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a part of Nervous, by Script.


Script holds sovereignty over Earth, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

466 readers have been here.


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Earth is a part of Nervous.

10 Characters Here

Devon Marshall [3] "It's essential to make your heart steel in this time of death. Mine is titanium."
Thomas Wynn [3] "Sure everything is ending, but I'm not going down just yet."
Pruella Labelle [3] "It is a new beginnin."
Robin [3] Wish I could say I didn't enjoy the opportunity to stick a pole through the faces of a few people I didn't much like.
Matthew Walker [2] This was all going to be more fun in my head.
Damian Ricard [2] "If the pillow gets too warm, flip it over."
Calvin Ray [2] I ain't gonna go down easy.
Michael Castellanos [1] A member of the ruthless gang of survivors known as Dispersa.
Alyssa Delson [1] "The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us."
Kay Delson [0] "Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight."

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Pruella Labelle Character Portrait: Robin
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#, as written by Script
Pretty things, trinkets, bracelets...

They lined the shelves. Useless things, now. Things society deemed beautiful, that were just distractions. They'd get caught on branches, hurt you, make you susceptible to the disease. Pruella still adored them, though. These amethysts, diamonds, rubies. Greed was never a sin to the young lady, and aesthetics was always a virtue.

But it wasn't what she came there for. She wouldn't risk her life for a bangle, as confident as she was in her survival. So she gracefully lifted things off those dusty white shelves as she passed, keeping a flitted eye out for any lost soul, and always on the ground, happen she step on something dangerous.

Raid, ammonia, sunscreen, lye.

It wore on her, too. Her bones ached, reminiscent of an older version of herself. Mom. She would just have to have stronger shoulders.

Blood dripped off the end of one of the bladed metal poles that Robin carried. Her breathing was heavy, her heart-rate still high. The man had snuck up on her while she was peering through the window of a pharmacy; she’d barely seen his reflection in the glass in time to duck away from his clumsy, lurching tackle. To call it a man was a stretch, she thought to herself. Maybe it had been a man once, now it just had the body of one... whatever it was. A parasite, an animal... it was something much less than human, anyway.

It hadn’t been hard to dispatch it, a heavy two-handed swing of the half-shear across its throat, followed by stabbing it through the eye when it fell. It had been one of the slower ones, and she was fairly certain its lower leg had already been broken. That had probably saved her life.

She hadn’t stuck around to wait and see if it had friends.

The teenager nudged open the rear entrance of the store, slipping into the old storage room. She cast her eyes around, scanning for anything useful that hadn’t already been taken. The food was long gone, but she spied a roll of duct tape discarded on the ground and pocketed it. You never knew when that would come in handy. A few more items were grabbed before she moved through into the store itself.

Movement. Robin froze, narrowing her eyes towards the source of the noise, somewhere down one of the aisles, and gripping the ‘hilt’ of her improvised weapon. “Hello?” she called, “If you’re actually alive, answer me. Groaning mindlessly doesn’t count.”

Pruella looked toward Robin's voice.

Then she looked toward the shelves again. She needed foods. Canned foods, of course. Ones that wouldn't expire for a while. Or rather, hadn't expired. She knew the ones. Green beans. Tomatoes. Canned oysters. Oysters.

"Not all'a 'tem groan. Some'a 'tem say words." she said, or mostly whispered. "Just one word, though. Only counted one. Maybe it's 'tem hangin' onto deir past lives."

She turned, and her bags turned with her, swaying and hitting her hips when they landed rather harshly. It'd be a rough journey home. She rounded the corner, peering at Robin. Only enough of her eye peeked out that she could take it back fast enough for only some of her hair to be shaved off if the innocent-seeming gal decided to wave a gun around.

She wouldn't be the first one, really.

"Ya friendly?"

“Friendly’s a stretch. Let’s stick with non-hostile, not set ourselves unrealistic expectations.” Robin replied, lowering her shear. The teenager stepped forwards, cautiously, keeping half an eye on what she could see of the woman while she scanned the nearest shelves. The straps on the hiking backpack she wore clattered against each other.

“You already cleaned this place out?” Or hidden whatever you can’t carry somewhere other people won’t look, like Robin made a habit of when she found a stash of un-looted supplies that she couldn’t carry all at once.

"You're either friendly or not, here, 'cause it's becomin an awful nice 'ting not to hurt someone." Pruella said. "No, theres 'tings on the shelves, still. No sense in takin' two'a sometin when I'm only one girl."

She raised a hand, adorned with beautiful jewelry and dismissively patted the air. "I'm done. I keep watch. And I put the dead repellant at the door, so 'tey don't come in, if you like."

A small smile crept on her face.

“Fighting when I don’t have to fight would just leave me tired and probably wounded for when the next opportunistic bastard, or walking dead man, came along.” Robin replied, shrugging, “So don’t take it for the kindness of my heart.”

She stepped closer to the shelves and began to pack what she could carry into her backpack, filling it out where before it had hung limply, depleted. The contents of that pack were, with a few exceptions, the sum and total of what she possessed. She’d decided it was a bad idea to leave anything important behind at her shelters, for fear she’d come back to find them looted.

Just then, something that Pruella had said registered in her mind. “Dead repellent?” she asked, raising an eyebrow, “What do you mean by ‘dead repellent’?”

"'Ta mixture 'tat repels the dead. 'Tey're vampires, n'tey won't come in if you don't want 'tem to. You just have 'ta have a different way of closin' your door." she said, turning her head from Robin.

Cautiously, Pruella moved to the entrance. She had opened the door, and looked onto the streets. Quickly, she looped a finger around a small unlabeled spray bottle with marker scrawling across the front and spritzed it into the doorway.

A zombie, a vampire to her, had lumbered to the door. She backed away, and walked to Robin. A cautious eye had been kept backward.

"It may not last long but tat don't matter, he's gon't wander away. Y'should hurry up."

“Vampires?” Robin repeated incredulously, “Aren’t they supposed to suck blood? Never read a vampire book where you got turned by sniffing plants.” She muttered, shoving the last of the supplies into her back before fastening it back up and hauling it onto her back.

“Whatever. Looks like it’s working, whatever you think it is. That’s what matters.” Maybe Robin could persuade this woman to tell her what was in that can if she humoured her. The teenager grabbed up her weapon from the ground and jerked her head back towards the storage room. “If there’s one of the dead fuckers out front, back way was clear when I came in.”

She began to make her way back towards the door from the main store into the darkness of the storage room, keeping her ears alert for any noises. One thing she had learned was that just because somewhere was safe the first time you crossed it, didn’t mean it would be if you turned around and came back.

"'Ta hungry ones, tey're still human. 'Tey need to eat, and if you're in 'ta way 'ten tey'll very well eat your flesh." she said. "And 'tey don't have morals, not like us."

Pruella raised an eyebrow at Robin's proposition. The back way was clear when she came through. She hadn't put herself out as kind, but advice was just as much. The young woman smiled; she was right. You're either kind, or you're hurting someone.

She followed her, Robin, to the storage room. Of course, her fingers had lightly graced her pocket (one of many) where she kept a wrapped shard of glass, something she found neatly effective in cutting.

And her other hand brought her scarf up. They were mostly in the inner city, but she had seen them around. Those shambling vampires with those deadly pustules on them.

God forbid she'd cut one of those.

Robin’s own scarf had yet to leave her face. It got uncomfortable at times, but she didn’t often allow herself the comfort of removing it outside of wherever she was staying at any given time. The seconds it took to lift it over her face could be the difference between life and death if one of the faster, less decayed zombies came up on her, felled either by the creature’s hand, or by the spores if she failed to lift it.

“You don’t need to tell me that,” Robin remarked scathingly, “I’ve been here since the start too. I’ve seen what they do.” She’d stumbled across the things... feeding, more than once. It hadn’t been a pretty sight. And the smell...

The dark storage room remained undisturbed, it seemed, and Robin crossed with little difficulty. Her eyes fell on a shape in the corner she hadn’t seen on her way in. It was hard to make out in the dark, but it looked like a corpse. Thankfully, it wasn’t moving. She grimaced, and moved on. Probably someone killed by another survivor in a scuffle over supplies.

With a creak, the side door swung open onto the alleyway Robin had entered through. To the right was the street the storefront opened on, and the zombie the other woman had seen. Robin turned left, heading further into the small maze of alleys that would lead them out onto the opposite side of the block.

Passing the dead body, Pruella crossed her heart and whispered a prayer. Two words.

Then her eyes came to the alley, and she wondered quite why she was following Robin. The young girl wasn't exactly kind, not too trustworthy, by Pruella's judgement. She would probably try and save herself even if the two of them could be saved. Perhaps she'd even stand someone else up at the end of a blade, if they were worth it.

"You have a safe house?" she asked.

“No.” Robin said. It wasn’t a lie – she wouldn’t call the rooftop where she’d left what she didn’t want to carry ‘safe’. It was more of a stash than a house, though it was one of the places where she slept. This woman didn’t need to know that, though. She didn’t make a habit of telling anyone that sort of information. “I stay on the move except when I’m catching some sleep. I have a few places that I know are approaching ‘safe’, but nothing permanent, or even long term.”

It seemed like the stranger was following her. Maybe once they were clear of the alleys she’d split off. Maybe she wouldn’t. Robin didn’t much care, as long as she didn’t cause her any trouble and didn’t make a move on any of her supplies.


"I don't like stayin' in the same place too much, until I get enough supplies to start makin' my own 'tings. Growin' my own stuff." Pruella said. "I have a place 'ta sleep, though. A safe place. Most survivas do."

She sighed.

"It would just be nice 'ta have a group of people 'ta stay wit. Bein' alone isn't too safe, I don't think. I figured I would ask."

Her eyes flitted to Robin, then.

"You want me to leave you afta we get out of here?"

“Hmph. Do what you want.” Robin shrugged, “I don't care if you stick around, just don’t make any trouble for me.” Much as she professed ambivalence, the teenager was glad to have someone to exchange more than two words with. It had been a while. “I suppose there’s some truth in that old saying: safety in numbers... unless one of them is an idiot. I added that last bit myself; think it makes it a touch more accurate, no?”

Robin had run with other survivors before. It had never ended well, but while it had lasted, the company had been... something. If not always nice, it was better than being left alone to your own thoughts every day.

“You think you’re ever likely to find anywhere that permanent? Seems like a pipe dream, to me. Why put so much effort into something that’ll inevitably get found, eventually?”

"I like 'ta think I don't bring trouble." Pruella noted. "So there is no reason for any hostility, yeah?"

She had, of course, noticed Robin's hostility toward her. It wasn't as if the girl made an effort to hide it, but hostility was far from being hostile. She had almost gotten the impression that the teenager had an air of superiority about her; how she was leading ahead, commanding that the other not make any trouble.

It was, well, interesting. Pruella still hung onto the ideals of the old world, so it was endearing just as well.

"Nothing wrong wit' being found, it's just how you handle it." she said. "What's your name, anyway?"

"Robin," the teen replied, "Just Robin."

"Pruella Labelle. Both of 'tem work."

They rounded another corner, and the exit out onto the street became visible at the end of the stretch of alleyway. "Fuck." Robin cursed.

Between them and the street, picking through the gruesome remains of what looked like it had once been a dog, a lone zombie crouched, producing a series of grunts and growls as it chewed. By the looks of it, the zombie had been a woman of considerable size before she was infected. As she staggered to her feet, her girth easily filled the entire alleyway. Robin had to assume she'd... expanded since the spores took root in her.

"And I thought these things couldn't get any uglier..." she muttered, taking a step backwards as the infected woman started to ... waddle, was the only word for it, towards them.

Pruella was almost inclined to see how Robin handled the situation. After all, it was only one zombie. One really big zombie.

But she pulled the shard of glass from her pocket, the one she'd been tapping on since they had started alley-hopping. Even though she was happy to support, she felt she had been backup, still. The other girl had a much longer weapon.

"I am afraid 'tat she might explode." she said, adjusting her scarf.

And just then, the rather large woman let out a piercing, ear-rattling shriek. One so high in octave and loud that it couldn't have possibly have inhabited such a large woman's vocal chords.

Robin winced at the ear-splitting scream, tightening her grip on the long shear handle. "Haven't seen one of the fuckers do that yet," Robin muttered, "If we're lucky, the fat ones won't follow left for dead logic. She hasn't started vomitting yet, anyway..."

The girl edged forwards, then with a high-pitched grunt of effort, she thrust her weapon forwards at the fat woman's throat. The blade pierced the flesh, and the zombie started to gurgle sickeningly. Thick arms came up to bat at the shear, and Robin was forced to release it before she could pull it back.

Robin reached for the second shear that jutted from her backpack, wrenching it free and swinging it down like an axe at the thing's skull. It caved, and the spluttering creature dropped like a sack of potatoes. She spasmed on the ground for a few moments, before lying still. Green oozed from pustules on her skin.

Careful to avoid touching the dead thing, Robin stepped forwards to retrieve her other shear, tentatively plucking it off the ground where it had been flung in the woman's fall.

"Slow in life, slow in... almost death, I guess."

More grunts and growls began to come from the alleyway behind them, then, and Robin briefly made eye contact with Pruella. "We need to move." she said, starting forwards. It took some careful footwork not to tread on the corpse of the fat woman, but before long she was making a break for the end of the alley.

Pruella didn't hesitate in stepping over the arm and body of the now-deceased woman, though she had stopped to witness the relentless brutality of Robin beforehand. When she ran, the cans in her pockets happily clinked together, hitting against her sides, and making for a regretful journey.

"'Ta where?" She edged in, between breaths. "Ya got someplace?"

She was forced to slide her own weapon into her bag again, to keep the crossed straps of her satchels from strangling her.

"So far I'm working on a 'not here' basis," Robin replied over her shoulder, though her head was largely obscured by her backpack. "I haven't got much further than that... We can work on it once we lose these fuckers."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Devon Marshall Character Portrait: Thomas Wynn
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#, as written by Script
[post written by Dreamalot106]

“Come on Dev! You’re going too slow,” Thomas cat-called from the opposite roof. “I’m gonna eat the last granola bars stuffed in the bottom of your pack if you don’t hurry up.”

“Ha ha ha. Very funny, Thomas. And who was it that had to wait while someone else finished climbing up the last wall?” Devon called back as she stepped back a few paces.

“I told you it was ‘cause my clip got stuck.”

“Mmhmm. That’s what you keep saying. Or maybe it was because you were too-,” Devon cut herself off as she flung her body forward, rushing the edge of the apartment rooftop. She shoved one foot against the front ledge, the opposite leg extending forward to catch her on the lower roof of the opposite building. Her leg bent neatly and she rolled out of her landing, popping up next to Thomas. “-Tired. I think that’s what it was.”

“And yet it wasn’t.” Thomas offered Devon her backpack. The other teen brushed herself off before taking the satchel back and slipping it on, clipping the buckles around her waist securely. “I told you you didn’t need those extra paces. You almost over extended your jump. It could’ve been bad Dev.”

“Yeah, well, after that one jump I almost didn’t make, Tommy, I like to think the worst I could do now is just fall in between two buildings and, well, die. I’d rather over jump than under.”

Thomas chuckled; he couldn’t help it. “That may be the worst, but there’s still a lot of other stuff you could do to yourself.”

Devon sighed and turned towards Thomas. “Yes, yes, I know.” She drew out the end of know. “You really don’t have to lecture me about it. Again. It’s getting annoying. Just so you know.”

Thomas sighed in return and hung his head. “Sorry Dev. I don’t mean to.”

Devon knocked a knuckle lightly under Thomas’s chin and gave him a smile. “I know. But hey, let’s start walking, shall we? I feel like zombie bait just standing here.”

“Alright. Onwards!” Thomas pointed forward and moved his legs stiffly like a toy soldier as he walked. Devon laughed quietly. Thomas grinned proudly. “I knew I could get that out of you again.”

Devon shoved Thomas sideways. “Whatever. Let’s just get moving, seriously.”

“Yes ma’am!” Thomas saluted Devon.

“I’mma shove you again if you don’t quit it, this time off the side of the building.”

Thomas put up his hands in surrender. “Alright! Alright! I’m walking. I’m walking.”

“Ugh. We’ve been climbing for ages. Aren’t you tired, Devon?” Thomas plopped down onto his elbows and gazed down at the street below. There was no response from his female counterpart. “Devon?”

Devon stroked the carving in the stone under her calloused fingers. Small tears sprang to her eyes.

“Devon?” Thomas repeated. He turned and faced Devon. She stood on the opposite side of the roof, her back to him. “Dev? You okay over there?”

“Hmm? Oh, yeah. I’m fine. I just.” She let out a huff of relief. “I know where we are.”

Thomas raised an eyebrow. “You’re kidding right? How could you possibly know that? These rooftops look exactly the same.”

Devon ran her thumb over the carving again. “I’ll prove it. Turn back around.”

Thomas rolled his eyes and sighed. “Whatever. I think you’re mistaken but-“

“There’s a flag pole almost directly straight out ahead of you, probably, oh, three blocks away, correct?” She continued on before Thomas could respond. “Well two blocks to the right of it is the parking lot to the middle school. That’s the big clearing. And a block and half towards us from the flag pole is a purple house. I kid you not, it’s purple like the dinosaur.”

Thomas squinted, looking for the purple house. Sure enough it was there. He turned around and faced Devon again. “You could’ve seen all that-“

“Mrs. Watkins lived in that purple house. It was her favorite color. She wore purple everyday to school. How do I know? She was my freshman history teacher. The high school is about eight miles or so past her house. We want to head in the complete opposite direction. So, shall we keep moving then?”

Thomas studied Devon for a minute then pushed himself off the ledge. “Yeah, I guess we’ll go. But we need to start looking out for some place to make camp for the night, okay?”

“’Kay. Got it.”

Devon and Thomas scrambled from one rooftop to the other in silence for a while.

“I know something you’ll probably get a kick out of.” Devon broke the silence between the pair.

“Yeah? What’s that?”

“I knew someone who lived in the direction we’re headed. I doubt he’s still alive, not that that would bother me any-“

“Whoa! Devon! What did this guy do to you? Don’t tell me he hurt your feelings rejecting a kiss or something.” Thomas laughed at the absurdity of the thought. Devon just glared at her survival partner. Thomas raised his eyebrows. “Don’t tell me that’s actually what happened! Oh, that’d be too good to be true.”

“We were just science partners. One day we had to finish a project at his house and, well, things didn’t end very well.”

“Dev, what happened?”

“Let’s just say we were no longer science partners when we went back to school the next day.”

Thomas laughed. “Oh, the dude totally rejected you. That’s definitely what happened. Man, I’ve got to meet this guy.”

“I seriously doubt he’s even still alive, Thomas.”

“You’re still alive, Dev. And so am I. Who’s to say he’s not, too?” Thomas asked seriously.

Dev bit her bottom lip. “You know, I knew I never should’ve told you.”

Thomas shook his head. He ignored that Devon avoided his question and merely gave her a small grin. “Whatever you say, my dear.”

Devon rolled her eyes. “Hey, look ahead. I think we’re gonna have to rig up to get across there.” She pointed to a gap ahead where a building had partially collapsed in on itself.

Thomas nodded in agreement. “You wait for me there. I’ll find a way around and get to the other side.” He waited for an agreement from Devon. “Okay, Dev?”

“Yeah, okay Thomas.” Devon eyed the gap ahead of them.

“Devon. Don’t try to cross that without me. Okay?”

“Yeah, okay Thomas,” Devon repeated. Thomas sighed and trudged off, hopping down off the roof ledge to the adjacent building. Devon waited until Thomas was across the lower roof before jogging to the gape ahead. “Pfft. Don’t cross it alone. I’m not twelve anymore. I can handle myself.”

The brunette dug her carabiners and rope from her backpack. She fastened one end of rope to a carabiner, made a loop and let out some of the rope into the hole beneath her feet. A slightly angled steel girder looked a sturdy enough anchor. Devon gripped the carabiner in one hand and half-way down the loop with the other. Ready. Aim. Fire. Miss. She tried again. The loop fell on top of the girder. Devon gave the rope a snap; it fell around the piece of steel.

Letting go of the carabiner, Devon pulled the rope tightly and wrapped some of the rope on her side around a beam, securing the line tightly in place. Moving further down the length, Devon wrapped the rope into a makeshift harness around her thighs and waist. She fastened some clips and coiled the remaining feet of rope at her waist, clipping it in place with her last carabiner.

Devon looked at her zip-line-esque contraption spanning the thirty foot or so hole in front of her and strapped her backpack back on, securing the clips at her chest and waist. She stepped forward, gripping the rope tightly. It always terrifying stepping off the edge of a building, no matter how safe she thought her or Thomas’s rig may be. Things could still go wrong. She slid the control carabiners ahead of her along the line, swallowed, closed her eyes and took a large step off the broken roof.

“Hmmph. And he thought I couldn’t do it,” Devon muttered, opening her eyes. She looked up at the line above her head. So far so good, only twenty-something feet left to go. Pulling herself up on the top line, Devon released some of the rope coiled at her waist and slid the control clips along the line, moving herself forward. She continued this, alternating arms.

“I thought I told you to stay put.”

“Wha-?!” Thomas’s voice on the opposite building startled Devon out of her concentration, causing her hand on the top line to slip as she attempted to re-clip the coil. Suddenly Devon dropped, the entire coil at her waist unraveling. Devon stopped with a great gasp, the harness catching her after she dropped nearly three stories. The carabiner from her other hand clattered loudly to the debris pile several more stories below.

“Devon?! Devon?!” Thomas called down anxiously. Devon groaned and slowly gripped the rope she was hanging sideways from.

“Thanks a lot Thomas. I am going to be severely bruised from this now. You have no idea how bad that hurt,” Devon shouted back up. Thomas’s chuckling floated down.

“Good to know you’re okay. Just hang in there. Let me harness myself up then I’ll be right down to help.” He paused. “But, uh, can I ask something first?”

“What is it, Thomas?”

“Are you-?” Thomas had to stop to let a laugh pass. “Are you upside down? From up here it looks like you are.”

“I might as well be. It’s ‘cause of my backpack.” Devon could hear Thomas laughing from the roof. “Would you please just hurry up? I don’t like just hanging here like a butcher’s hog.” She only received more laughter from that comment. Devon sighed. Thomas had the right to laugh; he had told her to stay put after all.

Devon heard a low grumble. “I know belly, I know. Once Thomas helps us out of here we’ll eat.” She patted her stomach and sighed again, this time merely in boredom. What was taking Thomas so long?

Devon’s stomach grumbled again. Louder. Only this time, it wasn’t her stomach. Unless of course it had suddenly transported itself out of her body and to the rubble covered floor behind Devon.

Devon froze. Of course she would happen to fall almost even with the one floor that hadn’t completely caved in with the rest of the building. That was just the kind of luck she had.

The grumble came again. This time it was echoed.

“Oh, that’s not good.”


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. " 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."


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Character Portrait: Devon Marshall Character Portrait: Thomas Wynn Character Portrait: Matthew Walker
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Across the street from the dramatic scene unfolding from on high amidst rubble and sheer drops, a somewhat less high-octane battle was taking place just inside the doorway of an old gas station store. Pushing an old trolley laden with three squat white gas tanks with one hand, the short figure of a teenager was wrestling in mortal combat with a packet of salt and vinegar chips. With the bag clasped in his teeth, Matthew Walker - somewhat unorthodox and unlikely survivor of the alien flora invasion - was tugging somewhat ineffectually at the plastic wrap which was proving a more worthy opponent than any of the vegetable-brained psychos that had become commonplace these days.

It was with a loud crackle and a subsequent explosion of salty and fatty goodness that Matt finally wrested the bag open, spraying chips all across himself and the concrete. "Bugger." he cursed through the scrap of wrapper that was still clasped in his teeth before he spat it out with a grimace. The mouse-brown haired boy picked lamely at the pieces of chip that had clung to his sweater rather than cascading to the floor below, popping them into his mouth.

It wasn't until he wheeled his trolley and the hoard of propane gas and snack foods it carried out past the long-since-emptied gas pumps and into the street that he noticed the debacle going on across the road. Thomas and Devon's shouts, along with the small cluster of zombies lurching up a pile of rubble, drew his attention.

'Is that..?' he thought to himself, before shaking his head. Nah, what would be the chances of that? It was probably just him projecting a relatively familiar voice onto the panicked yells of a stranger. A psychological thing, most likely. Not that he knew anything about psychology. It wasn't proper science anyway.

Grimacing, Matt pulled his handgun out of his bag and abandoned his trolley at the side of the road to jog across towards the rubble pile. He took a few moments to stare at it bleakly, musing on gym class and how he'd always maintained that in the real world he'd never need to climb a sheer surface or a rope or anything stupid like that, and how much of a colossal waste of time it was.

They never seemed to mention how many annoying scrapes and grazes you got during such activities in movies or video games. It was a detail that was very much a notable concern in reality. Concrete was an unforgiving and surprisingly pointy thing when it broke.

Upwards, Matt climbed, until he was within a floor of the clambering zombies and their unfortunately snared potential prey. He found himself some relatively level rubble to stand on, lifted his gun and aimed carefully at the back of the closest dead man walking. From behind, the thing's greasy ponytail reminded him of a boy from school - spotty and seemingly perpetually stoned. Matt had sat next to him in English class and listened to him wax lyrical about anything and everything from start to finish. It was a miracle he'd learned anything other than what went on in the inner workings of the guy's mind over the entire year.


The gun fired and punched a neat hole through the back of the zombie's upper torso. It staggered forwards, groaning, as both it and its companions turned to face the threat that was approaching from behind. Matt gulped, and fired a second time. This time a spray of green-tinted crimson burst from the same zombie's leg, and it stumbled, falling forwards and beginning a long and painfully bouncy decent down the jagged rubble pile to the ground below.

Something in the back of Matt's mind reminded him that you were supposed to shoot them seven times in the torso and then knife them for the killing blow to get the most points during the first round. He, for the umpteenth time since this horror story had started, lamented that the rewards mechanics for real life were so much more unforgiving than the ones for Call of Duty. Where was a pack-a-punch machine or a nuke power-up when you needed one?

"Oi!" he called past the zombies to the dangling girl, who he still had yet to properly identify as Devon, "If you're quite done hanging around and want to shifty yourself into a less useless position and help me save your ass, it'd be fucking marvelous!"


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Character Portrait: Pruella Labelle Character Portrait: Robin
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It was evening by the time Robin and Pruella were making their way down a clear road towards the building where Robin had one of her stashes. The sun hung low in orange-red sky, casting long shadows throughout the city. Abandoned cars sat in the street, some rusted from lack of care – almost all had their windows broken and anything useful inside looted from them, and glass shards littered the street around them.

It was a similar story with the buildings, too – knocked down doors and smashed windows were the theme of decor for the desolate shops in the area. ‘Post-apocalypse chic’ was well and truly in style. The pair had lost the small group of zombies chasing them some time ago, but rather than taking Pruella straight to one of her hidey-holes, Robin had led on a long and convoluted route, waiting to see if she’d betray any thus-far disguised malice or excessive self interest. A little over the top, maybe, considering that she had no reason to suspect the girl, but even before all this, before people would knock you out for a bag of groceries, Robin hadn’t trusted easily.

“Not far, now.” Robin was saying, shooting the other girl a glance, “It’s the butchers at the other end of the road. Cold storage: it’s a good place to hide-out now that the generator freezing everything there has died. Shame it doesn’t lock from the inside, but nowhere’s perfect.”

Pruella hadn't done anything vaguely suspicious as she'd followed Robin. She had thought to stop a few times; her feet were sore and probably blistered from the shoes she'd carried herself in, and her legs were quite sore, but it seemed like the other girl was intent on taking her down a winding path to wherever she was taking her.

She grew slightly impatient, her eyes setting on varioius abandoned buildings that they could very well set up in, though some of them marked by other survivors probably long passed, but she warded those feelings away as she did the others. Bottling. Survival. Robin was an angry girl, who seemed impulsive at best, but if she'd gotten so far without dying then she must have been some kind of resourceful.

"You have taken all the meat out? Or the daemons have?" She questioned, her eyes flitting to Robin. "'Tey can smell well."

"No, I really enjoy sitting in a sealed room full of rancid meat, actually." Robin replied sarcastically.

"I wouldn't know," Pruella started. "Some people lose 'teir sense of smell after a while."

Robin rolled her eyes, though she remained facing away from the other girl, so the gesture went wasted on the street ahead. "My nose is fine. I cleared it out. None of it was any good, but it hadn't been so long that things were too grim. The generator must've lasted a fair while." The teenager nodded at the building ahead, "There."

The butcher's shop had been long-since cleared out of anything edible, and indeed anything inedible - rats and stray dogs weren't too picky over their meat being slightly rotted. The front window had been smashed, as had the glass counter. Shelving was strewn where it had fallen across the room.

Robin's shoes crunched on small shards of glass as she stepped inside, moving towards the back of the shop.

The other girl had seemed to swallow her tongue as soon as she stepped into the butcher's shop, as if there were an invisible line she'd crossed that had triggered such a sense of dread. Being indoors in those small storefronts with such dim sunlight peering in through the broken windows and their shelves were strewn had given a different otherwordly eeriness to her perspective.

"You don't spring clean." Pruella said, her eyes shifting to the floor, whose glass she had tried to avoid. "Suppose it doesn't matter 'ta much anymore."

"I don't spend enough time here for it to be worth it," Robin replied, as they moved into the back room, "Besides, if it looked lived in, it'd attract scavengers."

Abruptly, she froze. Her eyes narrowed and her hand went to the small hatchet looped in her belt-hook, pulling it free and clutching it. The door to the cold storage was ajar. Her voice dropped to a whisper, "That was closed when I left. Someone's here."

"Or someone has been here." Pruella said.

Her mouth opened, and then closed. Robin could have been right, and she could too, but she didn't want to take a chance that the former was correct. Her hand slipped to her side, the gesture so familiar to the young woman.

"I will show you a better place to hide your 'tings. Let's leave."

Robin shook her head, "I'm not ditching all my stuff." she whispered back, "Stay here if you want."

With that, the teenager moved forwards for the door, pausing just by it and then slinging it open. Inside - as she had predicted - stood a man who looked to be in his early thirties, breathing heavily and staring up at Robin. He'd evidently heard them talking when they first arrived but not had time to get out.

The man seemed frozen in place, but Robin swiftly noticed something alarming - he was holding a pistol - loosely, almost as though he were afraid of it - but definitely holding it. She barely hesitated before launching herself at him to knock him to the ground and pin his arms roughly, trying to slam his hand against the floor to force him to drop the weapon.

"Let go of the gun!" she hissed angrily, "Drop it!"

Pruella caught the freezer room door with a finger and sauntered in, disclosing only short quiet breaths as she had watched the situation unfold. She brought the shard of glass to her own chest, laying the flat part against the fabric of her shirt, and looked grimly down at the two who had so eagerly gotten into a brawl.

"Robin." she said, before turning her eyes on the man. "We only want you not 'te harm us. You drop 'ta weapon and she won't make you a contortionist, I 'tink."

The man gulped, releasing his weapon with a shake of his head. "I- look, don't be unreasonable, I-"

Robin rolled her eyes, roughly releasing the man and standing back up. "Shut up. I don't want to hear your excuses. Empty your bag, I want everything you took back."

Grimacing, the man pushed himself upright, "Everything? Can't- can't I just have some? You have so much, I need food or I'm going to starve!"

"I'm not a charity," Robin snapped back, "Maybe I'd have considered it before you tried to steal from me."

Pruella's eyes fell on Robin, a slight grimace cursing her lips. She could hear the daggers in the young lady's words.

"'Tere are foods in the grocery stores still. You gott'a get 'te cans. 'Tey might say 'tey're expired but 'tey're not. And you can eat the dead animals." she said. "Survivors can't be choosers, but 'tey get mad when you take food out of eachothers mouts."

The young girl, who seemed kinder and less cautious, perhaps, firmly nodded to the doorway.

"Go." she said.

With a sigh, muttering something about kids, the older man emptied the contents of the pack he'd been filling with supplies unceremoniously onto the ground, before reaching for his gun.

"Oh no you don't," Robin cut in sharply, stepping forward to kick the gun away, "I'm keeping that. Think of it as a 'you tried to screw me over' tax."

The man opened his mouth to angrily protest, but Robin interrupted him before he could speak. "Get the fuck out before I do something rash, fucking hell, stop making me want to smash you round the head with this." She spun the hatched in her hand irritably.

Fuming, the man turned and walked to the door. "Pair of fucking cunts..." he muttered under his breath.

"Watch the words 'tat come out of your mout'." Pruella warned, as the man left.

She turned to look at Robin, her eyes fixed into a tired stare. "I can show you better places to hide your stuff." she started. "It is better to place 'tem in harder to get places 'tan come across the people who take 'tem. Even before the plague, people had good reason to hide 'tings, and the stuff 'tat came out of 'tat remains."

The flustered young girl walked over to Robin's stash, her eyes flickering to the other as if asking permission to sift.

Robin waved a dismissal hand to say 'go ahead', folding her arms and leaning on the door frame to watch the man leave the shop and head out into the street. "I have a few other places." she said, "But this one's dead now. No telling when he might come back."

She walked over to where the gun lay, examining it before placing it in one of her bags. "Got a gun out of it, at least. Only one clip, but still."

Finally nodding, Robin sighed, "Yeah, sure, show me one of your 'better places'. I'll need a new one to cart this stuff to anyway."

Pruella looked through her stash, pinching things and prodding them off with a pointer and a thumb. After a few moments of searching through, she had stuffed her hand into her bag, and pulled one of the thin grocery sacks that she'd taken from the store beforehand out. One by one, she began stuffing the other girl's things in them.

"'Tere is a place by the docks. A storage place. The harbor master used to rent out crates wit fake back walls for the human traffick trade and have 'te local graffiti artist tag 'tem different so 'te right people could tell 'tem apart." she said, before her eyes flickered upward.

"After we move the bodies out, it will be a good spot for your 'tings."

Robin looked up at Pruella, blinking with evident surprise. She gave the other girl a look halfway between shocked and impressed. "Alright..." she said after a moment's pause, deciding it was probably for the best if she didn't ask why the girl knew about those crates, "That sounds... good." Robin bit back the word 'surprisingly' and the implied insult behind it, nodding her head.

"Onwards to the docks, then."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Devon Marshall Character Portrait: Thomas Wynn Character Portrait: Matthew Walker
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Devon bit her lip. What'd did smart-aleck think she was trying to do, charade as a pendulum? Grabbing the rope with one hand, Devon leaned back and wrapped a leg around the rope above her. She hooked her ankles and let go. Now truly upside down, she could see the fish she had inadvertently lured in and the rescuer she wished she didn't need.

"I refuse to be made into a freakin' damsel," Devon muttered under her breath. Where was Thomas?

"Hey! That's no way to speak to a lady!" Thomas shouted down as he descended quickly into the collapsed building. There he was, being his usual ass-self at that.


The infected thing closest to Devon stumbled.


The thing stepped forward too far. It rolled down the debris pile in front of it.

Devon placed her hands on hips. "Those were really close to my head Thomas." Thomas just shrugged. He waved his pistol at the young opposite the zombies.

"Thanks for helping out my ungrateful girl here. You think you can hold them off long enough for me to get her down?"

Matt had snorted at Thomas' yell. Chivalry four months into a zombie apocalypse? That was novel. As the would-be spiderman descended downwards and spoke again, the younger boy shrugged his shoulders. "Don't have much bloody choice now, do I? They can stumble down a hill faster than climb it."

Indeed, it seemed the semi-brainless infected were at least smart enough to take the path of least resistance, and were clumsily making their way down the rubble pile towards him. There were three left, since another had joined ponytail-guy in a crumpled mess at street level. The teenager started to backpedal carefully down, doing his best not to escape the zombies only to suffer death at the hands of gravity.

His first shot missed - firing while moving, probably not the best idea for someone who hadn't fired a gun at all before this mess, and had hardly had to do it since. The second - taken after a pause to steady his aim - struck true, shearing off a good portion of a female infected's upper face and dropping her like a sack of potatoes.

Matt wasn't sure he'd be able to take the other two out like this, however. Every time he stopped to shoot, they were rapidly gaining on him - they weren't quite the shambling, trivial threats of classic dawn-of-the-dead rip-offs. They were clumsy, but more than capable of keeping up.

"Aaany time now..." he called up to the pair at the top of the pile.

Thomas dropped quickly down to Devon as the other boy seemed to take charge of the situation. "Ah-hah, look! You really are upside down!" He got an ugly look from Devon.

"Just get me down, Thomas. This isn't any fun,"

"I disagree." But the dark haired young man had already lowered himself below his survivalist partner. He looped his arm around her and she sat back up, untangling her legs from the rope only to wrap them around Thomas's waist. Thomas waggled his eyebrows at Devon. She snorted ungracefully and reached around him to the pocket knife strapped to her ankle.

"And why couldn't you have used that before?" Thomas asked as Devon made quick work of the rope suspending her.

"If I could've survived the fifteen plus foot fall to rubble sideways, I would've cut myself down a while ago." Devon freed herself as the teen below let off his second shot.

The pair dropped to the broken, zombie littered floor. Thomas cut himself free from his line, and the two scrambled after their helper. They paused only long enough for Thomas to retrieve Devon's own pistol from her backpack.

Devon aimed for the infected closest to her and squeezed. Its shoulder jerked forward from the momentum of bullet hitting it. She pulled the trigger again. The zombie jerked forward again. Unable to regain its footing, it went tumbling down the side of the pile.

The last infected lurched down the rubble, kicking up loose rocks, as it moved towards Matt. The teen went to fire his gun, only to be rewarded with the 'click' of an empty magazine. He swore under his breath, reaching to try and pry free the spare he was carrying in his pocket. It was a tight enough fit, though, that tugging it out was proving challenging.

"Mother fuck god shit balls damn fuck, come on, come on-" he cursed.


The infected fell still at the third teen's feet. Thomas clicked the safety on his gun then twirled it around his finger. He grinned. "Got it. You're welcome."

Devon rolled her eyes. "You can be such a cocky prick sometimes, Thomas."

Thomas shrugged. "So, uh, now they're all dead, can we leave?" He looked at Devon and the new teen pointedly.

Matt shot Thomas a dry glance, finally wresting the new magazine free and moving to reload the gun. He ejected the old magazine, slipped the new one in and pulled the slide back in a smooth movement.

Smooth apart from the part where he caught his finger in the slide snapping back, biting back a curse and nearly dropping the gun. He wasn't exactly well practised. "Yeah, uh, thanks." he muttered, before his eyes went over to the girl who'd been hanging upside down.

They widened in recognition. "You've got to be kidding me," he said, gaping, "Devon?"

The brunette paused, her hand halfway through her hair. "You know, I knew I remembered that accent," Devon commented almost bitterly. "Hello again. Matt."

Thomas glanced between the two teens. "You two know each other?"

Devon nodded. "You remember that guy I was telling you about on the way here? Well, he's him." She gestured towards Matt.

Thomas looked at Matt in disbelief. He laughed. "Oh, this is too good to be true." He extended a hand out to Matt. "I'm Thomas."

"You were talking about me?" Matt raised an eyebrow, "We're in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, and you were talking about... me? Like, really? Come on. Aren't there more pressing matters?"

Matt took Thomas' hand and shook it, before shaking his head. "Matt. I'm Matt. Soo... what version of events have you gotten?"

"Not much. Just that-"

"You know what! It doesn't matter," Devon interrupted. She ran a hand through her hair again. "Can we just get out of here already?"

Thomas repressed a grin. "Whatever Devon. You know we're gonna talk about it at some point." He looked at Matt. "Although she is right, we should probably get out of here. What do you say?"

Matt nodded his head with an awkward glance away, back down at the trolley across the street. "Er..." he sighed, "I guess if you two want to come back to my place, you can. I think I'm the only person still around my neighbourhood. I have things fairly well set up."

He turned and started to make his way carefully back down the pile of rubble, shoving his pistol away.

"Yeah right-"

"We're definitely up for coming." This time it was Thomas who did the interrupting. Devon shot Thomas a dirty look. He just grinned broadly. "We have some dried food and Devon has granola bars I know she'd be willing to share."

Thomas side-stepped out of range of Devon's swing. She was brooding furiously.

"Maybe while we eat we can talk about what life was like before the outbreak, eh?" Thomas watched Devon for a reaction. He chuckled as she merely crossed her arms and looked the other way. "What's the matter Dev? Not feeling sociable today? That's fine. I'll just talk with your old friend, Matt, here."

Thomas stepped forward and clamped an arm around Matt's shoulders. "So Matt. You - uh - play any video games?" Thomas chuckled again at Devon's attitude.

Matt raised an eyebrow for a second time as Thomas caught up to him and slung his arm over his shoulder. He glanced up questioningly at the slightly taller man. "Uhh, yeah? Yeah, that's pretty much ninety percent of what I do these days. I figure going outside isn't as healthy as it used to be. A lot more death going around." The teen flashed a lopsided grin, "The other day I caught myself playing left for dead. It was a weird moment, playing a zombie apocalypse game in the middle of the zombie apocalypse."

He glanced away with a laugh, "I'm just glad there aren't any tanks in the real version."

It had been a fair while since Matt had had any company - close to the full four months since the outbreak - and he was quite happy to finally have people to talk to ... even if one of them was Devon. As a result, he was decidedly less disgruntled than the girl herself.

"Yeah. Tanks would be kinda bad. I'm jealous though! I haven't played any video games since this whole thing began. I haven't even stayed in one place long enough to try and scavenge for things like that." Thomas paused to reflect. "I think since Devon and I have joined up, the longest we've stayed anywhere has been four days. We're constantly on the move. Isn't that right, Devon?"

Devon nodded. "Yeah. It's always seemed safer to just keep moving," she added.

"When we get back to your place, you've got to let me play something with you. Although I'm sure by now you're hella awesome at everything and will kick my butt." Thomas grinned at Matt. "Sound like a plan?"

"Sure," Matt said, grinning back, "But, just to note, I was already hella awesome before all this. I'm just sayin'."

It took around fifteen minutes for the three to walk from the gas station where Matt retrieved his trolley of supplies to the smaller suburban neighbourhood where his house was. The area seemed, as he had said, totally abandoned. The few cars left there had clearly been ransacked for whatever was inside, as had many of the buildings.

Matt led the other two teens to a two-storey house about halfway down the road, much the same as all the rest on the street. The only oddity was that the house next door was entirely barred up on its bottom floor - the windows, the door, everything was barricaded shut.

The door to the house they approached wasn't locked, and Matt left his trolley outside, hauling one of the propane tanks out, before glancing at the other two. "If you guys wanna take the other two, that'd be great. Would save me making three trips."

Devon and Thomas each grabbed a propane tank. They followed Matt towards the house, but Devon stopped before entering. She glanced at the house he was leading them into and the boarded up house next door.

"What is it, Devon?" Thomas asked, turning around to face her.

"Matt, I thought that was your house. Not this one. Why are we going in here?" Devon gestured to the boarded up house.

"I haven't lasted this long by making it easy to get in," Matt replied, heading straight for the stairs of the obviously not lived-in house, "Most people would consider a house that boarded up too much effort to try scavenging from, and would assume nobody lives there. Haven't been murdered in my sleep yet, to my knowledge, so I'm guessing it works."

He led the way up the stairs and across to a room on the side of the house facing his home. In the hallway outside was a long stretch of wooden planks, nailed together. Matt set his tank down and maneuvered the haphazard D.I.Y project over to the window.

"I made this myself. Can you tell from the jutting nails and unevenness that I'm a natural at woodwork? They should hire me to rebuild this place if they ever get rid of the zombies." he said as he slid the boards out towards the opposite window.

"That's really smart," Thomas commented after Matt explained why they were entering the empty house and not his.

When Matt pulled out the planks, Devon couldn't hide the worried look that came across her face. She put down the propane tank she was carrying. "Umm, Matt? Are you sure that's going to hold all three of us crossing?"

"You just dangled in the middle of a building, multiple stories up and down, but you're scared to cross a wooden plank only one story above the ground?" Thomas asked Devon, his eyebrows raised.

Devon shrugged. "I'm just... You know, worried, is all. I'd rather not break a leg here of all places."

"If you're worried," Matt said, giving Devon a dry look, "Then, I dunno, maybe wait and go one at a time? I mean, that seems really obvious to me, but I'm sure you'd have figured it out in about five minutes, so don't feel too bad."

The boy rolled his eyes as he turned, grabbing his tank and pulling himself up and out the window onto the plank. He carefully made his way across, staying low. The plank creaked a few times, but held as he reached the other side and slid the window of his house up fully and dropped in.

"Alright, follow across," he called back over, "If you've trodden in zombie, leave your shoes at the door... window. I don't want dead person walked into my carpets."

Thomas glanced at Devon then the plank. He grabbed both propane tanks and rolled them ahead of himself as he crossed. Thomas passed the propane tanks to Matt before dropping into the window. Despite her inhibitions about the makeshift bridge holding up, Devon crossed the plank quickly. Thomas helped her through the window. The two unlaced their hiking boots and deposited them by the window, as requested.

"Now that that's done, where would you like us to put these tanks?" Thomas asked Matt. "And is there some place we can possibly put our backpacks? I need a break."

Devon just rubbed her shoulders. The straps were digging in and she was ready to cut the remaining harness off as well. She was going to be bruised everywhere tomorrow.

The interior of Matt's house was, by and large, fairly normal for a small house in the suburbs. It was also, as one might expect from a house lived in by a lone teenager for the last four months, somewhat cluttered. There wasn't a great deal of order to where various supplies, tools and other belongings had been shoved, and the rooms that Matt didn't use were immediately apparent as the majority of their floors were covered in such things.

"Just uh, shove them in that room there," Matt said, pointing off in the direction of the smaller room that had been his before he moved everything into the larger room that had been his mother's. "And you can dump your packs... uh, wherever. Maybe downstairs in the main room, there's plenty of space there."

Matt himself made his way through into the bedroom, where a mid-sized propane generator was perched by the window - the edges of which were slightly stained black from exhaust fumes. A few moments of fiddling with the fuel line and the new tank was hooked up, and power reacquired. Of course, he didn't switch it on yet.

The teen peered out of his window down at the yard below, grinning as he spotted something. A lone zombie, both of its arms sheered off at the elbow, had trapped itself inside a few weeks ago, and he hadn't had the heart (or the spare bullets) to finish it off. He just let it wander around the fenced and barricaded garden, and occasionally tossed it a piece of jerky.

Thomas took the propane tanks into the room Matt pointed out. He happened to glance out the window after putting down the tanks. What he saw made him take a second look.

"Uh. Matt? Is that? In the back? What-? Uh? Is that an infected?" Thomas asked, half aghast, half laughing at the zombie's plight.

"Oh, that's just Derrick," Matt replied cheerfully, "He's harmless, mostly, unless you get through the planks all over the back door and decide to feed yourself to him. I figured it was easier to leave him there than go out and deal with him."

"You have a pet zombie?" Devon asked in disbelief. Thomas just laughed.

"I'm starting to like you more and more," Thomas said to Matt. His sides were beginning to ache from laughing so much.

Devon shook her head and let out a breath. "You boys are so weird. I'm going to put my backpack down. And I'm taking this harness off, too." She left the room and went downstairs.

"Oh, yeah! I'd forgotten about that." Thomas looked down at the harness still wrapped around himself. "Oh well. It can wait until later. Hey Matt. Where are those video games you were talking about?"

Matt grinned as Devon left the room, shaking his head after her. "What is there not to appreciate about a pet zombie? It's like ... a guard dog. Yeah. And it probably makes more people think this place is deserted."

He turned his attention back to Thomas, nodding towards a cabinet off to the side. There was a TV set against one of the walls of the room, hooked up to an xbox, with a variety of other consoles laid nearby. "Right here. I've uh, expanded my collection a bit since things went to hell. Nobody else seems to be looting Gamestop. Can't imagine why."

Priorities, maybe? Psh. What were they?

Matt pulled the cabinet open to reveal a not unimpressive stack of games, most looking like they'd been pulled straight from the shelf - a lot still in their wrappers. "So... Thomas," he began as he started to flick through the games, "I already know Devon, unfortunately, but if you're both gonna be hanging around here, I figure I should get to know you too. Where're you from?"

Thomas was mightily impressed by the sight multiple consoles and the many, many games. He unclipped his backpack and let it drop to the floor with a solid thud before moving to browse through the games along side Matt. The harness was forgotten about again.

"Me? I'm from Kansas originally. But then my grandpa died and my mom got some huge windfall from that - she was an only child. And my dad apparently made some good stock investments, so we moved to New York, New York. The Big Apple, baby. That was when I was six or seven. Huge change, but one I liked. Lived there until, well, all this happened. Couple days in, maybe a week or so, I ran into Devon, and she and I joined up. We've been traveling around ever since." Thomas paused in his browsing and talking. He turned towards Matt. "You're actually the first person either of us have run into. I mean, there was this one person a month or so back, but she ended up infected like the rest of 'em."

Matt listened with interest to Thomas, nodding along at appropriate moments. "The same with me. That you guys are the first people I've really met since everything happened, I mean. I've run into a few people here and there but never for long and I never trusted them further than I could throw them."

Thomas shrugged. "But enough about that. Your turn to answer a question." He continued browsing through the games, repressing a grin. "What exactly happened between you and Devon? I want to know your side of the story. I'll never get it with her around, and, well," he pauses and gestures, "she's not up here right now."

A dry smirk found its way to Matt's face at Thomas' question, and the teen shook his head with a sigh. "It's ridiculous, honestly. Petty, stupid, high-school drama that I'm embarrassed to be involved in." he said. "The long and short of it is this: we had a science project together last year, she had a thing for me but I bat for the other team. She didn't take it very well and decided she was going to be a bit of a bitch about it from there on. Used to get on my case all the fucking time for the stupidest things."

He rolled his eyes, "I like to think maybe we've grown up enough to just pretend it never happened, but I don't hold out much hope."

Thomas looked blankly at Matt. "Bat for the other team?" he repeated quietly. He thought it over a second. His hand resounded smartly on his forehead when he realized what Matt meant.

"Right, right, right. Makes much more sense now." Thomas chuckled, he couldn't help himself. "I can definitely see Devon overreacting over something like that. Dang. That sucks that she's still grudging about it."

Thomas grinned, bemused, at Matt. "That must mean she was crushing hard on you. Wow, and you completely put her down, too." Thomas chuckled again. "Now I understand why she got so worked up when I teased her about it earlier. You know, when she first brought you guys up."

Thomas dropped down to a squat. The tightness of the rope around his thighs reminded Thomas of the harness he had still yet to cut off. "Ah, crud. Forgot about this thing again." He checked his pockets quickly. "And Devon took the knife with her."

Thomas looked at Matt. "You wouldn't by any chance have a knife on you, would you? Or be any good with untying knots? That's typically Devon's domain. I just tie them. Undoing them is not my thing." He let out a short, embarrassed laugh.

"I have a knife downstairs, but I mean, I can't imagine untying a knot can be that hard," Matt raised an eyebrow, smirking, "Since by the time I go down there and get the damn knife Devon will probably come back anyway, with hers, I might as well give it a shot..?"

He shrugged, "What's so bad about them anyway? Are they like ... monkey-pigmy-barrel-sailor's-windsor-gordian knots? I uh, never did scouts, if you can't tell."

Thomas laughed. "Something like that. Did I mention that my other grandfather was a scout master? I never did scouts either, or at least, not officially. Heh."

"That beats my granddad," Matt replied, snorting, "All he ever did was swear at nurses and fail to recognise us when we visited. Grumpy old git." He crouched down beside Thomas, taking an experimental tug of the first knot at the older boy's waist. "Hrm. I'll give it ago, but no promises."

The thing was fiddly and the rope was thick, which only made the job harder. It was after about a minute of tugging and adjusting the thing a few millimetres at a time that Matt finally managed to undo it. "You know," he remarked as he moved onto the next one, "From the door, this probably looks dodgy as fuck."

"What in the hell are you two doing?" came Devon's dumfounded voice from the door. Her southern drawl was amplified by the slow drawing out of her question.

Thomas's face turned red, but he burst into laughter anyway. "Matt, you must've had some sixth sense she was coming up or something."

Devon leaned against the door frame, arms crossed. "Why, Thomas. I didn't know you swung that way, too. Things make so much more sense now."

Thomas shot Devon a nasty look. "It shouldn't matter to you whether I do or not. But, for the record, he's helping me get my harness off since you ran off with the knife."

Devon just shook her head. She took the pocket knife out of her back pocket and tossed it to Thomas. "Here then."

Matt had half-turned, half-fallen to the side when Devon appeared in the doorway, ending up sat cross-legged next to Thomas with a goofy grin on his face - only ever so slightly tinged with red. "Would that be making it a theme, I wonder?" he asked nobody in particular, chuckling. He gave Devon a mock salute, "Just helpin' out, y'know?"

Devon rolled her eyes and stepped away from the door. She joined the guys on the floor. "I thought you two were going to play video games. I wasn't going to come back up here except I'm cold and I don't remember where you keep your blankets, Matt. Plus, I'm hungry and I kinda figured we'd all want to eat together."

"Ah, yes. Your weird thing about eating alone," Thomas commented, flipping the pocket knife open. He cut through the rope still holding on to him. "Although now that you mention it, I'm hungry, too. Matt?"

Matt nodded, "I'll cart the generator downstairs then, microwave something. Shame I can't figure out how to hook the oven or the cooker up to it, but I guess hot food of any sort is better than what most people have these days. Not looking forward to the day I can't find any more fuel..."

He grimaced. "No more microwave, no more video games. A sad sad day." He made his way over to the generator and hefted it, and the small tank in his arms. "Let's go then, ladies first."

Devon placed a hand on Matt's arm. "Thank you," she told him honestly. A half smile was all Devon could truly muster for Matt, but it was more than she'd given him in a long time.

Matt looked back at Devon with genuine surprise, hesitating for a moment before nodding. "... I'm just doing what anyone half-decent would." he replied, before returning the half-hearted smile.

Thomas raised an eyebrow at Matt as Devon left the room to return downstairs. "Is it bad if I say I'm impressed?"

The other boy gave Thomas a confused glance, obviously somewhat bemused by Devon's uncharacteristic moment of sincerity. "Impressed?" he questioned.

"Mmhmm. By both of you, really. Mainly Devon though. It took a lot for her to suck up her pride and do that. In the few months that I've known her, she has never done that. Hell, she almost died today because she refused to put aside her pride and wait for me. So yes. I am very impressed with my partner." Thomas nodded as he reflected.

"By the way, you want help with those?" Thomas gestured to the generator and propane tank.

"That'd be helpful, yeah," Matt laughed, "I'm sort of a wuss and this is kinda heavy, so, y'know."

He nodded his head slowly, "Yeah, you're right, I guess. I mean, it was hardly a big deal... Or, it never should have been. Maybe a few months apart in the middle of an apocalypse helped put it in perspective. I think romance is far from anyone's priority these days."

Thomas took the generator from Matt. "Yeah. Romance. Definitely not a priority." Thomas cleared his throat and shifted the generator under his arm. "C'mon. Let's get downstairs."


Characters Present

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


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Michael Castellanos Character Portrait: Pruella Labelle Character Portrait: Robin
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#, as written by Script
A heavy rainfall had started whilst Robin and Pruella were en route to the city docks, shrouding the sky in grey and driving most survivors to seek shelter. The harbor area itself was a maze of storage crates, warehouses and rusting scrap metal leftover from boats that had been torn apart for their materials. The abandoned skeletons of lifting cranes and other machinery towered like giants over the thrashing waters.

Some distance away from the water's edge itself, the pair were making their way onto the site. Robin was hunched, her hands shoved into the pockets of the waterproof coat she wore with its hood pulled up as far over as it would go. They walked along one of the dock's makeshift streets between two stacks of storage containers. Robin cast a glance across at Pruella, "You said something about there being specific containers we were looking for?"

The teenager looked around at what seemed to be a neverending metropolis of shipping container towers. "... I hope you have an idea of where they are, or we might be looking for a while."

Pruella's eyes shifted to Robin, and a small smirk of contempt hid what might've been fear for the cruelty they were going to endure when they did find whatever was hidden in those storage crates. "'Tey have special marks on 'tem. The graffiti tags."

Her hand, adorned in rings, lifted to gesture at the side of one of the rather large crates. It had a name on it - Husen G. The color had since faded from when it was originally crafted, but still, the curves upon curves remained. "If it is not a gang name and 'tey got native writing in the signing piece then it's probably one of the traffic crates."

The hand that pointed fell. There were no odd symbols, just art in a place where there it hadn't quite belonged anymore, there.

"So these used to be part of some slave trade, right?" Robin approached the crate apprehensively, examining the graffiti that seemed absurd in its normality, given what it apparent represented. "How come you know about it?" the teenager gave Pruella a searching glance, "If it was common knowledge it'd be a pretty shitty tagging system."

The other girl barely reciprocated a glance to Robin, but with a moment later and a release of her breath, she gave. "Everyone's got to get to the place 'tey want to be somehow."

Robin grunted in acknowledgement of Pruella's dodging the question as she made her way around to where the crate's door was located, not pursuing the subject further. She gave the door itself a quick look up and down. A security lock was in place over the gap between the two sides, but it was broken - forced open, by the looks of it. Maybe by a scavenger. She gave the door a nudge of her foot and it swung open. Inside was dark, and the gloomy cloud-filled sky hardly lit it at all. She couldn't quite see all the way to the end of it.

"If I turn this on," Robin began as she pulled a wind-up torch from her bag, "And half a dozen zombies turn around to stare at me... Well, I'm kind of expecting that to happen, is what I'm getting at."

The light of the torch slowly kicked in as Robin wound it a few times, revealling that to the untrained eye the container was entirely empty aside from a few stains and broken bits of wood here and there. Whoever had broken into the crate the first time had evidently cleared it out.

"We're looking for a ... hidden door, right?" Robin questioned, glancing back at Pruella, "This is all very Scooby-Doo."

"I don't 'tink it'd be appropriate for daytime viewing," Pruella said, stepping in the crate. She cringed as she looked at the bits of broken glass, wood, metal. It was only a second before the young lady had stepped directly over all of the debris, and walked to the back.

She stopped just shy of it, and crouched to pick up a piece of stray metal. Her other hand came up to swipe clean the bits of stray rust that'd fallen on her, but soon she'd forgotten about aesthetics and got on par to the grim task ahead. She shoved it into the back corner of the storage unit, with a bit more force than she'd ever bothered to show to her company before.

And when it was in there - there seemed to be a hole for it to fit through - she pulled it against the wall, like a crowbar. The back moved, perhaps an inch, and a smell permeated the room. Where the wall moved and space shone inside the crate, there were hinges, much like a door. They had been previously jammed shut.

"Only one side opens, the side I was on, so ... You can do the honors."

Pruella paced for the light.

Robin wrinkled her nose at the smell emanating from whatever was behind the makeshift door. "I'm so glad." she remarked dryly, walking across to where the other girl had indicated and bracing herself for whatever waited on the other side.

With a heave and a grating of metal on metal, she pulled the panel open, and immediately what had been a waft of odour became a wall. Robin gagged, staggering back in horror as she caught a glimpse of the source - a pair of decayed corpses, no doubt slaves left abandoned in the wake of the spores to die a lonely, slow death in the dark.

"Fucking christ!" Robin swore, "That is grim. Uhg!" The teenager shuddered, clamping a hand over her nose and mouth. "I've seen people die in all sorts of ways since this started, but that has got to be the most unpleasant pandora's box I've come across yet."

"The smell -" Pruella started, nasally, as she'd clamped a hand over her nose as soon as Robin opened the panel, "Is strong - so, we might want to dump the bodies at sea or move 'tem to a place where the vampires won't swarm us."

Her figure was gone from Robin's vision. She wanted no part in seeing the decaying bodies, free from spore but ripe with death and decay, that she'd kept in the back of her conscious for quite some time.

"By we," Robin remarked, turning around to see that Pruella had cleared out from the container, "I'm guessing you mean me." She grimaced. "This was your damn idea. I didn't sign up for corpse hauling."

Something brushing against her cheek brought Robin's hand snapping up to bat at it, "Aw hell, there are flies! I bet this thing is fucking swarming with them and I just can't see it for the light. And you think it's a good idea to leave our stuff here?"

She turned with that, and made her way out into the rain again. "Uhg, I'm not touching those things without a fucking Hazmat suit. I say we just find a container someplace high up that doesn't have decaying corpses in."

"If you want to, but 'tey won't be hidden." Pruella said, her voice growing louder to combat the rain. She took the opportunity to wipe the gruel from her hands. "A little spring cleaning and home decor and 'tis place would hold a lot of your 'tings."

She turned her head, eyes setting on the dock house, not far from where they were. It hadn't been destroyed, which was enough of a surprise, considering the houses near the bay were mostly built out of wood to give them that homely feel.

"As much as I like tropical weather and shouting at eachother..." Pruella started.

Robin followed Pruella's gaze before grudgingly nodding her head in agreement. "Let's wait this rain out in there then. Hopefully it's not occupied."

She started forwards towards the building, keeping a wary eye on the gaps between the containers as they made their way towards the water's edge and the waiting shelter. One of the old cranes hung forlornly overhead beside the dock house, rust coating its skeletal frame. A set of slippery wooden steps led them up to the door of the house, and the door was unlocked, swinging loosely on its hinges in the wind.

The inside was dark and littered with trash and mould, evidently unlived in. However, there were signs that the debris on the ground had been disturbed - a rough path had been hewn through by footsteps from the doorway further into the house. Robin frowned. "See that?" she said, keeping her voice low as she gestured to the brushed-aside clutter.

Her hand went to the pistol she'd confiscated off of the man in the freezer room not long before. The sound of voices was faintly audible further inside.

Pruella looked to Robin, tapping her ear and giving her a questioning look.

"People are here, I tink," she said, through a barely audible breath that sounded much like the wind, "We should leave. We can wait it out in one of the clean crates."

As if on cue, one of the doors off the entrance hallway that they'd found themselves in swung open at that very moment. A dark haired man with tan-brown skin emerged out, doing up the button of his fly - evidently on the return from a bathroom break, or whatever qualified as a bathroom in this place since the plumbing had gone. For a brief moment his eyes locked on them, frozen in surprise, and his jaw dropped.

"What the fuck?" he exclaimed with a thick spanish accent, "Who the fuck are you? Didn't you see the tag? This is Dispersa territory, amigos, and you'd better have a fucking good reason for barging in like this." the man angled his head back to yell into the house, "Ey! We have trespassers here!"

"It was just a mistake. We didn't see the tag and we wanted to get out of the rain. So we'll leave." Pruella said, sidling back for the door. Her fingers instinctively wrapped around Robin's wrist, giving the other young woman a pull in her direction.

"Michael?" Robin cut through Pruella's attempt to guide her out, her free hand going to tug her hood down and leave her face more visible. "What the hell are you doing out here?"

A spark of recognition dawned in the spaniard's eye as Robin lowered her hood, and he whistled out in bemused surprise. "Well I'll be damned, if it isn't the lady herself." The man - apparently named Michael - held up a hand as footsteps sounded further down the hall, a number of men and women bearing firearms approaching from a doorway to the dock house's reception room. "Hold the phone, compadres, it looks like chance really does have a sense of humour. Aiden, Marie, you remember Robin?"

Robin shook her head, "I'm not here to play catch-up, Michael. I had no idea w... you were spread out this far. I thought we were well clear of your territory."

"Ahh, but things have changed since you abandoned ship, cariño. We keep getting bigger and better. I think that the same cannot be said for you, no? Hauling around that heavy pack in..." Michael gave Pruella a glance "...questionable company, smelling like a dead body? Things would be better for you if you had stayed, you know."

Scoffing, Robin shook her head. "I'll take my chances, if it's all the same. You know why I ditched your sorry club of bastards. A little discomfort is a lot better than what you people do."

"And what you did, mi niña." Michael smirked, "Or are you so quick to forget how much it took to flick your little moral switch? Don't play high and mighty with me, we both know you're as careless about life as I am. These are trying times, are they not? Those who are strong deserve to live, those who are not... well, they will get left at the wayside. That is the way of the world."

Pruella's eyes flickered with recognition when Michael had finished, and she had given a quick but questioning glance to Robin.

"And those who smell like dead bodies attract the dead bodies, do 'tey not? Would it not be best for us just to leave?" she interjected, quickly. "Agree to disagree, and maybe have a seminar to talk about it all when we all smell betta. Or memorize the tag on the way out and stay outta your way, huh?"

She drew a sharp breath in, and looked into Michael's eyes with an irritated eyebrow quirked for an answer.

Michael laughed at that, a sharp and short burst tinged with derision. "Ah, she has wit, your new friend. I hope for her sake she has more, too, or perhaps she will find you not so loyal a companion as you seem, mi cariño." The Spaniard waved a hand, "Fine, you go free this time, for old time's sake. Get out of here."

Without another word, Robin turned for the door and barged out. Before Pruella could to the same, however, Michael caught her eye and spoke again. "Don't slow her down too much, witty girl. I speak from experience when I tell you that she won't wait."

"Yeah, well. Tat for tat. We opened up a body crate not far from here, so unless you want to be eaten by the vampires, don't be slow either." she said in reply.

Her hand shot up to adjust the strap of her bag, before she went to follow Robin out just as well. When she met the smell of ocean water, her head turned and her eye caught the tag of Dispersa on the doorway.

"Robin -" she started.

"Don't make a big deal out of this," Robin interrupted from the bottom of the steps grimacing through a curtain of wet hair, having forgotten to put her hood back up. "Yeah, I used to be with Dispersa. I'm not any more. That's all you need to know."

"Just wanted to make sure you were still 'ter." Pruella said, nodding slowly. She took down the steps, looking back once, and then twice.

"We'll find a crate to sleep in, then."