something awful would happen like this. You can't blame yourself for it."

Jessica adjusted her legs, setting Sam's head gently on the makeshift pillow beneath it. "We've done what we can for him..." She pulled another of the blankets over herself, making sure her son was properly coated as well. Her eyes lingered on his chest, heaving gently with each shallow breath. There was no way to tell his father, her ex-husband, what had happened. If he was even alive to care. She somehow felt guilty about that, like it was some kind of secret she desperately needed to share -- if not to him, then to the others... Harper, Carl... they'd all come to know Sam in their own ways too. His death would go quietly. Unnoticed. Unavoidable. She sighed. "I had to fight his father so much to get Sam for his birthday last week-- that day when everything happened." Annabelle looked up from her spot on the floor, her brow furrowing. "He demanded half of the day with his son. So, I told him that I would get the first half of the day... those were my terms. Jessica ran her hand through Sam's hair again. "He could have been with his father that morning, and I would have no clue if he was alive or dead right now. Annabelle reached over and rubbed Jessica's arm as the two looked at one another, smiling through their tears. "At least this way I'll know..."

Annabelle returned her hand to grasp Sam's, mumbling a prayer under her breath. "At least if he goes he'll have gone peacefully and not to some walker..." Annabelle breathed. "God forbid if it came to that."


* * *


$$$ Lillian Strong $$$


TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP.

Lillian's shoes clattered alongside the store as she full-on sprinted towards the storage room, where Sam's ailing body lied along with some of the others -- her sneakers skidding across the pet store tile as she rounded a corner of shelves. The noise at the other end of the shop of the men tearing down the wall all but masked her frantic footsteps.

But what had she just overheard? She knew George was a drunk. That much was obvious. But why would he make something like that up? And Rafiq sure seemed to believe him... it really was the end of the world.

And if it is true... then--

She reached the first hole in the wall, the one back to the spa, and clamored over the pile of rubble and drywall on the ground as she pulled herself back through -- putting her thoughts on hold as she found herself suddenly face-to-face with Wayne and Bethany. They both jumped to a start -- weapons at the ready as they laid eyes on Lillian. The girl held up her hands, instinctively -- looking both of them over. Their shocked faces were enough to give away the fact that they had no idea how she had snuck past them earlier.

Wayne's lips sputtered as he tried to find the right response. "B-Th-H-How did-- Lillian! What the hell were you doing in there?"

Bethany cocked to one hip, folding her arms. "How'd she get past us?" she asked with a tone.

Wayne threw his hands in the air. "Don't ask me! We haven't left this spot since we got here." He scratched the back of his head, rolling his eyes. "Or at least one of us hasn't... Tinklebell."

Bethany's nostrils flared as she turned to face him, jabbing a finger in his chest. "Hey, it's not my fault that I have a small bladder."

Wayne scoffed. "You're not even drinking anything. Where is all this liquid coming from? Or are you just scurrying off to enjoy some of that recently reclaimed blow? It'd be pretty rude of you not to share..."

Bethany's eyes became to shallow slits. "Are you serious?" Wayne looked at her. Seriously. "Go fuck yourself." Bethany flipped him the bird over her shoulder as she turned to stalk back down the hallway, not towards the bathroom-- but anywhere other than where Wayne was. She only got a few steps before she stopped and realized the same thing that he did in that moment.

"Uhh-- where'd she go?" Wayne asked with a gulp.


* * *



TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP.

The traction on the spa tile wasn't much better Lillian noticed as she sprinted around yet another corner. The dust caked on the soles of her shoes from the hole in the wall definitely wasn't helping. She slipped slightly, catching onto the wall just barely saving her from a fall and took the brief reprieve to catch her breath. She checked over her shoulder quickly to make sure nobody was too close behind her and set off again, using her arms to help propel her forwards as she tried to slow her fading momentum.

She couldn't be too late. She couldn't be. She was supposed to protect these people.

*WHAM*

Lillian collided face-first into one unlucky person's chest as she blindly rounded the next corner at full speed. She hit the ground hard, finally taking the spill she had so narrowly dodged moments earlier. Althea braced herself on the corner with one hand, rubbing her solar plexus with the other as her face scrunched up in pain.

"Christ, kid--" she managed, her voice hollow from the wind knocked out of her. "Damn near broke my ribs... what are you doing? Get up..." She reached down and pulled Lillian up by the scruff of her jacket, just enough for her concealed pistol to fall to the ground, clattering loudly in the muted silence of the hallway. There was no point hiding it. Althea had already seen it. She knew that. And Lily had already received one blunt lecture too many from the rough-and-tumble broad. If she knew what Lily had just learned-- but there was no time to explain. She would have to understand...

"Please--" Lily pleaded, "I have to--"

She reached down for her gun, but Althea yanked back firmly on the collar of her jacket, pulling both of Lily's arms back at the shoulders. "Again, Lily? What the hell is wrong with you?" the woman scolded. Lily struggled and flailed forwards, trying to free herself from Althea's tight grasp. "You not getting enough attention or something? Cause I think you've caused enough trouble for one day. I thought we took this from you once already?"

"Let me go! Get off me!" Lily protested, irately -- her arms swinging wildly. Althea deftly used her other free hand to avoid the swatting limbs as they washed off of her. The kid was persistent if nothing else. Unfortunately for Althea, she was unpredictable too.

Lillian suddenly dropped to her knees and dove between Althea's legs, pulling her down into herself in a forced somersault as she regrettably held onto the hood of Lillian's coat. She let go in time to save herself from a full face plant as she caught herself on her own two hands -- face down on the floor, but she immediately felt the full weight of Lillian's shoes against her back as the kid scrambled back over the top of her for the gun. Althea grappled for one of Lily's legs, finding a firm grip and pulling back with what strength she could muster -- only until the unwelcomed second leg came around. Althea turned barely in time for the shoe to glance off of her cheek, but her vision had been jarred into a thousand stars as she clutched at her face in pain.

"Are you fucking kidding me!?" Althea blurted, propping herself up on her knees. She dabbed at her cheek with one hand, checking for blood -- but it had only grazed her slightly, to her own relief. She could hear the scrape of the handgun being picked up off the floor, and suddenly Althea tensed. This kid was cracking and was clearly capable of far more than she had anticipated. And now... she was armed. The woman kept her gaze on the floor.

*CLICK*

"That better not be pointed at me..." Althea mumbled, the tenseness evident in her voice.

She heard Lily sniffle before she spoke. The girl was clearly crying, as evident in her voice. "Don't follow me..."

TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP. TIP. TAP.

Althea rose to her feet, wiping the dust off her hands-- and followed.


* * *


% Jessica Abbott %


Lisa pressed two fingers against Sam's neck, holding the pulse in his wrist with her other hand. "His pulse is getting faint..." she warned, setting Sam's arm gently back by his side. Jessica dabbed some of the sweat off of his cheeks with a dry rag, trying to normalize his temperature. Lisa frowned. "If we don't close this wound-- he's just gonna keep bleeding. He can't keep going like this."

Jessica nodded through teary eyes. "They're working as hard they can. They'll be b--"

*SHIK SHIK SHIK*

The metal handle of the door shook violently from the other side -- even more banging accompanying the already abrupt noises. Jessica rose from the floor as Lisa helped Annabelle up -- each of them slowly approaching the front of the storage unit. Annabelle decidedly hung back close to Sam, in case the worst possible scenario lied outside the door on the other side.

"Did we bring any weapons?" Lisa queried, the answer already evident in the tone of her voice. Jessica shook her head, inching closer towards the door -- stepping as lightly as she could.

"Oh, be careful honey--" Annabelle bemoaned, covering her face with her hands. "Don't open the door 'til we know who's out there..."

Jessica turned and put her finger to her lips, quieting them all as she finally reached the doorway. The handle had all but stopped moving -- but then the muffled shouting started. "Those are voices..." she whispered, pressing her ear close to the frame. Neither the voice, nor whomever they were talking to were discernible through the thick metal. There was only one way to find out. Jessica grabbed for the handle and opened it slowly as she took a deep breath. Lillian's frantic shouts poured inside in an instant.

"Get back!" she shouted, with her hand raised in the air. The pistol hung loosely in her grip-- Untrained. Unwavering. Althea, only a mere few steps away, stood silently with her hands raised above her head. Her eyes met Jessica's, who finally laid sight on the girl and the gun. As soon as the door swung wider, the pistol was suddenly pointing at her. Lily's hands shook as her attention was split by the two women suddenly surrounding her. Her eyes began to well with tears as she realized that Jessica was alright.

"J-Jessica..." she stuttered.

"Lillian-- w-what's happened? What's wrong?"

"I thought you guys were--" she wiped at her cheeks with her gun hand, and Althea took a step closer. Lillian's gun was back up in a flash. She struggled to speak through her tears as she stepped countered towards Jessica, trying to get a peak through the doorway. "Sam... is he--"

"He's fine, Honey..." she said, subtly reaching out towards the girl. "Everything is going to be f--."

Annabelle shrieked from behind, causing all of them to jump. Lillian's gun rattled in her grip. "His chest! He's stopped breathing!"

Lisa was over him in a flash, ripping open his shirt and exposing his small chest which had indeed gone silent. She braced her hands together over his ribs, counting and pushing and breathing -- everything synchronized... professional. She pinched his nose and propped open his jaw, blowing air through the passage to bring him back however she could. Again. And again. Jessica, Lillian and reluctantly, Althea-- all stepped closer inside, each as unsure of what to do as the next. Lisa took full advantage of the space, continuing her maneuvers at a rapid pace -- exhausting herself as she tried desperately to save the boy's life.

Althea's booming voice suddenly sounded out from the back of the crowd. "Lily... what the hell are you doing?"

The girl had moved around the circle to face the spectacle, her gun trained on the struggling pair on the ground. Her chest heaved with each heavy breath as Annabelle gasped with shock, backing away. Jessica's eyes narrowed instantly as she keyed in on Lily. "Whatever you're thinking of doing, Lily--"

"This kid has lost her marbles..." Althea said, exhaustedly.

But it was Lily's voice that boomed this time.

"I'M NOT A KID!" she shouted, fiercely. "You all have no clue... no idea...you just think I'm some crazy kid! She sniffed back her tears again and again, keeping her gun trained on the both of them. "H-He's gonna come back, Jessica..."

"Of course he is... that's what Lisa's trying to do. You need to put the gun down..."

"Not like THAT!" she shouted even louder. "If he dies he'll come back-- as one of them..."

Althea had had enough. "What is this girl even talking about? Is somebody gonna do something about this or am I gonna have to?"

Jessica shook her head, trying to comprehend the panicked girl. "What are you--"

Annabelle stepped in from the corner, her face heartbroken at the little girl. "Well you, young girl, can point that thing wherever you like. Someone has to try and save this poor boy..." The old woman struggled to her knees, using the table beside her for support-- positioning herself over Sam. Lillian fought back more tears as she kept the gun firmly in place.

"Annabelle, please--" Jessica began, her voice breaking at the thought of all this. The world had already turned to shit and yet somehow it had managed to get even worse.

"He's just a child!" Annabelle cried from the floor. She picked up where Lisa left off, working his chest and pinching his nose as she leaned down to put some air into his system. And like the miracle they needed, his eyes fluttered open-- his cloudy iris barely visible under the milky ashen orbs where his bright young eyes had once been.

Lily noticed the change almost immediately. "S-Sam...?" she whimpered, her feet inching backwards apprehensively.

*CHOMP*

Sam's teeth suddenly clamped down over Annabelle's lips and chin-- holding on for dear life as she rolled to the side, bringing the boy along with her. Lily fell backwards in shock, skidding to a stop beside the table as the room ignited with panic. Jessica collapsed to her knees with an ear-splitting shriek as Lisa grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her back away from the thrashing forms in front of her.

The two bodies struggled with one another on the ground-- Annabelle's muffled screams undercut with the vapid snarling of the newly awakened Sam. Althea motioned towards Lily with her arm. "Give me the gun!" she shouted quickly. But Lily's trembling hands could do nothing but manage to keep her gun poised in front of her.

Jessica saw Lily from her spot on the floor and leapt to her feet, shrugging out of Lisa's grip. "Lily-- don't!" she pleaded, bounding towards her as tears flowed down her cheeks.

"Jessica!" Lisa's voice washed over her ears as Jessica lunged forwards, reaching for the girl's weapon with both arms.

"LILY! Look at me!" But Lily had closed her eyes tight... squeezing the trigger even tighter.


* * *



*BANG!*

Diego's arms halted mid-swing-- sledgehammer poised for another blow at the wall. His neck whipped over his shoulder towards the spa at the sound. Henry stepped back from the front windows, leaning into the aisle the same direction -- a crowbar dangling loosely from his hands. The two looked at each other as George and Rafiq's footsteps came quickly their way. They skidded into the foyer behind Diego, weapons already in hand.

"You guys hear that?" Henry grunted from across the floor.

"The gunshot?" Rafiq asked with wide eyes.

Henry looked back towards the spa, licking his teeth. "The church bells..."

The setting changes from season-2 to Season 3

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Ashley Valentino (NPC) Character Portrait: Gustav Schmidt (NPC) Character Portrait: Brooke Callaway (NPC) Character Portrait: Harold St. James (NPC) Character Portrait: Boondock Brannigan (NPC)

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% Jessica Abbott %


Jessica sifted through the ratty backpack, pulling out a different one of Sam's old t-shirts. It was thin enough for her to tear with her hands, which she did-- starting near the neck in thin strips. Seemed like the best way to turn unwanted memories into needed supplies. Makeshift bandages were every bit as valuable as the next thing. She slouched back against the front kiosk arranging the strips of linen in a neat pile beside her as a dull silence hung in the air. Althea paced near the front door, twiddling a crowbar in her hands-- her face still bearing the recovering scrape printed across her cheek from Lillian's shoe. The brooding woman peered anxiously through the front blinds at the street, eagerly awaiting the others.

Lily scraped at something behind the counter, incessantly. The sound only suddenly becoming audible over Jessica's own shuffling. She set down the remainder of the shredded shirt and stood up, dusting off her knees. She sidled up alongside the counter and leaned over, peering at the girl. Wood shavings lined Lily's legs as she carved at the backside of the kiosk with a small knife.

Jessica chewed her lip, unsure of what to say to the kid. There was so much she wanted to say to the girl, but no real place to start. Things had been quiet for the last few days, while they all hunkered down inside-- waiting out the dangers outside... and in their heads and hearts. It was a big loss for the lot of them... a double blow along with the previous losses from that morning. Delivered with those were the betrayals. Amidst all the chaos surrounding Sam and Annabelle's deaths, Henry broke through the last of the wall in the pet shop-- raiding all of its supplies and fleeing the complex before the dust had settled. Fortunately for the rest, neither Sam nor Annabelle ended up needing the medical supplies. But the group still felt burned. The tag-along alcoholic had been nothing but trouble since the moment they met him. Jessica felt bad for even giving the man a second chance. But hindsight was indeed 20/20. The second betrayal fell a bit closer to home when earlier this very morning, George struck out with naught but a word to anyone. Him, his bag, his gun. She knew why he went... but in the back of her mind she pretended he was going after Henry. That version made her feel less sad.

Lillian continued picking away at the wood, either oblivious or uninterested in Jessica's presence. Perhaps a bit of both. Jessica twiddled her thumbs a bit, picking at the counter with her own nails. She looked down at the girl. "Thank you..." Lily stopped carving for a brief moment-- and then resumed at an even quicker pace. Jessica grinned a little. It was a start. She walked around the counter, pulling an office chair underneath herself as she sat down behind the girl. "I never got to say thank you," Jessica continued. She ran her hands across her face-- trying to rub the sleep out of her eyes. "I don't know... if you've been thinking I'm waiting for some kind of apology... or that I'm going to punish you or something. Which couldn't be further from the truth." Lily propped her head on one arm, staring into her growing masterpiece as she casually carved away. "What you tried to do for us-- what you did do... I don't think you know what that meant to everyone." Jessica let her dangling toes touch the ground, and began to spin herself slowly in the desk chair. "The way it came about? Nobody could have wished for that... but-- we handled it. We survived. We're still here..." Lily finally stopped, rubbing away the faint beads of sweat on her forehead. She looked up at Jessica, timidly. She stopped spinning and reached over to the girl, brushing her golden locks out of her tired face. The poor thing had barley been able to sleep since everything happened. And she hadn't had a shred of normalcy or decency over the last week and half-- being passed around from adult to adult as people were killed off and went missing. It was bad enough she was separated from her parents, and now widowed to her best post-apocalyptic friend. "We are all we have..." she said, matter-of-factly. "That's something to hold onto." Lillian just looked at her, blinking her sad eyes. Jessica leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. "Y'know... this whole last year, I've just had these... things being stripped away from my life. Like I'm losing these layers... first-- my husband... and my house. My son..." She sighed. "The last thing I have is all of you. This. That's all that's keeping me from losing the most important thing: my mind." She looked back at her carving, sniffling a bit. Jessica rolled the chair back to get a better view and saw two large prints... headstones for the dearly departed. "They would have loved these," Jessica chimed, forcing a smile. She squeezed the girl on the shoulder and leaned in close to her ear. "But don't let Bethany see. She'll kill you..." Lily cracked a smile at that. A small victory, and a needed one.

Jessica stood, arching her back as she stretched out the last of the days aches and pains. Althea jumped to a start across the room, swiping up her crowbar as she rushed towards the windows. "That's movement," she announced, spreading the blinds with her fingers. "It's them."

"Help me with the benches," Jessica ordered, springing towards the front doors.

Althea shrugged out of her jacket and threw it to the side, along with her crowbar. "They're coming in hot!" she called out, grabbing one end of the wooden benches to drag away from the doors. Jessica grabbed the other end and the two of them sloppily tossed it to the ground. Lily was already up and behind them, preparing to unbrace the chair from the door. Jessica wiped her hair from her face and nodded to the girl, drawing her knife from her waistband. Lillian yanked the door out from beneath the handles, and she and Althea pushed the doors open to welcome their incoming friends. Several alerted walkers shambled on in the distance as their comrades rushed towards the spa entrance keeping low. Jessica walked towards the door, slowly-- hoping for good news. They needed it now more than ever.

She couldn't take one more tragic start to the day.


# # #



.: The Lost Church :.


Gustav thrust a finger in Val's chest, narrowing his eyes. "It's been three days, for Christ's sake... let the poor girl go."

Ashley shook her head, standing firmly in front of the door to the side room. "She's a liability, Gus-- you know the protocol."

"Protocol?!" Boone shouted from beside her "You fucking robot. Let the girl go-- she didn't do anything."

"And she hasn't said anything either. Until she does, she stays put." Val folded her arms, unmoved by all this nonsense.

Boone laughed, mockingly. "She's in shock, pig."

"HEY!" Val barked, whipping out her baton. "Why don't you cut the shit-talk, chief?"

Boone threw up his hands, middle fingers and all-- storming off in a huff. Gustav sighed, scratching erratically at his beard. "I understand your concerns, but we can't just keep the girl cuffed to a rail in there... she hasn't done anything to deserve this."

"Did you see the same thing I saw in there?" Val asked, heatedly. "That girl had a bite on her the size of my hand. She's a ticking time bomb."

"It's been nearly three whole days and her condition hasn't even worsened," Gustav reasoned.

"I don't know how much worse you can get then a traumatized mute with a red walker tattoo on your shoulder," Val said, rolling her eyes. "We don't know shit about this infection... we can't afford to start making assumptions now. You wouldn't let me throw her onto the street, so this is the situation we're dealing with now. And you don't have to like it."

"We don't even know if it was the priest that bit her? It could have been the dog!" Gus argued.

Val scoffed. "The same dog that was curled up next to her in a pool of the girl's own blood? Doubtful." She brushed him aside, holstering her baton. "Look-- I get that you have the whole beard going on and you want to do the whole Sherlock thing, but I do this for a living. The girl hasn't been entirely truthful with us, and until she decides to cooperate-- we focus on more pressing matters. Or did you forget that our people are missing?"

"She's right," Harry added, joining the two of them outside Sarah's holding. He placed his hands on his hips, obviously as disapproving of the situation as the others. "We need to earn this girl's trust if we're gonna get anything out of her, but that's gonna take time. Duke and them-- we have to find out what happened. That's what matters right now."

"And until I'm sure she isn't going anywhere," Val shrugged. "the girl stays locked up. I'll deal with her when we get back. Gus you're with me. Find Boone, get him a juice box or whatever he needs to calm down and get him ready. The rest will stay here in case they show. Understood?" The two older men silently nodded. "Good. How's Brooke? She need anything?" Val asked, turning her attention to Harry as Gustav stalked off on his task.

The greyed man stuffed his hand into his coat pocket and retrieved a crumpled piece of paper. "She wrote some stuff down," he replied, handing the ball of paper to Val. She began to unfold it, straightening it out. "I can't make sense of most of it. Girl stuff, I imagine."

Val smirked. "We'll try and make a stop if we find good news, OK? Just stay with her and make sure she has everything she needs." Harry nodded and mumbled and headed back off towards Brooke near the vigil. "Thank you," she added as an after-thought. She was trying to be less hard on these people, but they all depended on her to make decisions and keep them heading in a direction... any direction. They needed something to rally around. But more than that...

They needed good news.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi


Wayne and Lisa sat down on the sofa in the room, while Tara paced up and down the room. Rafiq hopped on the reception desk, accidently knocking down a lamp. He put it back in its place again, barely registering that he was doing so. His head was racing by trying to form a plan quickly. With his legs dangling over the edge, he cleaned his hunting knife with the hem of his shirt.

Lily looked at what he was doing. He returned the gaze and shrugged. “Straggler.”

She nodded at that, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. And maybe it was.

The four of them were reluctant to speak, but it was only postponing the inevitable. Althea clearly got annoyed at their silence.

“Well?” She asked with no small amount of irritation.

Rafiq sighed and cocked his head slightly backwards. “The tunnels are a dead end. They’re filled with walkers.”

“And by filled, he means stuffed like tuna in a can,” Wayne added, “I think I counted at least a hundred.”

“Two-hundred,” Tara said.

“That many?” Jessica said in surprise. It was a strange notion that just a few days ago, they had walked through those tunnels themselves. Had they been trapped down there, they would surely all be dead.

Althea looked out of the window, as if to check whether the horde hadn’t followed them. “Did they notice you?”

“Some did,” Lisa said, “but they aren’t very good at climbing over the turnstiles. Only one managed and Rafiq took him out easily enough. Besides, they seemed to be pre-occupied by something deeper down into the tunnels.”

“How so?” That was Bethany, who had appeared with Diego.

“We could hear some sort of noise. Shrill, metallic.” Lisa closed her eyes as she said it, trying to recall what she had heard. “I’m not sure what it was.”

“Maybe it was some poor soul trapped in the tunnels,” Diego suggested.

“Could it have been Dyomie and the others?” Jessica asked.

Rafiq had thought of that as well, but even if it had been Dyomie, Marie, Natasha or Philip, there was no way to reach them. That way was cut off. Besides, the sound had been too machine-like. “I don’t think so,” he said, “it’s most likely something is in the process of breaking down.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Tara said, “that way is no longer an option. It means we have to go above ground.”

“Tara is right,” Rafiq said, “we have spoken about this possibility.” Most of them had preferred the tunnel route. It wouldn’t have been without risk, but the chances were better of finding a trace of the others and there would have been less variables to worry about. Still, they had discussed how to go about the streets as well. Bethany and Diego knew the area very well and quickly realized where Tara, Lisa and Althea had seen the others last.

“Okay, then we take the streets,” Bethany said. She picked up her stuff as if she was ready to leave right then and there.

“You want to leave right now? We just got back!” Wayne said slightly shocked. He had taken off his shoes again and was resting his feet on the coffee table. It was apparent he had hoped for at least a little rest before setting out again.

Bethany turned to him and took on an authoritative composure. “Why not? We have discussed everything already. Everyone knows what to do. The longer we stay here, the smaller the chance we will find your friend. What do you want to do?” She scoffed, “Take a bath?”

“That would be nice,” Wayne joked, but put his shoes back on all the same.

“Bethany is right,” Jessica said, “we have spent enough time here already. This place is… I’m ready to leave.”

Lily had already opened the door and scouted out the near vicinity. “No Crawlies nearby. Now would be a good time.”

Everyone turned their attention towards Rafiq, as if it was his call. Those looks still unnerved him. He jumped down from desk and gestured towards the door in a purposefully dramatic fashion. “That’s decided then. The Fellowship will go to Mordor and destroy the ring.”

He went slightly red as the others just looked at him, either not getting or appreciating the joke. But when Diego walked past him, he gave him a friendly bump on the shoulder.

“Lead on, Frodo.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi


They walked through the streets. Rafiq was leading the pack with Diego. Wayne, Tara and Lily were behind them, followed by Althea and Lisa. Jessica and Bethany brought up the rear. None of them spoke much, as they didn’t want to attract unnecessary attention from the walkers. There were small pockets of undead on the streets here and there, but it appeared that most of them had gone somewhere else. Presumably down into the tunnels. Occasionally one of the walkers would get too close, but they were taken out without too much trouble. As long as you were aware of them and they were on their own, the undead were not that difficult to deal with.

The city was covered in a thin layer of a gray ash-like substance. It made everything look surreal, the abandoned buildings and cars only enhancing the effect. The thought was cliché, but it felt to Rafiq like they were on a movie set. Only know did he understand what those people on the television meant when they said something like that. He said so to Diego, who, quite predictably, grinned at that.

“Not any movie set I’ve ever been to,” he said in a low tone, barely audible.

“Really? You’ve been on a set?”
It occurred to Rafiq that he didn’t really know what Diego did before all of this happened. Bethany was the owner of the spa, but somehow Rafiq couldn’t imagine Diego being much involved.

“You can say that again.”


“So you’re an actor?”

“Yeah, though trust me, I’m not that well known. Not like Beth.”


Surprised, Rafiq quickly behind him at the women in the back. He didn’t recognize Bethany from anything, though he had seen quite a few movies in his lifetime.

“Theatre?” Rafiq inquired.

The comment made Diego laugh out loud, too loud, then abruptly stopped upon realizing where they were. Tara let out a short “sssssst”, while the others looked at the two of them either surprised or annoyed. Everyone became on high alert, scanning the area for any activity. Rafiq could feel himself glowing red while checking the buildings on the opposite street. One heartbeat, two heartbeat. There were a few walkers towards the intersection, but they appeared not to have noticed them.

Then Althea let out a small sound of surprise and they all turned towards her, then at the window she was looking at. Two small heads were peering through the window, looking just as surprised as they were. A girl about seven or eight with a large bow in her hair and a slightly younger boy holding an action figure. A woman appeared behind them, ushering the two away from the window. A door opened and a heavily muscled Latino man came through, thunderous and suspicious. He had a gun in his hand, pointing it directly at them.

“Go away,” he said, “there is no place for you here. Go away.”

Instinctively, Rafiq raised his hands in the air. Some did as he did, while others raised their own weapons instead. It was Lisa who responded first, who just as Rafiq had not taken up her weapon, but was showing him her empty hands. “We’re just passing through,” she said, “we mean no harm.”

The man focused his attention on Lisa, pointing his gun at her. Another man appeared behind him, taller and thinner, but otherwise a spitting image of the first man. Brothers. He carried just as big a gun as the first one and gestured it threateningly at the group.

“Go away then. This place is not for you. Only my family.”

“You have that big of a family?” Lily asked incredulous. Tara placed a hand on Lily’s shoulder and pulled her backwards. “Not helping, kid,” she murmured.

The man eyed the gun Lily was holding suspiciously. “You gave your child a gun?” He directed the question to Tara, probably assuming she was the mother.

“Mind your own fucking business,” Bethany said. Both guns immediately turned towards her. She took a step backwards, but otherwise showed no visible signs of fear.

Rafiq, now having lowered his hands, but still with his open palms towards the two men to not appear threatening, walked in front of Lily and Tara.

“Look, like she said, we mean no harm. We have no intention of bothering you or your family.”

“Right,” Lisa said, relieved that at least somebody else was not trying to escalate the situation, “we’ll be just on our way now.”

The muscled guy studied the both of them, then lowered his gun. His brother didn’t. “Alright then. Move it. And don’t come back or else.”

“Right,” Rafiq said and gestured the others to continue walking. They all did, though some couldn’t help but give the two men an angry look. Rafiq and Lisa waited until everyone had passed them and then closed the ranks. Rafiq turned to give one polite nod, but the men no longer deemed it worthy to notice him. They quickly checked the streets and then slammed the door shut.

“I forgot how paranoid people have become,” Lisa whispered to Rafiq.

“Can’t necessarily blame them.”


They took a turn on the intersection and followed along the blind wall of the building. The people inside had no way to see them. Trying to push what had just transpired from his mind, Rafiq kicked an empty soda can to the side of the street. This made him notice that one of his shoe laces had become undone. He stood still, made sure no walker was nearby and then lowered himself. Upon seeing what he was doing, Lisa politely waited on him.

When he was done, he stood back up again and smiled at her. “Thank you for waiting.”

“No problem,” she said. “Always need someone to have your back, right?”

“Right.”

They continued walking, thinking they had to catch up to the others, but the rest of the group had stood still as well a little further on.

“Ow look, they waited for us as well,” Lisa said with a hint of surprise in her voice.

Rafiq was not so sure about that though, as the others seem to have their attention focussed on something else. They were all staring at the set of apartments behind the building with the gun-happy Latino men and their families. Looking up, Rafiq saw what was going on.“Ow fuck.”

A large column of smoke was coming from the building, darkening the sky right above it. Large flames could be seen through the windows of the upper floor. From this angle it was impossible to tell whether the ground floor was already on fire as well, but everyone could see it was bad.

“That does not look good,”
Wayne mused.

“A fire like that unchecked could affect an entire block of buildings,” Tara said worryingly.

“Do you want to call the fire department then?” Bethany sniped, “we better keep moving.”

“Wait!” Lisa exclaimed, “we have to go back.”

The others turned to her. “Why?” Bethany asked, “if we just take a left here, we’ll be fine.”

Lisa pointed at the building next to the apartments. “Those people. We have to warn them. That fire could creep up on them.”

“So? They’ll figure it out soon enough.”

“Do you want to take that risk?”
Lisa asked.

“But they pointed a gun at us,” Althea said begrudged, “I’m with Bethany on this one.”

“Seriously? But they have children with them!” Lisa was pleading now, looking at the others for support.

“She does have a point,” Wayne said, “we can’t just abandon a couple of kids like that.”

“Can’t we?” Althea responded. “You heard what he said. Those people made it perfectly clear they want nothing to do with us, which is fine with me.”

“You have those children die?” Lisa asked her, shocked.

“Of course not,” Althea said, “but I doubt that will happen. They will realize what is going on soon enough. In the meantime, I’d like us not to have our heads blown off by a couple of trigger-happy men who misunderstand our intentions.”

“Agreed,” Lily chimed in.

“They won’t just shoot us,” Lisa said, “Jess?”

Jessica looked torn and was about to say something when a loud sound came from the burning building. It was as if an entire floor had collapsed, and judging by the increased intensity of the flames on the upper floors, that was completely possible.

“Right, that’s it. I’m going back, alone if I have to.” Lisa said with fierce determination.

She was just about to storm off, but Rafiq placed a hand on her shoulder and stopped her. “Wait, you can’t go back alone.”

“You’re coming with me?” Lisa asked, hope shimmering in her eyes.

Rafiq blinked in surprise. That had not entirely been what he had meant. He had wanted to stop her from running off alone, as that typically did not end well. Though he agreed with Lisa that those people deserved a warning, he also had to think about the safety of the group. If someone got shot…

“You’re kidding. Rafiq, we don’t have time for this.” Bethany said.

“Ow come on darling. Let them go. It will only take two minutes.” Diego said to her as he wrapped his arms around her and nuzzled her neck.

Bethany rolled her eyes. “Not you too.”

Althea bristled. “It is not even a matter of time, it is a matter of safety. We have to think about ourselves.”

Lisa pulled away from Rafiq, taking another step back into the street. “Well, are you coming or not?”

Rafiq was unsure on what to do. It was clear that neither Lisa or Althea and Bethany could be persuaded otherwise. He really wanted to help Lisa, but not with the rest of the group just out on the streets like that. They would have to have a safe place first, but that might take too much time, as the fire was quickly spreading. “I…”

“Ow God!” Jessica suddenly exclaimed. They all turned around and saw a group of walkers turning the corner. Burning walkers. The shambling corpses were on fire, presumably coming from inside the building. The bodies had started to blacken, but the flames had not affected them enough to impede their mobility. Whether they had died before or after the fire was unclear.

Though the flames licked their hands, arms and faces, the walkers were oblivious to it.

“We have to move now!” Bethany shouted at them, “there won’t be an opening much longer!”

“No,” Lisa responded, “we have to go back! We can flee that way just as well!”

“Don’t be an idiot!”

“Don’t be so selfish!”

“Rafiq!” “Rafiq”

As the burning bodies stumbled closer towards them, a thousand thoughts went through Rafiq’s mind.

He had only one more second to make a decision.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lillian "Lily" Strong (NPC) Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: Jessica Abbott (NPC) Character Portrait: Lisa Pazzino (NPC) Character Portrait: Althea Brown Character Portrait: Bethany Whitfield Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

0.00 INK

% Jessica Abbott %


”RAFIQ!” Jessica shouted through the shuffling group of survivors. Burning walkers licked in flames shambling across the blacktop towards them, black smoke trailing their charred figures as they closed in. Rafiq glanced over his shoulder towards where she was pointing and saw Lisa sprinting towards the apartments alone. She had waited long enough with their indecisions.

He spun on his heel to chase after her, almost losing his balance on the pavement in his haste. ”Lisa, WAIT-- c’mon!”

Althea gripped her weapon, taking off after the both of them down the sidewalk as she sighed to herself. ”Keep the street clear!” she shouted back over her shoulder between breaths. ”We might be comin’ back fast...”

Diego gripped his sledgehammer in his hands, angling back into the middle of the street as the walkers closed in around them on both sides. Wayne and Bethany brandished their weapons too as Lily stood back behind the two of them. ”We can’t use our guns… it might spook those people in the apartments. Last thing they need to see is a bunch of people running towards their door with gunfire ringing out,” Bethany advised, dejectedly. She lowered her weapon along with the others, who started swapping them out for whatever knives or melee weapons they had handy. Lily hadn’t brought anything else with her and quickly found herself defenseless.

Tara stowed her pistol and looked around on the ground around her for something to keep the walkers back. She turned and spotted a fallen street sign a few feet back between her and Jessica. ”Just keep them at range. They get a hand on you-- you’ll feel it...” Jessica nodded in agreement. She watched as Tara hoisted the metal pole up into her hands and readied it, facing the creatures.

’HEEEEEEELLLLLLLLPPPPPP!!!!’

The voice rang out from the original burning building-- a hollow shout somewhere deep within. The girls’ heads whipped in its direction. ”Was that--?” Jessica stumbled towards the sound. It had been someone’s voice. Crying out in a panic.

’PLEEEEAAAASE!! DON’T-- NOOOOOO!!!!’

”Jessica!?!” Tara bellowed, prodding one of the zombies in the stomach with the sign and doubling it over as she strained to look over at her. She barely caught sight of Jessica barrelling through the wave of walkers, darting between curtains of black smoke towards the flames. ”JESSICA!!”


# # #


Lily turned back towards the adjacent sidewalk as Diego and Bethany took up positions opposite one another to receive the incoming walkers. Bethany clutched her crowbar between whitened knuckles, bracing herself-- clearly unsure of how to proceed. The first of the clawing creatures groped at her, mindlessly, and she rose the crowbar above her head, waiting for the thing to lunge before crashing it down on its skull and using the heel of her boot to peel it off of her weapon. It splattered onto the pavement-- pieces of its still flaming flesh stuck to her shoe. She quickly stamped out the flames and wiped her foot clean of whatever was still clinging to it. More stragglers hurried past her towards Lily, who was already backed up against a parked car close behind Diego. She pulled down her sleeves and wiped the ash and dirt off the car window with the butt of her hand, revealing its interior. Much to her fortune, a ratty backpack and small machete were visibly stuffed between the seat and center dash console. She cradled her fingers under the handle and pulled up-- to no avail. It was locked. Behind her, the deafening roar of the encroaching walkers grew louder. They were even closer than she realized-- now coming between her and the others. Lily took the first course of action that crossed her mind and dropped to her hands and knees, sliding herself under the bottom of the car towards the other side. The closest walkers tumbled to the ground behind her, grasping and pawing at her untied shoelaces as they traipsed along behind her. She rolled onto her back-- using her hands to pull her along by grabbing onto various dangling engine parts above her while the thick grime caked her blackened fingers and palms. Everything was sticky enough to the point that she regretted the maneuver the instant she had thought of it.

Her face cleared the other side as she struggled out from underneath the car’s frame between the metal and the curb. Several walkers continued reaching blindly towards where Lily had been crawling moments before, hell-bent on getting hold of her. Lily found herself on her hands and knees, facing the passenger door of the vehicle-- hopelessly lunging out for its handle like before. The satisfying click of the door’s mechanism unlocking and propping open was like a godsend. She pulled back with all her might, scuffling forwards into the car and grabbing the bag and blade in one swoop -- carefully checking the back in case any other supplies lied out in the open.

Another low gurgle emanated from the opening to the car behind her. Lily swung around in her seat to see more walkers creeping across the sidewalk towards all the commotion-- drawing dangerously near to the car. She reached over, slamming the door shut with a thud and quickly realized she had trapped herself. Diego, Bethany, and Wayne stood back-to-back in the middle of the intersection with various weapons and tools, herding the growing mob of incendiary walkers. Their hands were full enough with their own situations that there would be know way they’d even notice the catastrophe happening right behind them. The walker’s clawing hands and limbs drew semi-clean streak across the ashen and muddied windows on both sides, deafening her ears with their incessant snarling and thrashing as they threw themselves again and again into the car’s facade. In turn, Lily threw herself into the backseat. It was only then that she noticed what would soon end up being “Plan B”. An equally dirtied sunroof visor hung above her head, casting very little light through it.

She leapt up towards the ceiling, picking at the seam of the window with her small fingers-- but the edge was flush with its plastic lodging.

’The machete…’ she thought, silently.

It was in her hands in an instant and in the sunroof one instant after that. It’s piercing tip slipped finely between the plate of glass and its exterior as Lily delicately inserted it as far as it was willing to go. She pushed firmly against the handle of the blade, wedging the glass open in small movements-- successfully, much to her relief. Patches of ash sifted down from above, clouding her eyes and dusting her hair as she shimmied away at the cover. It loosened enough in its frame to slight another third of the way, enough for her to at least start pushing the supplies out the top-- which she did. More walkers collected behind the others, already pressed against the sides of the car as their arms stretched out towards Lily-- her head and upper body forcing their way up through the opening… but it was too tight of a fit. She curled her fingers between her chest and the glass and pressed her back into the frame of the sunroof, trying to slide it back further-- but their was too much dust blocking the tracking. Her feet fumbled beneath her inside the car, trying to find something with better leverage so she could try and force herself through the rest of the way.

And then it happened.

Her heel fumbled against the emergency brake, disengaging it and causing her foot to slip. She felt it too-- slowly… as the walkers surged against the automobile. The wheels slowly began to roll, crushing the unlucky ones who were still underneath it-- as more and more of the creatures mounted to the rear and grasped at the air around Lily. She suddenly realized the dire nature of the situation as she continued struggling against the glass, a sloping boulevard littered with vacant cars and debris looming into view ahead of her. She thrashed her feet around inside the car trying to find a better foothold and wedged her shoe into the nook of the center dash, pushing up with all her might and slowly freeing her elbow… and then whole right arm. Her palm pressed down into the top of the car as the rest of her squeezed out slowly, but her escape was cut short as she craned her body to stop the bag and blade from sliding off the top of the rapidly accelerating car.

Her eyes caught Wayne’s as she rolled further away down the slanted road, his arm raising to point at her as he mouthed something she couldn’t comprehend. The shock was evident enough in his expression though, and soon he had turned Diego and Bethany’s attention to the spectacle as well. All in one movement, they maneuvered their ways after her-- separately, but together. Their presence was drawing too much attention from surrounding walkers, and they knew it. Too much longer and they wouldn’t be able to traverse the rest of the boulevard towards the other entrance to the metro tunnels. Going by the main streets almost wasn’t an option anymore, what with the volume of walkers being as large as it was. Back alleys and rooftops would always be the safest bet, but not the fastest. And they didn’t have time to waste.

Lily clutched her newly inherited belongings to her chest as the quickening momentum of the car caused her to tumble backwards as well. She slid effortlessly down the filthy windows and over the trunk, colliding with the rough pavement on her backside as she rolled to a stop feet later. She shook her head, trying to unblur her vision as she scrambled around her for her things. Somehow her pistol was still tucked into the back of her pants, but she knew that wasn’t an option. Her whole body stung from the landing-- the familiar burn of road rash pulsing up and down her hands and legs. She used one of them to push her back to her feet as she took a moment to gather her bearings and look for the others.

Wherever they had gone.


# # #


”Jessica! STOP!”

Tara’s voice was faint now-- a bare whisper compared to the roaring of the flames and crackling hiss of the peeling wallpaper and crumbling wood supports. The charred black smoke enveloped the ceiling like thick storm clouds, licking at the corners and edges as the torrential current continued to build. Jessica held the neck of her shirt over her mouth and nose as she barrelled into the open doors of the apartment building and down the hallway. The voice from before was nowhere to be heard. She swung her head to the left and right-- frantically searching the doorways for signs of activity as she plunged ahead into the growing darkness.

’Please! Somebody!’ the voice shrieked out once more. It sounded like it was coming from straight ahead. Jessica waved the smoke out of her face as she passed down the seared facade of the hallway, mindless to the impending dangers all around her. Another door passed by. And another. Her vision was beginning to blur so much already that she thought she saw a white light emanating from the end of the corridor-- but it was no hallucination. The last of the doorframes flashed past her eyes as she swung into view of its inside quarters, seething in flame-- collapsing before her very eyes. Across the way, two blackened bodies laid hand-in-hand in front of a blaring television, its vibrant colors mixing with the reds of the surrounding fire in a randomly pulsating series of flashes. The motionless corpses sprawled idly on the ground in a clear patch past the dining room area of the apartment as a woman on the TV monitor struggled against her assailant screaming out in terror. ’Somebody! PLEASE!!!’ Jessica’s brow furrowed as she closed her eyes against the images of the voices blending with what laid before her eyes-- two souls, burned to death. They survived the end of the world, but they couldn’t survive this.

Her right foot took a step forward without thinking, as if there was anything she could do to save them. Perhaps she was just a bit stunned. Just not as stunned as she became a moment later as Tara hurled her entire frame into Jessica, dropping her to the ground. The two landed with a hollow thud, skidding across the dilapidated carpet that like everything else felt warm to the touch. They tumbled to a stop a few paces past the door and separated, scrambling to their feet breathlessly.

Jessica waved her hair out her face. ”What the hell are you doing?!” she shouted over the roar of the flames. Even opening her mouth to talk was unbearable. The ash in the air stung at the insides of her throat and lungs with each passing breath, no matter what she did.

Tara squared up, as if preparing to charge again. ”No-- what the hell are you doing?” she challenged back, looking her deep in the eyes.

Jessica shrugged her arms, looking around hopelessly. ”I thought I heard s-someone c--”

”You can’t just run off like that,” Tara continued, bellowing out her lungs. ”You keep talking about us all sticking together but then you go off and do something stupid like this? I know you might not feel like you have anything left to live for, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop trying.”

Jessica held her steely gaze from across the doorway, shielding herself from the embers of a cluster of falling beams in an adjacent room as they dusted up in a cloud of ash around them. They both collapsed in a fit of coughs as they fought to cover their mouths with whatever they could. The current of winds already building in the corridor made quick work of the pollutant whisping it s way into the torrent of fanning flames coating the walls and sidings. Jessica took it all in as they struggled back towards the doorway, hand-in-hand. She didn’t even know how they managed to find each other while they were blinded.

”We only get this through this together-- c’mon!!” she shouted out behind her with Jessica in tow.

She hoped they wouldn’t soon join the others as a couple of blackened corpses on the floor. One foot after another, the two of them charged forward-- heads down as they barrelled through the billowing smoke. The winds picked up as they neared the precipice out onto the street, the vacuous black cloud around them funneling out the front entrance an up into the sky. A series of loud crashes sounded behind them as other rooms and supports collapsed into oblivion-- but all that mattered was what was ahead of them.

That was everything.


# # #


”Wayne, can you get to her?” Diego rasped, spinning the sledgehammer around in his hands to deliver a blow to another walker. Its body crumpled into a heap on the ground beside him as the weight of the tool through him off balance and he used its metal head to prop himself up off the ground.

Behind him, Wayne dodged and darted between straggling walkers-- ducking and weaving through their reaching arms as he raced towards where the car had been. He stopped, hitting a thickening wall of the creatures and backpedaled to counter around towards a different root. ”Lily, can you hear me??”

Her voice was faint, but he could hear it-- somewhere amongst the mob. He had to find her before they attracted too much more attention...


#%! CRASH !%#


The deafening crunch of metal on metal made his neck twinge as he flinched. Several of the walkers stumbled to a stop, turning in unison toward the sound of wailing sirens as both of the collided car’s alarms began to blare down the hill aways. The ones further back turned and began to migrate that way, seemingly more interested in the commotion then with Wayne and the others. It was his opportunity to make his move.

Either now or never....