Damian Ricard

"If the pillow gets too warm, flip it over."

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a character in “Nervous”, as played by Curtsive


He was in his own jail.

Strumming away on his guitar, struggling to pay rent, only paying the cable bill every other month. It took time to get there. Effort. It took musical school, college, to get to his jail. His small little house in the suburbs, where the neighbors constantly talked at night and the air outside had smelled as if there were broken grass particles floating in the air. Freshly cut grass. He never really got the appeal.

Then the spores came. They didn't touch him, for some reason. But he retreated further, then, perhaps taking his blessing as a curse. He retreated into his cellar, and he padded the door so as not to let the others in.

And resigned to solitude.

So begins...

Damian Ricard's Story


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Ray Character Portrait: Damian Ricard

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"Git yer asses back to hell, motherfuckers."

There was a metallic bong as the flat head of a shovel came in direct contact with the forehead of a sick, polyp-ridden corpse. A crack, then a splatter followed as the horrible cadaver hit the ground and splattered brains all over the pavement. The weilder of the almighty shovel soon booked it down the road, weaving in between cars and other stray obstacles in his way. He was forty, not getting any younger, and looked like he'd just walked out of a dumpster, but the man wasn't breaking down. Not yet.

Behind him, several more polypheads followed close behind. He spun around quickly, held the shovel in two hands, arched it back, and bounced on his heels. "Batter up."

Perhaps the most overused line in violent zombie movies, but it fit the moment. He swung the shovel straight at the zombo's head, smashing its face in flat like a pancake. He didn't keep in account the second coming in so soon, and was soon overrun by the three behind it. Again, Calvin took off, shovel in hand.

He passed a row of houses as be began to tire out, and tried his hand at each doorknob. Locked. Locked. Locked...

"...fuckin' finally! Shit- SHIT!" He busted open the door, then braced his shoulder against it as the polypheads struggled to get in. After a few moments, he managed to shut it, hearing a definite click. The man ran his hand down his filthy face, wiping sweat from his eyes. He let out a sigh. "Yeah! Can't get in now, can you, you motherfu-"

The doorknob began to jiggle.

"Are you fuckin' serious?"

Just as the door swung open, Calvin was gone. He didn't stick around for the drama to get real. He was gone. He fumbled around the house, smashed into things, skidded, and dragged a random stool with him into the first door he could find. He locked this door like lightning behind him, then braced the stool against it. The doorknob jiggled again, and Calvin backed away slowly, lifting his middle finger at it and mouthing, "Open. That. Mother. Fuuucker."

He backed down a set of stairs, slowly turning as he made his way through the darkness. Calvin was not the only one there, however.

Far adjusted to the dim lights of taped half-windows by then, a young man with an aluminum container of spaghettios in hand had turned from the iron-wrought shelves of his storm cellar to look toward the source of noise.

He saw boots. The kind that men who worked in construction or outside wore, that they went to places like Walmart and got for fourty bucks that lasted them two years before they switched out for the same pair. That's when the young man panicked. His hand reached for a stick and bucket, but a blind eye had only grabbed the mop inside, whose waters were far dried out by then. It wasn't to waste, however, as the end had smelled a horrible, sickly odor.

"GeeEET BACK! Back up there!" he yelled, in an octave that hadn't particularly suited him, and jousted the foul end of the mop toward Calvin. The older man let out an equally high-pitched scream from pure and unadulterated terror as the mop touched his face.

"JESUSCHRAHSTSON!" hollered the hick, the shovel coming up to parry the mop. "That goddamn thing got in my mouth! THE FUCK IS THAT?"

"I-it's a mop." the kid started, surprised that the man had the ability to re-iterate. It wasn't long before his defenses came up again, and so did the frilly cleaning utensil. "I - used it to clean up the spores. So get back. Unless you're already one of them! Are you?!" he shouted, and with it came a jab. "Even if you are, I used to clean up rancid baby shit with this thing and it hasn't been dried since."

His chest heaved.

Calvin turned face and heaved, but didn't spill. A big loogie, sucked into his mouth from his nasal cavities, was spat onto the ground. "Lord...kid...watch where you're puttin' that thing!" he reprimanded, holding out a hand to swat away the mop by the base of the pole. He held up his shovel.

"I ain't no infected, son. Why don't you back away with that thang and quiet down so humpty-dumb and humpty-dead upstairs don't keep tryin' to smash through that door to kill us?"

The young man lowered his mop to the ground, defeated with the realization that the stranger in front of him had let the 'dead' into his house. The dead he'd been avoiding for so long. The dead he very obviously hadn't seen the likes of yet. With a harsh, scathing, reprimanding whisper himself, he jabbed at Calvin's chest with the other side of his mop. It was a harder edge. "You let them in my house?!"

Through and through, however, he did not know a course of action. He had shears, but what if they scratched him? Was it transmitted that way? The confusion showed in his face, through a twinged brow and a troubled sneer.

"Well, go finish what you started," the younger man insisted. "I can't have them in my house. You brought them here. Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

Calvin shook his head and approached the young man slowly. "Nuh-uh. I've been runnin' like a linebacker for three blocks now! You ain't kickin' me outta this basement!" He stood up straight, then crossed his arms. "I-I'm the adult here. The responcible adult. You gotta do what I say, sonny."

"Go fuck a landmine." he said, an air of defiance covering a slight quiver. "You're just a looter, aren't you? Drop your shovel over here and I might just not shove a mop full of baby shit back into your mouth, bubba."

The younger man, insulted and a bit frightened (though by what, it wasn't evident), puffed his chest out. Calvin held his shovel closely to himself.

"You never tell a man to drop his shovel, sonny. It ain't right." he said fearfully. Then, as he moved to pass the younger man, he placed a hand on his chest, pushing him aside. "And...put that away. Yer too scrawny."

Just as he had pushed the younger man aside, who stood with his mouth agape, a loud and violent thud had came from the door at the top of the stairway. Seemingly dismissing the intruder as a more trivial matter, the younger man had backed up to one of his shelves.

It didn't look quite as sturdy as the others; the back had been sitting lopsided, detached, and all the food that had been on it was now laying on the ground. It was to no fault of the furniture, though, as they sat neatly.

The kid pressed his foot to one of the panels, grabbing the support as he had, and ripped it off of its frame. The shelves themselves collapsed together. It had made enough noise to make him flinch, but it was all his intention nonetheless.

"I haven't left my basement since the sickness -" he said, turning an eye to Calvin. "And my laptop battery died three and a half months ago, so excuse me if I'm not right and a little edgy."

Calvin looked around, scratching at the edge of his receding hairline. "Kid...really? You've been survivin' on-" He picked up one of the cans. "-junk? In a basement? You haven't gone crazy an' been trappin' people down here, right? And eatin' them? I ain't gonna find some weird torture devices and bones all up in a corner?"

This was when he proceeded further into the basement, pocketing the can of Chef Boyardee. "This ain't prime livin'. They're bound to of found you, or you'd of ran out of food. What were you plannin' to do, kid?"

When the kid heard the scraping of metal on metal, his eyes snapped back to Calvin. "Obviously they've found me now. And if you're going to ruin my hiding place you could at least have the decency not to take my things."

He deflated.

"I don't know. I could've gone another month, at least. I don't know how bad it is. Maybe I'd wait it out. If it's Apocalypto out there, I got a rope and a decent knot." he said, leaning against one of his shelves. "And yeah, all kinds of torture devices. Vogue, US Weekly, Time, People, a few books I've read a few thousand times, and I think there's even last century's Playboy."

Calvin turned slowly to face the kid. "Gimmie that Playboy." he told him- no, demanded- rather seriously. That's when there was yet another bump on the door. Calvin cursed. "That stool ain't gonna last forever. Hey, son, you gotta name, right? I'm Calvin. Alright, we're not strangers now. So I need t'ask you a favor." He stopped, then pointed to the door.

"Imma need yer help to get outta here."

The kid wandered to the opposite side of the basement, and threw back a rusty lock that had barricaded a steel door. No zombie would be able to get through that. Unfortunately, they were on the inside of the house. "This is a storm cellar." he said simply. "And let the sick ones have the porn, unless you want to stay back and try and find it."

The door creaked open, revealing a set of rather steep stone steps, ones that had led to a hatch on the outside of the house. He proffered for Calvin to go first, with an uneasy smile and a hand that beckoned him forward. "And - my name is Damian. You might want to start off running."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Calvin Ray Character Portrait: Damian Ricard Character Portrait: Alyssa Delson

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In that moment, Alyssa realized she was going to need better shoes if she was going to last the night out here in this hellhole of a city. Sighing, she stopped and leaned her aching body against the wall. She was beginning to think Kay had been right. Kay was always right. He was the one with the common sense, after all.

The evening was in its infancy, the sun only barely beginning its descent beyond the horizon. In better days, Alyssa would have described it as a moody darkness, but now all she could sense from it was danger. The night was no longer worthy of flowery description when the streetlamps wouldn’t be flickering on in half an hour’s time.

If there was anything she resented more, it was the unknown. Not likely helping her situation was the fact that she’d gotten herself lost. If Kay didn’t want her head already for having gone out when he’d told her not to, he’d have it when he saw the state she was in. But she was prepared to worry about that when she got back. Right now, staying alive when she couldn’t see what lurked beyond the shadows was her biggest concern. How she could have been so stupid, so rash, even when Kay had told her not to leave the tunnels— it escaped her. She so badly wanted to just rest her head in her hands and give up searching until morning, but doing so would be the death of her. She needed to get inside somewhere she could more easily secure, and dark alleyways, for that sort of thing, weren’t exactly the crème de la crème.

Never mind that she was almost completely unarmed— although even if she was more suitably equipped, she wasn’t sure weapons would do her much good when she had almost no idea how to use them. Huffing to herself, Alyssa pushed up off the wall and started walking again— she needed to keep moving to keep herself from being a sitting duck. She didn’t exactly have the energy to do so, but slow was better than nothing. When all she had, though, was an empty handgun and a rifle she wasn’t quite sure how to fire, not to mention a dull knife somewhere deep inside her bag, wandering slowly through a city she didn’t know wasn’t going to keep her alive by itself.

She needed to get inside. It struck her that she might have passed the entrance to a housing suburb a while back. If anything, that’d give her at least a small chance. Alyssa fiddled with the rifle’s shoulder strap, bringing the gun around to the front of her body. If all else failed, she could probably point it and look mildly intimidating. Probably. If she didn't break down and huddle in a corner, first, she had a chance— which was to say that the probability of her surviving was near-nonexistent.

Meanwhile, in the basement of that house, a forty-year-old redneck and a young punk kid who had been surviving on canned foods for the last few months were squatting. And the redneck, in the very least, was miserable. He had been pacing for the last hour, shovel in hand, trying to think of a plan.

"You can hear it, right?" the man said to the boy. "It's still out there! It's breathin', God almighty! These things don't have attention spans? I know the other two left half an hour ago- but this one?" He shook his shovel at the door. "It's like... it's like it's smart."

"We're, uh... Supposed to kill these things, right? We... Won't get in trouble?" Damian asked. "Well, I think, since you gave up our spot," Genius, his mind said, "Well we can get out there and just run. You're good at that, right? Running?"

His eyes, flecked with panic, flitted to Calvin.

"And if it tries to kill us then I'll just hit it with my..."

Thing. His thing. His piece of shelf. That's what it was. He never really believed in weapons. He had torn off a metal bar from where he'd kept his cans and that was blunt and probably more herd-esque than anything but it was something. It was longer than his arms, and Calvin's arms, and it'd sure be longer than any sick plague person's arms.

"So open it up. Alright? I'll come after you."

All too near the place where, unbeknownst to Alyssa, two men prepared to off one of the shambling menaces Alyssa herself couldn't bear to face, the small girl half-ran-half-cower-tiptoed between buildings and what she could only determine to be suspicious-seeming dark alleyways. Her heart was in her throat, its pounding prevailing over any and all knowledge and logic that had once been all her brain would accept.

Of course, when the only things keeping her from dying and then standing up and shambling around to kill some more were her feet and her mindless will to keep running, logic tended to slip out the back door. Alyssa ran, mindlessly, between the remnants and the still-standing carcasses of suburban homes until her lungs, about thirty seconds in, began to give out.

It wasn't until it was two seconds to late that Alyssa realized that she had picked what was possibly the worst place to stand and catch her breath. A person— or, what could technically be classified as human, what looked human and even, somewhat, dressed human but certainly didn't smell anything of the sort— stood in front of her, presumably all too much aware of her presence.

Her non-existent muscles couldn't even be bothered to kick into action this time, and her mind began to shut down.

Dust fell down from the ceiling as there was a small noise. Calvin looked up, and then narrowed his eyes. He turned to exchange glances with Damian.

"You hear that?" Calvin asked, moving towards the steps. He was not entirely sure that Damian did have his back, but he was somewhat confident in his own ability. After all, he wasn't dead yet. He moved up the stairs as quietly as he could, but there was an audible squeak here and there.

"Funny..." he mumbled. "Tweedledum out there ain't respondin'...I wonder if somethin' else got its attention." He reached for the chair that held the door in place, tugging on it. "Get ready."

"He's not gonna have a conversation with you. And maybe he's just tricking you. Laying still. No offence, but you don't look like the smartest -"

Through the storm cellar doors, which had previously not only been held up by a chair but also a rusted hand lock, the sick man which the older man accompanying Damian dubbed 'Tweedledum' had groaned. Only, it sounded as if it were further away, that time.

"Maybe what you were saying about attention spans has some ring to it." the kid said, and pushed past the man. He grasped the handle and a knob jiggle later, the lock from it had come undone. He'd made sure to keep tight on the handle in the case that Tweedledum had been just a little bit smarter than he, but he stepped out, steel lumber in his other hand.

As he had, the cellar door made a deafening



And Damian braced his eyes against the light.

Alyssa couldn't help but be distracted by the sound, halfway between a shriek and a roar, that tore through the air next to her. As it was, the dead man heard the noise, as well, pausing the both of them for a good moment before the man emitted a moan and Alyssa, in turn, let loose a tiny squeak from her now-tensed throat. If not for the rigidity of her entire body, she was sure she would have fallen down by now.

It wasn't, however, so much the groaning, rotting thing in front of Alyssa that elicited the squeak as the other, less-dead man that stood before her. Her wits kicking back in, she shifted the rifle from her side and hefted it up, pointing it at him and doing her best to look like someone who actually knew how to use the thing. Alyssa didn't dare make a sound for fear of causing the zombie, momentarily torn between its two prospective feasts, to set its sights on her.

That said, she wasn't sure what scared her more: the man in the doorway or the dead man beside her. For good measure, she pointed the barrel at the living one— the ones shambling around looking to munch on brains, or whatever it was they ate, probably wouldn't get the message.

Calvin's hand went out to push Damian back, but the sun beat down in his eyes, as well, and being in a dank, dark little cellar didn't do much to help him adjust quickly.

When it cleared, however, he found himself staring down at the barrel of a gun. His eyes became as wide and round as dinner places. Damian rose his arms, and Calvin put out his own.

"Whoa...whoa...whoa..." He directed his eyes upward, at the woman who was holding the gun. "Now...young lady...I think...maybe you wanna think about whatcha pointin' at..." He directed the tip of his finger to Tweedledum, who was ambling towards them, "...and maybe reconsider." He pat Damian on the shoulder. "If anythin', I can make a bargain..."

Damian's eyes, squinting but laced with ever-so-obvious incredulousness, took to Calvin. His hand shot down, only a foot or so, to scathe the other man's head, and it wasn't the loud smack of the rifle that had resounded through the air. Calvin's head bowed forward from the force of the blow.

"Can you kill the fucking zombie coming toward us, or, pop a cap in it's ass, whatever you people say, before you make us freeze in place and shoot bullets at our feet? Please?" Damian spat, toward Alyssa.

Alyssa's hands tightened on the rifle. She hesitated. "...a bargain?" she murmured, eyeing the two men with all the suspicion of a jeweler inspecting a thief's life savings. She was about to respond when the man behind him spoke up, goading her from his place behind the older man to just put a bullet in the dead man's brain.

She froze. Her finger, which had previously rested anywhere but the trigger, clumsily found its place. Does this thing even have ammunition in it? She wasn't sure whether to turn away and fumble with the gun or just keep pointing the useless hunk of matter at the two men, so she bit the inside of her cheek and did neither.

Alyssa, in what was possibly the most girlish motion she'd executed in the past week, jabbed at the zombie's stomach with the tip of her rifle.

She wasn't sure what she'd been expecting, but all it accomplished was squeezing a groan from the belly of the dead man and prompting it to reach for her wrist, latch on, and growl some more.

Not exactly making a case for yourself, are you? Alyssa thought to herself as though death itself wasn't gripping her wrist.

Calvin was not sure what to do at first. He had not met an astounding amount of people since the breakout. Not truly. But after seeing that the girl wasn't... getting... anywhere...he leapt into action.

"Damian! Grab 'er!" he cried, just as he lifted his shovel to slap Tweedledum in the face.

Damian had left his impromptu tool behind and started on grabbing the rude gal away from the zombie. A meter or two away, once his feet had taken him there, he had gone to wrap an arm and a wrist over Alyssa's stomach, intent on pulling the two away from eachother.

That was, of course, before he'd felt a force the strength of a fourty year old man wielding a battered shovel and the resulting kinetic strength of a zombie head collide into his lower lip. Damian rolled back on his heels, landing on the ground with an elbow, fully aware of what had happened.

They had sandwiched the zombie, and he'd taken the brunt of it. Rather, his mouth.

It was unconscious.

"One of those, hick!" he screamed, bringing his free hand to his face.

Alyssa heard the punk scream something, but it was muffled by the sound of a not-quite-dead body crumpling to the ground to find a place to die more permanently. It was unfortunately lound and unfortunately close, the thump the corpse made as it hit the dirt, as the zombie hadn't had time enough to release Alyssa's wrist before letting itself collapse to the ground after being hit in the face with a shovel. With a single tug and a good deal of effort on her part, Alyssa freed herself from its deathgrip and stood up. The man with the shovel was still standing, but the other one was on the ground.

Jabbing a zombie in the abdomen hadn't exactly given her a psychological advantage to wield over the two men, but she suspected that she hadn't had even the hope of getting one in the first place. As usual, she was the powerless one in the situation. Not much had changed in that respect when the world had ended. But now, embarrassing as the whole ordeal had been, she couldn't shake the need to suddenly divert what little attention, if any, remained on herself to other matters. In other words, she wanted to disappear— in a respect. She hadn't been planning on making a run-in, and Alyssa Delson did not do well with things she hadn't planned.

"Are... you alright?" Alyssa managed to squeeze out of herself, though she was perfectly aware that the man on the ground clutching his face in pain probably wasn't okay. In a last-ditch attempt to make herself seem like less of a moron than she already seemed to be, she ran through the last thing she'd have thought to come to mind in the heat of the moment: a list of concussion symptoms. "Can you see fine? Can you still hear? Are there— you don't see any strange colors, do you?" She skipped over some, seeing as he likely wasn't unconscious.

Alyssa shut herself up and clutched her rifle like a security blanket.

"Man up, kid." spat Calvin, reaching a hand down to help Damian up. "I got worse from my first girlfriend."

It was then that he turned to the girl, giving her a prominent glare. "Hey, what the hell you think you're doin', gettin' yourself nearly killed? Don't know what a trigger is? It's that thing you had your finger on. You're supposed to pull it when you point it at a meathead."

Speaking of which. The cries of several meatheads were audible in the distance. Calvin cursed and moved toward the door. "Get in! Must've heard the pang. God dammit!"

"'m'alright." Damian murmured, his voice low half because of the sore lip that Calvin had given him, and half out of surprise that the girl so prepared to blow a circle shaped hole in each of them was asking if he was alright.

He rolled onto his stomach, ignoring any help, and pushed himself back up. His finger went into the crack of his lip. "Not gonna hold up forever, Calvin. Us, or my doors."

Still, Damian had descended the stairs, looking up toward the other two as he had.

"You can come too." he said, nodding toward Alyssa. "If you like cold cream corn and spaghettios."

Alyssa hid the bright, indignant red she'd turned in the dark of the stairwell. She took the man up on his offer as soon as he gave it. She wasn't lasting another minute out there. Though she'd never admit it aloud, the older man was right about her almost getting herself killed. She didn't quite trust them, but she was defenseless if she stayed up. The thought hovered no longer than a split second in Alyssa's mind.

She shuffled inside without another word.

Her brain had begun to click back to life, no longer the frazzled mess it had been just minutes ago when her blood was racing with the fear of death looming just overhead. It would be a good few minutes more before she was fully back online, though, so for the moment, she'd just lie low.

Not that she ever did much else.

As the two descended the stairs, Calvin stayed back for just one thing. He raised his shovel up high, then drove it down onto Tweedledum's neck. There was a pang, a squelch, then a grunt, then Calvin's hurried footsteps as a few more meatheads approached the door.

He descended the steps after making sure the door was secure, then looked between Damian and Alyssa.

"Well." he said, slinging the filthy shovel over his shoulders, bloody, dirty, and rusty, which didn't solely describe the weapon, but its user, as well, "I think we need to get some things straight." He held up a hand, four fingers up.

"I'm Calvin. He's Damian. We need your name. And we need to get out of here." Each finger went down, one by one. "Sound simple?"

"There's a door out the kitchen, and there's a door out the front. There's a door out the back, but we all know what happened to that one." Damian said, his eyes peering at Calvin, in the dim light. "I think I'd be just fine taking the kitchen door, but you don't look like a track star, Obie."

His eyes set on Alyssa.

"So, me and you, we'll run, right? I got an idea of the area. Not how fucked it is, and we can split or what-have-you once I'm long gone from this place. But I moved here a while ago, so I know the streets." He huffed, and brought some sort of convoluted gang sign up. "West side."

Alyssa hung back, listening as long as she could before gathering her air to answer any questions. In an effort not to waste the time of the men who'd been kind enough not to feed her to what sounded like the oncoming horde, though, she drew in a breath and started talking the second it went silent.

"My name's Alyssa," she said, "And yes, running does sound like the better option. Better than taking our time and fighting off the shamblers, anyway. But," she glanced toward Calvin, "Just taking off running doesn't strike as the most well-thought-out of things. If we've got a minute to spare, which I'd think we might, seeing as we probably drew all the shamblers in the immediate vicinity to that door, don't you think a little mapping might help us out?"

They could turn a hell of a lot quicker if they knew where they were going, she thought. And if anything, she didn't like doing anything blind and the feeling of weakness that came along with it. She hated feeling weak. And leaving the older man— Calvin— behind, as Damien seemed to be suggesting, left them down the one man who'd just felled the zombie.

"Anywhere in specific we're headed? 'Cause I say we head for higher ground. A rooftop. These things can bash and break, but they can't climb too quickly, as far as I've seen. And any stairways or ladders'd give us the tactical advantage by funneling them down at least a bit. We couldn't get surrounded by a sudden horde, and—" She shut up abruptly. She was rambling.

Calvin lifted a hand to palm Damian's cheek, none too nicely. It was more of a slap, if anything. Something to aid the busted lip.

"Yeah, go getcher gold chain and size thirteen jeans upstairs and maybe I'll believe it. And maybe I'll think you're just tryin' too hard." he mumbled before turning his attention to the young woman. "We don't need to be desertin' ourselves nowhere. We need to get somewhere like in the woods. Somewhere far away from the brainiacs. Where we can still get food. I was headed past this place to-" He paused, skipping over his words clumsily, "-get...medical supplies. But we really need t'get outta this city. It ain't gonna be anythin' too easy, neither." He paused a moment, frowning at her.

"Surrounded by a sudden horde and...what?"

"Locked in a cellar with a hick and his Playboy that's getting way too attached." Damian said, peeling Calvin's hand off of his face. He made sure to crumple it, much like a paper ball. He didn't have much strength in his wrists, but he did have metal jewelry on his fingers.

The kid sighed, drawing dots in the air. "We can head out of town, but we need checkpoints. There's the docks— I don't doubt there's still a boat out there, which sounds like a good deal to me. As far as I know, even the plague monkeys and Calvin shouldn't be able to drive a boat."

Damian spat on the floor, dangerously next to those beloved farmer's boots of Calvin's. "There's the storage crates there, and the storetop apartments. Not to mention that anything with a port nearby's got a flat roof, so..." he shrugged. "But I'm not going near any sort of forest. There's too much that I can't see and too many things I don't want on the bottom of my shoes."

Alyssa bit the inside of her cheek again— a nervous habit that had left her tasting blood all too often over the last few months. "A boat might be a good idea in the long run, but if we don't have anywhere in mind to sail and no supplies to back us up when we get there, I wouldn't go now. As for a forest, we're back to what I was worried about before: getting surrounded out there in the open. Like Damian said, there's too little visibility. And it's so open."

She refused to put herself in a position that made her weak. That made her... feel weak. She'd made that promise to herself. That said, she'd done an awfully bad job of keeping it.

"Not that there's much of any good place left to go. If we can find somewhere easy to defend— hard to reach— getting out of town'd be our best option, I think. But we need to know where we're heading first and prepare. I just think we need to keep out of the open so we don't get surrounded by some sea of corpse hands or... or otherwise lose control of something."

Calvin sneered as Damian did his best to crush his fingers, and pulled his hand away quick. The glare he gave him was enough to burn holes through the kid's skull.

"You two are outta yer damn minds. Know how to climb? Cuz they don't. There's enough spots in the forest- leading up into the mountains- to get away from them things easy. If we get on a boat we'll be stranded off shore, and dehydration can be as bad as becoming a meathead. When's the last time y'all saw fuel? Any that was available's probably gone bad! It's been months."

Not that he could rely on two kids to think this out for themselves. Hmph. "If we stay in the city, we'll get overrun. The woods are our best bet. There's food, there's space, there's less of them." He jabbed a finger outside. "They don't like goin' out of the city much. I dunno why."

"You don't need fuel for a sailboat, smartass. And I don't need to argue semantics with you. I'm going toward the docks." Damian said, putting a hand on Calvin's shoulder and pressing past him.

"As far as I'm concerned, if they can open a door, they can latch onto something and hurl themselves upwards, alright? I'm not going to partake in your Freudian childhood treehouse fantasy." he continued, ascending the stairs to the mid-level of his own home, carrying a sneer. "You're welcome, by the way, for saving your ass! And go ahead, pillage my house. Just make sure to turn my family pictures around when you do it, yeah? Hannukah bless her heart, she'd never want a ratty caneater taking down my walls, no matter how bad it got!"

Cautiously, he opened the door from the cellar, letting the light from the living room peek in. His guitar, felled from Calvin's rude entry, laid on its' side.

It was coming with him.

For a moment, he hesitated, looking down into the dank depths of where he'd spent the last four months. To the girl. "You need to stop looking for a palace." he said. "Because you're not going to find one, and if you keep on like you are, you might as well pick up the rope in the corner and get on with it."

The head-butting had escalated into a schism, with Damian ending up arguing with his feet. Alyssa had grown somewhat comfortable, allowed to descend back into her own environment— arguing, squabbling over details— and the moment it was shattered again, it was like being dropped back into a lake after a minute's rest in the sun.

She wanted to tell Damian that she thought he was being rash, just heading out to the docks, but she couldn't bring herself to. She couldn't bring herself to say anything to him because she knew he'd have something worse to say back. She just didn't have the guts. If she could have turned away, she would have, but she was still facing Calvin, and just leaving him behind, if it could even be called that, seeing as it was she who needed to stick with someone else, just wasn't an option.

"...A treehouse, actually, sounds like it might be a viable solution. And it does offer us a way to feed ourselves rather than just relying on cans we find. How long'll that last? It's high, and it's defendable. And we can still access what's left of 'civilization—' books, information, metal tools." She was mostly mumbling, a lot shyer than she had been moments ago. Some parts of her sentences were almost inaudible. "Getting off the ground, out of the city. There are a lot of things wrong with it, but it's a good place to start." She wanted to say something to Damian, to keep their power in numbers.

She still couldn't. But she still wouldn't tell herself that it was because she was just scared of him.

"Yo, Scrawny, you're gonna die out there!" Calvin called up to Damian. "You think you got what it takes to take down one of those things? I think you're comittin' suicide." The gesture might have seemed blunt and insulting, but it was pure truth. Calvin was only looking out for Damian's wellbeing.

The hick turned his attention to Alyssa, folding his arms with the shovel leaning against his hip. "Gonna have to speak up, sweetheart. I think I get the gist of whatcher tryin' to tell me, though. A treehouse might be out of the question. We gotta keep movin'. We can't stay in one place. How the hell'd you survive this long?"

The idea of leaving two strangers to plot inside of his house how to survive without him didn't bode well with Damian, but he took it for what it was. He had already resigned. Every step down that basement would be a hit to his pride, especially after what Calvin had said up to him. He dragged his guitar along with him, behind him.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence; just don't mess up my house while I'm gone!" he shouted back.

Quietly, quickly, he left out the back door. Conveniently, those who waited patiently at the storm cellar door shambled to meet him, but he was long gone by the time they'd make his aquaintence.

Alyssa's stomach turned at the finality of the scene. Though she hadn't particularly sided with or even liked Damian for the short time they'd spoken, it still rose bile in her throat to watch him go, especially with Calvin's words so fresh in the air. It was suicide, even for the strong-willed.

Her fear amplified as well as he ascended the last few steps. She was scared of being left alone, scared of death, scared of having to face things she couldn't plan for. Each new turn of events wasn't helping. For every member of their not-quite-group they lost, they lost skills and perhaps a small chance at survival. Now, she was left alone with one person, and with one person it was so much easier to abandon the weaker link. She couldn't let that happen.

As Alyssa listened for some sound of finality that never came, she braced herself as though about to burst through the rain.

They had business to get to, and it was life and death that, quite literally, hung in the balance.