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Henry Ahlstedt

A man alone with his thoughts...

0 · 133 views · located in Season 2

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

Description

Image
Description:

《|Name|》Henry R. Ahlstedt
《|Portrayed By|》Josh Brolin
《|Profession|》Works in Finishing for a Decal production company.
《|Age|》58
《|Gender|》Male
《|Height/Weight|》6'4"
《|Nationality/Ethnicity|》Caucasian American
《|Tattoos/Scars|》Scar running the length of left calf, and scar at the base of his thumb on his right hand.
《|Clothing/Outfit|》He usually just goes with worn jeans, old tennis shoes, and plain solid color t-shirts. The only constant is his old trusty watch and a cross on a chain tucked beneath his shirts.

Traits:

Independent - he takes things into his own hands and doesn't mind being alone on things. He doesn't often seek out help from others and will often times deny help when offered.

Logical - a use your brain kind of guy, though he is by no means "intelligent" he can usually figure out what's what when it comes down to solving issues.

Handy-Man - do things by hand or not at all. Never one to be into technology he learned to do things the hard way. Due to this mentality he became quite good at taking care of broken things, as well as making new things those broken things.


Not Intelligent - as logical as he is he isnt exactly intelligent. He had good enough grades in high school but hasn't really learned much in terms of study since then. He knows what he needs to and thats about it.

Sarcastic - this is as common as blinking to him. He's always saying sarcastic things or making a show of mocking others. However its only in a teasing way if he is comfortable with someone.

Rude - he always has been, dont take it personally. Its just he has no other way to channel out his inner thoughts so he speaks in a rude way and acts the same. If he doesn't like someone they should expect it even more.

Personality:

《|Fears|》

Dogs - he isnt a dog person at all. Cats he doesnt mind but dogs - big ones at least - usually make him nervous. Hes been attacked more than once in his life.

Dying - a common fear really, he doesn't wish to die until he's well into old age.

The Unknown - things that go bump in the night, strange occurrences, or things he simply cant explain.

Betrayal - he fears being betrayed when he actually gets past trusting someone and allows it to happen.

Losing - a fight, his life, someone he loves. Losing any of these things can mean bad things for him.

《|Aspirations|》
Simply wishes to go where the wind takes him and do as he pleases.

《| Dominant Emotion|》
Suspicion/Anger - they go hand in hand sometimes. When he isnt one he's likely the other and so on.

《|Demeanor|》
Stand Off-ish, doesn't let much emotion show, quiet unless spoken to or if pissed off rather loud and mouthy.

《| Quirks/Oddities|》
Has a problem of biting up his nails until they are literally bleeding. Hes had this nervous quirk since he was a kid and by this point doesn't even notice it.

Hums random songs to himself when its silent. Often random rock songs.

《| skills|》
Quite the wood worker.

Can fix things (non technological things) rather easily if he puts his mind to it.

Physically strong but age has made him less agile.

Can cook, nothing elaborate but food is food to him whether its burnt or not.


Equipment:

《|Any item/weapon that your character typically has on them?|》No weapons currently.

《| Do they carry any keepsakes, trinkets, or valuables?|》his cross necklace is a keepsake from his wife.

《| What is their weapon of choice?|》His hands are all he really trusts, but he wouldn't mind a gun or something for hairy situations.

《|History:|》

¤ Spent much of his early life under the watchful eye of his strict disciplinarian parents. Though really, what they called discipline was what other people called abuse. And because of it Henry grew up in an environment that hardened him to the point he barely held any kind emotions besides mistrust for anyone. Sure, he is masterful and can act the part in front of those who deserve his respect. But when it really comes down to it his real feelings usually shine through.

¤ In his teenage years he had a pretty average life. Though he was a little detached from others. He never got along with the kids his age and had a hard time connecting with girls enough to date them. He never felt the need to exert himself by doing extra activities and got by on the bare minimum of schoolwork. As soon as he could legally work he found the best paying job he could and stuck by it. When he reached graduation he took the oppertunity to get out of his parents house and live on his own.

¤ For a little while he struggled. As he never really made connections he didn't have much distraction from work or making ends meet. He got by on ramen noodles for some time and lived in a cheap little apartment on a corner street. He never really was there anyways but when he was the only friend he had was the neighborhoods stray cat which he fed table scraps to. His life however was like a puzzle missing a piece that never could be filled. He decided, that perhaps if he tried hard enough he could make that puzzle complete.

¤ He met that missing piece at age 30, in a sleazy bar just off the side of a busy road where truckers and bikers liked to find themselves a drink. She was young, average looking, and most of all had no real problem with his attitude. She took a seat beside him at the bar and from then on the deal was struck; miss Allison Bradley had weaseled her way into another hard working mans pocket. But this deal didn't go as she planned.

¤ Marriage, children, a life beyond the looming entry way of a black hole. Allison wasn't a settle down kind of gal but after slaving away for nine months with a baby she didn't exactly want she found it in her to give up the life she was living to give a better one to their son. In honor of his own father, Henry gave his son the name James. But it was all for naught as he wasn't expected to survive infancy due to a mixture of birthing complications and Allison's drunken lifestyle. He didn't survive, dying just before he reached a year old and leaving with a piece of both his parents should hearts. Henry never was exactly right after that.

¤ Henry stayed married to Allison despite their differences and lifestyles. They didn't really act like a married couple but somehow they fit together in the long run. Allison cleaned up a little and Henry looked to her for the affection he never received as a young child.

¤ When things went down Henry found himself at the bedside of his dying father. He didn't exactly plan on being there to witness his father turning into a psycho, but thats the way it went and now Henry is stuck halfway across the states from Allison, just hoping to god he makes it through.

So begins...

Henry Ahlstedt's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt

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....

The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt

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"You always were such a useless boy," James Ahlstedt grumbles out. Fumbling with the tubes that feed him oxygen. His arms are covered in an array of wires and tubes that hook him into a machine that monitors various things about his health. Henry keeps a neutral face as he stares at his father; and wonders how he was so afraid of this frail man for so long.

"Never listened, always talked back, ended up marrying some whore," His father spits out.

Henry lets out a long, drawn out sigh and scratches his beard wearily. He knew this would happen, yet he agreed to sit at his fathers bedside for these final days anyways. He had no obligation to the man - really, but he knew that down the line there would be guilt over not seeing his father at least once before he passed away. As it is Henry couldn't believe the man still had the energy to speak at all.

"Where is that useless girl anyways, did she finally run off with all your things? Or perhaps pregnant again," His father pauses to let out a cough, "I wouldn't be surprised."

"Its such a shame we never had any other children, its a waste leaving my money to you. If only your mother were still here..." Henry stops listening to the words spewing forth from his fathers lips, instead standing abruptly and heading for the only window in the room. He peers out across the expanse of suburban housing and notes that there seems to be quite a bit of activity today. Several cop cars roll by with their lights blaring. Henry shakes his head and closes his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. He hopes his headache will disappear on its own, but with how chatty his father seems to be he doubts it.

"I'm going to go get Elissa. Henry says to interrupt the maddening ramblings.

He quickly leaves the room to search for said woman. He finds her in the laundry room, folding bed sheets and humming loudly to herself. Henry wonders how the young woman can put up with taking care of dying people - Henry could sure never do it himself - but Elissa doesn't seem to be too affected by his father; which leads Henry to wonder if she's actually a saint in disguise.

"He's off on another rant, I'm going to step out and clear my head for a while. In other words Henry is going to find the nearest liquor store. However Elissa doesn't really need to know that. "Okay," she says simply, never once stopping her folding.

Henry nods to himself and leaves, hoping that by the time he returns his father has stopped acting the way he has been.



Its nearing noon by the time Henry returns with a bottle of cheap vodka. He first notes how quiet the house is when he enters and secondly realizes that the usual beeping of his fathers heart monitor has stopped. His hands clench around the bottle tightly as he feels anxiety well up inside of him. A light sheen of sweat has broken over his forehead as he marches up stairs. A feeling of grim despair floods him and he doesn't exactly understand why he's feeling these things. He focuses on the fact that the beeping is gone and has been replaced by a stranger kind of noise - a sort of grumbling groan, followed by the sick sound of crunching.

"What the hell?" .........






Present Day


For a moment Henry flounders, his body having been brought to ground level quite suddenly. His knee throbs, but he continues to thrash around against the hands that restrain him. He doesn't remember how he got here and it makes him all the more angry. Blood rushes to his head and he lets out a guttural noise.

"Get the hell off of me!" He shouts.

He feels a fist connect with his face, knocking his head back to the ground and causing a wave of dizzying nausea to stir up his stomach. He curses wildly and gets an arm free, reaching out to one of the people restraining him and striking out with a closed fist. He doesn't know if it connects because all he can feel is a distinct pain in his knuckles and another strike hit him.
He remembers with sudden clarity how he got here. Henry had been in the tunnels for only a little while, maybe a day but with his watch having broken a few days before he doesn't quite know how to tell the time down here. He could have been down there for a week for all he knows - though he hopes it hasn't been that long. Since things went to hell top ground he figured it would be safer down in a place like this, with less people there are less problems. He remembers stumbling upon these people; he had been angry that they were compromising his safety and had attacked one of them - a woman he thinks, but he isn't quite sure now.

Henry looks up at the two that are trying to restrain him, spitting out curse after curse before finally falling limp in exhaustion. His body aches and his legs are throbbing wildly. there's a distinct pain radiating from his head and black dots swim in and out of his vision. When they knocked him down he had hit his head pretty hard. Hard enough he probably has a concussion; he fights to stay conscious because of it.

"God."



Setting

Characters Present

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

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% Jessica Abbott %

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

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

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

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

*CLICK*

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What about me?" Wayne asked in protest.

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

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

"Better start talking, mate."

Setting

Characters Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


"I suggest we find a shovel."




Henry see's red.

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

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

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

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

The setting changes from season-2 to Season 1

Setting

Characters Present

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

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...

The setting changes from season-1 to Season 2

Setting

Characters Present

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

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% Jessica Abbott %


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

@#! SMACK !#@

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"That is what I intended to do."

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

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

"Who's Calvin? Lisa asked.

"My friend..."

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

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

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

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


* * *


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

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

George scoffed. "You think?"

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

"On three?" Tara said, quietly.

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

Henry. In all his drunken glory.

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

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#, as written by Zephon
Bethany Whitfield

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“One swing,” said Diego, impressed.

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

“You know me. Always going full throttle.”


---

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

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

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

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

Rafiq hadn’t known how to respond to that.

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

“Someone is coming,” George suddenly said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---

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

“Well? Are you going to answer me?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are the other two?” Diego asked.

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

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

Liar, Bethany thought to herself.

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

- The Spa -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"James..." Annabelle added quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She wished she knew the answer.

* * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Girls were so predictable sometimes.

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

"LILY-- LOOK OUT!!!"



* * *



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then it happened.

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

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

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

#, as written by Zephon
Bethany Whitfield


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Will he be alright?”


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“What can I do?”

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

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

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

“Help me stop the bleeding first.”

---

Rafiq Chedidi


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

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

It was her that broke the silence.

“What will happen now?”


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

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

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


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

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

“Sam fell.”

“Yes, but how?”

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

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

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

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

“That’s sick!” Wayne exclaimed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now, calm down!”

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

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


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

“We kick him out.”

Everyone, including Henry, looked at Rafiq.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Anyone objecting?”

Setting

Characters Present

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

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- The Spa -


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He shrugged. "Somebody had to."

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

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

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

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Wayne Williams (NPC) Character Portrait: Rafiq Chedidi Character Portrait: Tara Schantz (NPC) Character Portrait: George Remington (NPC) Character Portrait: Henry Ahlstedt Character Portrait: Diego Azevedo (NPC)

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#, as written by Zephon
Rafiq Chedidi


“Sssht, be quiet.”

The five men went silent. They had finally pierced through the wall, creating a small gap between the two adjacent buildings. George had crouched down next to it, trying to listen for any form of walker activity on the other side. If there were undead in the shop next to the spa, they had better know before they tore down the wall completely.

It had taken the five of them, Rafiq, George, Henry, Wayne and Diego (who had joined a while later), longer then they had hoped. They had been unable to find quite the proper equipment; most tools they had found were used to hang paintings on a wall, not to break things down. The best they had were a couple of claw hammers. Still, they had managed. Thankfully, the wall had been made of drywall, wood and insulation material. Had it been anything sturdier, they might have been in trouble.

“Do you hear anything?” Wayne asked.

George held up his hand, ordering Wayne to stay silent. The pilot closed his eyes, trying to listen more intently.

After thirty more seconds or so, he finally shook his head. “I don’t hear anything outright. You would expect with the noise we’ve been making that all the walkers in that room had made their way over here. But... there is something in there that’s making a noise. It’s distant, but there.”

Diego shrugged, “It’s probably a bird or something. There is pet store next door.”

Glaring at the Brazilian, George picked up the claw hammer again. “You could have told us that earlier.”

“Sorry dude, didn’t cross my mind.”

Now that Diego mentioned it, Rafiq thought he could indeed hear some type of animal sniffing. It wasn’t a bird, but possibly a hamster or guinea pig. Those poor creatures probably hadn’t eaten for days.

Now that they had created a hole to the other side, the rest of the work became easier. Using the gap as leverage, the five men were able to pull down large chunks of wall at the same time. At some point, Tara dropped by and watched for a bit, but she didn’t say much, only that she had checked in on Sam and the others and that the boy was still alive. Then she left again.

At last a large piece of wall gave way and the hole became big enough to fit a person through. Rafiq went through first, as he was smaller and more nimble then the rest of them. The pet shop was dark and it smelt musty. The smell of uncared, dying or possibly rotting animals was far from a pleasant one. Rafiq could feel his stomach reflax, but thankfully he kept it down. Wayne, who had followed him through the hole, wasn’t as lucky and ungraciously puked on the floor.

“Urgh, what a stench...”

“Thanks for adding to it,” said Rafiq more sourly than usual, as he had an intense disgust for any type or form of vomiting. He didn’t really know why, but it always made him freak out. Apparently, the end of the world hadn’t changed that.

When Diego came through, he clapped Wayne on the shoulders. “Maybe you should go back to the others and guard the place or something.” Wayne nodded to the man gratefully and slipped back through the wall.

They had been right about the fact that the place was walker-free, unless, as Diego jokingly said “one is hiding in the closet”. Rafiq took a look in one of the cages and thought for a second it was empty, until he saw a small hamster shivering in the corner under a heap of straw. It was a sad thing to see.

“Guess that answers that question,” Henry said, as he stood next to Rafiq, in front of another cage.

“What question?” Rafiq asked.

“Whether animals get affected by this zombie thing too,” Henry responded, pointing at the dead rabbit inside the cage. The creature had empty eyes and a couple of flies were crawling over it. It was clearly dead for a couple of days, but it showed no sign of any undead activity. Rafiq hadn’t really thought about whether animals could become infected as well, but at least it was a good thing they weren’t. Well, at least rabbits aren’t.

George stood near a couple of other cages and had opened one of them. When Rafiq came closer, he could see that the pilot was gently stroking another hamster.

“It’s unfair,” the pilot said in a tone that Rafiq hadn’t heard from the man before.

“I know.” Rafiq needn’t mention Charlie, but he was sure that was who the Brit was thinking about.

“You guys go on with the next wall. If you don’t mind, I’d like to set these little fella’s free. You know, give them some sort of chance. At the least, their deaths would be less cruel.”

Rafiq nodded as he understood. It wasn’t like they needed four people full-time on the wall anyway.

He told Henry and Diego they needed to move on and so they went to the other side of the shop and checked out the best spot to continue. Unfortunately, the shop had used that wall to place the aquariums and terrariums against. All of them were bolted against it and it would take a lot of time to remove them. The only free area was behind a poster behind the counter, but that was awfully close to the front door.

“What if the walkers hear us?” Rafiq asked.

“Do we have another choice,”
Henry said gloomly.

“Maybe we can go outside now and just run...” as Diego said it, he peeked through the blinds, which made him stop his sentence. He turned around and grinned that usual grin of his, “Never mind. It’s still snowing. Or falling. Fallouting? Whatever. Still, can’t see any walkers nearby”

Rafiq sighed, “I guess we just have to hope for the best. You guys get started, I’ll check around the store. Maybe they have some better equipment lying around.”

He walked to the back, where he guessed the storage room was located. On his way, he could see George opening up the bird cages and some of them had already flown out. It was kind of strange to see the man this... human. Everyone had it soft spots, Rafiq supposed.

The storage room was smaller than Rafiq had suspected, but he looked around it thoroughly anyway. There was a lot of feed, a desk with papers and a table the employees had used for their breaks. Some of the coffee cups were still in the sink, unwashed. In the corner was a broom and a...

“I’ll be damned,” Rafiq muttered. He eagerly picked up the sledgehammer. That would come in handy.

Happy at the prospect of doing the work a lot faster, he nearly walked into George, who was dumping out some of the animal feed on the floor. Or at least, he had been, but something had made him stop.

On the floor were three hamsters, tearing the flesh from a fourth one. Rafiq had heard hamsters sometimes cannibalized each other when under great stress or hunger, but... It was like a gruesome miniature version of what they all had been through.

“It’s ironic isn’t it,” George said, “you try to save them and they get hurt anyway.”

Rafiq didn’t know how to respond to that and decided it was better not to.

He left the older man alone with his thoughts.

Setting

Characters Present

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

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= George Remington =

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the man was already gone.


* * *


% Jessica Abbott %


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


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

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

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

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

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


* * *


$$$ Lillian Strong $$$


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

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

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

And if it is true... then--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* * *



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

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

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

*WHAM*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*CLICK*

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

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

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

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


* * *


% Jessica Abbott %


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

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

*SHIK SHIK SHIK*

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

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

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

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

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

"J-Jessica..." she stuttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*CHOMP*

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

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

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

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

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


* * *



*BANG!*

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

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

"The gunshot?" Rafiq asked with wide eyes.

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