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  1. Back To Top    #41
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    Chapter 41 “So Close”
    Day 98; Group B






    The group awoke later than intended, which seemed to be happening a lot lately. They had planned to all get up shortly after sunrise and to head out as soon as possible, getting on the road quickly. However, they woke up late and decided to take their time in packing. Things were hard, and they had constant reminders of that all around them. It was getting harder and harder to get up and find the motivation to head out.

    “Should we even go anywhere?” Seth asked Shawn as everyone packed.

    The farm boy sighed and looked around at everyone, patiently getting their things together. “Really,” he said quietly, “I’m not sure. I want us to keep moving, but everybody’s just giving up.”

    “Should we ask them?”

    Shawn studied the others once more with a frown on his face. “No,” he finally said. “No one’s asking to stay, so we’re going to move out. I guess, hopefully, something good could happen.”

    “I sure hope you’re right,” Seth stated as he shoved some toilet paper into his bag. “I’m not sure if I — or any of them — can take much more losses.”

    Hope was running low, and no one was certain how to replenish it. They all needed a good, long taste of it; something to remind them that everything is not bleak and depressing. They wanted to find their family, but even a stranger out there would suffice. They would have to be careful, but they needed it. They needed some signal that they weren’t all that remained of the world.

    No matter where they went, the moans of walkers was never too distant. Even if it was just one, the sound was still there. It was like a haunting, annoying reminder. A deathly call to the people they had lost; all the people the world had lost.

    They left, slowly making their way to the RV. Everything was so slow and dreary. Usually, they left a town with a lot of “maybe”s, many “hopefully”s. This time, they were more like “possibly”s. “I guess”s. “I doubt it”s.




    After about thirty minutes on the road, they drove onto one-too-many dead ends in the national park, which usually led to houses or just nothing at all. On top of it, the roads were interconnected in weird ways which usually got them lost, repeating a cycle unintentionally for hours at a time. “We really need to get out of this fuckin’ forest,” Shawn complained, getting very annoyed. “Where’s the damn map at?”

    Selenis checked her bag, assuming it to be on top as per usual. She lifted a brow when she found it to not be where she expected it. The woman shoved her hands down the bag and began rifling through it, and she soon realized she had left it behind somewhere the other day.

    “Shawn,” she began hesitantly, knowing he was already annoyed.

    “I swear to God.”

    “We lost the map.”

    “Fuck!” the man yelled furiously, making a sharp turn and halting the RV to a stop. He stood up, his arms raised. “You’re fucking kidding me, right?! You’re bullshitting me.”

    “No,” Selenis said as calmly as she could. She wasn’t afraid of him, she was just afraid of tensing the situation even more, with two people already injured. She had to make sure he wouldn’t freak out and get them into even more trouble than they were already in.

    “Knock that polite shit out!” He turned to Greyson, who looked on, slightly scared. “Did you see it?!” He turned to Seth. “What about you, man?!”

    “Shawn,” Selenis warned. “Calm down.”

    “Don’t tell me what to-”

    Seth grabbed the farm boy by the shoulder with a firm grip, doing his best to intimidate the young hothead. “Hear her out.”

    “Shawn,” she restarted as the man held his tongue under the fierce grip of his much stronger companion, “just breathe. Now, really, why would any of us leave the map behind on purpose?”

    Shawn made an odd noise as though he was going to speak, but immediately took it back, acknowledging Selenis’s point.

    “No, it’s not because we’re stupid,” she said, assuming that’s what he would say. That’s what he always said when people pissed him off and he didn’t have a good reason. “We’re human. I’m human. It was my responsibility, and I forgot it. I made a mistake and I’m sorry. You don’t have to throw a tantrum over it, though, now do you?”

    Shawn sighed, realizing he probably had scared them a bit. “No,” he said like a child half-heartedly apologizing after stealing their sibling’s candy.

    “Good,” Selenis said, nodding to everyone. “So then what do you want to do? Keep going?”

    “If we keep going, we’ll just get even more lost,” the farmer pointed out.

    “It’s not like we’d have much more luck turning back,” Greyson said.

    Seth and Selenis nodded, agreeing with the boy.

    “We’re only a few minutes away, aren’t we?” Shawn questioned.

    “I’m not sure,” Selenis said, tapping the long-broken watch on her wrist.

    Shawn rubbed his temples, completely fed up with nothing ever going his way. “Fuck it,” he cursed, once again annoyed. “We’ll find another one or something. We’re wasting daylight.”

    Selenis and Seth looked to each other, hesitant, but nodded back to him. You’ve got to let your leader lead sometimes, even if he is a raging hothead.





    It was late afternoon. The group had lost their map, and were now driving around almost aimlessly, hoping they could find a road that led to a town — at this point, they would even be happy with a road that just led to a house. They needed to find somewhere to settle in for the night, and they were beginning to consider giving up and just sleeping in the RV.

    Seth yelped in pain at the shaking of the RV as they ran over a fat human carcass on the road, causing Greyson to accidentally jab his boyfriend in the face with a forkful of canned beans.

    “I’m so sorry!” Greyson scrambled, hoping he hadn’t stabbed one of Robert’s bruises.

    “It’s fine,” Robert groaned, “I’ll be okay.” The brunet forced a smile through the pain, attempting to reassure everyone he was getting better — which he was sure of. It was just taking time. Already, some of the bruises were beginning to lighten and go back to their natural coloration.

    Coming from the east, they struck gold. To Selenis’s left, which was to the south, they saw a sign and felt a surge of relief wash over their weary bodies. Finally, a place they could stop and rest.

    “Welcome to Winona! Small town, big people!”

    The group pulled into the first place they saw, a small trailer to their left, right behind the sign. When it was declared to be safe, they all settled in for the night, preparing themselves for a big day ahead of them tomorrow. Little did they know, it would be even bigger than they could anticipate.




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  2. Back To Top    #42
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    Chapter 42 “Reunion”
    Day 99; Group A&B







    Today was a cold, chilly day. The weather was turning colder as it got closer and closer to winter. It appeared to now be the middle of autumn. Most of the trees whose leaves could fall, had. The group awoke later than planned again, but it certainly wasn’t too far off from when they needed to get a move on. It was only a few hours past sunrise, and things were looking up.

    The group was reloading the RV, preparing to leave the house and begin scavenging. This time, even if it did take longer, they couldn’t risk splitting up again. Robert was sitting in the bed in the back resting, as usual, as everyone else prepped their weapons and got the vehicle ready for the day.

    “Everybody almost ready?” Shawn asked, cocking his gun and putting it into its holster.

    “Almost,” Selenis and Greyson said in unison, causing them both to smile slightly to one another.

    “Well, hurry up,” the farmer sighed as he stepped into the RV to help Seth get the ammo straightened out.

    “I’m not sure what it is,” Greyson grunted to Selenis as he lugged two heavy bags out of the house, “but I have a good feeling about today.”

    “Me too,” she smiled, loading her gun. “Need some help?”

    Before the boy could answer, a walker stepped out of the trees. Selenis rolled her eyes as she lifted her gun and shot it in the head. As it fell limp, she turned back to hear Greyson reply, but his face slowly lit up with fear.

    Walkers began pouring out of the treeline, one after another, flooding the yard of the trailer they had slept in rapidly.

    “Fuck!” Greyson yelled, and Selenis ran to him, grabbing one of the heavy bags he was struggling with and they sprinted to get into the RV. As Greyson ran forward, Selenis turned and shot two more walkers.

    When they were all in, they wasted no time getting out of there as soon as possible. They sped down the road, passing house after house of the town, which was larger than they were expecting.

    After they had made it quite a few blocks from their house, Shawn decided to slow slightly, not needing to go ninety miles an hour just to run from trudging walkers.

    “Is everyone okay?” he asked.

    “Yeah,” Selenis sighed. “I think so.”

    “Did we leave anything behind?” Seth inquired.

    “If we did,” Greyson stated, “it’s gone now.”

    Then, a loud yelling was heard from the back. It was Robert on the bed. Greyson instantly rose to his feet, horrified of what could be happening, and was followed right by Selenis.

    As they made it to the door, Robert burst it open. “Turn around!” he ordered. “Now!”

    “Are you insane?!” Shawn asked.

    “No,” Robert said, still yelling. “Turn the fuck around, now! I saw Beth and Lyrik!”

    “You…” Seth started. “Robert, if you saw them back there, that wasn’t them. Not anymore…”

    “No!” the young man yelled, getting furious. “I’m not playing a fucking game, and they’re not walkers! They were outside of a house, just sitting there with a few other people. Now turn around!”

    Shawn sighed, strongly disbelieving Robert, but he turned, to humor the poor boy.

    They drove back, waiting for Robert to give a signal. Then, getting dangerously close to the walkers, Robert spoke up. “There!” he yelled, pointing to four people standing outside of an elevated trailer that had a sign crossed out, with “NO HOPE” written in red over it.

    One of the four people was a man with long, dirty, brown hair. He held a rifle and looked at the RV inquisitively. Beside him was a very large, strong man, who looked at the vehicle just as confusedly. Behind them, running towards the RV in flailing excitement and tears was two teenage girls: a thin blonde and plump, dark one. Robert was right. He began crying in astonishment and bolted out the door, followed quickly by everyone else.

    Robert grabbed onto the two girls, hugging them dearly as they all began sobbing onto one another. He clutched their hair and their backs, like a child pinching himself to make sure he was awake. The other four from the RV did the same, creating a massive group hug. Robert and Lyrik couldn’t stop hugging, and Beth and Shawn kissed each other.

    They were so happy to be back together. This was it; this is what they needed. The light in the darkness to keep them going.

    Then, the growls could be heard, and Robert pulled off of them. “Go inside, get your shit, we all gotta go!”

    Lyrik and Beth took off instantly, and Taylor followed, but Malcolm puzzledly looked on. “Now wait a minute,” he said as Shawn, Greyson, and Selenis also ran inside to help pack, “who are you?”

    “We’re family,” Robert stated. “Now, if you want to make it through another day alive, I suggest you go pack up, now!”

    “Why? What’s going on?”

    “Herd!” Seth and Robert yelled impatiently.

    Malcolm hesitated a step back, and then turned and sprinted back to the hardware store.

    Within minutes they all rushed out, Beth and Patricia holding hands as they carried their bags over their shoulders, and they were both crying with huge smiles on their face, despite the imminent fear.

    Extra bags were carried by Selenis, Greyson, and Shawn. Seth and Robert guarded the RV, taking shots at oncoming walkers and putting them down quickly, trying to buy the group a little extra time.

    Finally, though, everyone was in with the majority of their things. Everyone made it into the vehicle alive.

    Sarita, Malcolm, and Taylor were confused and a bit scared, realizing how foolish they were to just hop into an RV full of strangers, leaving the RV Beth’s group had brought behind.

    Everyone else though was sobbing onto each other, in disbelief that they had found one another again.

    They drove for hours, getting as far out from the town as they could, going southwest. Then, they all pulled over on the road to have proper introductions and reunions.

    Robert, Seth, Shawn, Greyson, and Selenis were introduced to Sarita, Malcolm, and Taylor.

    Mika, Allan, Patricia, Beth, and Lyrik still seemed to be reeling with shock. They were overjoyed, all of them — even Allan.

    “So,” Patricia asked hesitantly, “you don’t know if anyone else made it out, do you?”

    “I don’t know,” Shawn said. “It’s just been us...well, and Daniel, but...as you can see…”

    Patricia nodded her head solemnly.

    “How did you all get out?” Selenis asked.

    Allan spoke up, happy to wear his knowledge like a badge. “We were out gardening, trying to take everyone’s minds off of the whole, uh,” he looked to Mika and held his tongue, unsure of how she would take hearing about Lizzie again, “situation the day before. We were the first to see the herd, and we tried to get everyone out. They just took too long, and we had to leave them behind.”

    The girls who had been with Allan for the past week frowned angrily at him. They didn’t have to leave. There was plenty of time to wait. But this wasn’t the time or place to have a large argument, out on the middle of the road after a heart-warming reunion and horrifying herd escape.

    “Then we stayed by a creek for a bit, and headed into Winona. That’s where we met these three. What about you all?” the disdainful man questioned.

    “Well,” Shawn thought, “as y’all know, we were out scavenging. We came back, and we couldn’t even get to the house. The herd was just, you know, massive. So we went back to the old one — from before we moved in with Ryan’s people. We stayed there for like a whole day, waiting on that herd to clear up.”

    Robert thought back to the day they had went back to the house. He looked to Greyson with a smile. “It all makes sense now,” he said, interrupting Shawn, and Greyson nodded, but didn’t quite remember what Robert meant. “We went back to the house — you know, Ryan’s — and we found that pretty much everybody’s bags were gone, other than ours, Mika’s, Allan’s, and Lyrik’s.” The boy smiled. “Otis got out. He took your bags,” he pointed to the blonde women.

    Patricia held back her tears, knowing she had shed too many on her husband already — she didn’t want them to start thinking she was just a crying mess. “Is that it?”

    “No,” Seth said. “We started going south, down the road the walkers went towards, looking for signs of people escaping. All we found was a few fire pits and holes, a trench made for bathroom time,” he purposely omitted the dead girl they found in the sewage, conscious of Mika and Beth, “and two of the vans we kept at the little garage that had been abandoned.”

    “Like, down that road?” Beth asked.

    “Yeah. It was a ways before we got to the camp site. They must have broken down and kept walking on foot. From there, we don’t know what happened.”

    “Been out looking for everybody ever since,” Selenis said. “Going from town to town, looking to find somebody.”

    “We were there pretty much whole time,” Allan said. “Right after the herd hit, we headed due south, putting as much distance between the herd as we could.”

    “Wait, due south?” Seth asked. “You don’t think that was the same herd, do you?”

    A few eyes went wide, realizing it very likely could be. “I didn’t even think about that,” Allan said. “I think it might have been.”

    They all nodded, and Lyrik couldn’t take it anymore. “You guys don’t know if anyone died, do you?”

    Robert sighed. “Two people did for sure.”

    Lyrik frowned, hoping it wasn’t someone she liked.

    “First, there was Patti,” Greyson said, remembering how Daniel had put her down and they had a mini-funeral for her. “And then…”

    “And then there was Daniel,” Robert said. “He’s why my face looks like this.”

    “Really?” Allan asked, surprised.

    “Yeah,” Greyson said, irritation thick in his voice. “I couldn’t believe it either.”

    “He just kinda,” Seth paused, “went crazy. Blew up, and beat Robert up.”

    “Then the douche went downstairs and fed himself to a walker,” Robert spat. “Left me and Greyson all alone to fend for ourselves, with me aching and in massive pain.”

    After a few moments of shock and honoring the deaths of their fallen comrades with silence, Selenis smiled to herself, remembering huge news the girls would be delighted to hear.

    “We have a couple of lovebirds,” she announced.

    Greyson and Robert instantly looked to one another, eyes wide and surprised.

    “Who?” Beth smiled.

    Selenis bit her lip and gestured to the two boys, nervously eyeing each other.

    “Awwwwwwwww!” a few of the girls cried in unison, giving Robert and Greyson awkward smiles as they blushed and looked from each other to the ground and the faces of their reunited loved ones.

    “Really?” Allan asked, looking slightly disgusted.

    Robert’s embarrassed smile dissipated as he turned to Greyson, who was instantly shocked but eased into it as they reached into one another and kissed deeply, happily flaunting their newfound love before the rude man.

    Allan rolled his eyes as he looked away, and everyone cheered for the boys.

    Malcolm looked over awkwardly to Beth, who was laughing at the sight. She soon noticed Malcolm eyeing her nervously, and her face became serious. She shook her head no, not wanting the long-haired brunet to say a word about what had happened.

    The boy panicked, wanting to brag and be proud of his relationship with the girl. “I had sex with Beth!” he blurted, causing many of the laughs to become hysterical. Robert and Greyson broke their kiss, pulling away laughing hard.

    Patricia covered her mouth in shock, unaware this had happened, and then realized Mika had heard it. She quickly placed her hands over the young girl’s ears, afraid of what else the crazy brunet might say.

    Shawn appeared angry, worried that his sister had just hooked up with a potentially dangerous stranger. What if she was pregnant? He felt like punching Malcolm in the face.

    Beth’s face was bright red, her hands trying desperately to hide her embarrassment. Then, as the icing on the cake, it was clear Patricia was much too late. “What’s a segs?” Mika asked innocently.

    The laughing became uproarious, unable to contain themselves. No one, not even Beth or Patricia or Shawn, could stop laughing; it was intensified as they began to realize Malcolm was standing there, his face flushed as he feigned laughter with them.

    Sadly, it was brought to an end as many walkers approached, attracted to the hysterics.

    It brought a quick downfall to the happiness of those nearest the walkers, who did their best to pull out a weapon of some sort hastily. It grounded their enjoyment, and brought a quick reminder that not all was well. However, it didn’t kill the joy brought onto them — the laugh they had shared was good, and brought them a much-needed uplift.

    Soon, the walkers were taken down, and everyone was once again calm, other than a few leftover giggles.

    “So, is that it?” Seth asked.

    “Well,” Beth hesitantly began, afraid her speaking would bring more laughs, “I adopted Mika.”

    Everyone clapped or smiled, congratulating the two, and proud of the choice Beth had made. They admired her strength and confidence that she had grown into, despite all of the losses in her life, including her father and two of her fingers. They were impressed the teen had taken such an admirable step in her life.

    They remained there, catching up and enjoying one another’s companies for hours, along with killing a stray walker every now and then. They were so pleased they were back together again, and that they weren’t the only ones left. They knew not everyone was there, and that some of the other people had to still be alive out there, but they were overjoyed to have at least someone back.

    As the sun began to set, Shawn realized they still hadn’t discussed where they were going to go now.

    “So what’s the plan?” he asked when a quiet opportunity finally arrived.

    Everyone looked amongst themselves or into the distance, unsure of what to do.

    “I say we keep moving,” Selenis voted.

    Patricia and Beth frowned to each other and looked to Mika. “I think we should find a place to stay,” Beth said. “A permanent place.”

    Allan had an internal struggle. He knew they had fled southward, and thus closer to Arkansas. If they kept going further south, they would soon come across the signs for West Little Rock, his old home. As he considered it more and more, the people talking around him, he realized how badly he wanted to go. He wanted to see the people he had left behind, and to be back with people he had known from early on.

    “I have a place,” he spoke up, interrupting Seth, who was suggesting finding a large institution of some sort.

    “Uh,” Seth grunted, slightly mad he had been interrupted.

    “West Little Rock.”

    “Wait,” Greyson said, “really?”

    “What’s West Little Rock?” Taylor asked, a brow lifted.

    “It’s the place Mika and Allan came from,” Greyson stated. “Before I met them, they came-”

    “Oh yeah,” Taylor said, recalling that Patricia had told him.

    “I mean,” Robert said, “do you think it’d be safe? Or like, that it would even still be there?”

    Allan shrugged. “I don’t know. But I think it’s our best bet — at least we would know.”

    Mika smiled at the thought of going back to West Little Rock, and seeing all of her friends again. “Can we, please?”

    Beth looked worried as she looked to the child. “I’m not sure if-”

    “Pleeeeaaaaaaase?” she begged.

    Beth sighed and looked to Patricia for guidance. She knew what Beth was afraid of — that the sanctuary had been destroyed, and that Mika would become upset about it. The elder woman could only shrug, unsure of what could happen.

    “All for going to West Little Rock?” Allan announced, raising his hand high into the air. Taylor, Malcolm, and Seth soon followed suit, happily and dumbly unaware of what the teen was worried for. Mika’s hand shot up as she realized that it was a vote. Beth sighed and raised her hand as well, which signalled everyone else it was fine to vote for such.

    The only people opposed were Sarita, who feared large communities because of what had happened to her the last time, and Selenis, who wanted to keep moving, but she understood the need for a permanent home.

    “It’s settled then,” Shawn announced. “We’re going to West Little Rock.”




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  3. Back To Top    #43
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    Chapter 43 “Farther”
    Day 100; Group A&B







    Gone: was the stress of being alone. Gone: was the insecurity in having a small group. Gone: was the fear everyone beloved had died.

    Returned: was the warmth of friends and family. Returned: was the ability to smile and not feel guilty. Returned: was the idea things could be peaceful again.

    Families were stitched back together, and friends were given hope again. New people were shown how strong faith and trust could be, and that it was important to remain hopeful that the people you loved could survive, even with the odds stacked against them.

    As had been established the day before, the group’s priority was to find a permanent home. They needed to stop moving, and to get a place they could be safe at forever. Surely, somewhere out there, whether it was West Little Rock or not, there was a place they could call home.

    Because of how large the group was now, they had stayed in a farmhouse not far from the road they were on the night before, which was easy to clear out.

    As they rose, they were delighted to see that it hadn’t been a dream; they were back together again. Sadly, the world around them hadn’t been a dream. That was all too real.




    So much had been accomplished today. A new map had been found, and they traveled over one hundred miles — far over halfway to Little Rock, Arkansas. They still needed more food to compensate for the larger numbers and the constant traveling. Really, their only hope was that Allan hadn’t lied or been wrong — that West Little Rock was there. If it wasn’t, they had no hope. There was nothing to move on to.

    As the group slept in the couches, or on sheets, or even just on the cold, hard floor of a large farm house, the wind blew against the building. It rushed through the cracks of windows or doors, making a loud high-pitched whistle; like the ghosts of their pasts, it raged on throughout the night as they forced themselves to get some rest.

    Taylor sat on the roof of the farmhouse in an oversized windbreaker — “perfect for an obese woman going to Walmart in Louisiana,” as Lyrik had joked.

    As the night dragged on, Sarita was awoken by her bowels, which insisted they had to make a movement, and quickly. When she remembered the only toilet in the house was filled to the brim with other peoples’ waste, she groaned, though she did it as quietly as she could, trying not to wake up those around her. She snatched a roll of toilet paper as she hastily and aggravatedly made her way outside into the night.

    “Tay!” she whisper-yelled up at the roof as she closed the door behind her. “Taylor, it’s me: Sarita!”

    “Sarita? What are you doing?” he asked, peeking his head off of the ledge of the roof.

    “I’ve got to use the bathroom.”

    “Now?”

    “Yes! I need you to- ugh!” she groaned as her stomach growled, ready to go. “You have to cover me.”

    “Okay,” he shrugged. “You got it.”

    She made her way to the treeline around the backyard of the house, which was much like the old Greene farm in that it was clear of trees for about a half mile or so all around it.

    The strong man watched his Indian companion waddle her way out, trying desperately to hold in her bodily functions. He couldn’t help but snicker at her a bit.

    She squatted down, her underwear strewn to the side and her nightgown held up in her arms, and released. She moaned slightly at the relief, happy that she hadn’t soiled herself, and that the feeling was so rewarding.

    Taylor kept the sights of his rifle locked on her, but did his best to not look at too much. He neither wanted to look at something private, or to be disgusted at seeing an action he’d rather not bare witness to.

    Then, gunfire could be heard in the opposite direction, out on the road near the front of the house. It was loud and rabid, and it distracted Taylor. He was conflicted; a part of him wanted to go and help them. He was happy to see there were even more humans around, but he knew that if they were firing like that, they were either stupid, careless, or in more trouble than just one man could lend a hand to fixing.

    Sarita, too, was slightly distracted by the gunfire, thinking something had happened with Taylor she hadn’t caught. As she looked up at the house, though, she realized he wasn’t a part of it. It was all coming from the town.

    Taylor kept his rifle up, trained on the road leading up to the farmhouse. He wasn’t sure what might happen, but if the fools shooting rushed here for safety, he would have to quickly evacuate everyone.

    The woman squatting in the woods sighed and put her head back down, getting back down to business. She heard a crackle from behind her and she jumped, but failed to get to her feet and she fell down face-first. She struggled for her underwear and did her best to slip them on as she rose.

    Taylor!” she wailed, hoping he would get whatever was behind her off of her back. She then realized she had never even looked at what it was. The one-armed woman turned and realized that three walkers had sneaked up on her, likely attracted to the gunfire, or perhaps her own noise. One of which, was a child. A young boy, no older than ten, was approaching her with two taller walkers, who could easily have been the boy’s parents.

    The strong man on the roof turned to see the biters approaching Sarita, who lay on her side holding a pair of blue panties, staring frozen up at the walkers.

    “Sarita!” he yelled as loudly as he could to her, trying to snap her out of whatever trance she was in. “Move!

    She struggled to get up, cursing her stump arm, and she wailed again. “Shoot them!”

    Taylor bit his lip in concentration, but he accidentally took down the walker farthest from her, the motherly one, meaning to get the one nearest, which was the child, but missing due to the shambling of the foul creatures. He sighed and reloaded the gun.

    She used everything she could, all of the might in her, pushing herself to get up, despite accidentally putting way too much pressure on her amputated arm.

    Somehow, despite it all, she had made it to her feet. She had rose, and as she collected herself, she smiled. She could make it. She could run, and Taylor would take down the other two walkers.

    Teeth, vile and cruel, sunk into her bad arm before she could sprint off to the house. They tore into the damaged muscle, undoing all of the recovery the woman had suffered through, and invalidating everything she had worked for since the beginning of the outbreak.

    She screamed in awful pain, shrieking into the night. Taylor dropped his rifle slightly, and stifled a sound of disbelief. It didn’t last long, though, as he quickly lifted his gun and dispatched of the farthest walker, and then he lowered it and with stunning aim in the intensity of the moment, he managed to miss Sarita and get the child walker right in the head.

    Before jumping off the roof and running to Sarita’s aid, he used the back of his rifle to bust open the nearest window and he shouted into it, “Everyone get up and get ready to go!”

    In the room, Allan and Malcolm jumped into action, quickly slipping on shoes or getting dressed as best they could before grabbing their stuff and splitting off into the house setting to awaking everyone.

    As Taylor sprinted for his close friend, she clutched her arm, wailing and weeping. Sarita had no idea how she should be feeling, truly, other than in pain from the intense agony of being bitten again. It was worse than she remembered, by a thousand degrees.

    “Sarita!” he bursted, throwing his gun to the floor as he reached for the woman with tears in his eyes. “You’re gonna make it,” he reassured her as Malcolm, Shawn, and Allan ran to help. Rushing to help her, the muscular man ripped his bag off from his shoulder and dug through it, finally finding a butcher’s knife. It wouldn’t work as well as a hatchet or a saw, but there was no time to get one of them.

    “Don’t,” she said weakly, doing her best to raise her arm and push away the blade. “I’ve lived long enough. I’m done now.” Her breathing began to slow, and it became difficult for her to keep her head up. “Just, let me, turn,” she breathed sadly before passing out from shock and blood loss.

    They all stared at her in shock, unsure of what to really do. “Chop it off already!” Allan yelled.

    Taylor looked to Malcolm with concern. They knew how hard things were for her. It took her ages to recover from her amputation last time. They knew she was weak. She was smart, though. She always knew exactly what she wanted.

    The two stared sadly between themselves and their dying friend. If they had been bitten twice, they’re not sure they would want another chance, either.

    Malcolm shook his head no as he considered. He felt like he knew what Sarita said was how she truly felt. She wouldn’t want to be a burden again. She didn’t want to have a third chance when so few had hardly been given one.

    Taylor nodded his head, and lowered the knife.

    “You can’t be serious,” Allan said, beginning to search his bag for a weapon to amputate her arm with himself.

    Taylor looked up, quickly grabbing his gun and pointing it directly at Allan’s skull. “You do it and I’ll put you down for good.”

    Allan glared at Taylor, his arm still firmly shoved down his bag. Shawn stood by, clueless about the dynamics this group had formed, and shocked at the entire situation. After a moment of consideration, Allan pulled his arm out. “What are we gonna do, then?”

    Taylor sighed. “She said she wanted to turn. I say we let her turn.”

    “Why would we do that?” Shawn asked, slightly annoyed. “We should put her down, save her from being one of those things.”

    “Her boyfriend turned,” Malcolm sighed. “He died saving her. They didn’t have time to put him down.”

    Shawn’s eyebrow was high in the air, still not getting it. “And? We’ve got time. Between the four of us, I’m sure we make up at least one heart to give her mercy.”

    “I think she wants to be with him,” Taylor said. “She wasn’t with him when it happened. She probably thinks now, she can be with him. Both in heaven, and on Earth.”

    Shawn sighed, scratching his head. “You people are fucked up.”

    “Maybe we are,” Taylor stated. “But what does it have to do with you? Let her die on her own terms. She wants to turn, what’s it to you?”

    The farmboy’s voice softened. “Okay,” he said. “I’m sorry. It just feels kinda…”

    “Inhumane?” Malcolm asked. “It feels a bit like that to us too. At least, to me,” he said, then looked down to Taylor, who nodded his head, agreeing that it didn’t feel exactly right. “But it’s not up to me.”

    Shawn nodded and shifted his position, beginning to shiver at the cold wind of the night. “Alright, then. So let’s bring her in. Be with her until the end. Hopefully she’ll wake up eventually. Tell us how she really feels.”

    Malcolm and Taylor nodded in unison. They set to work, wrapping her bite up and moving her inside. They would wait, and be with her in her final moments.




    Spoiler Spoiler:

    Though this is a bit later than intended, SURPRISE! Celebrating my spring break and the end of Season 5, I'll be posting a chapter every day this weekend. Friday (today), Saturday, and Sunday!

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    Chapter 44 “Us Against Them”
    Day 100; Group C







    Three days. Seventy-two hours. Four thousand, three hundred twenty minutes. Two hundred fifty-nine thousand, two hundred seconds.

    Time passed slowly. Painfully. Every waking moment fat and ripe with fear, tension, and hesitation.

    They knew they were locked in a storeroom. They knew they were alone, the only people in there. They knew there was very little chance of escape. The walls were concrete, there were no windows, and the only door out of the room was locked with a padlock from the outside. Their only chance of escape was to attack someone when they opened the door for feeding or head-count.

    The eight of them had no idea what was going on. They weren’t sure why the were being held captive. They didn’t know why they were locked into a cold, dark room. They didn’t know what Merle and his people wanted from them. They didn’t know what might happen to them at all.

    Sierra sighed as she looked around the room, eyeing the piles of paper and old documents from when the train station was in order. The only thing in the room besides them was papers. When they had to, they used them as pillows. In the corner, they had designated a spot for bodily functions — and it was beginning to smell absolutely awful.

    They needed to get out, and fast. Their hope was draining. They had attempted to fight their way out twice now, and both times they ended up injured or punished. At this moment, it marked their twentieth hour without food. They were to go without for two more full days.

    Otis cradled his arm, which was still sore from the pellets shot at him by the guards. He sighed, shifting his weight and locked eyes with Sierra. They stared at one another, sadness permeating their gazes. They had worn thin their reassurances that they will get out and be okay. They wanted to believe they would. They were certain, with every fiber of their being, they would be released. But their chances looked slim.

    Steve rolled over, waking up for the hundredth time in the past few hours. As he studied his fellow inmates, he thought about how hard sleeping was to do when you had no idea how safe you were. For Steve, that had been his whole life for the past three months. Though he was used to it, it didn’t make it any more enjoyable.

    Sierra had kept her eyes glued to Steve for the first two days. “It’s us against them now,” he had said to the group when they were first locked up. She couldn’t help but distrust the stranger. Though he had presented himself to be nothing but kind to the group, she couldn’t help but be uneasy. To escape this prison, though, she would have to trust him with her life.




    Merle sat in his office, a great smirk on his face as he spun around in his wheeled chair a bit. He flipped through photographs. They were polaroids of his new prisoners. As he flipped through, he attempted to memorize their names.

    “Zander. Or, was it Zavier? Javier?” Merle shrugged. “Smart kid, I guess. Could use a haircut, though. Lookin’ like a little sissy.”

    He took the picture and sat it on his desk, beginning the start of the pile of pictures.

    “Kelly,” he said, again shrugging slightly. “I’d hit that.

    “Gabriel. Another taco-bender runnin’ around here. I wouldn’t mind puttin’ him out of his misery just to help clean up the world a bit. Do some good.

    “Otis. What a sad, old fatass. Poor dude won’t know what hits him.

    "Shakira, I think it was. Hell yes. Spoiled little beaner, but hot as hell.

    “Steve. He’s gonna be hard to bring to our side. Hardheaded blond.

    “Amanda. What’d Martin say her last name was? Bryor, I think?” he shrugged. “At least it’s not Kimble, or some other ‘K’-shit. Whatever, she looks like a party, though. Gotta have some drugs on her.”

    And, finally, “Sierra,” Merle’s great smirk returned to him. He licked his lips and unbuttoned his pants. Then he unzipped them and shoved a hand down his pants. “This one’s about to get exactly what she deserves.”




    Sierra lied on her back, an overwhelming sense of dread beginning to take over her. She looked down at the chipped, almost completely gone, nail polish on her fingers. Black, just like she felt. Lyrik had done them only a few days before they were all separated. She sighed, holding a hand to her heart as she let a tear roll down her temple and into her hair.

    She jolted upwards, readying her hands in preparation of using her fingernails as her last-resort weapons when light flooded the room.

    “Shhh,” a female whispered to her, silhouetted by the light behind her. “Come here,” the figure beckoned.

    Sierra raised a brow, squinting to make out detail of the woman’s appearance, then looked to her friends, who were either asleep or looking at her with groggy, confused eyes.

    “I’m not here to hurt you. Look,” the woman said, turning a bag around her shoulders to her and pulling out some food.

    The blonde on the ground licked her lips, but remained where she was. “How am I supposed to trust you?”

    “You just are,” the stranger said lightly. “Your other option is to starve.”

    While she spoke, a smaller figure creeped up behind her. As the figure approached, she stood in front of the light. She was a small, tan, brunette little girl.

    “Poppie!” the stranger whisper-yelled. “Get back into the hall! You know you’re not supposed to be out here!”

    The small girl looked around nervously like a frightened puppy dog. She then turned and ran back towards the direction she had come from.

    “Look,” the woman said impatiently as she turned to look back as the girl fled. The light illuminated her face. She was white, with dark hair that appeared to be almost black. It was hard to tell, but she seemed to be quite pretty to Sierra. She threw what was in her hand into the dark room before grabbing another handful and throwing that in as well. “My name’s Amanda. Remember me. Now, just take the food! I have to go!”

    As the woman closed the door and locked it back, Sierra strained to see her comrades’ faces. When her eyes finally adjusted back to the darkness, she saw that the food was on the floor still, and everyone was looking nervously among themselves.

    Slowly, Sierra rose and grabbed a package of beef jerky. She opened it, and sniffed the delicious, tempting meat. The blonde couldn’t help but sigh in pleasure as she inhaled the familiar scent.

    After she took a bite, the rest of the group followed their leader and began digging into the food, biting into fresh fruits and nuts, devouring packaged meats, and savoring stale junk food. They were astonished at the woman’s kindness, but couldn’t help think perhaps she was playing them somehow. Either way, the group reveled in their bounty, enjoying it while they could. They wanted to take a break of thinking about potential ulterior motives, and to just celebrate the fact they had been given valuable nutrition.




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  5. Back To Top    #45
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    Chapter 45 “West Little Rock”
    Day 101; Group A&B







    Time dragged by; seconds, minutes, hours. It all began to blend together into painful waiting. Every second felt like a day.

    Malcolm and Taylor sat by Sarita’s side, tears dried up on their faces and their eyes still red from crying. She needed to wake up. She needed to hurry. They weren’t sure if amputation would work anymore. They were fairly certain it would not. Not after the five hours that had passed. But even so, they needed to talk to her one last time. To say their goodbyes. To ask her how she truly wants to die.

    The wind from hours before still raged on, rattling things outside the house and around the lands. It whispered a haunted moan among the house, making the boys even more uneasy.

    Sarita was turning pale, her brown Indian skin becoming milky as hours passed. Though her chest was still rising and falling with the breath of life, she was dying. Everyone knew it; there was no question about it. Within the next twenty-four hours, she would be no more.

    Lyrik walked in, sent by Shawn. She came up behind the two and put her hands on their shoulders as she observed the dying woman lying in the bed before them.“I think it’s time,” she said to them quietly.

    “Not yet,” Taylor said coldly.

    Lyrik bit her lip. “Shawn said it should be soon.”

    “Just give her a chance,” Malcolm said, his voice cracking as he spoke for the first time in hours. He looked into the black girl’s eyes, pleading for her to understand. “If she dies,” he promised, “we’ll do what we have to do.”

    Lyrik stared into the brunet’s eyes, understanding his sadness. “Okay,” she conceded. “I’ll see what I can do to buy you more time. You both should really get some rest, though. Pretty much everyone else is asleep again.”

    “Thank you,” Malcolm said curtly, turning his head back to his friend as Lyrik exited.




    Time passed, and Sarita still had neither woke up nor died. The sun was now beginning to rise. To no one’s surprise, Shawn still wanted to get moving as soon as possible. Having been the one to take over for Taylor as lookout and thus missing out on sleep, it was an understatement to say he was cranky.

    “Either we’re putting her down now, or we’re leaving!” Shawn yelled in fury, bursting through the door into the room the trio was in.

    Taylor and Malcolm looked up at him in unison, aggravated and depressed. Taylor rose to his feet, challenging the farm boy to order him around again.

    “What, you gonna kill me?” Shawn asked cockily. “You hurt me, you and Mackerel are out of here!”

    “My name’s Malcolm.”

    “Whatever! You two kill me, there’s no way you’re getting out alive.”

    “Oh,” Taylor said darkly, “I’m not going to kill you. I want you to feel what I’m gonna do to you.”

    “Are you threatening me?” Shawn asked, narrowing his eyes and getting in the larger man’s face.

    “Are you threatening Sarita?” Taylor questioned as he stepped closer as well.

    She’s the threat,” Shawn declared. “And by keeping her alive, so are you.”

    Taylor punched the thinner man in the face, sending him reeling backwards.

    The farm boy wiped blood off of his mouth as he looked up to the muscular man. “You son of a bitch!” he screamed, flinging himself onto the man and punching at his head, using his fingernails to scratch at him.

    Malcolm rushed to his best friend’s side and did his best to shove the firecracker of a leader off of him. Selenis and Beth, who were in the next room and had heard the commotion, rushed inside to help break up the fight.

    When the two men were separated, Shawn spat blood onto the floor. “Five minutes, and that’s it. If she doesn’t wake up before then, you’re putting her down and we’re leaving.”

    Shawn stormed out, and Beth and Selenis said some quick apologies before following the leader, making sure he didn’t fly off the handle again at someone else.

    Malcolm and Taylor sat at Sarita’s side in silence, having run out of things to say. They had already come to their decision of what they would do to her. They knew what she wanted.

    It wasn’t long after they sat down and caught their breath that they realized she had stopped breathing. “When did that happen?” Malcolm asked, grabbing the woman’s arm in a panic as he searched for a pulse.

    Taylor sighed as he rubbed his face. “I don’t know. I guess she went while we were fighting.” The large man’s face began to turn red as he did his best to hold back tears. This was it. Sarita had died. Soon, she would turn.

    They looked to one another and rose. Malcolm grabbed his knife from its holster as Taylor turned away. Malcolm walked to the blood Shawn had spat on the floor and rubbed his knife in it, trying his best to dye it in red. Taylor turned back, his eyes failing to hold back the tears.

    “You know this is what she wanted,” Malcolm said grimly.

    When the knife seemed to be convincing, the two left the room and closed the door behind them to announce the news.

    “Sarita’s dead,” Malcolm said sadly.

    “Did you put her down?” Shawn asked, his voice still rigid and angry.

    Malcolm silently pulled his knife out of its holster, showing off the red glimmer.

    Shawn half-smile at the man. “You did the right thing,” he comforted, putting a hand on both of the men’s shoulders.

    “You’re right,” Taylor said, his voice a depressed quiver, “we did.”




    Hours later, the group was on the road, following Allan’s instructions as he navigated them towards Little Rock.

    “Just don’t go into the city,” Allan warned them.

    “Why not?” Shawn questioned. The group had never really gone to a large city, but they’ve been in plenty towns, and it seemed no different than just being out in the woods, in terms of the amount of people and walkers you would meet.

    “Because cities are dangerous,” Allan said as if Shawn was stupid.

    “How are they any different to other places?” Shawn said, getting annoyed once more.

    “Have you even taken a second to consider how? Think about how big the population was before this all started. Think about how many people turned, or died there. Before and after the outbreak. People were probably trapped in buildings, leaving entire skyscrapers full of walkers. Then, after, all the people that went there for sanctuary, or to scavenge. Cities are the breeding grounds for walkers.”

    Shawn drove on, still towards the city. He did feel quite stupid, not having thought about any of that before, but he wasn’t certain if the man was telling the truth. He wanted to check it out for himself.




    After running into a few roadblocks, the RV had made it just outside of the city. It kept driving forward.

    “Shawn, I’m serious, turn around now!” Allan begged.

    “Listen to him, Shawn!” Seth said, standing between the two men’s seats.

    “Look!” Shawn said. “The roads are completely clear. We can just drive through the city, make it to the place through there.”

    “That’s not a good idea!” Allan yelled again. “You drive through here, you’re gonna get all the walkers to come out of hiding and you’re gonna lead a herd right to our new home!”

    “Yeah, yeah,” Shawn said, speeding up. Seth and Allan looked to each other in panic. Seth quickly grabbed a glass bottle they were using to make fires and smashed it over the back of Shawn’s head. Allan quickly grabbed the steering wheel, doing his best to steady it as Shawn went unconscious. The pressure on the pedals slowly went away until the RV halted to a stop in the city.

    “Quickly!” Allan yelled to Seth, demanding him to pull the leader out of his seat. When Shawn’s body was removed, Beth ran to him and began to make sure he wasn’t too badly injured as Allan moved into the drivers seat. “Hold on!” he warned them, revving the vehicle up and making a sharp turn as walkers began to materialize from all directions behind buildings and alleyways.




    They pulled up about an hour later, two blocks away from the gates of what was, according to Allan, West Little Rock.

    The walls stood tall, about ten feet high. They were intimidatingly massive, metal barriers that came to a peninsula in the middle of a road. According to Allan, there were two gates, one on both sides of the road. Currently, the group was parked outside of the south wall.

    “You sure about this?” Seth asked, his hand on his gun.

    “Of course,” Allan stated. “You think I’d run all of you into a deathtrap?”

    In the backseat, Shawn grumbled a “Yes,” under his breath. Beth had a wet rag held to his head, and she shushed her brother. He rolled his eyes at the girl, contemptuous as ever.

    “Here, here,” Allan said, pointing to an approaching figure. “Look. That should be Boyd.” As the figure drew closer, his hands up in the air, Allan realized it was not the person he thought it was. “Who… Oh! It’s Kevin.”

    The group in the RV remained tense, wanting to trust Allan, but finding themselves uneasy. Each of them had a weapon prepared, ready for the worst-case scenario.

    As he approached, his appearance became clear. He was a tall, lanky, thin man wearing cowboy boots, jeans, and a black leather jacket. He had a thick, gray mustache, and looked like a cowboy who had lost his hat. As he spoke, it became ever more convincing that he could have been a cowboy of some sort before the world ended. He had a thick southern accent, and spoke like a well-trained Southern boy.

    “Howdy, everybody. How are y’all doin’?” he asked. “The name’s Kevin.”

    After rolling down the driver’s seat window, Seth nodded, taken aback by the man’s friendliness. “Uh,” he began, “my name’s Seth. This is Allan,” he pointed to the thin man beside him.

    “Allan?” Kevin said, squinting and leaning his head into the window to get a good look. “Good Lord, it’s Allan! Where the hell’ve you been? Where’s everybody else? Is Patti here? Or Kelly? Dante? Ryan, and the girls?”

    Allan smiled as Kevin recognized him, but it quickly dissipated as the cowboy interrogated him about his old friends. He shook his head at his old friend, uttering a quiet “No,” and he quickly shut up.

    “Oh,” Kevin said sadly. “It’s just you?”

    Allan looked slightly offended, but shook his head once more. “Mika’s here, too. Mika,” he called for the girl to come towards him, “you remember Kevin?” Beth gave her a worried look, then looked to Shawn, who shrugged. Beth nodded her head to the young girl, but followed right behind her.

    Mika came forward and looked out the window over Seth and a large smile came across her face. “Kevin!” she said happily, leaning over the bodybuilder to hug the cowboy’s head. Beth stood behind, nervously eyeing the new man, her hand gripped firmly on her gun.

    “Awww, Mika, you don’t know how good it is to see you ‘gain. I missed you and your sister’s pretty little faces runnin’ around here and distracting us.”

    The teenage blonde shook her head vehemently at Kevin as he mentioned Lizzie, but he paid her no heed until he realized Mika’s smile was now a frown.

    “Shoot, I’m sorry,” he said, petting the girl’s hair and pulling away. “Go on in, y’all,” he said to the group. He pulled out a walkie-talkie and pressed a button on the side of it. “They’re good, Boyd.”

    “You sure?” a deep voice replied through thick static.

    “Oh,” he smiled and licked his mustache, “I’m sure. There’s some old friends on board.”




    The group exited the RV and admired the scene before them. From a distance, it looked almost as if nothing had changed here; that the apocalypse had never struck. Aside from the armed people manning the walls about fifty feet between one another, the place looked like a happy, normal neighborhood.

    Apparently, protocol was to park the new residents’ vehicles in the gates and walk them into the community, giving them a tour as they went. Clearly, this made a few people uneasy, but Kevin and Allan reassured them that everything would be fine.

    There was one long road that ran perpendicular to the road the gates were on, which led from the gates to the lateral end of the estates. Along it were three large, white wind turbines.

    As they walked down the road towards the main area of the community Allan walked side-by-side with Kevin, clearly feeling right at home. To their right, they saw a sign in front of a section that was cut off from the rest of the neighborhood that said “The Governor’s Estates.”

    “Was this where the governor used to live?” Selenis asked.

    “Yes, ma’am,” Kevin smiled. “Arkansas’ politicians and celebrities made a life here.”

    “Why’s it still cut off?” questioned Shawn.

    “Well,” Kevin shrugged, “it’s where the original members live. The people who made this place safe in the early days. Or, people who lived there before this all started. Like Boyd, or myself, or Allan here,” he smiled.

    “So, what’s the deal with Boyd, anyways?” Shawn asked rudely. “Why didn’t he come with us?”

    “We can’t leave the front gates lonely, can we?”

    Shawn half-frowned as he looked back to see the dark-skinned old man eyeing the RV, checking the gas, and observing outer cabinets. “Well, then, what’s he doing to our ride?”

    “Protocol,” Kevin stated, scratching his neck. “Making sure you didn’t rig a bomb to it, or keep some members of your group hidden to come in and kill us all in the night. You can’t be too careful no more.”

    Shawn opened his mouth once more, but his sister elbowed him in the ribs, telling him to shut up.

    As they continued walking, they neared a large pond, where children were playing at. There was a teenage boy with dark black hair and a toned body splashing water at a blonde teenage girl. A much younger boy jumped in, joining on the splashing and playing.

    Many of the members smiled at the sight, pleased to see there was still such joy in the world.

    A tan-colored girl in a yellow floral dress with a stroller crossed the street as the group finally approached the public’s estates. She had just come from a set of large buildings to the left of the group. Robert grew a huge smile as he pointed out the adorable toddler in the stroller to his boyfriend, who held his hand as they ogled fondly at the baby and his mother.

    “These,” Kevin pointed to the large buildings, “were the administration offices and apartments. Most of the apartments are empty, ‘cause most of our residents prefer living in houses of their own, but any of y’all are welcome to live wherever you like when we git this all sorted out. Come on,” he gestured, leading them into the central building.

    As they walked in, they were hit with a burst of warm air; a feeling they only got in the RV. “You have heating?” Patricia gasped incredulously.

    “And electricity?” Lyrik grinned.

    “Yup,” Kevin said. “Four underground generators, all powered by wind and solar panels on the top of the apartments.”

    “That’s amazing,” Lyrik and Malcolm said in unison.

    Allan smiled at the cowboy beside him, admiring his modesty. “This place would be nothing if we didn’t have Kevin here. He helped connect the generators to all the turbines and the solar panels.”

    “Aw,” Kevin said, “weren’t nothin’. Anybody coulda done that. Just ‘cause I did it don’t mean I did anything special.”

    Allan shook his head at the group, shrugging off Kevin’s humility. “This man’s a god. He can do anything.”

    The group smiled, never having seen Allan so happy and kind. It was refreshing to see a lighter side of the usually hateful man, and the environment around them helped them feel comfortable with the whole situation. No one had any idea that Allan could be so delightful, or have such a strong friendship with someone.

    Kevin continued on, bringing them down a hall on the first floor of the apartment complex and into a large office. In a desk at the far wall sat a plump, middle-aged man with an aging, wrinkled face and graying black hair. “Hello!” he resounded. He nodded to Allan and smiled at Mika. “It’s good to have you back,” he greeted before looking over the rest of the crowd. “So you’re the new people?”

    “Yes, sir,” Shawn said, stepping up as leader.

    “Well, you all seem quite weary.” He locked eyes with Seth, Shawn, Beth, and Robert, who were either limping, were missing fingers, or had scars or bruises on their face. “I’ll try to keep this short so you all can go get Doctor Carson to make sure you’re doing well.”

    They all seemed relieved to hear they had an actual doctor on board. “Thank you,” Beth said with a kind smile.

    “Of course, my dear,” the plump man said. “Firstly, how about introductions? My name’s Jim Dupree, and I’m the one in charge here. Welcome, to West Little Rock.”




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  6. Back To Top    #46
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    Chapter 46 “Welcome”
    Day 102; Group A&B







    Selenis opened her eyes to the morning light. For a minute, she was scared at the unfamiliar surrounding, and she nearly called out for somebody — Shawn, Seth, Robert, somebody. She hardly remembered even going to bed Then, it hit her. She grabbed the soft sheets she was laying beneath and threw them off of her. She was in a safe place, she knew, but she could not be too sure.

    She slipped on her pants and grabbed her gun. She went down the hall and checked the rooms. To her relief, Patricia and Seth, who decided to share a house with her, were accounted for. They were perfectly fine, as far as she could tell. Sighing in reassurance, she had a strange realization. She could go downstairs and make coffee. She could make breakfast. Finally, she could have real food; eggs, milk, and maybe a bit of bacon. And when she was done, she could go use the restroom on a nice, clean, porcelain toilet that didn’t stab her in the bottom with every breath.

    The Latina smiled to herself as she hurried downstairs to make her housemates a breakfast they could truly enjoy.



    By noon, everyone in the group that had entered West Little Rock the previous day, aside from Allan who had moved back into the Governor’s Estates and Mika who was sleeping in, was awake and were sitting together in Shawn and Beth’s house.

    “Look,” said the leader, “I know what I said the other day — that we should stay on guard, and to not trust them. But look at this place! They gave us three houses, all for ourselves. They’ve given us plenty of food and water. I think they trust us. How about we trust them?”

    The group smiled at one another in content, looking among themselves in joy. It felt like an immense weight was lifted off of their shoulders. Lyrik began to clap, and soon the whole group was clapping, or cheering, or laughing.

    Interrupting their celebrations of finding a new home, there was a loud knock on the door. Immediately and instinctively, they all tensed, but Shawn stopped them. He smiled, attempting to reassure the group and remind them that things were okay here.

    Shawn walked to the door and opened it wide. Before him stood Jim, Allan, and a very muscular black man, all three of which holding large duffle bags. “Hello,” Shawn said with confusion.

    “Hello, Shawn,” Jim grinned as he looked past the farmboy. “I didn’t mean to interrupt anything. I was just coming to inform you that, in honor of the return of Mika and Allan, as well as meeting the ten of you, tonight we’re having a barbeque in the driveway of the apartments. It’s at 4 o’clock, so don’t be late!”

    Shawn looked back to the group, once again pointing them at how friendly these people were. “We’d be happy to come,” he said back to Jim. “But, um, what are the bags for?”

    “Oh, right!” Jim bellowed, then laughed at his forgetfulness. “These are for you all. We wouldn’t want our favorite new members walking around the community in those filthy old rags you’ve all got on, would we?”

    Shawn shrugged, agreeing that they needed new clothes to go with their clean bodies. “Seth, Taylor,” he called for his strongest men to come get the bags. As the two men toted them back to the group and everyone excitedly began going through their new clothes, Shawn looked to his new leader. “Is there anything we should bring?”

    “Other than yourselves, clean,” he joked, “no. Our hunters, Roger and Tavis, this guy here,” he gestured to the dark-skinned stranger, “got us a good lot of deer, and we need to eat it all before it goes bad. Tavia, our head chef, has everything else covered.”

    Allan nodded behind Jim, recalling the excellent cooking skills of Tavia. “You guys are gonna love her potato salad.”

    Shawn shook his head at the three men before him, “Sounds great,” he reaffirmed them.

    “See you then,” said Jim as he waved a farewell.



    The group, aside from Allan, who was now more concerned with seeing everyone again, traveled together to the party, being cautious and reminding everyone that they are a unit. When they arrived at the poolside area behind the main building, everyone grew quiet.

    The cacophony of the crowd faded as people tried to steal glances at the newcomers. Some people were ooh and ahh-ing, thinking some of the members of the group. Others weren’t doing a great job of hiding their disgust at some of the group, such as spitting at the sight of Robert and Greyson’s handholding, or holding a grudge on the way Shawn acted when he first entered and giving him dirty looks.

    Beth held Mika’s hand as they walked up to the party, but the young girl quickly released her grip from the older blonde as she noticed a group of other children. She laughing gleefully to herself while Beth worriedly tried to keep up. Beth and Shawn, who had taken notice of the running, sprinted towards them.

    “Mika!” she shouted, attempting to corral the girl.

    “Julia! Mia!” Mika sounded delightedly, playfully tackling two girls. One was slightly shorter than Mika, and the other one was slightly taller. The three all fell to the ground as the young blonde pounced on the two young brunettes.

    A man and two women panickedly turned at the noise of the girls’ collective screams of pain at the impact and excited yelling of each others names.

    A short, plump woman, who was pale with hair as black as coal limped towards them, helping to make sure the three were okay.

    The couple watched as the large woman dusted the girls off, and when the duo was certain they were alright, they turned back to their friends, continuing conversation.

    “I’m so sorry,” Beth gasped, lending a hand to the plump woman and the girls. “Mika, I told you to stay right next to me. Are you all okay?”

    “We’re okay,” the taller brunette child said kindly, and her younger counterpart nodded in agreement.

    “I’m really sorry,” Beth said, looking to the two and the large woman.

    “They’ll be alright,” the woman said with a grin, revealing perfectly white teeth. Beth pursed her lips, reminded of the three months she had gone through with barely ever touching a toothbrush.

    Realizing Beth was staring blankly at the woman in amazement, Shawn piped up to diffuse the tension. “I’m Shawn,” he extended a friendly hand, “Shawn Greene. This is my sister Beth. Are you their mom?”

    “Runae Manson,” the woman with coal-black hair smiled. “No, I’m not their mom. I’m just kind of, um. I’m like the daycare lady, I guess. A full-time babysitter for the kids here,” she laughed, trying to make light of her job. “I hope you’re both enjoying it here so far.”

    Beth nodded shyly. “We are. It’s wonderful here.”

    “Hell of a-” Beth shot Shawn a glare, and he quickly went back on his words, giving apologetic glances to the offended-looking children. “Whole lot better than out there. I mean.”

    “I’m sure it is,” Runae said, looking down at the ground. “I’m not sure how any of us can repay you all for taking care of Mika.”

    “Well,” Beth shrugged, “it wasn’t that hard. She’s a pretty smart girl.”

    “Momma, can I go play with Julia and Mia?” the young girl interrupted, having been talking with her friends and not paying attention to the adults’ conversation.

    “Uh, I guess,” Beth stuttered, both taken off guard by being called ‘Momma’ and out of concern for Mika’s safety. “But show me their parents first. And be back in a few hours, okay?”

    “Okay,” Mika smiled, leading Beth to the distant couple from before.

    “‘Momma?’” Runae repeated, just as shocked as everyone else.

    “Y-...yeah. Um, Beth decided to take over as Mika’s caretaker after we all got separated a few weeks ago. I don’t...I’ve never heard Mika call her that.”

    Runae nodded, a very friendly grin upon her face. “Well, I’m happy, then.”

    “You are?”

    “Of course. Mika needs a family.”

    Shawn nodded, suddenly reliving the images of Lizzie’s dead body, the two mangled bodies of Ron and Jessie lying on top her. He remembered Ryan, and the way he just seemed to shut down and abandon what little hope was left. If Ryan’s still alive, Shawn thought, he’s either found a sanctuary like this, or has finally got his head screwed back on right. Shawn didn’t think Ryan was still alive.

    “Plus,” Runae said happily, “it shows me you people aren’t all bad.”




    Taylor and Malcolm headed right for the tables of food and various drinks. They both poured themselves a cup of punch and stood awkwardly by, watching as children played and adults gossiped, attempting to take their minds off of Sarita’s death.

    Clearly, though, it had failed. “Do you think we did the right thing?” Malcolm asked dejectedly.

    “I think we did what she wanted us to,” Taylor sighed. “Was it right, though? I’m not sure.”

    The two stood uncomfortably around the snack bar the whole time they were there as people held conversations. An hour in, Malcolm frowned as he saw Beth, Shawn, and Mika speaking to Kevin, a bald old black woman, and the large, dark man from before — Travis? Malcolm pondered. Tavis?

    Taylor watched everyone in the group, and the way others were reacting to them. Seth and Selenis were talking with the mother and her child they had all seen the day before. Robert and Greyson seemed to have found some nice people, Lyrik was talking with the blonde girl in the lake from yesterday, and Patricia was talking with two women who appeared to be around her age.

    Distracting the two men from their quiet surveying of the people, an attractive Latino walked up to them.

    “Hello?” the man greeted amusedly that they had not noticed him.

    “Oh,” Taylor said, looking away from his friends, who he was making sure were okay.

    “Hi,” Malcolm hesitantly smiled.

    “My name’s Roger,” the tanned man grinned.

    As Malcolm struggled to find words, Taylor extended his hand to shake the man’s. “My name’s Taylor, and this mess over here’s named Malcolm.”

    “Hey!” Malcolm playfully yelled.

    Roger looked between the two, trying to get to a point. “It’s a pleasure to see some new, and familiar faces around here. Did you two know Kelly?”

    “Uh,” Malcolm raised a brow, “I think I heard of her once or twice. I’m not sure.”

    “Yeah,” Taylor commented. “It sounds familiar, but Kelly’s a really common name.”

    Roger half-frowned. “I see. Do you know who might know?”

    Malcolm shrugged. “Not us. We’ve only been with them for like two weeks now. That short Mexican woman over there,” he pointed to Selenis, “she would know.”

    With an air of happiness returning to his voice, Roger issued a quick “Thanks,” and ran to the woman, desperately searching for an answer to Kelly’s fate.




    Robert and Greyson looked into each other’s eyes, gripping their hands tightly together, and they made their way forward, introducing themselves to a kind-looking couple. It was a man and a woman; the male had long hair and sat in a wheelchair, missing his left foot, and the female was short with glasses and brunette hair done up in a ponytail.

    “Hello,” the disabled man greeted the boys kindly and extended a hand to the duo. “I’m Terrance, and this is my wife Tina,” he grinned as he gestured to the woman beside him.

    Greyson shook first, introducing himself and his boyfriend.

    “I’m really sorry about all the stares,” Terrance apologized. “They’re just…” he stopped himself, and attempting to find a good word.

    “Scared?” Robert asked seriously, looking among the crowd. Greyson, who had gone back to holding Robert’s hand, tightened his grip, afraid his lover had offended the man.

    Terrance studied Robert’s deadpan expression as he observed the people of West Little Rock almost carelessly. He looked to his wife, and they smiled politely at the duo. “Honestly,” the long-haired man chuckled, “yeah. They can be a bit, uh, hostile, to new people. No, hostile’s not the right word.”

    Robert nodded in understanding, returning his focus to the couple. “I can’t say I blame them. A group of dirty, beaten, battered, and angry-looking people showed up at my doorstep, I’d run.”

    The four shared a laugh, and it reassured them all they were, in fact, getting on well.

    As his laugh subsided, Greyson locked eyes with a man that was glaring daggers at him from across the pool, and he put his head down in slight shame.

    “You okay?” Robert asked softly.

    “Yeah,” the freckled boy reassured him. “I’m just a bit scared.”

    Tina looked in the direction Greyson had and noticed what the issue was. “Don’t worry about him,” she said. “That’s Mike. He talks a big game, but he’s completely harmless.”

    “Which one was it?” Robert asked.

    “That big, white one. Looks like he was hit in the face with a baseball bat and told he was still beautiful,” Greyson said, trying to make light of the situation.

    The brunette boy found the man, a fat redneck with only three teeth. The man noticed he was being watched and met Robert’s eyes, who gave him an intense, threatening glare. The redneck’s eyes went wide and he put his focus back on the two girls in front of him, who appeared to be his daughters.

    “Why does everyone here seem so hateful?” Greyson asked as this was happening, trying to move on.

    “Honestly,” Terrance said quietly and wheeling himself closer, “I think they may be a bit...brainwashed.”

    “What?” Robert said, his attention caught.

    “Jim, the leader here,” Tina said, “I know he means well, but he’s kind of...lying to them all. He’s not wrong, it is dangerous out there. Much more than in here. But he says that all the people left out there are wild, hostile animals. He’s doing everything he can to make sure he doesn’t lose more people.”

    More people?”

    “Well, you know about Allan and Mika, right? They used to live here.”

    “Yeah, I know that, but...do you mean that more people left here than their group?”

    “From what I’ve heard,” Terrance stated with a nod. “You guys knew Ryan, right?”

    “Of course,” Greyson said.

    “Well, he kind of started the whole thing, about moving out. He left because he wanted to be the leader, because he thought Jim was doing an awful job. He took his girls, and a handful of people left with him to keep his girls safe from his stupidity. After that, people started leaving in batches, and it got ridiculous. Jim lost it, locked down the place, and transformed this place. At least, from an insider’s perspective. He made this thing he calls a ‘Leader’s Council,’ and started his propaganda about the world outside being a wasteland.”

    “So, what, we can’t leave now?” Robert asked, taken aback. They didn’t have plans to leave, but not having the option to made it sound like they were prisoners. “We’re trapped in here?”

    “I wouldn’t say trapped,” Terrance shrugged, “but yes.”




    That night, as they were all laying down in their own beds, Selenis wrote in an old book she had found. She flipped through the pages, past many entries that could have been written by anybody. One passage she had found detailed a young girl’s struggle with her father, who she had to put down after he stormed out of a house they were taking refuge in, only to get bitten and crippled in the middle of the woods, unable to navigate back home.

    She wrote about her first impressions, and the stories she had been told about Ryan and the other people they had met with him. She wrote about the way the place seems to be handled, and how she hopes it remains a safe haven. She wrote about how concerned she is for her people, but how happy she is to have found a place where Mika could be happy.

    “Truly,” she inscribed on the wrinkled paper, “they have given us a wartime welcome.”




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  7. Back To Top    #47
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    Chapter 47 “Wartime”
    Day 120; Group C







    Merle sat in his office, biting his nails angrily. His prisoners had finally been released, but they were unruly. They would not obey his commands, and they threatened his position as leader. Even some of his own people had total respect for the prisoners. Somehow, Merle had failed to fool his people into believing that these intruders are foul, awful people. Which to him, they kind of were. But he knew better than that.

    Merle!” shouted a bony, brown man, bursting through the doors in a panic.

    “What?!” Merle yelled back in surprise.

    “There’s a fire! It’s headed this way!”

    “A fire?” Merle questioned gruffly.

    “Come look for yourself!” the Indian man yelled.

    Led outside, the two men watched as the surrounding areas changed from green and white to orange and black. The smoke was thick, and the fire was approaching their train station base.

    “Sutan,” Merle commanded, “go get everyone, grab everything you can.”

    “Everyone?”

    The older graying man stood and thought for a moment. “No. Leave the prisoners. I’ll go make try to get the train ready.”

    “I thought it didn’t work,” Sutan said, already racing back inside.

    “You got any other ideas?” Merle shouted, and was met with a short flash of worried eyes before the bony man disappeared inside the building.




    Shakira sat in the cell they had been packed away in for weeks, crying once again. She could not help the overflow of tears; this cage they were rotting in made her feel like she was going insane.

    The sad woman was horrified as she realized that they were now becoming used to the smell of their own human waste. It was especially obvious when one of the kind people of the train station group came to sneak them nourishment and had to plug their noses.

    She thought of her family. Her brother, Gerard. Her mother and father. All of her friends. Abi-Maria, even though she had never been pleasant. Selenis. Oscar. Every single one of them was gone, and there was nothing she could do about it. This world was harsh, and it was cruel — it ripped away everyone she had ever loved, and it wasn’t satisfied. Deep down, she knew that no one would survive this. There is no possible way, she thought. No one is meant for this — can do this. Not forever… I miss you. The shadow of you still haunts me. All the words we said, they keep floating around.

    A loud commotion began outside of the cell, alerting her and awaking others who were dozing. It was unclear what was happening, but they were clearly in a panic.

    A muffled “No!” could be heard from outside of the door before it abruptly flew open, Mandy and Amanda standing in the doorway. They both had bags around their shoulders, and Amanda held a large rifle.

    “Let’s go!” Amanda shouted, gesturing for them to follow her. Behind the two women, Sutan angrily sighed and kicked back into action, continuing to grab supplies.

    Hesitantly, the prisoners began to stand, unsure of everything that was happening.

    “Come on!” Amanda repeated, and they all stepped up, realizing the urgency in their captors’ motions.

    The eight of them raced from the dark chamber, relief and worry flooding them at the same time in a confusing mix of emotions. They were led into a large room that appeared to be their sleeping quarters. Many people dashed about, packing things in bags and preparing themselves panickedly.

    “There,” Amanda pointed to Axel, who was struggling to hold a bounty of bags. “There’s your things. Get them, arm yourselves, and follow Axel. Do whatever he tells you, and you’ll be okay. Mandy, Poppie, and I have your backs, okay?”

    “What’s going on?” Xavier questioned as his friends ran for their bags.

    “Wildfire,” she said, continuing her packing. “We have to move.”

    Once people got their things sorted, they left, racing outside to the train, which had roared to life and blown its horn as they scrambled.

    Most people were gone, save for Mandy, Poppie, Shakira, Axel, Gabriel, and Sierra and Amanda, who were attempting to help them.

    “Mom!” Poppie cried sadly.

    “What, dear?” the aging brunette panted, cleaning out the last of their belongings.

    “I lost Lilly!”

    “Did you check the stockroom?” Mandy asked, distracted by the task at hand.

    Poppie ran out of the room, searching for her doll.

    Sierra and Amanda turned from looking outside the back window, and noticed that Poppie was gone. “Where did Poppie go?” Amanda asked, frantically running through the room, searching for the young girl.

    Mandy raised her head and realized what she had just done. “Hell!” she screamed, slamming her suitcase closed. “I told her to go to the stockroom!” she yelled after Amanda, who was already running out of the room.

    The middle-aged woman then began tightly packing her daughter’s bag, doing her best to ensure that they could run when they came back.

    “I think we’re good now,” Axel said to Gabriel and Shakira, who he had tasked with helping him get the last of their guns.

    Axel led the way outside, carrying everything he could. Behind him was Gabriel, followed by Shakira, who was struggling greatly to keep hold of all that she could.

    They escaped out the back door, Axel heading the way to the caboose of the roaring train. Walkers were coming out of the woods, some ablaze from the encroaching wildfire.

    Impressively, Gabriel managed to keep his footing while toting all of the weapons and bags he could. Unfortunately, the story was not the same for Shakira, who continued to drop weapon after weapon, and did her best to pick them back up each time. Walkers and flames were getting closer, and she was beginning to panic. Things were rapidly falling apart, and everything was collapsing in on her. Her mind was betraying her, making her wild and frazzled, unable to focus on getting to safety.

    “Shakira!” Gabriel yelled, realizing the young Latina had fallen behind greatly, and was clearly having a breakdown. “Shakira, just leave them! Run!”

    The woman lost her train of thought. As the fire roared before her, she recalled her family. She remembered all of the deaths she had witnessed. Strangers and loved ones alike, perishing brutally before her.

    As she struggled with the supplies in her hands, she was thrown off-task by a walker that had managed to catch up to her from the flames not far from her. It approached at a shamble and dug its foul jaws into the frail woman’s shoulder. She wailed in agony and immediately realized what was happening.

    She began stripping herself of all of the supplies she had been given, dropping them sloppily around her. She thought they could be grabbed by others who would follow her and could be salvaged. “I’m sorry,” she called to Gabriel as more walkers stumbled out of the flames.

    Gabriel watched as his friend, the poor soul, was offed by the cruelty of this world. She could have made it, he thought. We could have found somewhere safe, and she could have made it. She could have become stronger and smarter.

    He bit his lip, turning his back on the scene that he thought to have been caused by sheer stupidity. Though she likely would not have defended herself well anyway, she should have stopped being so stuck in her head. If she had taken a moment to collect herself, she would have just left behind the supplies and kept running for her life. If anything, she would have noticed the walker and could have ran, or grabbed something to try to put it down.

    She may not have been very strong or useful to the group, but she was a good person. Shakira was kind, smart, and helpful. Sure, she had recently been spending most of her time crying, but she was still a beautiful human being.

    He entered the train, throwing his supplies down and preparing guns for what was likely to come as Axel remained in the open hatch of the train cart, praying for the others to make it out alive.

    After moments of watching and hoping, he realized the flames had spread to the front of the building. The forefront of the train station was on fire, burning through the wood and to the foundations. The train roared once more, signalling that Merle had given up on them.

    The large, bearded man had learned long ago not to question Merle. Usually, he was right when it came to things like this. But then, his heart racing back into action, he saw Sierra and Amanda run out of the doors. Quickly, he bolted off to make sure Merle waited just a bit longer.

    The two women panted as they ran, firing rounds into walkers that had began to surround the area. Behind them, Mandy pushed out of the doors, holding her young daughter’s hand. “But Lilly!” the girl yelled, angry to have lost her doll.

    “We don’t have time!” Mandy screamed.

    Poppie leaned forward and bit her mother’s hand, running back towards the building. As she entered, she realized the flames were overtaking the whole building. It burned powerfully, roaring madly as it devoured the walls, doors, and furniture in the building. The girl quickly regretted her decision and turned back, but was met instead by a walker that had got in between her and her mother, who was desperately trying to find a weapon of some sort to take down the undead human.

    “Moooommm!” Poppie yelled, her voice tiny and frail.

    “I’m coming, Poppie!” the mother yelled, giving up on finding a weapon. She dropped her luggage and sprinted at the walker, kicking it down. The biter fell forward, towards the young girl, and she screamed, falling on her backside. Her hair fell into the flames and caught fire. As Mandy attempted to recover from the kick, she used a singed plank of wood to ran through the walker’s skull and put it down. Then, she panicked, running for her child, who was screaming as the flames spread up her locks and onto her face.

    It was a disgusting, brutal sight as the girl fell victim to the blaze. Mandy grabbed her up, turned around, and ran with her suffering child, patting her down with her dress, attempting to save the girl.

    Sadly, it was too late. The damage had been done, and by the time the flames on her precious daughter were extinguished, she was unsavable under these dire conditions. Now, she was suffering. Amanda had come back for them, and the four made it onto the train. Poppie was using the last of her strength to scream in agony.

    “Mandy,” Amanda said, looking sadly into her friend’s eyes.

    “No,” she said, tears already running down her face.

    “We have to,” Amanda said as gently as she could. “There’s no other choice. Not anymore.”

    Mandy gripped onto her daughter, who had passed out from the pain.

    “She’s out, Mandy. We have to do it now. If she survives, she’ll just be in more pain and trauma when she wakes up. If not, she’ll turn.”

    The mother looked down at her daughter sadly. She nodded, and lifted the girl’s skirt to reveal that the walker that had fallen on her had also bitten her leg.

    Before the flames overtook the whole area, Amanda put Poppie down. When they were all on board, the train took off, bolting away from the awful situation.




    Not long after the train was in motion, Merle appeared from the front of the train. He had left Sutan in charge of making sure it stayed on a safe path.

    He looked around the room and locked eyes with Sierra, Xavier, and his other ex-captives.

    “Which one of you let the prisoners out?” he spat.

    Most of Merle’s people put their heads down, knowing who it was, and that they would likely be punished.

    “It was me,” Axel boldly stood up.

    Merle took a step forward, his face twisted in rage.

    “And me,” Amanda said, standing from Mandy’s side.

    “And me,” Mandy said frailly.

    “Well, looks like you’re all gettin’ thrown from the train. Your little girl can stay with us, though,” he taunted.

    “My ‘little girl’ is dead,” Mandy said coldly.

    Merle’s eyes flashed remorse, but he kept his sense of power.

    “One less mouth to feed,” he said.

    Gabriel looked up angrily to the gruff man. “Say that again,” he dared him.

    “You talkin’ to me, taco-bend-”

    Gabriel rose from his seat, knocking Merle in the head with the rear end of a machine gun. Steve and Xavier came forward, tying up the man to a post in the corner of the cabin.

    “Things are about to change,” Sierra promised to Merle’s weary people. “There’s not going to be any more tyranny. No more racism. No more sexism. No more unfair treatment. From here on out, you are all equal. We’re going to ride this train as far as we can, and find a place to hunker down and recover. And if you still want this asshole as your leader, then you can leave with him. Peacefully. I refuse to turn this disaster into war; we’re already in wartime.”




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  8. Back To Top    #48
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    Chapter 48 “Newbies”
    Day 124; Group A&B







    The group was settling in nicely. They had been accepted, mostly, by the residents of West Little Rock, and everyone was making friends. Everyone in the group was beginning to volunteer for jobs, which were often with the new friends they had made, friends among the group, or jobs that fell into their usual role in the group.

    Shawn, Greyson, Robert, and Seth volunteered to be on the scavenging and hunting crew. Beth, Selenis, and Taylor have joined the safety and patrol group, acting almost as officers. Malcolm decided to help Allan and Boyd with gate duty and recruiting, Lyrik joined the chefs, and Patricia joined the medics.

    Any doubts or reservations they had about the community had vanished within the three weeks they had been there, learning the ropes and the ins and outs of the area. It seemed to truly be a happy, peaceful place of home and sanctuary. They had all began to get comfortable, and ease back into regular life. Things felt almost normal again.




    Shawn woke late in the morning, already falling back into his old ways. His eyes opened wide in the bright sunlight as he soon picked up on the smell of eggs and waffles. A wide grin stretched across his face.

    He pulled on a pair of sweatpants, foregoing a shirt in the warmth of the house, and trotted downstairs to see Mika and Malcolm sitting at the table while Beth scrambled eggs for them. The leader shrugged off the man being around Beth once again, trying to let it go. She was growing up, and the world has changed.

    “Good morning,” the farmboy calmly said to the room as he walked past the young girl and ruffled her hair, headed to the stove to help his sister.

    “Morning,” they all said consecutively.

    “You goin’ on that run today?” Beth asked with a false calmness.

    “Yes, I am!” the man said excitedly.

    Malcolm chuckled, knowing Beth wasn’t nearly as excited about that, and wondering what could be so fun about going on runs. His own job was usually quite boring, as he often just sat around the gates playing cards with Allan and Boyd.

    “Is it fun?” Mika asked lightly.

    “Not exactly,” Shawn shrugged. “It’s just great to get out of these walls. And to let out some frustrations on the world out there.”

    “Do you really need to?” Beth asked, her falseness receding and allowing a frown to form. Shawn had been doing so good recently; he was calming down and becoming kinder, like he once was. The blonde was afraid that Shawn would snap and go back to his awful, hateful ways if he were to spend too much time around all that negativity again. The last thing the group needed was for Shawn to go back to being crazy and paranoid once more.

    “Take out my anger? Maybe not. But go out there? Of course I do,” Shawn said with a cocky grin. “They need me.”




    Lyrik stood in the lobby of the registration building, fidgeting nervously. A young girl Lyrik recognized passed by with her friend, a boy of similar age with a striking face, and waved at her.

    “Oh, hi, Michelle,” Lyrik said, her voice cracking as she greeted Jim’s daughter and the unfamiliar boy.

    A smile marked the teen’s face, but deep down she was panicking. Today was her first day of work, and she was scared she might mess up. Tavia, Robert, and Greyson had reassured her everything would be fine, however, and she put faith in their words.

    Why are you nervous about this? the teenager questioned, recalling some of the sights she had witnessed within the last few months. Even after all this, new people and new jobs still freak me out. She sighed, slightly annoyed at herself for being more scared about cooking than sleeping in strange houses with undead people roaming around outside.

    “Lyrik?” Tavia interrupted. She was dressed in a black garb stereotypical chefs on television would wear, which fitted her dark form nicely. Her name was sewed into the uniform in bright gold, the same color as her nail polish. Her kind face stared at the nervous young girl, who nearly jumped from fright when her name was called. “Are you okay?”

    “Oh,” Lyrik sighed, waving a hand in her face as a fan, “yeah, I’m good.”

    “Don’t be,” the head chef told the girl, repeating herself for the seventh time. “You’ll be fine. The others won’t hurt or be mean to you, and if you mess up, we can always fix it. There’s seasonings for everything,” the older woman joked.

    After Lyrik got dressed, her uniform lighter and more gray than Tavia’s, they entered the large kitchen, where two other girls who looked to be about Lyrik’s age were working in identical outfits to hers. One was white and quite round. When she smiled, it could be noted she was missing a tooth among her crop of yellow fangs.

    “I’m Jessica,” she greeted Lyrik kindly. Her accent was very southern, and very thick.

    “I’m Lyrik.”

    “It’s nice to have some more hands around here. You newbies really are a relief to us all.”

    Lyrik nodded and turned to the other girl. “You can call me Bella,” she smiled. Lyrik recognized her to be the same girl that they had seen with a child in a baby stroller when they first arrived.

    “Isabella?” Lyrik guessed.

    “Yeah,” Bella nodded politely.

    “How old are you two?”

    “Just turned twenty the other day,” Jessica stated.

    “I’m seventeen,” Bella nodded.

    “I’m nineteen,” Lyrik nodded. “Why are there only teens here?” she asked Tavia, who was much older than any of them there.

    “Well,” Tavia shrugged, “that’s just the way it worked out today. We have another, older guy named Kyle. He’s off duty today, though. But not many of the older people want to cook, I guess,” she said with a laugh. “Come on then, girls. Enough yammering. Let’s get this shop open!”




    Boyd and Allan sat at a table, cards in hand and many on the table as they played poker. Malcolm stood over them, walking back and forth along the wall with a pair of binoculars in hand and a rifle strapped over his shoulder.

    Boyd leaned over and spat down to the ground from their elevated platform, high up on the walls by the gates. It landed on the ground and made a loud splat. There were similar wet spots along the road below them, all at different distances. Allan observed the spit and chuckled, “Beat me again. I fold.”

    “Beat you in more ways than one,” Boyd grinned, showing off his winning hand, causing Allan to groan in annoyance.

    “My turn now?” Malcolm asked as the two fought between themselves, laughing and yelling.

    Allan stood up, still yelling at Boyd, “You have to be cheating!”

    “You’re just not that good, boy.”

    Allan looked over the wall and tapped Malcolm on the shoulder before he could sit down. A car was approaching the walls. It was light blue and looked very old and beat up. The two remained silence and ducked down, readying their guns. “You got this?” Allan asked Malcolm.

    Malcolm bit his lip in thought, nervous about leaving the walls for the first time. He recalled how he had reached out to Patricia, Beth, and Allan, though, and remembered that he could handle it. Allan and Boyd would be on the walls, covering him.

    “Yeah,” Malcolm said, his voice hard as he summoned courage to face strangers.

    Malcolm slipped out of the large, metal entrance, Boyd careful to only open it enough for the man to walk through. Malcolm kept his gun cocked and ready in its holster as he approached the car, which was now beginning to slow as the driver noticed him.

    The small, blue car stopped directly in front of Malcolm, and he could see through the windshield a woman with a stone-cold face in the driver’s seat and an Asian-looking man with a scarred face next to her.

    When they only gave him cautious glares, Malcolm walked to the driver’s window and hesitantly spoke up. “Hello,” he greeted, struggling to find words.

    “Hi,” the woman said coldly.

    “Um,” the long-haired man coughed nervously, “my name is Malcolm. I live behind these walls here.”

    “Okay,” she said, making the situation much more awkward as she continued glaring him down, warning him to try something.

    Malcolm fidgeted in place, adjusting his sleeves and wiping his brow. He collected himself and remembered what Boyd had told him to say. “This community is called West Little Rock. Behind it, there are nearly one hundred citizens. It is a safe, warm, family-friendly environment for people of every background and age. It is truly a community for all. If you would like to live here, you are welcome to; assuming you pass the interviews.”

    “Interviews?” the stone-cold woman repeated. “What, are we applying for a job?”

    “In a way,” Malcolm shrugged. “We can’t have just anybody coming into our home, now can we?”

    The woman nodded. “Smart. Never thought of interviews at the old place.”

    “Maybe that’s why you’re here,” Malcolm said warmly, not realizing how harshly that struck the trio in the car, and causing the woman’s anger to come back.

    “What if we don’t want to live here?” the woman asked.

    “Then I’m going to have to ask you to leave immediately.”

    “What, no food for the road? Not even going to let me through the gate just so I can make it onto the other side of this road?”

    “I’m sorry,” Malcolm shook his head. “I cannot do that.”

    The woman smiled and nodded to the man beside her, then to a very thin dark woman in the back seat.

    “When can we audition?” she asked.




    Selenis arrived at Robert’s house with Patricia and Seth, her housemates. The sun had set and the three of them were each carrying something. Seth held a large jug of sweet tea in one of his bulking arms, Patricia carried a plate of organic cookies, and Selenis held a plastic container full of mashed potatoes.

    Selenis knocked on the door and admired the dazzlingly bright white color painted onto the wood. The door opened slightly and an eye peeked out.

    “Hey guys!” Greyson smiled, throwing the door wide open and letting the three in. “Can I help anyone?” he asked kindly.

    “Could you please take these?” Patricia asked. “I nearly dropped them all on the way over!” she laughed.

    “Of course,” the boy laughed in return as he carefully took the plate of cookies and led them into the kitchen, where the rest of the group sat.

    It was a group meeting between only the eleven of them. They tried to do this every other night, so that they could make sure the group remained on the same page and up to date with each other and their activities. They had the freedom to be their own people now, which Allan had taken full use of, but they knew it was not smart. They had to remain a unit, at least behind closed doors. At least while they were still getting a feel of the place.

    They all held hands and hugged, celebrating their being together. Before long, they decided it was time to eat and they all dug in to the food they had brought for the night.




    “Yeah, Olga’s great,” Robert said with a smile as he swirled his fork in the spaghetti on his plate.

    “She’s really funny, too,” Greyson added, delighted about the woman they referred to.

    “Well, I hope we all get to know her, too,” Patricia laughed. “She sounds like someone we’d want to keep around.”

    Robert and Greyson nodded, giving each other a knowing look.

    “Who made this cornbread?” Taylor asked.

    “I did,” Lyrik smiled.

    “Well, it’s great!” There were nods and hums of agreement all around the table.

    “Didn’t you start cooking today?” Shawn inquired.

    “I did,” Lyrik said after a gulp of sweet tea.

    “How did that go?” Robert asked.

    “It went okay. I didn’t really learn anything new about cooking yet, though.”

    “What about the people?” Shawn asked seriously. “Who worked there?”

    “Well, we all know Tavia works there, right?” Lyrik asked, getting nods in return. “Apparently, a guy named Kyle works there. Haven’t heard of him yet. Mike’s oldest daughter Jessica works there, too.”

    Robert scoffed in response. He had no reason yet to hate Jessica or her sister Alana, but their dad was despicable to him. “Is she nice?” he asked.

    I think so,” Lyrik squinted. “She’s kinda weird, but she’s cool.” Robert nodded, turning back to the food before him. “You guys know that mom? The Mexican one with the little toddler?” Instantly when the baby was mentioned, heads flew up. Robert and Greyson locked eyes, but remained deadpan, giving no hints to their thoughts.

    “She works there?” Shawn asked.

    “Yup. Did you guys know she’s only seventeen?”

    “Wait, what?” Malcolm raised a brow, he and Patricia instantly looking to Beth.

    “Right?” Lyrik said, her eyes wide as she showed the surprise she felt. “Her name’s Bella and her son Angel’s two years old!”

    “She had him when she was fifteen?” Malcolm asked, getting another nod from Lyrik. “The dad’s not Tavis, is it?”

    “No, no, no,” Lyrik shook her head. “Does that baby look black to you?” she joked. “The dad left her when he found out she was pregnant. Tavis is just her boyfriend, helping raise Angel. He’s the step-dad, basically.”

    “Wow,” Malcolm said, once again looking to Beth.

    “Why do you all keep lookin’ at me?” the blonde asked defensively.

    “I’m sorry,” the long-haired man said apologetically. “It’s just ‘cause she’s the same age as you. It’s weird to think of you having a baby of your own.”

    Beth looked down to Mika and shrugged. “In a way, I do.”

    Malcolm shrugged. Patricia smiled and patted the child’s head. “You sure do.”

    “Well,” Malcolm said after a long pause, “today we got some new people in.”

    “We did?” Shawn asked curiously. “Nobody said anything about new people since I got back from the run.”

    “Yeah,” Malcolm nodded, making a personal note to remember to ask Shawn about his run when they finished this topic. “That’s probably because they were being interviewed then. No one else had seen them yet. It’s three people.”

    “Do you know their names?”

    “I know the leader’s name is Carley. I’m not sure about the other two, though, but I think it’s Gale and Ken.”

    “Gale and Ken?” Shawn smiled. “Well, those are different. What do they look like?”

    Malcolm laughed, remembering how nervous Carley had made him. “Carley, their leader...she’s scary. She looks like she was a real nice person, but now, she just...yeesh. She has this dirty, intimidating look about her. It cuts right through you. You definitely don’t want to be on her bad side.”

    Beth giggled at how put off Malcolm seemed. She had never seen him so uncomfortable, and she thought it was amusing and a bit adorable.

    “Anyway, Ken’s definitely the next guy in charge. He had a sniper rifle in his lap, so I think he’s probably a good shot. He’s Asian, and kinda buff. The other one, Gale, I didn’t get a very good look at her, but I know she’s black and really thin. Like, too thin. I think something really bad might have happened to her.”

    Everyone continued on quietly, recalling some of the things they saw out there. Walkers that were clearly abused and mistreated before they had died. Tied up and nothing more than bones, now reanimated and snapping soullessly for flesh. There’s no telling what might have happened to those people before they arrived. They all took comfort to think, though, that now, they had finally found peace. Those people, no matter what took place with them, were now in what they all believed to be their eternal sanctuary.




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  9. Back To Top    #49
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    Chapter 49 “Favors”
    Day 130; Group A&B







    Sunlight glistened brightly through the dew-tinted window, spreading rays of light across the bedroom. It was morning, and today was a day of romance. A wedding was planned for today, and nearly everyone was going to attend.

    Robert rolled over in the bed, sunlight shining too brightly in his face. As he turned, his nose became buried in a familiar head of hair that smelled of coconut and pineapples. The younger boy inhaled deeply the scent of his unconscious boyfriend.

    He gripped himself from the bed, not wanting to get up, but knowing today was going to be important. He had to convince Greyson that what they were doing would be a good idea, and that it would not hurt them or anyone else. It would improve their lives, and the lives of all of their friends.

    Though he could not cook, Robert tried his best. He easily made eggs and pancakes, but struggled slightly with the biscuits and tofu bacon. Thankfully, Lyrik was there to help him.

    “I don’t know why you’re so nervous,” she laughed.

    “Well, it’s a really big deal,” Robert smiled.

    “It is. But I’ve seen the way you two are; you’re soulmates.”

    “You think so?” the boy asked dumbfoundedly.

    “Of course,” Lyrik nodded. “I’ve known you for way too long to not know when you’ve got it — and you’ve got it. This guy, he’s the one for you. Not like Michael, or Zach, or Brody. Those guys were bad from the beginning — and I told you so, too!”

    “I know,” Robert laughed, finding it amusing that she still strives to always be right. “You think we should get married first, though?”

    Lyrik looked at the boy seriously. “It doesn’t matter. It’s the apocalypse. And marriage is just a word. You two can do whatever the hell you want now.”

    Robert shrugged and gave a nod. “Plus, I don’t think Laura would want to marry us.”

    “Come here,” the dark-skinned girl beckoned and pulled her friend into a hug, offering him her understanding. She stepped up on the tips of her toes and kissed his forehead, then they continued with Greyson’s surprise breakfast.




    It was half-past noon and everyone was in their fancy dress. Women wore gowns and dresses of all sorts, some tripping in their high heels that they likely hadn’t put on in months. Some men were locked in arms with these women, their faces stone-cold or uncomfortable in their tuxedos or cheap suits. The children ran around in similar clothes, and the whole town looked like it was throwing a masquerade ball minus the masks.

    The people of the community filed into the main administration building, and down the hall into a large room that was used as a sort of auditorium. The dark green rows of seats were dressed with white ribbons, which also lined the top of the walls.

    On the far end of the room, on a slightly elevated platform, a large white arc of fake chrysanthemums stood powerfully. Before it, a cheap wooden podium stood, with a woman in a white and purple robe behind it. She was wrinkled and short, but stood as though she held utmost power, with a smile that seemed both friendly and occasionally condescending as she looked to certain people in the room.

    When everyone was settled, the music began, bringing attention to an electronic piano that sat in the far corner of the room, out of the way of the stage. Runae sat on the seat, playing the traditional song for walking down the aisle.

    Everyone turned their attention back to behind them as the entrance they had all used opened. Out bounced Mika’s youngest friend, Julia, who began sprinkling rose petals down the aisle, adorable enough to get a few “aww”s out of the audience.

    Not long after Julia entered, a gray-haired old woman walked out in a stunning white gown of made lace and satin. She looked overjoyed as she saw her fiance standing on the stage, and both appeared to be on the verge of crying.

    It was then they notice the grom on the stage, who was large and robust, white hair lining his leathery head. He had an odd, almost unsightly tan on his face and body from too many years of spending too much time outdoors. Behind him stood a Boyd, Jim, and a man who appeared to be his son, as they looked almost like carbon copies, other than the tans and wrinkles. He stood in the best man’s position, right beside his apparent father.

    Opposite the man stood a middle-aged blonde woman who seemed a bit uncomfortable and occasionally gave a dirty look the the best man who was in her mirror position, as she was clearly the maid of honor, her dress much busier than that of the two women behind her. A blonde teenager stood next to her, and it seemed clear that she was the middle-aged woman’s daughter. Behind her, stood a woman who looked to be near the same age as the bride, but she had more weight on her and was not as wrinkly.

    The bride walked down the aisle slowly, her arm locked with a much younger man, who clearly was not her father, but instead looked to be her son.

    “Is everybody related or something?” Shawn whispered to Seth, who shrugged with a confused expression.

    The whole situation was very awkward for much of the group, who had no idea who any of the people involved were. Only Patricia, Beth, Mika, Lyrik, and Allan knew some of the people, and they informed some of the group that the man who walked with the bride was named Michael, sometimes called Junior by his mom. The blonde mother-daughter pair were named Alexandra and Sophie, respectively; the man behind the groom was named David, and Alexandra is his ex-wife, Sophie being their daughter. Alexandra has another son named John, whose dad died getting them to West Little Rock.

    Before they could explain more, they were interrupted by the music coming to a halt and the ceremony beginning.

    “Dear friends and family,” Laura, the priest, began, “and all of the people of West Little Rock, we are gathered here today to honor and celebrate the union of Henry Keating and Betty Coleman in marriage. Through their time together, they have realized they are soulmates, and that their lives are most complete with each other in them. Their days are brighter, their dreams are lighter, and their goals seem nearer. The union of two people makes us aware of the changes wrought by time, but the future for love is still as luminent as it was before.

    “What good would it do to shutter your windows, never dream of rainbows or find hope in promises? Why choose to walk away rather than hold your ground and fight for love? In this world, love can be be a burden; but it is also a blessing. It reminds you you are not alone. That you are alive, and can still feel. Never take it for granted, or overlook it. Do not undermine another person’s love, because you believe it makes them weak. No, love does not make you weak. It makes you strong; stronger than anyone without it. Because it is you, who no matter what, will have someone by your side. You will have your significant other holding your hand into battle, or stitching your wounds after, or fighting to protect you.”

    Passionate and uninterrupted, Laura carried on with her monologue for nearly thirty minutes. She took her job very seriously, and found a true calling as a wedding officiator.

    “Betty Coleman. Henry Keating. Your love is beautiful, and your union is inspirational. I, along with every single person in this room, wish you two wise, amazing souls nothing but the best, most blessed harmony and future. Is there anything you would like to say to each other?”

    The large man smiled and appeared to become nervous as he cleared his throat. The woman holding his hands grinned and wiped sweat off of his brow, encouraging him with her eyes. “I, um,” he began, “Betty. In the relatively short time I have known you, one thing has been absolutely apparent to me: your unrelenting love and commitment. Your compassion for all other lives, and your ambition to make the world a better place. You are the change we need in the world. You are the light of not only my, but so many people’s lives here. Everything about you makes me feel like I have found the one; that now I can die happy, so long as you are by my side. All I want is you, forever. I love you.”

    People in the crowd were now audibly crying, including the two blonde bridesmaids.

    Betty was blushing a bright tomato color, trying to recall her speech. When she was ready, she looked dead into Henry’s eyes and poured out a heart. “Henry,” she paused, giving him a very loving look, “you are my everything. Echoing your sentiment, though our time together has been short, I have loved every moment of it. You’re supportive and kind, assisting or cheering me on in everything I do. When Michael died, you were there for me. You showed me that there was still beauty in the world; that there was still hope, and joy, and happiness. Without you, I’m not sure I’d be who I am now. With you, I am a better person than I have ever been. You are strong, and smart, and kind. You always know exactly what to say to me, and how to keep my spirits up even when the darkness comes back into my world. The type of man I need to keep me happy, to keep me sane, is you. I could not ask for anything more, and I want to spend every moment I can until it’s my last wrapped in your arms.”

    People were weeping with joy as the couple stood there, radiating their love and glowing with hope. Even the minister was beginning to tear up as she tried to move on.

    “Henry,” Laura’s voice slightly wavered. “do you take Betty to be your lawfully wedded wife, promising to love and to cherish, through joy and sorrow, in sickness and in health, and whatever challenges you may face, as long as you both shall live?”

    As a tear rolled down his face, Henry nodded and slipped a ring onto Betty’s finger tenderly. “I do.”

    “Betty,” the pastor turned, “do you take Henry to be your lawfully wedded husband, promising to love and to cherish, through joy and sorrow, in sickness and in health, and whatever challenges you may face, as long as you both shall live?”

    “I do,” she replied, putting a ring onto Henry’s finger.

    “And now, by the power invested in me by the state of Arkansas, and the new town of West Little Rock, I hereby pronounce you man and wife,” Laura declared proudly to the room. “You may now kiss the bride.”

    Henry ran his hands up his bride’s arms and they pulled each other into a passionate kiss, resulting in an uproaring of applause and cheers.

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” Laura yelled through the roar of the crowd, “I now present to you, for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Henry and Betty Keating.”




    Patricia exited the large room and sighed. She leaned against the wall behind a large plant, hoping no one would notice her. Her breath was trembling, and she was unsure why this was affecting her so much. The happy older couple reminded her of Otis, and her heart felt heavy. Something had happened to him, and she knew it.

    A tear fell and she couldn’t help herself any longer. She was sobbing, and in her gut, she just knew something awful had happened to Otis. What is was, she wasn’t sure, but she knew it was not good.

    “You awright?” a slurry southern accent asked.

    Patricia jumped slightly, quickly wiping the tears from her face. “Oh, I’m sorry, yeah. I am. I’m sorry.”

    Mike smiled as kindly as his odd face would allow, but Patricia understood. “Don’ be sorry, ma’am. Ever’body gotta cry sometime.” She smiled, and he glowed. He reached out a hand, offering her help to get her footing.

    “Thank you,” she said shyly. Suddenly, she had forgotten about Otis. His memory was pushed back in her mind as this kind man assisted her and showed her such kindness.

    The plump man led her to the bathroom and politely waited outside for the elder woman to collect herself. After taking a moment to collect her thoughts, she looked into the mirror, splashed a handful of water into her face, and smiled.

    She exited the bathroom and thanked the man for his kindness once again.

    “O’ course,” he replied.

    Patricia understood the silence and modesty of southern men. “Let’s go home,” she said, attempting to be flirty, but unable to hide her slight hesitation. Mike nodded and held his arm out, which Patricia locked hers in.




    The sun began to set and Robert grinned out the window as the sun set. He looked down at his watch and his smile flashed into a frown. “Grey!” he called upstairs, “we’re going to be late.”

    “Coming!” Greyson’s voice returned from the upstairs bathroom.

    Robert set to packing half of the food he and Greyson had just cooked away in a tupperware container, leaving the rest for Lyrik and themselves later. He let out a chuckle as he realized how much they had been using their containers; he had never transported so much food in his life.

    Thuds on the stairs alerted Robert that Greyson was ready. He turned around and gave the freshly-groomed boy a kiss. “You look great,” Robert complimented, giving his boyfriend a container of the food they had made and quickly setting out the door.

    They walked about two blocks from their home until they arrived at their intended destination. Greyson knocked on the door as Robert ruffled his own hair one last time before he entered.

    A beautiful woman opened the door, her bright eyes dazzling in the twilight as she eyed her two guests. “Hey, guys!” she laughed, giving them a hug over the food they carried, nearly making for a food-spilling disaster.

    “Hey, Olga!” the boyfriends said in unison as they struggled to balance their food and return a hug.

    “Sorry,” she laughed, grabbing what she could from the couple and heading into the kitchen. The two gave each other an awkward smile before she came back into the living room. “I’m so glad you two came.”

    “I’m so glad you invited us,” Greyson politely retorted.

    “Why wouldn’t I?” she said as Doctor Carson entered from the hallway, having just washed his hands. He pulled a cup from his bag and inspected it. “It’s your baby, too!”




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  10. Back To Top    #50
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    Chapter 50 “Community”
    Day 150; Group A&B







    A chair sat in a totally white room, facing away from the door. A desk sat between the chair and the door, with counters lining the walls of the room, a sterile gray color. There were no windows, and only two doors. One that led out to a hall of the registration building, and one that led to a bathroom.

    The bathroom door opened up and a woman with curly blonde hair walked out holding a dull blue hospital gown. “Thank you, Harlan,” she said, throwing the gown into a hamper in the corner of the room.

    The chair flipped around, revealing the handsome face of Doctor Carson. In his lap was a notebook with his appointments listed. “Of course, Lyssa,” he said warmly. “Keep doing those wrist stretches I taught you.”

    The blonde smiled, nodded, and exited the room. The doctor looked down to his notebook and scratched out the woman’s name. Four names were crossed out, and three remained.

    He stood up and opened the door wide open. “Olga Kozlov,” he called.

    The Russian woman stood, smiling happily to the doctor.

    Harlan gave her a fresh robe and showed her to the bathroom. She came out a few moments later and sat in the long, white chair designated for patients.

    “So, how are you feeling today?” Harlan asked as he rose and grabbed his clipboard.

    “I’m fine, I guess. I just wanted you to check up on the baby.”

    “Again?” the doctor asked, giving her an inquisitive look. “You came in here just three days ago. I don’t think much has changed.”

    “I know,” Olga shrugged. “But I just want to make sure.”

    “Are they making you do this?”

    Olga lifted a brow, not much appreciating his tone. “No,” she said calmly, “the fathers aren’t making me do this. They would have the right to ask me to if they wanted, though.”

    “You know, it’s not exactly they’re baby, right?”

    “It is their baby.”

    “Well, you didn’t sign a contract, did you? Didn’t fly this by Jim for legalization?”

    No,” Olga spat, quickly getting irritated. Thunder roared outside, alerting them that a storm was brewing.

    “Well, then, if you wanted, this could be your baby. I mean, you hardly know them. It’s not like they asked you because you’re all such good friends.”

    Olga looked to the side, seeing the doctor’s point, but she held her ground. “Doctor, I know what it’s like to be out there. Every second, you don’t know what’s going to happen. People could die at any moment. I’m doing this for them because here, you don’t have to worry about that. I’ve always wanted a child, but you know as well as I do that I couldn’t raise the baby as well as I want to. Those two, I’ve seen them. We’re closer than you think. They’re ready for a baby. The world moves a lot faster now.”

    Doctor Carson couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “You may think so, but as you just admitted, you’re not the most mentally strong of all the residents here. You’re overlooking so many things. Firstly, it’s two men. Not even men, they’re both just nineteen! Nineteen! And you barely know them. And lastly, the world we live in isn’t fit for babies. Like you said, anything could happen out there. What if this community fell apart? What if a herd came through and overtook us all, and that baby was out there? It would get everyone killed, then die a horrible death on its own. Probably starve to death if it isn’t devoured by walkers or murdered by heartless bastards.”

    “Like I said,” Olga retorted, “you don’t know them like I do. They’re smart; they’re strong; they’re loving. They understand the world. Robert specifically knows what it takes to survive; how cold you have to be to succeed. He’s learned more than any of the other people in his group that I’ve talked to. The closest ones I can think of who get it are Shawn and Selenis. Granted, I haven’t talked to them much, but my point still stands. This baby will make it. I’m done arguing this point. It’s my body, and it’s my decision. I want to have this baby for them. Now give me my check up and don’t say another word to me about this, or I’m getting Jim involved.”

    The doctor stared at her bewildered, but kept his mouth shut. He sighed, turned back to his desk for his supplies, and prepared to do his job. She couldn’t resist smiling contently as Harlan was facing away from her, pleased that she left the man speechless.




    Roger walked in through the large gate of the community as rain poured down heavily, leading his crew back into safety. Boyd and Kevin sat by in cheap plastic chairs on the wall with an umbrella and a thick coat on as Malcolm held his umbrella over Allan, who was working on opening the gates. When the scavenging crew was mostly in, Allan worked the wall back to a close and nodded to Malcolm. The ponytailed man gave an extra umbrella to Kevin as he and Allan went back to their seats. Kevin then rose and began to climb down the ladder.

    “Roger, Caleb,” Kevin greeted the scavengers’ leader and his right-hand man, a heavy man with thick stubble and a beady green eyes. Though they were dry under the wall’s platform, Kevin still had to speak loudly over the downpour, “As requested, we’re now informing y’all o’ new members. Yesterday, shortly after ya left, a group of five joined the community. The leader’s name’s Mark, and he and one of his members named Karen’ll be joining you on your next run.”

    “Are you kidding me?” Caleb asked with a tinge of genuine anger in his voice.

    “No, I am not. Jim’s approved them, and they think they’re best suited to go scavenging and hunting with you. It’s not that big a deal, is it?”

    “Kinda,” Caleb said rudely, wiping the rain off his face.

    “I don’t see how, other than them being new. Ken worked out fine, didn’t he? Shawn, and Seth, and Robert, and Greyson?”

    “Yeah,” Roger agreed, looking to Caleb, “they did. And I’m sure these two will, too.”

    “If not,” Caleb warned, “I call dibs on handling it.”

    “Of course,” Roger rolled his eyes. “Consequentially, if they don’t work out, it’s on your head.”

    Shawn looked to Seth and they shared a chuckle. Caleb took things like this way too seriously, and it would be hilarious to see him get put in his place.




    Patricia stood in the kitchen, watching the rain hitting against the windows as she washed dishes. Selenis walked down the stairs and noticed the older woman. “Robert’s probably so happy right now,” she said with a smile.

    “Of course he is,” Patricia said with a laugh. “Poor Greyson,” she joked.

    Selenis chuckled. “That poor baby,” she attempted to joke, but instead reminded the two of how awful the world is for a child. She bit her lip and looked to the rain as Patricia stared back down at the dishes. After a few slightly uncomfortable minutes, Selenis changed the subject. “So what’s with you and Mike?”

    The blonde attempted to force her smile down, but clearly failed. The younger woman beside her gave her a nudge, forcing a laugh and “I don’t know!” out of the elder.

    “Yeah you do! You brought him back here the first day you two met, of course you got somethin’ going on, right?”

    “He walked me home and kissed me on the cheek; it’s not like I slept with him.”

    “Well, you sure were over at his house for a long time the other day.”

    “I was helping him with his girls,” Patricia said defensively.

    Selenis hummed in disbelief. “Sure.”

    “Well,” the elder gave her, “it’s not like I haven’t tried.”

    “I knew it!” the Latina laughed in victory.

    “Alright, alright,” Patricia laughed.

    After their laughter died down a bit, she tried to keep the conversation going. “So what do you mean you’ve tried?”

    “You know,” the blonde shrugged with a smile, “when the kids are at school, I sometimes try and make things a bit...romantic.”

    “Uh-huh,” Selenis laughed suggestively.

    “But when things get a bit too intimate, he just kinda...lets go. He stops, coming up with an excuse or some pity story, like he’s still grieving his wife. It could be that, but...I can’t help think I did something wrong.”

    “No, no, no,” the Latina reassured her. “He probably really is upset about his wife… Or maybe he’s got ED,” she joked, getting a laugh out of Patricia.

    “Thanks,” she snorted. “I needed that. Maybe you’re right.”




    Beth and Malcolm sat in the livingroom of David and Alexandra, the guardians of Mika’s friends. It was a beautiful, classical house, painted in bright whites and blues. It was very open, and definitely reminded them of their childhoods. The whole house felt very homely, and was probably the largest one that was not a part of the Governor’s Estates section.

    “So you two are official now?” Alexandra asked as she brushed her fried blonde hair behind her ear.

    “Yup,” Malcolm grinned, grabbing Beth’s hand and kissing her on the cheek.

    “And you both adopted Mika?”

    “Well, sorta,” Beth shrugged. “I brought it up to Mika, but I didn’t want to actually say ‘adoption.’ I think she got it, though. She calls me ‘Momma’ now,” the blonde smiled and looked to the floor. “We haven’t asked her about Malcolm, yet, though.”

    “I’m sure she’d love to have you as a father,” David said as sincerely as he could, though there was clearly a sense of falseness in his tone.

    Malcolm picked up on it and smiled. “So, are you two back together now?”

    Alexandra bit her lip and looked to her ex, silently scolding him. David opened his mouth to speak, but the middle-aged woman quickly interrupted him. “Not exactly. The romantic aspect of our relationship is virtually dead now,” she made a sharp glance to the man beside her, “but we’re doing our best to keep it together for the kids. We can’t hide it from Tyler and Sophie, but the kids are still mostly oblivious, I hope.”

    Beth nodded, empathising with the couple. “The last thing those girls need to hear is that their aunt and uncle don’t love each other anymore. Especially after losing their mom like that...and the world being the way it is. Sounds like they’ve had pretty tough lives already. I hope Tyler’s able to deal with it, though. For his sisters.”

    Alexandra and David’s tension seemed to vanish as they both looked sad and guilty in contemplation. “He’s a strong kid,” David stated. “He’ll be alright. For his sisters, at least.”

    “We should go already,” Mika whispered from behind the doorway.

    Julia and Mia looked to each other sadly and finally listened to Mika’s pleads.

    “Let’s just go back upstairs, okay?” the young blonde asked, attempting to get their mind off of the news they had just overheard. Mia looked up as a tear rolled down her cheek and nodded. She wiped it off and grabbed her younger sister’s hand as the three sneaked back upstairs.



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