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Aspen Bates

"My mom always told me to keep moving forward, but I just want to stay where I am now."

0 · 260 views · located in Post-Apocalyptic America

a character in “Bullets and Brains”, as played by Felilla

Description

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"You touch Layton and I will ensure a death for you worse than the undead."



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Full Name:
Aspen Jane Bates

Gender:
Female

Age:
19

Ethnicity/Race:
American

Sexual Orientation:
Heterosexual

Prior Occupation:
University Student

Current Occupation:
Guard/Strategist




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Hair Color:
Auburn

Eye Color:
Hazel

Height:
5 ft 3 in or... 1.64m

Weight:
123 lbs or... 56 kg

Tattoos and Piercings:
Aspen has a tattoo of a butterfly on her right shoulder blade

Scars:
Three scars stretch across Aspen's thigh from the first day of the outbreak

Character Color:
#3A01DF

Description:
Aspen has long curly auburn hair that reaches her upper chest. She is pale complected with freckles dotting the bridge of her nose and around her hazel eyes. Her eyebrows are arches and the same color of her hair. In some lighting, her hair can appear light brown with an reddish tint. Normally, Aspen will wear practical clothing and when she is out and about, she'll tie up her hair. Her brother says that she used to wear makeup everyday, but now it is the last thing on her mind.





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Personality:
{Intuitive, Sarcastic, Cold, Selfless, Loyal}
You could say Aspen is-was-like every teenage girl. She would go out with her friends and have fun and lived her life normally. However, that was before the outbreak. Now, Aspen is cold and hardly ever gets attached to anyone. Around people she doesn't know well, she seems like a stuck up b**** because she'll only make smart remarks to them and she won't greet them like a normal person. She doesn't come off as the nicest person in the world. However, as Aspen opens up, she is shown to be very loyal and honest. She'll never turn her back on someone in the group and is honest to a fault. That honesty can get her into trouble, seeing as it makes her quite blunt at times.
She is extremely smart and observant, borderlining a genius, but she doesn't rub it into people's faces. Instead, she uses her intelligence to help the group by coming up with plans and helping make safer routes. It is not unlike her to use prior knowledge to help with current situations. Sometimes, it can be seen as a bit annoying by other people, because she always has a comeback to an insult and she is constantly telling people what to do. Albeit, her suggestions usually are helpful. It still makes her bossy though, which makes her a bit unlikeable. She is still a valuable asset to the group though.

Hobbies:
  • Reading~Aspen has always been an avid reader, she'll read anything she can get her hands on
  • Sewing~Before the apocalypse, Aspen would sew for fun, she still sews, but only because of the need to
  • Cooking~Aspen has been cooking since she was old enough to talk, and she is very good at it
  • Strategy~Aspen often plans out things with the adults, helping figure out where food can be found, how to avoid hordes, etc.
  • Writing~Aspen keeps a journal of her experiences, but she has yet to tell anyone else about it yet

Habits:
  • Spouting off random facts~To dissolve tension, Aspen will start saying random facts
  • Biting her lip~Aspen will bite her lip when she's nervous or when she's uncomfortable
  • Counting~Before fire off her sniper, Aspen tends to silently count to four or nine

Oddities:
  • PTSD~Aspen has come to a silent conclusion that she might have PTSD from killing her parents
  • Coconut~Aspen is incredibly allergic to coconut and products with coconut

    Likes/Loves:
    • Chocolate
    • Books
    • Writing
    • Her Brother
    • Cooking
    • Children
    • Learning New Things

    Dislikes/Hates:
    • Killing/Death
    • Darkness
    • Nightmares
    • Coconut
    • Arrogance
    • Authority





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Character Skills/Talents:
  • Cooking~Aspen is an amazing cook; it is an understatement saying she can make anything taste good
  • Sniping~Because of years of hunting with her dad, Aspen is a crack shot
  • Intelligence~Aspen is incredibly smart, borderlining a genius. She is able to figure out an answer quickly and easily.
  • Hand-to-Hand~Aspen is actually a very capable hand-to-hand fighter
Character Flaws/Weaknesses:
  • Strength~Aspen is not inherently strong
  • Speed~Aspen is also not very fast
  • Antisocial~It is well-known that Aspen is not very welcoming to new members
  • Her Brother~Aspen is very attached to her brother and she knows that if the time comes, she won't be able to kill him
Secrets:
  • Aspen never told her brother, but she was the one that killed their parents when the time came
  • The fact that she might have PTSD is one that Aspen keeps to herself, even though she knows it might hinder the team later on
Fears/Phobias:
  • Nyctophobia>She'll never admit to it, but Aspen is afraid of the dark
  • Necrophobia>Aspen is terrified of death and the undead; she is also afraid to die





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Biography


Place Of Origin:
New York City, NY

Birth Date:
November 1st, 1999

History:
Aspen had a very normal childhood. She was born to an unknown woman and adopted by Adam and Marie Bates that same day. She doesn't know who her real mother is, and she's fine with it. For three years, she lived as an only child. Her parents quickly realized how smart she was and enrolled her in preschool early. On July 14th, 2002, her mother and father adopted another newborn, a boy. Aspen immediately became protective of her little brother, whom her parents let her name Layton. For the next sixteen years, Aspen lived the most normal childhood possible. She remained top of her class, kept a 4.0 GPA, and eventually graduated from her high school a year early with a full ride scholarship to University of New York City. She lived at home because it was close to the university.
The day of her nineteenth birthday was the day of the outbreak. She woke up to her mother's scream and ran down the stairs to see what was going on. Unfortunately, she was too late. Her father had already turned and her mother had been bitten. Terrified, Aspen grabbed a baseball bat and slammed it into her father's head. Then, her mother told her to take Layton and run. Aspen didn't want to leave her mother, but she knew it was the only option, so she agreed. However, what her mother asked next horrified her. Marie Bates asked her only daughter to kill her. She didn't want to end up like Adam. Aspen had no choice but to obey her mother.
Aspen woke up her brother and lied about killing their parents. The two of them got into the family car and drove to Aspen's friend's house. They thought the could trust him, but he turned on them at the last moment. He got what was coming to him, and was bitten. Aspen killed him without hesitation. They continued to run until they met up with the group, who they've been with up until this point.

Family Tree
Father//Adam Bates//Deceased
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Mother//Marie Bates//Deceased
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Brother//Layton Bates//Alive
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Happiest Memory:
Aspen's happiest memory was without a doubt the day her little brother was born. She had picked his name and was one of the first people to hold him. She might have been young, but it is a memory she treasures.

Saddest Memory:
The memory that haunts Aspen the most is killing her parents when they were turned into zombies. She can remember waking up to her mother's scream as clearly as she remembers the minute before. She can still feel the wood in her hands and the blood splattering over her as she smashed their heads in with a baseball bat.

So begins...

Aspen Bates's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates

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#, as written by Felilla
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The cool breeze was something that New Yorkers would normally enjoy. It meant snow, Christmas, a new year, a new start. Now, it only meant death. The small rag tag group would have to move southwest, like geese migrating in the winter; maybe the Virus hadn't spread outside of the United States. It was wishful thinking, but in a world like this, who was going to shoot down the hope of a new life? Aspen Bates definitely wasn't.

She tread quietly, years of hunting taught her how to move as if she were a deer grazing in the woods. She had been telling the "leaders" of the group about moving south for days now. It seemed like no one wanted to listen though. From their perspective, she could kind of understand. They were a large group, which meant that large supplies of food and water were needed to keep them all alive. It was tricky to just make sure everyone was fed. If they moved, what were the chances of them finding a store or even a house when they needed it?

Aspen sighed silently as she followed Nate and the others. She and her brother Layton were in the rear, seeing as they were some of the best shots in the group. Between the two of them, Lila Belle looked around, sniffed the air, and dropped her head before repeating the process. Only a puppy and she was already one of the most well behaved dogs Aspen had ever seen. The teenager looked away from her dog to glare at Nate's back. He was planning on raiding a store. While it seemed like a brilliant idea to most of the others, Aspen thought that it was a fairly useless attempt. Any store near a populated area was not likely to have much supplies left. There was also the issues of the zombies. She had a working theory that they gathered, like herds or flocks of animals. Of course, this was only a theory.

Normally, Aspen would've stayed back at the "house", but she had to try and find some chocolate. She knew that if she hadn't come, Layton would've forgotten it, and the poor chocoholic girl would go without it. It was getting harder and harder to find the substance and she knew she's have to stop soon, but she couldn't help it. Plus, she needed to see if she could find some more inhalers for Layton. The ones they had now weren't going to last forever.

She ran a hand through her auburn hair as Nate pulled to a stop. "We're looking for food and medicine right now, got that? Grab other supplies if you think they'll help, but the last thing I need is someone getting bitten for a fucking pair of cute flip flops or something. Stay with at least one other person, alright? Watch each other's backs."

Aspen glanced at her brother, who nodded back at her. Nate bent down to talk to Milo. Sometimes, she wondered if she was the only one that noticed how much the kid hated it. When he stood up, he looked over at the entire crowd, "Meet back in twenty minutes."

Without another word, Aspen swung her rifle over her shoulder, glancing at Layton. "Look for ammunition, too. We'll check the gas station first. Zombies seem to avoid them."

Layton nodded and the two traced their footsteps back to a gas station they had passed on the way to the center of town. Aspen led the way, Layton walking backwards slightly behind her. Layton swung his flashlight around inside the abandoned gas station, not seeing anything. He nodded to his sister and the two stepped inside. Lila Belle stayed outside, still on the alert. As her brother disappeared to the other side of the store, Aspen walked around the counter, searching through all of the medicine. She lifted up each of the containers, shining her flashlight on them. Advil. Tylenol. She purposely avoided anything liquid as she searched through the pills. Layton peered over the counter, nearly giving his older sister a heart attack. "Don't do that!" she hissed as she stood up and put all of the containers into her backpack, "Find anything good?"

He nodded, Course I did. Do expect me to not find anything?"

Aspen rolled her eyes and leaned against the counter. "What'd you get?"

Layton chewed his gum softly as he sorted through his own backpack. If anyone had been looking into the bag, they might have thought Layton had lost his mind. It would make sense. Any cans were wrapped up in toilet paper and the bags of food had all been stuffed at the bottom of the backpack. Not long after the first infection, Aspen realized how dangerous it was to carry cans around. They were loud and hit against each other. So, she figured out that wrapping them in toilet paper was the best way to keep the quiet. The best part? You could still use the toilet paper afterwards. Aspen grabbed some baby wipes and hand sanitizer and swung her rifle up before turning to Layton, "Let's move."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates

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#, as written by krashby
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The most unsettling part of this whole thing may have been the silence. A once bustling and lively world fallen to stillness, hushed. Should one have stood still and listen, they could almost hear the sound of their own heartbeat. Anna didn't like it. The silence set her on edge. All her life she lived in cities, raised to be comfortable with the constant cry of the car horns and the bang of gunshots in the distance. Even on the calmest nights of her childhood, there had always been the rush of water and crash of waves outside her doorstep.

This level of silence... this was unnatural. And the most unsettling part was that silence was so easily shattered.

A chilled breeze brushed past the nape of Anna's neck. The chill rolled up and off her shoulders, carrying with it wisps of blonde hair which rose into the air for a moment before falling softly, peacefully down. A shiver began at the top of her spine and traveled deliberately down, through both arms to the tips of each finger, down to her stomach, her legs, her toes. Pale skin tightened and drew goosebumps to every surface of her body. Hastily she drew her arms across her chest to pull tighter the jacket she wore. It was a faded grey, light, cheaply-made thing that did little good in keeping out the cold. But it was the only one she had. And anyways, there was nothing to be done about the chill that rested within her.

It was hard to say if anyone who had known Annabelle Richards -- in the before that is -- would be able to recognize her as she stood now. She had been praised for her beauty since, well... since as long as she could remember. But now, in the after, there hardly seemed anything remarkable in her appearance. Her skin was pale and bland, sickly almost. Even her eyes, bright blues which used to shine like light through crystal, even they seemed to have sucked in the grey and lifelessness of the world she now found herself living in. Along with her grey jacket, she wore running shoes trimmed with purple and dark jeans which hugged snugly but not uncomfortably on her legs. Her hair was pulled back in a hastily-make bun, loose strands falling down on either side of her face. A silver heart-shaped locket hung from a chain around her neck.

Leaves crunched under her shoes with every step. She followed at near the back of the group, just ahead of Aspen and Layton. In the weeks that had passed since this whole horrible thing started, Anna had not become any more accustomed to the anticipation and fear that came with wandering into the unknown. She appeared as though to have some sort of nervous tick, the way she glanced back over her shoulder every other moment. With one hand she tugged nervously at a loose wisp of hair. In the other she tightly grasped the handle of a pistol. So far, she had yet to be forced to pull the trigger, but it was only a matter of time before that changed.

"... last thing I need is someone getting bitten for a fucking pair of cute flip flops or something." She had been hardly listening as Nate spoke, but she jerked her head up at that part, her attention refocused. He wasn't looking at her, of course he wasn't, and yet... She couldn't help the suspicion that him saying that was directed at least partly at her. Maybe she was crazy, very likely in was all in her head, she was sure that was it... and yet since arriving in the group she had been unable to shake the feeling that the others saw her as a joke. But then, could she blame them if they did? The previously pampered rich girl was ill suited to the stresses of survival, and though she put in her full effort to contribute all that she was capable, she simply lacked the skills the others possessed. More often than not she felt that all she could accomplish was getting in the way.

Slowly the group began to disperse, and Anna felt a sudden twist in her gut. She placed a hand over her abdomen. She closed her eyes and stood still waiting for the moment to pass over. Oh god, not now, please not right now... It was no use. Anna sprinted suddenly from her spot, ducking behind a nearby building. A flagpole waving no flags stuck out from the ground, and she grabbed on for support as she hunched over and heaved. With a sickening splash the contents of her meager breakfast spilled out onto the grass below her. When it was done, she closed her eyes, desperately attempting to spit the horrid taste from her lips. "Look," she whispered under her breath. "Baby, fetus, whatever you are right now... If this thing is going to work out between us, you can't do that so much. At least wait until other people aren't around."

Finally she straightened back up, sighing. Just look at me, she thought bitterly. I'm trying to reason with a fetus. Jesus...

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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Tugging her threadbare jacket close Kat knew that one of the things she’d be on the lookout for would be a coat to guard against the coming cold. The days seemed to be flying by now that winter was on the way and Kat didn’t seem to find the chill in the air particularly bracing. Give her tropical breezes and warm sunshine any day of the week. The idea of an island vacation made the twenty-nine year old smile dreamily. She could see it now; she’d finally get a tan and drink something blue with an umbrella in it while sitting on white sand.

Startled back to the reality of their situation by Nate’s declaration she shook her head wryly. “Flip flops, really? Now a good pair of boots, that would be a whole different story.” Kat couldn’t help but tease as she listened to Nate’s orders. Of course she’d do as she was told, at least for the most part. While Kat might possess a smart mouth she still preferred surviving to anything else and the second in command was usually right more than he was wrong. Lifting a hand to check the revolver at her waist she moved to grab the hunting knife she always carried.

Watching Aspen and Layton pair up and set off Kat girded her loins and followed Nate, Milo and the good doctor into the supermarket, assuming that Annabelle wouldn’t be too far behind. The smell in the abandoned market was nearly more than Kat could bear; the rotting meat and produce were nearly gag inducing. The thin brunette remained silent as she trailed behind the group, her gaze lingering on torn magazines with headlines that no longer mattered and celebrities who were in all likelihood dead. It was surreal and the urge to giggle was quickly suppressed by the presence of a horde of zombies.

Kat, taken over by adrenaline, grabbed her revolver and prepared to defend herself from the onslaught of the dead. There were at present count only the four of them and while Milo was a badass he was still a kid. The odds didn't seem to be in their favor but Kat was a reasonably good shot thanks to her father, a surge of confidence flooded her mind as she steadied herself and prepared for the worse. “So have we decided if this is going to be a fight or a flight situation?” Kat asked, her voice low and raspy as she aimed her revolver at the horde.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Michael Fairaday Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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Michael:

Michael was unsure about how the groups split. Two people seemed to immediately disregard it, and Nate had for some reason or another chosen to bring Milo with him. Michael was very cautious and very concerned for the younger members of the group, same as Robyn. And he was fairly certain they shared a special worry regarding Milo. The boy could barely speak without causing himself intense pain. Granted, he seemed good with a pistol or a hunting rifle, but he was still worried about sending a boy so young out on these trips.

Of course, if they didn't, he would just sneak off on his own. Milo hated be treated like a kid, even though he was one. Michael just wanted to keep him safe, a residual influence of what he did in the NYPD. Saving people. And he had...concerns...about Nate. He was worried he might be abusive, or a pedophile. Michael couldn't help it, the NYPD and his High School had taught him to constantly be aware of dangers.

However, he knew he couldn't talk Milo out of it. He hated being babied, and as far as he knew, Nate babied no one. That, and he had to admit Milo has certain skills. He seemed like he was the only one, or at least the best, at sneaking past zombies. He didn't have NYPD weapons training though.

Hoping Milo would be safe with Nate, he turned his attention to the rest of the group. He noticed Annabelle running off behind a building. He decided to follow her, and make sure she was okay. When he caught up to her, he noticed a pile of puke nearby. 'Are you okay? You are not sick right? I could walk you back if you are" he said, asking with his usual kind and polite voice.

In truth though, he knew he felt worse. He had a nightmare last night, about his fiancée, and his unborn son. Perhaps that is why he was so protective of Milo. But then again, Michael cared about anyone he believed to be innocent or a part of their group. Didn't matter how useful they are, all life is precious in his eyes. "you going to get sick again?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Michael Fairaday Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Cyan Kress Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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The quiet was eerie. Without realizing it, one grows very used to the sounds of the hustle and bustle that is bound to be produced by cities during everyday monotony. The sounds of cars, engines revving and horns honking, and the presence of others. Distant laughing, shouts, or talking just gets tuned out after so long of just living life, just white noise that no one really notices. But, now, when it's completely absent, one starts to miss it. Even nature seemed to have lulled itself into a quiet state from the shift of the norm, the trees no longer sounding as loud as swift breezes blew through their branches and the birds didn't sing their songs with the same vigor as before. At least, that was how it felt to Cyan. Like the world was slowly walling itself away, receding into a dormant state. The only sound he could hear now was sneaker soles scraping against the pavement.

Cyan kept himself near the front of the group's small herd. Tucking himself in the interior, just behind their temporary leader, Nathan, and little Milo, but in front of the good doctor and Kat. With his shoulders hunched up to his ears, the hood's drawstrings pulled taunt, and his arms pulled inside his hoodie's bulk, Cyan looked a bit odd as he kept pace with the rest. The mute looked odd most of the time, both lanky and pale, without much substance to his body at all, and generally looking like a bully's prime target, but he had a real reason as of now.

He hated the cold with a -- Ahem -- fiery passion. If the weather so far as dipped anywhere below 70 degrees, he was absolutely miserable. The teen cursed himself for not staying back at 'Home' with their true, yet unofficial, leader and the others, where he could of at least cocooned himself in blankets as he worked. But, alas, he guessed he was a tad more useful out here than back at base, more eyes to look for supplies and more hands to carry it. His own miserable state was no excuse for being lazy.

With his head in the clouds, Cyan heard nothing of the orders barked at them from Nathan, nor the witty but rather unnecessary comment about cute flip flops. He had just continued walking along at his same pace looking at the scenery, unaware that the group was splitting itself up and going it's separate ways until reality started to seep back in, and he realized he was alone. Pausing his walk, a small burst of panic seizing in his chest, he took a moment to free his arms from his jacket, turning in slow circles to try and find a familiar face.

Being alone was dangerous for the mute. He couldn't cry out if he needed help, and he wasn't fit enough to fight off any unpleasantness that might come his way. Cyan didn't carry a gun like the rest, either. He was a terrible shot, wouldn't even be able to hit a target at point-blank range, and would do more harm than help if one was placed in his possession. So, to stop any friendly fire and avoid casualties, he steered away from firearms. The only means of protection he carried on his person was a crude bat, the head of it being a mess of two-inch nails for 'effectiveness', clipped to his belt.

Seeing a wisp of a jacket disappear into a doorway, Cyan broke into a light jog toward a large supermarket building. They must have went inside when he wasn't looking. Thank the heavens that they hadn't up and left him while he daydreamed, because then he would be in some serious trouble.

Stepping carefully over a rotting pumpkin that held the sliding doors ajar, he nearly knocked into Adam as the doctor recoiled. Pursing his lips in dismay, Cyan moved out from behind the other man, not wanting to get pushed back into the moldy holiday decor. The room was dark, and the teen found himself squinting to try and make anything out.. There were only a few (And rather weak) light sources. One being the door Cyan had just entered from, and the other being the flashlight crudely duct-taped to Nathan's rifle. Following the beam of light with his eyes, and the tense muttering of his group mates, he, too, spotted the horde. The teen sucked in a breath through his teeth, eyes blown wide in fear. Cyan's hand dropped down to his belt, fumbling blindly to unhook his bat, not being able to tear his gaze away. Whatever may happen next was most likely not going to be pretty.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Michael Fairaday Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates Character Portrait: Cyan Kress Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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#, as written by Felilla
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There was something about the silence that Layton Bates found disturbing. He had lived in the city his entire life, so he was accustomed to the bustle of everyday life. It felt strange to be in a world where everything was an eerie silence. Well, not completely silent. He could hear the scuff of people's shoes against the pavement and if he tried hard enough, he could hear the breathing of the others. Layton adjusted his brown coat, wishing for something a bit warmer. He could remember better days, when all of this was some delusional theory he had thought up. He never imagined he'd be living it. Aspen let out a silent sigh next to him. She had changed drastically in the past month, but then again everyone had. When things were simpler, Layton would tease his sister for wearing so much makeup. It was odd seeing her without anything but the occasional dirt smudge on her pale face. Layton could feel a stubble on his chin. The other males in the group had long since given up shaving, but it was a small comfort for the teenager.

He hiked his old backpack up, the one he had kept since the beginning of this entire thing. It was almost empty, save for a granola bar or two ad his dad's wrench, so he knew he'd have to fill it up to the brim. He only had to hope that wherever Aspen decided they were going would still have food and medicine, as well as some gum. It was his sister's routine to go to simple places like gas stations and small, family owned stores before hitting the houses. She, unlike the others in the group, would avoid grocery stores (or any large store for that matter). She had told him about her theory, and he was kind of starting to believe her. He ran a hand through his brown hair as Nathan barked out orders. Layton was kind of glad he decided to not join the military. He hated being told what to do.

Aspen glanced over at him and he nodded back. It was not unlike the two of them to have some unspoken communication. They were closer than most siblings, even before the outbreak. The past month had bonded them closer together than Layton thought possible. He figured if they could live through escaping New York City, they could live through this winter. Secretly, he wished they could've brought a car. It would be so much easier to carry things, stuff as much as possible into the vehicle then drive away. That way, they could get warmer clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, whatever was needed to survive a harsh winter without the comfort of indoor heating. However, he also knew that cars were too loud. They would attract zombies left and right if they brought one.

The Bates siblings separated from the rest of the group. They had survived two weeks on their own, they knew what to look for. Aspen swung her rifle onto her shoulder. In the past month, layton had also noticed that she was getting very comfortable with weapons. She was a hunter, but she had always seemed reluctant about holding a gun. "Look for ammunition, too. We'll check the gas station first. Zombies seem to avoid them."

It was like Aspen to notice things that others seemed to disregard. She probably had some theory about why zombies avoided gas stations too, but she never really talked about her theories unless she was sure they were true. Layton walked backwards as his sister walked normally. The two of them had become comfortable with doing things like this. A zombie could easily sneak up on you, so could a trigger happy human. Their boxer pup Lila Belle walked between them, treading almost silently. When they approached the gas station, Layton swung his flashlight around. He didn't see anything, so he nodded to Aspen. The two of them entered the abandoned building as their dog waited outside. Aspen ducked behind the counter to looked for medicine while Layton started moving through the aisles.

He started by finding some toilet paper before getting any canned foods. The gas station must not have been very popular when the world was normal, because most of the stuff was still in place. He left the refrigerated aisles alone, knowing that anything in them would've already gone bad. Honestly, he would kill a man for a bowl of ice cream. When his bag was almost full, he made his way over to Aspen, meaning to ask if they were checking out the houses next. He bent over the counter, nearly giving her a heart attack. "Don't do that! Find anything good?" she stood up, grabbing baby wipes and hand sanitizer off the counter.

"Course I did. Do expect me to not find anything?"

Aspen rolled her eyes as she did a look over. "Let's move."

"Where we going next?"

The older Bates sibling looked at her watch, "It's already been fifteen minutes. We should probably head back."

Layton nodded and the two of them left the gas station.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Michael Fairaday Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Robyn Dempsey Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates Character Portrait: Elias Grant Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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|| Outfit ||
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Silence had long since befallen the world. No longer were there honking horns, laughing children, or large planes zooming above head. There were often dying and fearful screams here or there, mingled with the sounds of Mother Nature, whom had reclaimed her lands. But the most prominent, ruling, and horrifying sounds were the groans. Not the kind you hear coming from your parents' and older siblings' rooms late at night when they think you're sleeping tight, all snug as a bug. The groans of corpses, walking and rotting and looking for flesh to devour. It had been some time since the living dead (and not the sexy ones with fangs that Hollywood and lonely female writers pushed to the unwashed masses) had overtaken the world. Those that didn't join their ranks either ran or died trying. Art was one of those who ran. If it weren't for her Kela and Robyn and Nate, she figured she might have died after a month. Art was agile, flexible, strong, intuitive, and she knew how to survive in the wild. But there had been more than a situation or two where running wasn't an option and her hunting knife wouldn't have been enough to save her. Despite this, she still volunteered to go alone while some others headed in a group to ransack a ghost town (zombie town?) for supplies. Nate and Robyn, of course, insisted that she go with the group but she decided otherwise and left fifteen minutes ahead of them.

The silence around the town was not quite so...silent in her neck of the woods. As out of place as could be was the Mission Impossible theme. She was humming as she darted around, crawling under cars, twirling around corners with watchful eyes. Her Timberwolf/Husky padded playfully around with her, her tongue lolling out of her maw and dripping with saliva. To others, it may seem as neither of them took the situation seriously or simply didn't care. The fact was, she was confident. She hadn't seen signs of any hoardes and figured she'd be able to escape easily, whether she had to drop some stuff or not. Her target was not the grocery store. It was the local Dollar General. Her trusty GPS lead the way and she was quick to heft her empty backpack, tightening her grip on the straps. “Kela. No room for failure. No barking. Understand? No ladridos.” The blue and gold eyed dog gave a low snort in response. It had taken a month for her to train Kela to respond to her new commands and it was well worth it. She was the perfect companion for keeping watch, her species heightening her senses and her training and wolf blood heightening her instincts and reactions. The canine was strapped into her harness once used for farmers market trips, prepared for transporting the necessities when Art had a little red wagon.

If there was one thing that Art would absolutely not put up with, it was funk. Toothpaste, extra toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, rags, and various other toiletries were put into the bags that went into the cart before she set out to fill her own backpack, constantly sidestepping to avoid fallen merchandise with the flashlight of her phone strapped to her thigh lighting up the place. Candy was the first on her list. She needed her sugar and would not do without. She had stocked up on stuff and was headed out when she spotted a cute jacket and squealed just a bit, snatching it up quickly. She figured she might as well grab some more clothes. Winter was coming and not to mention, washing clothes had become a luxury. And poor Joshamee and Isabelle were growing like weeds. She stuffed every bit of clothing that she could into a black thirty gallon trash bag, hauling it over her shoulder and finally leaving. No signs of the undead. While her backpack wasn't quite heavy, the clothes had caused her to walk hunched with knees a bit bent; She didn't want it to tear. Sucking it up, she braved the nippy air and maneuvered her way back towards "home". It wasn't too far of a jog but she had to walk this time around.

And then she heard it.

The sound of feet dragging against grass and concrete, groaning and moaning. She wasn't even a mile away but running wasn't an option. Kela lowered her head and issued and low growl, her lips pulling back to reveal a nice set of sharp teeth. “Estable. Maniobras evasivas.” She didn't need to bring her finger to her lips to hush her pal - and she couldn't - to send the message. “Ir a Robyn,” she whispered. Kela gave a light nod of understanding as her human companion set down her black bag of clothes into the wagon before pulling out a notebook she had gotten for Cyan, writing quickly.

Clothes & stuff in big bag. Lots of hygiene products. Few games for the kids. Snacks too. Found zombies and I'm going to go check on the others. Robyn, write my story if I don't make it back. And take care of Kela. I love you guys.


P.S. Bury me in the powder blue jacket with the white faux fur lining the hood. It's fabulous.
♡Art♡


The dog took off at a careful trot down the street with perked ears, towing her wagon with her. Taking a deep breath and telling herself that everything was going to be fine, she headed off towards the sounds. There weren't many, just four. But where there were four, there were more. She only prayed that they were all in small groups and not traveling like a pack of wolves. The idea of killing them made her stomach turn and she could feel tears well up in her eyes. Don't see it as killing them. You're liberating them. If, God forbid, you were to become one of them... Would you want me to let you roam around, rotting and looking for humans to eat? Or would you want me to end your suffering? It isn't cruelty, but now the greatest kindness you can do someone.
Nate was right. Drawing out one of her bowie hunting knives, she whistled loudly and drew their attention. Moaning and groaning, they shuffled towards her and she walked towards them. Crying the whole time, she jammed her knife into each of their faces, using as much force as she could muster. Rotted flesh and blood that was almost tar covered her hand as the bodies fell. Her vomit wasn't too far behind, making the stench all the more terrible. If she lived then she would definitely down some Listerine. Painfully swallowing the disgusting aftermath, she headed out, taking more careful steps.

The others might need her help. She wasn't quite as useful as the others; She was a decent shot with a bow and arrow but she didn't have the equipment and using her knife made her vomit. She wasn't just going to abandon them though. Her creeping turned into a jog as she followed Nate's previously given directions, finding that they weren't too far away. The pumpkin wedged between the automatic doors gave away their presence and it made her heart clench. What if they were in there and dead.... Or dying. Taking a breath that tasted of vomit, she grimaced and headed in. “Olly olly oxenfree,” she whisper shouted. It didn't take her long to spot them. She maneuvered her way to Nate's side, excusing herself silently. Seeing what they were all staring at caused her to puff up her cheeks, heart dropping. “I got stuff, babe. Kela is on her way back to base now... We could run.” It was a futile attempt, she knew. She knew Nate would probably prefer to take down the zombies now.

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The cart was heavy but she was strong. She couldn't let down Art. Nose to the air, Kela trotted past vehicles with zombies trapped inside, abandoned homes, and decapitated and decaying bodies in the streets. Her wagon pulled smoothly behind her as she headed to the outskirts of town. There was no pep in her step until she saw home. A small farm house encircled by vehicles, the grounds littered with tents for those switching out for guard duty or those who simply didn't want to sleep indoors. She gave a long, low pitched howl as she stopped before taking off. She barked at Elias as she passed him but didn't stop until she reached the steps of the house. She howled and barked more, vying for Robyn's attention. Joshamee and Isabelle were the first to reach her, removing the harness and freeing her from the wagon. “Robyn! Robyn!” While Izzy had been holding the antsy canine in an attempt to calm her down, Josh had gotten Art's note and began screaming for Robyn.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates

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#, as written by Felilla
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When Aspen and Layton made it back to the meetup spot, five minutes had already passed. To Aspen's amusement and frustration, no one was there. She sighed softly, shaking her head. Why didn't anybody listen to her? She told them the zombies would gather at the grocery store, but no, there was no other place to find food. Every flippin' store in the United States carries some kind of food! She could understand if the doctor needed to get supplies, but there were plenty of other places to found stuff like that. Most people weren't smart enough to get what they needed when the shit hit the fan. They would go for stupid and useless things like televisions or other things that would be relatively useless t ensure survival. And where were those people now? Dead. Or zombies. "Don't say it," Layton mumbled to his sister as they started walking towards the grocery store.

"I was right," she retorted. "Next time, they should just stick to raiding houses."

"You know as well as I do that zombies can gather at houses too."

Aspen nodded. Her brother was right. She found it strange that zombies tended to gather in one place, but she was living in a zombie apocalypse. Everything was strange. When they reached the grocery store, Aspen crouched, peering through the window. Layton stood guard behind her as Lila Belle went sniffing around the perimeter. It was too dark. She couldn't see a thing and she knew that the people inside were probably just as blind as she was to the inside. She stood before walking around to the side of the building. She located the switch box. She removed the cover, looking at the switches inside. Luckily, the switches were labeled. She ran her hand over each of them before finding the ones that belonged to the back rooms. "Let there be light," she looked at Layton. "As long as they're not in the back room, the light shouldn't momentarily blind them, but it should still provided them with enough light to see what their doing."

Layton bobbed his head before turning towards the grocery store. Aspen followed his gaze, briefly wondering if they should go in just as a soft moan echoed through the alleyway. Lila Belle came up behind the Bates, pushing her nose into Aspen's hand. She glanced at Layton, who nodded in understanding. No bullets. Just blunt force. A zombie came around the corner and Aspen raised her gun to slam the butt into it's head. Without hesitation, she pulled back and the gun caused the rotting flesh to cave in. The siblings were silent as they waited for a moan or scuffling, anything to indicate a zombie. Nothing. "You should head back to the house," Aspen said as she pulled her hunting knife out of her backpack and put it in her boot.

"We can't leave them, Layton protested.

Aspen took off her backpack and pushed it into her young brother's arms. "I'm staying," she told him. You are going back to the house. The supplies have to get there.

Layton shook his head a tried to get Aspen to take her backpack back, "I'm not going anywhere without you."

She glared at him, Dammit, Layton. Don't argue with me. You are going back to the house. Do you understand?"

The younger Bates sighed and Aspen bobbed her head once. She waited until she knew Layton was going back, Lila Belle following faithfully behind him before slipping through the doors. She took out her knife. Ready, set, go!

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Cyan Kress Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko Character Portrait: Esther Lille

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#, as written by mich22
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Fight. Alright—well…the mild doctor didn’t even bother to check his pockets. He did not carry a gun, of any sort. Believe him, dear reader, when you’re with someone who has eyesight like Adam Dawson, you’d be downright glad that the nearsighted man chose not to carry deadly weapons. Nathan returned to them once again, but Adam couldn’t help quirk an eyebrow at what he had brought back. Alcohol? He was sure a zombie outbreak would make anyone crave a good strong drink but really now wasn’t the time to be worr—oh. Nathan began unceremoniously stuffing his makeshift wicks into the necks of the bottles. If anyone or anything was ever thirsty for a Molotov cocktail, it’d certainly be the undead. The corner of his mouth twitched upwards during his quiet observation. The closest the man’s been to a smile in ages.

Lights flickered with the monotonous drone of florescent lights. Was someone tampering in the breaker room? Hazel eyes quickly adjusted, grateful for the extra light and scanned the aisle headings. Target locked. Pharmacy. Once those bottles were lit, there would be very little time to spend scavenging the store, and he didn’t plan on squandering a second of it. On the positive side, it seemed that their small party had grown. Art had joined in at Nathan’s side, already successful with her own ventures. That shock of red hair could only be none other than Aspen. As Nathan drew back his arm with his newfound weapon, the faintest whisper had notified Adam to look towards the doorway. A reclusive girl stood there, bloodied cricket bat in hand. She was battered up something awful. He’d have to patch her up later, no doubt. Uncertain on whether she was keen on letting her presence known to the others, he gave her the minutest acknowledging nod, before the shattering of glass and flame sprung their operation forwards.

You know, sometimes, it’s hard to believe how fast things melt into chaos.

“Sorry.” Adam ducked down around them, feeling the heat of the flames lick his skin. Nathan would probably do more than scold him for splitting off from the group later. The others, Nathan, Kat, Cyan, they were the fighters. He was--well, he didn't really know what he was. He wouldn't be of any use to them there, but he did know what he could do. Gathering medication was his priority. Should someone choose to come with him, then all the better, but he would not ask someone purposely to carry him as a burden. With the zombies, momentarily confused by the sudden noise, smoke and flame, he hurried his way over to the correct aisle. Though he sacrificed one hand to hold his blazer to his mouth and nose as a prevention of smoke inhalation, the other hand readily grabbed packages of bandages, bottles of rubbing alcohol—he’d really love to hop behind the counter for access to the stronger medications—but Tylenol and the like, even a few Unisom sleeping aids, should do for now. He hastily added whatever was left of those to his supply. But the call of more effective supplies was too strong. One flicker of his eyes towards the counter, a pause, and anyone who saw would know what he was about to do.

He made a dash for it, clumsily sliding under the flip-open partitioning door. The bottom shelf contained mainly opioids, but he could work with that. Wonderful. Tramadol, buprenorphine, methadone, were all gratefully added to his sack. The doctor went busily to work, but so immersed he was--

--that he did not notice the zombie lurking on the opposite side of his shelf.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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Kat swallowed nervously as she put away her revolver and took up her knife. She knew that the noise would attract more attention than they needed but she liked the idea of being able to keep her distance from the undead. Now it’d be close, down and dirty work something she wasn’t nearly as confident in. Watching Nate and Milo spring into action, the twenty-nine year old former student laughed to herself. It was brilliant and the distraction gave them time to at least grab something making this whole trip not a complete loss.

Hearing noise behind her she immediately whirled around and prepared to defend herself against whatever had snuck up behind them. With relief she noted Art and Aspen’s arrival. “Nice of you to join the fun, wouldn’t have wanted you to miss out.” Kat called in greeting, a sardonic grin sliding across her face. Turning her much needed attention back to the zombies, she was surprised to see the Doctor split from the group and go racing off. No explanation offered and not much in the way of protection. Kat had two options she could do as Nate commanded or she could run off after the Doc and make sure he didn’t get gruesomely eaten. With new arrivals on hand to help she figured that this might be the time to disobey.

“We’ll be back!” Kat cried over the din beginning to emerge from the market. The sounds of the dead; growls, guttural groans and howls were insanity inducing. Knife in hand she took off in a sprint after the Doc, grateful that she could at least see where she was going. By now the smoke was beginning to roil and soon enough they’d be trapped in here, blind and unable to find their way out before succumbing to smoke inhalation or the horde of the undead. Catching a glimpse of the Doctor ahead of her Kat put on speed, the hanging sign for the pharmacy giving away his plan.

Tripping over the torso of a torn in half zombie and rolling her ankle, Kat instinctively and frantically pulled herself away from the chomping jaws of a young woman with stringy dark hair, now a mindless killing machine. As the rotting half-woman scraped her way towards the prone brunette on the tiled floor, Kat came to her senses and rose to her knees to gain better leverage. With a quick thrust of her hunting knife the zombie was well and truly dead. Heaving a sigh of relief Kat made it to her feet and tenderly tested her ankle. A minor sprain, she’d have to grit her teeth and bear it or become some ghoul’s main course. With only a minor limp to betray her left ankle’s weakness she finally made her way to the pharmacy.

Kat caught the figure of the Doctor, quickly and steadily emptying the shelves of the pharmacy. It was a brave move to go off alone without much for protection and all for the greater good. Her respect for Adam grew as did her fear once she noticed the shambling corpse in the back shelves of the pharmacy with him. Scrambling quickly through the partitioned door with about as much grace as a water buffalo she landed on her twisted ankle and winced as she drew the revolver from her side. Fuck the noise, the fire and its ensuing din were attention grabbers what would gunshots harm now she figured as she took aim and fired. The bullet tagged the corpse in the left shoulder, slowing it down only a moment before it resumed its lurch towards living flesh. Trying to steady herself and her quickened heartbeat, Kat took aim again and this time hit pay dirt or at least rotting brains.

“Hope I didn’t startle you, Doc, but we gotta go. This whole place is gonna be an inferno soon.” Kat explained herself loudly due to the ringing in her ears from the gunshots. Taking a moment to limp through the shelves, Kat scanned them quickly and frantically until she found what she was looking for. Grabbing the lithium and whatever else seemed pertinent she stuffed them into her backpack and made sure there were no lurking zombies to grab her as she crawled back through the door. Lucky for them the fire had attracted most of the attention; pulling up her scarf around her mouth she did her best to breathe clean air as she motioned for the Doctor to follow her out. “Oh, this could’ve gone so much better.” Kat mused aloud as she limped her way towards the rest of the group and ultimately the exit.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Cyan Kress Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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#, as written by mich22
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”Bloody He--” The man jumped, his hands reflexively twitching towards his head to protect it, as two gunshots rang through the air at an uncomfortably close proximity. He looked back to see Kat with a smoking gun in her hand. A zombie corpse lay not too far from him or the girl—it only took a moment more for him to put the pieces together. Yes, he was startled…but better startled than dead. It took a few moments more to wipe the shock from his face. He was lucky that she had followed him here. With a simple nod, he briskly jammed a few more items into his shoulder bag and tightened the clasps.

He jogged after Kateryna, in time to hear her musings about their scavenging job. “Ah, but it also could have gone worse.” He said, forcing his lips into a smile. It was rare to hear him speak without being prompted to. But he was trying to be optimistic about it, at least. Admittedly, the thought wasn’t very uplifting. His pep talks were about as good as his jokes were funny. In essence, not funny at all.

Adam noted though that she had new limp in her walk. “Here--” He couldn’t help but feel responsible for her injury, “Put your arm over my shoulder.” He offered gently. He had a manner of speaking that exuded his own sort of quiet authority. They were steadily making their way back to the group. The light cast from the propped open door put his mind at ease a little. Thank goodness, the faster they got out of here, the better. As per habit, he began to run a headcount and check of everyone in their small group. Nathan may be the leader, but Adam still watched over every one of them, just in a more subtle manner. Not everyone had come out unscathed, but that was to be expected. He could see that as Nathan collected materials off of the shelves, he as well, had a limp. The rest, including himself, were battered and bruised. Not to mention the untold damage to the lungs that smoke inhalation had caused to all of them. Obviously, he wouldn't be able to patch them all up now--you know, with the zombie infestation in this town and all that, so the least he could do was give her a little support to keep the weight off of her weakened foot. Running would not come easily to her for the next few days, or even weeks, depending on how bad the sprain was.

On the bright side, his medical sack was now heavy with good supplies. He felt better equipped than usual, more confident to make this great journey south, they'd been planning. He knew that their group would go through it all quicker than hungry children with candy, but it was better than having them starve, if you knew his meaning.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Robyn Dempsey Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Layton Bates Character Portrait: Shanti Nayar Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko

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{A fabulous collaboration between myself and Scarlet Loup}


Art rolled her eyes, already knowing Nate's answer before he gave it. He wasn't predictable – She just knew him well enough. Sighing, she watched as the molotovs were thrown and busied herself with trailing behind him. She almost felt bad for letting Nate be the protector in the situation, hiding behind him as he stabbed the zombies moving towards him, but she figured that he didn't mind too much. She let off steam with midnight dances and he liked to stab dead people. Everyone had their quirks. Besides, she recalled a point in time where he mentioned that he didn't mind saving her ass. She smirked a little at the memory before realizing that he had cleared their area, immediately producing a large black trash bag from one of her backpack side pockets. “You people eat canned soup, right?” Even in this situation she joked, teasing in her voice. She knew very well that they ate canned soup. It was often that Nate teased – and sometimes reprimanded – Art for not eating what the others did.

A few of the others probably saw it as her being uppity - She wasn't one to sit down and explain herself these days and to be fair to them, she kind of did seem a bit prissy for it being the zombie apocalypse. She still spent at least twenty minutes every morning and night on her hair and pouted about her clothes being dirty. Lord knows that the organic eater wasn't about to slurp down a can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup. She had literally turned such food down to eat wild mushroom and grass soup instead. There was a time when she thought Robyn was going to die from simultaneously choking on her coffee and having a heart attack when Art suggested they all go nude during the summer. Robyn assured her that there would be none of that.

All were such fond memories that kept her smiling even through dark times as she used her thigh-strapped phone light and Nate's gun light to select food from the shelves. There were lots of soups and dry ramen packets in this aisle along with those sides that you need only to add water, heat up, and stir. She made sure to grab all the three cheese instant mashed potatoes that she could because Joshamee loved them. Isabelle, on the other hand, was more of a fan of macaroni and cheese.

There was something exhilarating about killing in the mind of Nate. Video games could provide a mockery of what the carnage was really like, but it was nothing like the real thing. It was much like giving an alcoholic a can of soda. There was no auto-aiming in real life or unlimited ammunition for your pistol. This was real life, and there was no way to restart the mission. And he loved it. Wendy thought he was crazy when he tried to take Penny out shooting. Crazy bitch. Maybe she was one of the zombies he slashed through now. The knife moved with a bit more strength. Filed for divorce. How dare she divorce him? She’d been far too nonchalant about it, too.

Nate looked up as the door’s lock clicked. It was too late, far too late. He’d stayed up by himself after the kids went to bed, waiting for Wendy to come home. As she entered, he flipped the light on and watched her jump in surprise with cold, calculating eyes.

”Where the hell were you?” he asked, his voice soft despite his steely gaze.

“Out.” She moved past him and set her purse down on the table, heels clicking on the wood floor, as he stood up and moved around. Wendy had never really lost the beauty of her high school years. She was still a slight woman who preened just about every morning. He rubbed at the stubble of his unkempt facial hair as she turned around, dress twirling slightly.

”Where?” he asked quickly, moving closer to her, hands in the pockets of his sweatpants. She shrugged and turned away from him, occupying herself with a magazine on the stained coffee table. Wendy toyed with her hair slowly, running a hand through the bleached pixie cut. His throat caught, for she only did that when she was nervous.

“Nate. It’s not working out...we’re not working out, babe. I...called a lawyer.” His brow furrowed, and he chewed the piece of gum in his mouth with more vigor. “I think it would be best for us both if we got...a divorce.” He caught the gum between his teeth and stared at her without expression, jaw clenched. He slowly opened his mouth and then he closed it again as he walked back toward the kitchen, head held between his hands.

“Honey...please don’t just walk away from me,” Wendy said, a sigh of exasperation leaving through her frowning lips. “We can’t just keep living this God damn lie, Nathan!” He turned to her, and she met his gaze, tightening her jaw as if mimicking him. “I don’t love you.”

The stack of dishes hit the floor violently, knocked in a sharp movement as Nate shoved past. ”Fuck you, Wendy. Fuck you!” He had wanted to say something snarky, something moving. Instead, he cursed her out and continued to do so as he moved down the hallway, past the kids' rooms. He disappeared into their bedroom with a loud slam of the door that woke the kids. He’d woken up the next morning to a pile of divorce papers in place of his wife.


He physically shook his head at the heat of the nearby flames licking by his face. There was no time to think about her. Art piled food into the bag beside him as he passed by again with his bag and gun in hand. ”Can’t be too picky when the world’ gone to shit,” he replied, smirk returning to his lips. ”I’m going to grab protein bars. You coming?” In truth, he didn’t want to leave her behind. Not because he didn’t trust her to protect herself-- well, partially because of that-- but because he liked keeping the others in view. It lessened the chance of a casualty, and in turn, the wrath of Robyn who would undoubtedly lose trust for him if one of the survivors perished.

He hardly noticed the limp in his step anymore. The health aisle, packed with powdered protein shakes and supplements, was quite easy to find and navigate through. Zombies had no use for the products there. As he set his backpack down, the beer cans clanked together slightly and made a soft ding in response to the first few protein bars.

Nate was zoned out again. Art paused with him, canting her head to the side as she observed him until he came to. The fire was moving across the aisles and they had to get out. She pulled the gray fabric of her Nirvana shirt over her mouth as some form of protection from the thickening smoke. She could smell the plastic and paper burning stronger now, the thick cloud of smoke starting to sting her eyes. Squinting, she pulled her shirt down and gave a cough, following him. “I'm not sure setting fire to the whole store while we're all in here was the best idea,” she teased. She knew full well that Nate would never make such a decision if he thought for a second that even one of them wouldn't make it out alive.

Nathan looked quickly over his shoulder and replied with a short chuckle. ”Well, it worked out good except for the-” He paused to cough. “Smoke. Besides, it adds to the excitement.”

“Next aisle over.” She walked past him and headed into the next aisle – Cereal and snacks. She didn't bother looking too hard as she grabbed every Quaker and General Mills brand item she could, shoving it into the bag. A brush of movement against her back caused her to turn and speak. “Oh – Are you ready to le-” She was cut short as she saw the flaming, rotting corpse with gaping maw reaching for her. Her voice became a shrill scream. Her knife found its way into her hand again and she quickly and immediately began stabbing the zombie in the face until it crumpled at her feet.

She could hardly stand the stench any longer, burning rotted flesh smell now wafting directly beneath her nostrils and attacking her olfactory senses in the most horrendous of ways. As was usual, her killing of a zombie was followed by a hearty vomiting session. She slipped in the blood and guts as she turned in an attempt to not get any on the bag or the now for-sure dead body. Grunting, she ended up with her earlier meal on her jacket, headphones, hands, and some of it on her face. Whimpering in disgust and just a bit of fright, she pushed herself up and grabbed her bag, taking a moment to breathe. Didn't do her much good - Her shirt smelled like vomit. So did her hands. And the air was thick with smoke.

Nate finished piling what remained of the protein-heavy snacks into his backpack before standing up and slinging it back over his shoulders. The store was quite bright from the slowly spreading flames now, so he flipped off the flashlight and looked around. Art was nowhere in sight, of course, for she wasn’t the type to follow mindlessly. You had to respect her for it, but it was also worrisome. His protective nature kicked in, and he moved back down the aisle, gun held at his hip.

”Art?” he called, waving smoke from in front of his face with a quick movement of his hand. ”Where are you, damn it?” He turned and peered down the cereal aisle where she was located. A look of relief moved across his face as he moved closer, but it disappeared as he noticed the vomit on her front. ”Aw, shit, Art…” he murmured, brow furrowing as he stepped over the dead undead corpse. Nate made sure to breathe through his mouth as he leaned down to help her up the rest of the way, but that only caused him to cough harshly from the thickening smoke. ”Let’s head out, okay? Meet up with the others.” Nate moved ahead of her, clearing his throat.

“I'm... I'm comin', Nate.” Art tried to keep up, dragging her bag behind her. Fuck! I should have double bagged it! The bag began to tear and she quickly put away her knife. Dry heaving, she felt like passing out until she remembered that she'd probably die if she did. She prepared the remaining three bags, stuffing one inside the other and beginning the slow transfer of goods from the ripped bag into the more sturdy set of bags. She forced herself up and toted the bag over her shoulder, her knees buckling under the weight as she trudged towards the exit. “Guys! Let's go!” There was a gunshot in answer and she immediately picked up her pace.

”Get the hell out of here!” he shouted, throat feeling scratchy from the mixture of stress on his vocal cords and smoke. It wasn’t difficult to make his way out of the store and back on to the streets once the smaller, fallen shelves were stepped over. Once he was out in the open, away from the store, Nate turned around again and looked for a trace of Art. Twenty minutes had obviously come and gone, but he fought the urge to make a snarky comment about it until the others showed up with their spoils.

Art wasn't too far behind Nate... Okay, maybe about twenty-three minutes behind him. But she made it out, nearly collapsing at his feet. She gasped and drank in the semi-clean air like a fish back into water, closing her eyes. Resting against the bag, she shielded her eyes and glanced back at the store. “Should we leave the stuff and go back in? Can't be much longer before that fire reaches the cleaning aisle and I don't want anyone in there when that plastic melts and those flames hit the chemicals.” She gave him a worried look, reaching up to ask for assistance in getting up.

Relief washed through him as Art moved out of the building. Sure, she collapsed on to her bag of food and whatnot, but at least she was out of the store. He set his gun down along with his backpack by the spot Oakley had settled down when the going got too tough for her. Nate moved to her and crouched down, balancing on the balls of his feet as she spoke.

”No, you’re not going back in,” he said, making his voice firm to avoid arguing about it with her. Nathan offered a brief smile, trying to lighten the situation. ”Can’t have you wasting food like that.” He joked, referencing the way her stomach rejected its earlier meal. He reached down to help her up, but Nate walked her away from the store instead of toward it. He supported her with an arm below her armpit, ensuring she wouldn’t fall. ”Do you want me to leave you to head back in?”

Art grumbled unintelligibly under her breath when Nate assured her that he absolutely wasn't letting her go back in, making her way away from the burning building instead. She didn't complain too long because she knew she wasn't going to win. Nate tended to win these sorts of arguments more than she did. Sighing, she momentarily decided to act like a child, throwing her head back and letting out a whine. “But I can heeelllllppp.” It accomplished nothing and served no use other than a brief second of amusement. She hated when things got serious. People got all serious. Then they got their panties into a wad. People argued. People got angry. People got sad. It was all so depressing. At his final words, it was almost reflex, her reaction. She threw her arms around his shoulders and mock swooned. “No! Nate! I don't ever want you to leave me! Who shall keep me warm at night?” She peeked to see if there was just a hint of a smile on his face, giving her own cheesy smile.

It was a wonder at times that she was their third in command.

It was also a wonder that nobody had outright told her that she was mentally unstable. She wasn't, obviously. But you can see how someone might think that.

He gave a bit of a forced laugh, the worry beginning to overshadow his amusement. Still, he managed to retain a smile as she pretended to swoon in his arms. To put it bluntly, he was quite dense. Inference had never been his strong suit, but he certainly wasn’t stupid. He blinked at her a few times, wondering to himself whether she was to be taken seriously. Then again, it was Art, so perhaps it was just her being her not-so-serious and flirty self.

”The smoke must have gotten to you worse than I thought,” he replied, still trying to make light of the situation as said smoke spread within the store. He hadn’t shared a bed with someone since the divorce was filed. In fact, he hadn’t really had a bed since the divorce process began.

He pried her hands off of his shoulders gently and set her down before rising. ”Don’t go running off, alright?” he said, looking at her with as much seriousness as he could given her swooning. As he moved toward the door, he continued looking back at her, pointing his index finger and middle finger at his eyes and then at her in an “I’m watching you” gesture. He wouldn’t enter the store, but Nate pushed open the door and shouted in again, calling for them to get out. He didn’t want to outright abandon them, but Nate knew that it wouldn’t do the group much good if he went in and died alongside them. He was extremely practical when it came to decisions. Nate’s emotions were hardly a part of these executive decisions. As a few more filtered out, he picked up his belongings and moved back toward Art with them in hand, Oakley following behind. ”I’ll give ‘em a minute, and then I’ll go in after the stragglers, okay?”

Art gave a silent nod, rolling over on her side and closing her eyes. The adrenaline was winding down and she was tired. She hoped that Kela had made it back safely and that Robyn wasn't too worried. Robyn was probably going to smack Art when she saw her alive and well. She didn't mind though - It was nice having someone that cared that you were alive. She gave the faintest of smiles and yawned, pulling her headphones over her ears and plugging them into the phone still strapped to her thigh. “Galaxy, play Metallica, For Whom the Bell Tolls.” The phone replied with a ding and a smooth “Of course, Art” before the metal music began blaring into her eardrums, forcing her to keep awake.

"Art!" Nate looked up suddenly, still wearing that half-amused smile he'd given Art as Robyn approached at a half-run, half-walk. Nathan looked down again and shook Art before pulling the headphones up slightly so they rested on her temples instead of her ears.

“Whaaat?” The younger woman whined and sat up, rubbing her eyes. “You know I hate people touching my headphones when I got my jams,” she grumbled under her breath before looking towards the sound of footsteps from the opposite direction.

"Mom's here," he told her, utilizing the name many in the group had adopted including Art. Nate normally would not have referred to the older woman by the name, for Robyn was less than twenty years older than him. Still, he knew Art would be receptive to the nickname and would recognize it. The red head knelt by Art and looked down at her. "God, Art...my God, how crazy are you?" Her voice didn't sound as frantic now, for Nate was one of the ones who needed her to stay level-headed and calm. He was far too unstable and trigger-happy. "I thought you died." She sighed and looked to Nathan. "How did it go...?"

"Successful, I believe." He stood up slowly, his feet seizing up from crouching. "Still waiting on a few, but we have supplies."

“Everything's fine. From my run, theirs, and then my run with them... I'd say that we've got enough food for a while for everyone. Assuming nobody steals our shit. Oh! And clothes. Nothing Gucci, but it'll keep us warm. We could blanket raid ater this.” Art pushed herself up and embraced Robyn, hugging her tightly before moving to Nate's side, wrapping her arms around his side. “On a much lighter note!” Art prepared herself mentally for the prank she'd been waiting to play on them both forever and this just seemed like the absolute perfect time for it. The actress put her skills to work and beamed a happy smile. “Nate and I are totally an item now!” She gave her most joyous of squeals, giving Nate a tight squeeze and leaning up to place a kiss on his dirty cheek. But with the chunks she's blown and concrete she's eaten in the past hour alone, her lips weren't exactly clean either.

Robyn's smile returned rapidly as Art began speaking about the supplies they'd gathered Hell, what would she have done if Art didn't make it? "I guess we'll have to make do with that," she replied, playing along with the joke. Robyn wasn't even sure if she'd worn anything from Gucci in her life. With the condition the world was currently in, she probably wouldn't in her remaining years either. She relished the hug, holding Art tightly as if letting go would mean losing her. When they finally parted, though, Robyn watched in confusion as she latched on to Nate, who seemed just as confused.

"We...are?" he replied, his words a mixture of question and statement but mostly question. He took the hug well, of course, for he would certainly never reject her from hugging him. He'd learned not to do that, for she was always hugging someone. Plus, she hadn't reacted well when he first rejected her hugs. She followed the constricting squeeze with a peck on his scruffy, dirty cheek however, and he made a brief expression of both fake and actual disgust mixed with the remaining confusion as she did so. He certainly didn't hate the kiss. In all honesty, he did appreciate it. Or perhaps that wasn't the right word. Regardless, he allowed her to do so without pulling away. The amusement showed plainly on his face now as he turned to look at her. "You're delirious," he told her, fighting to sound serious. He wasn't an actor in any sense of the word. Placing an arm around her from under her armpits again, he started to stand and pull her upward. "Let's get you back, okay?" His limp added an unnecessary little bounce each time they moved, but he kept a decent pace as he moved her along, away from the chaos of the burning building. "You're crazy. You know that, right?" He was joking, of course, but there was something...quirky about her.

Amusement flickered beneath the surface of her visage but didn't once show as she looked at Nate adoringly. That is, until he told her twice that she was crazy and began to tow her off. Time to really sell it! With the smoke in her eyes it wasn't hard to muster up some tears as she threw herself away from Nate and onto the pavement like some Disney princess in pain. It actually did hurt as she hit the concrete but the more tears the better. She whined some and looked back up at Nate with a tear stained face. “I'm not crazy, Nate!” Something that her shrieking suggested otherwise. “I thought you liked me.” Her bottom lip poked out some as she quivered with mock hurt (and a bit of real physical pain), putting on a show for everyone about. Humiliating Nate wasn't exactly the idea but she knew they'd laugh and kiss and makeup later. Regretfully, minus the kissing. Unless things went better than expected. She placed her face in her hands and cried a little more, taking a moment to let it sink in. She knew Nate hated it when she - or anyone else - cried. She shamelessly played on his emotions before looking up at him again, crinkling her nose delicately. “I guess I am crazy to think...we” She stopped and choked up, burying her face in her hands again.

Her skills had not lessened in her time away from the stage. As Art threw herself on to the concrete, he turned a light pinkish color. The more she whimpered and cried, the deeper the color of red became. "Art..." he mumbled, leaning down to begin pulling her back on to her feet. With the backpack on his shoulders and his gun in one hand, it became too hard to do, so he crouched on the pavement beside her. His face was a bright scarlet now, and he rubbed at the back of his neck slowly. "Come on...don't do this," he replied, keeping his voice low. "I-I like you." He wasn't sure in which context they were speaking, though he could assume she meant the "like-like" kind that elementary school students whispered about. For now, he referred to the amicable type. Maybe he did have those feelings, but there was far too much going on the worry about such things. Art peeked up at him with one eye, her distraught expression slowly becoming one of amusement. She leaned up to his ear, whispering softly. “Yeah, I know. Just wanted to hear ya say it. Now, go play firefighter.” The possibly insane actress kissed his cheek again and made a shooing motion, setting herself upright quickly, dusting herself off. “I seriously need to bathe and brush my teeth,” she whined to Robyn as she moved back towards the store only to grab her large black bag, heading back over to those who had made it out. “I think we could all do with some nice "hygiene-me-time" tonight, right?” Her smile was a polite and normal one, acting as though there weren't a building with zombies, fire, and other group members right behind her. Pretending it wasn't happening helped her not break down.

His grin returned quickly, almost taking over as his blush slowly died down. "Screw you," he muttered as she kissed his cheek. “You know where I sleep.” "Don't get yourself killed, okay?" Again, he moved toward the building and waited, occasionally shooting a glance at Art. God damn it, it was hard to tell when she was pulling your leg.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nathan Durand Character Portrait: James Milo Character Portrait: Adam Dawson Character Portrait: Art Character Portrait: Robyn Dempsey Character Portrait: Annabelle Marie Richards Character Portrait: Aspen Bates Character Portrait: Shanti Nayar Character Portrait: Cyan Kress Character Portrait: Kat Savchenko Character Portrait: Esther Lille

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#, as written by mich22
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Adam exited the building with a rough cough to clear his lungs. The only regret, perhaps, would be the waste of supplies they had caused with their little light show. They hadn’t even taken a small fraction of what that store contained, and now anyone else that came would only be disappointed by ashes and dust. It may not be their problem in the future, but it may cause trouble for others in the future.

He noted that the group was already abuzz with chatter and seemed to be in good spirits. He gazed softened admiringly. The fight for survival, as much as you’d think would tear people apart, had actually brought them all closer together. Though, he couldn’t quite say he’d compare them to family just yet, they were dear to him, in some way. One would never be able to tell that they just came out of a burning building. Robyn and Shanti had even come to join the party. It was so rare to see the founder of their group stray so far from the children back at camp. Art and Nathan were up to their usual dramatics again. Sometimes he really wondered if they were--he quirked an eyebrow at Art’s announcement to Robyn. Oh good for them. The obvious fluster and confusion on Nathan’s face almost brought a smile to his lips. He did hope they’d invite him to the wedding.

His head snapped up at the call of his name. Oh goodness, he’d been completely lost in his thoughts again. He hoped Kat hadn’t noticed. Had she been speaking to him? A little blonde was jogging over to them—ah Annabelle. A flood of questions came soon after. ”Our plans went a little awry.” The cause of that seemed obvious enough, ”Yes, we’re all more or less in one piece, not to worry.” He shot Anna a quizzical look however, when she informed them that her scavenging had resulted not in clothing, or food, but another survivor! She turned around and the strange froze like a deer in headlights. Even disregarding the torn lip, the poor girl looked scared out of her wits. Adam looked down at his other companion. ”You should be alright for now, please let me look at that ankle when we’re back at camp.” Even so, he apologized again to Kateryna for dividing his attention from her so often.

The brunet took a gentle step forward to greet the stranger. Whatever terror she was feeling it certainly showed on her face. ”Hey--it’s alright. He spoke softly, “It's alright to be frightened...we all were at one point, but I promise you, you’re safe now.” Admittedly, shy, frightened, and sick children had given Adam a lot of experience speaking to the timid. He was an unassuming man in daily life, but as soon as you were his patient, he always gazed at you with a rare, irresistible prejudice in your favor. As if you were understood as much as you wanted to be understood. As if you he regarded you with the impression of you, at your best, that you hoped to convey. “We were just about to return to our camp. There's food, a warm fire, and a safe place to sleep. You’re welcome to join us. I can patch you up there as well.” Practiced fingers reached into his sack, pulling out a cotton pad. He held it at the level of her broken lip, to allow her to see what he was holding. “May I?”