Semester of the Dead 2, Chapter 3

Chapter 3

“Alaric?”

My heart is racing.  I see him standing there right in the doorway of this new home.  He looks at me seeming confused when I say that.  That’s when I feel a hand on my shoulder.

“Sunday are you OK?” Iggy asks me.

I rub my eyes.  I look back at the door.  It’s not Alaric.  But I’m close.

“Jesus…it can’t be…” is the response that I hear from Valentina.

“Beric West,” Iggy realizes.

He looked just like him.  The brothers were always mixed but Beric I remembered back home to be darker.  Alaric was on the lighter tone and for some reason, Beric has managed to pale up a little bit.  Perhaps the way the light hit Beric’s eyes also made it seem like he had one of those eyes that changed colors depending on the season like Alaric.  Beric looked just like Alaric in the right light.

In Savannah, the Wests were a well-known family.  They were the family who had made it.  I think Beric was on his way to getting a key to the city when the whole world went to shit.  He was a major actor, singer, entrepreneur.   He’d gotten on more magazines than I knew for eligible bachelors until he finally met the girl of his dreams.  I’m sure she was dead.  Dead just like whatever past career he had before all of this happened.

“You’re the president?” I ask, seeming more confused than ever.

“Didn’t mean to disappoint.  You thought I was Alaric?” he asks.

He smiles at the thought.  I’m in shock. Beric FUCKING West was the older brother of Nixon and Alaric. He’s standing here in my doorway and walks past me.

“How’d you manage to be president?” Iggy asks, “Weren’t you like a goddamn movie star or something?

“That’s an asshole thing to say.”

“We don’t want trouble,” Iggy states.

Iggy is looking around.  I can tell.  He’s looking for a weapon just in case. The bad blood between us still smells. Things went bad when everything fell apart.

Beric glares at him for a minute, “You came here.”

“We didn’t know you were here,” Valentina states, “We’ll leave if you want us to…”

“I want you to answer a question.”

I expect him to want to kill me when he sees me. The last time we met each other things didn’t turn out so good. Nixon pulled a gun out on his own brother and chose my side. I expect Beric to realize he had the upper hand. Was he going to kill me? Was he going to kick me out? Right now I’m not his concern though. He doesn’t seem to be interested in me at all.

He has one thing on his mind.

The only thing he cares about.

The only thing I am scared that he was going to ask me.

“Where are my brothers?” he asks, “Where are Nixon and Alaric?”

Had he somehow known the truth?  Was this a trick?  I dreaded the question.  I’m calculating now if I hit Beric over the head would the others be quick enough to help subdue him.  He’d come alone.  Stupid.  No guards.  We could do this.  We could kill him.

After no one answers he seems to be a bit bothered, “You all are acting weird.  I’m only going to ask one more time.  Where are my brothers?”

I don’t respond.  How do you tell someone that Alaric was bitten and died?  How do you tell someone that you tricked his other brother Nixon into going into a swarm of Biters?   To complicate it this man Beric clearly held our fate.

“Do you not hear me, Sunday?” Beric West asks me again.

“We don’t know.”

This comes from Valentina.  I’m shocked when she says it.

Beric seems just as shocked as I am, “You don’t know?”

“We were separated from them.”

It’s a simple lie.  Much better than the disgusting truth of what really happened to Alaric and Nixon out there, but a lie all the same.  Beric looks over at Valentina.  Then he looks over at Mitchell.  I swear Mitchell almost gives us up just by his facial expression.  Mitchell can’t hold it together!  He keeps looking at the fucking ground acting nervous.

“Is that what happened?” Beric asks.

“My sister told you—-” Iggy starts.

“I’m talking to you,” Beric respond looking at Mitchell.

Mitchell, the most likely to break.

Mitchell, the one who was upset over the fact that Quest suffered the same fate as Nixon.

Silently he shrugs, “We were separated.”

Beric moans out something that sounds like an: Oh.   His voice has a level of authority to it.  It’s a level of intensity.  I hadn’t known Beric personally.  What little experience we had with him after everything went to shit didn’t turn out too good.  But he was here now and I can’t read him.  I can’t read him at all.

After a few seconds, he just turns to the door, “My group was separated from me as well.”

Iggy seems way too eager to ask, “Should we leave?”

Beric shakes his head, “No.  No, the school bus should be pulling up shortly.  You all are just in time for the new semester.   All that abide by their laws are allowed to reside here.  Regardless of history in the past.   This is a new start.  Besides it’s not your fault that you were separated right?”

No one answers.  He doesn’t seem to wait for one either.

“Oh and you all,” Beric asks, “These people are not like you.  I suggest you be on your best behavior and follow their rules.”

Their rules?  Interesting that he doesn’t say “ours”.  He was the president after all.

I don’t think anything of it though as he turns.  He walks out and leaves.  I close the door behind him and almost faint up against the wall.

Tears are running down my cheek.  I can’t believe I thought he was Alaric.

“Sunday I know I’m mad at you—-or whatever.  But I’m concerned.  What was that back there?  Are you OK?  Did you really think Beric was Alaric?”  Mitchell asks me.

I pause.  I feel awkward when he asks that.

“I was…I…”

I can’t think of it.  Confused was one word but it was deeper than that.  Trauma.  That was another word that came to mind.  I saw him all the time.  I saw him in my dreams.  In my nightmares.  He stalked me and I didn’t know how to get over him.

“You don’t need to explain yourself,” Iggy surprisingly cuts me off sparing me the embarrassment, “You need some time.  Besides we had your back.   We would never have told.”

“Thank you.  Thank all of you for not telling.”

“You mean for not telling Beric that you sentenced his brother and two other people in our group to death?” Valentina asks, “You’re welcome.  Besides, I doubt throwing you under the bus would have saved our asses.”

I know she is upset but regardless I knew that if it wasn’t for Valentina and the quick way she could think on her feet that we would have been kicked out of this place or worse.

“It’s pointless.  He knows…” Mitchell states.

We all turn to Mitchell.  He’s been relatively quiet this whole time.  Right now he’s standing at the doorway.  He hugs himself in a way that I’ve seen him do when we were outside of Little America.  When we were in the wasteland.   I wonder if it makes him feel more secure when he does that to himself.

“What makes you say that?” Iggy asks.

“I can feel it.  He knows we’re lying to him,” Mitchell states.

“Then why not kick us out?” Valentina argues with him, “Why not bring a gun in here and shoot us all down right here and right now?”

We don’t get a chance to answer her question because there is a horn.   Iggy goes to the window and peeks out.

“These fuckers really sent us a school bus…he wasn’t joking.”

Silently I’m just as shocked as Iggy was.  The look on his face says that he doesn’t understand these people and neither do I.  We’d seen too much.  We’d been through too much to be comfortable in a place like this.    What the fuck is next?  Lunch boxes?  Soccer practice.  The dead have inherited the world and these”

“Can we just please make the most of it?”  Valentina begs, “Please…I just want to be normal again.”

“Are you kidding?  We staying here?” I ask, “With Beric? Seriously.”

I’m not asking Valentina.  She seems so desperate for ‘normal’.  Whatever the fuck she thought that was nowadays, at least.  I’m talking to Iggy. He crosses his arms cooly.

“It’s no point in leaving now,” Iggy states.

“You trust these people?” I don’t get how he feels so comfortable.

“You brought us here…” Valentina reminds me.

I think about it.  She was right.  I was torn. A part of me wants to be happy here but the other part of me feels weird.  All of this was just…weird…

I feel like shit.

“Valentina stop it,” Iggy states, “Remember Atlanta?  Remember how they were going to drain Sunday dry?”

There is silence.

“The Neo-CDC?”

“Our mother,” Iggy reminds Valentina, “They were trying to kill Sunday in order to get a cure for the disease, remember that day?”

Valentina finally looks over at me, “But what he did to Power—-”

“Fuck that, sis,” Iggy states, “You made a promise to me.  Do you remember what that promise was?”

I’m not sure what they are talking about.  I remember Neo-CDC.  I remember Atlanta.  I remember the woman who I thought was my neighbor was actually someone who was placed in my world to watch me.  She weaponized my mutated DNA and lost control over it.  That’s how this all started.  That’s how everything got started.

I may not know exactly what he is talking about but his twin sister does.

“I’m sorry—-” Valentina states.

She doesn’t look at Iggy or me, so I’m not sure who she’s apologizing to.  I’m not sure what Valentina promised to Iggy but I knew that it calmed her down at this moment.   She wasn’t on my back as much.

“Did I miss something?” I finally asked after a few awkward seconds.

“No. Get up Sunday.  All of you.  Pull yourselves together,” Iggy tells us, “We may not like each other but we will survive together.”

“Agreed,” Mitchell nods.

The two boys look over at Valentina.  She reluctantly nods in agreement.  I guess this was some sort of ceasefire…at least for now…

“Good,” Iggy states, “These people rub me the wrong way.  They literally voted a 30 something-year-old movie star for their president.  I don’t trust them.  So this is how this is going to work. They have their rules and we have ours.  Rule Number 1.  Keep your eyes open.  Rule Number 2.  Don’t forget who our group is.  Don’t forget who our family is.  Keep our business internal.  Now get up.  Pull yourself together.”

He’s looking at me when he says that.   He had a point.  Right now I wasn’t getting along with Mitchell and Valentina but at least I knew they weren’t going to sell me out.  At least, for now, I knew that…

~

“They keep looking back at us,” Mitchell whispers when we find seats in the back of the bus.

The bus ride was awkward but we have survived that. I guess that was the first fierce survival test. I look around at the faces on the campus.  It was a new semester but these people knew each other.   They all knew each other but us.   Mitchell wasn’t paranoid.  He was right.  We were getting stares.  The entire time people have been staring at us like we were animals in a petting zoo.

“They are just curious,” Valentina states.

“Curious is one thing…” Mitchell argues, “This is something else…”

Valentina continues to try to play it off,  “I think we should do our best to try to fit in.”

“Easy for you to say,” Mitchell shivers hugging himself, “You were popular in high school.  All the girls already look like they want to fuck Iggy.  Me and Sunday are just two skinny gay boys.”

I hadn’t noticed the girls staring at Iggy.  If they were staring at him he doesn’t seem to be interested.   He has managed to create the male version of the resting bitch face and etched it in his face.

“So is my brother, clearly,” Valentina throws in, “At least the gay part.”

“I’m not gay,” Iggy states.

He looks over at me when he says that.  I don’t quite understand why.

Valentina doesn’t give up, “Curious?”

Iggy seems irritated by the discussion, “I’m straight.  I’m a straight guy who made a mistake that I’m not going to make again.  Ok!”

I swear someone jumps as Iggy raises his voice. Shit was bad enough without the outburst. I see the glances intensify.  Valentina nods  I don’t trust these people.  They are way too clean.  Way too soft.  We know what it was like out there.  We ARE the survivors.  So what are they exactly?

Iggy turns and starts walking with an annoyed expression. I’m glad he was so confident because I sure the hell wasn’t.   The crowd of children separates like the fucking red sea as we walk through.   Was this really just curiosity?  Or was it something more.

“That’s the one I was telling you about,” I hear one girl state, “He’s sexy, isn’t he?”

An Asian girl wearing all black, a pretty face and lip gloss caked on so thick you could probably see your reflection if she blew you a kiss, was staring at Iggy.  Her friends giggle.  Schoolgirls.  She says it loud enough for him to hear, trying to make him notice.  If he did notice, he doesn’t pay it any mind.

The Asian model looking girl wasn’t the only one who I noticed through the crowd of kids.

“There goes that sexy soldier,” Mitchell states.

I’m assuming he forgot that he was still mad at me when he tells me that.  I notice who he’s referring to though.  It’s not hard to tell who Channing is.  He’s wearing a uniform.  One of the few students around campus who already have one on.  The uniform is a tan nude color.  It fits almost perfectly on Channing’s skin to the point that he looks like he’s wearing nothing at all.   I notice how he has buttoned down his shirt, probably lower than he should, showing off the beginnings of his chest.  That’s probably what was driving Mitchell as crazy as he was.

He stares our way.  His eyes stretching towards me in a way that makes me feel almost as naked as he looks in that tan uniform.  I can feel his stare, amidst the crowd of stares.  It’s at that moment that I realized something was off.

“Something is weird about this school,” I state when we finally get in this building, “Something is weird about this city.”

The others don’t say anything in return, but I know they feel it too.

Truth is though I might as well have still had dirt on my face when I start to walk into the school.  Attention was the one thing that I’d never gotten used to.   It’s the one thing that continued to make me more uncomfortable than anything.

“Please file in!”  a woman is calling out, “Your entrance exams are going to start promptly.  Please take a ticket for your seating.”

“We sit together,” Iggy tells the woman.

The woman is young.  Younger than I imagined someone of authority would be. Matter of fact most everyone in this city was young save the Vice President.  I would call her a girl if she wasn’t so buttoned up in the way that she was.  She reacts almost immediately to Iggy without much emotion on how rude he was being, “Unfortunately there are assigned seats.”

Iggy is going to make a big deal about it.  I can tell.  Maybe that’s when Valentina walks forward grabs a ticket and sets the example of not blowing shit out of proportion.

“Guess we aren’t sitting together,” I state.

Mitchell goes on ahead with his head down trying not to make any more of a scene than we already have during the awkward march up to the school.  I try to find my own seat when I feel Iggy grab my hand.  He pulls me back.

“Here,” Iggy states.

When he pulls me close I see that he has slid me something. A knife.  A slim knife that he probably got from the kitchen at the residence that he was assigned to.

“What’s this for?” I ask him.

“I want you to be safe…” he says.

”Aww, you do care…”

”You are like my little brother…”

I wish he’d stop saying that…

”I meant in a different way…”

“Let’s not talk about that. You clearly showed me you weren’t ready for that…”

”Iggy please…”

”Irs not up for discussion. Focus. Look at your surroundings. Supposedly—-or so they want us to believe—- they take in people all the time,” Iggy explains, “So tell me you don’t think it’s weird that we got this much attention walking in?”

I take the knife and nod.   I can’t think about what Iggy is telling me at that moment, but I knew he had a point.   The stares continue.  Focus. I look back at him. He bites his lip. He does that when he’s worried. I wonder if he cared still. Dammit. Focus.

I try to sit away from everyone.  I make it my business to sit away from everyone.  But as soon as I sit down I notice a slight migration towards me.  Half the students in my vicinity walk over to me.  They sit next to me.

The weird behavior is continuing.

I shoot a look across the room.  Mitchell had people near him as well.  Same for Valentina and even Iggy who would have made it very clear he wanted to be left alone.

I look at the test.

“BEGIN!”  A proctor walks in. A different person. A person who I swear looks directly at me as though this room wasn’t full of people.

I look down at my paper.

Strange questions:

Would you know how to survive if you were lost or wounded in the wilderness?  What if it was really cold?  What if you were in the searing heat of the desert?

What’s the easiest way to catch a fish in a survival situation:  A. Bare Hands.  B.Spear-Fishing.  3. Traps and Snares.

Unique, but I guess this was a survival school.  No one gave a fuck if you could do Calculus during the Apocalypse.

But then they start getting stranger.

If you had to lose one body part what would it be:  A.  Your finger.  B. Your Toes.  C. An Eye of your choosing.

My heart is racing as I look up from the test.  I stare across the room and notice Mitchell looking over at me.   Valentina and Iggy are all seeming uncomfortable with these questions but no one else does.

I see Mitchell mouth the words, “What the fuck.” Clearly, in regards to the test.

“NO CHEATING!”  the proctor calls out.

How the fuck does one cheat on something like this? I didn’t even get what the right answer was for the majority of these. I answer the best I can until I get to the very bottom.

The strangest question appears:  If you had no choice but to sacrifice one person for the others, which of the following would you leave behind:  A.  Your Best Friend.  B.  A Family Member.  C.  Your lover.

I leave it blank.  I slap my pen on the table.  I can’t take it anymore.   I keep thinking about all the people who were left behind. All the people who didn’t make it to this haven. I specifically think about Alaric.

Luckily right when I do it the teacher calls times and starts collecting the placement exams.  I’m so confused.  More confused than I’d ever been in my life.  What the fuck was that all about?

The Proctor stands up at that moment, “Those who answered A to the last question…please grab a green uniform and go to room 101.  Those who answered B please grab a red uniform and report to room 102.  C answers please grab a black uniform and report to 103.  These will be your assigned classes for the remainder of the semester.   Your instructor will be awaiting you.”

What was the point of the other questions? A way to fuck up your mind before you answered the last?

I raise my hand.

The entire class looks my way.  Iggy gives me a look that is almost screaming at me to put my hand down.  I can tell he’s uncomfortable with me asking questions or even getting the least bit extra attention.   At this point, the four of us were clearly sticking out like a sore thumb so we might as well start asking questions.

“Sir what if we left it blank?”

“Oh yes. If you left it blank—-stay here,” he states.

It’s awkward at that moment when I see a bunch of people getting up.  It’s awkward when I see a bunch of people leaving at that moment.  Mitchell grabs and a green uniform.   His answer was his best friend.  Guess with our strained relationship I deserved to be left behind.   That doesn’t surprise me.  What surprises me is Iggy.  Iggy grabs a black uniform.  Did that mean he would have left his lover? Dam…

I try not to take it personally. He didn’t consider me his lover. Not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing in this moment. I do get irritated by something else though. I notice an Asian girl with a short haircut who was crushing on Iggy outside the school seems more than happy to spark up a general conversation with him—-or at least try to—-on the way out.  Her short haircut defines her face.  She was beautiful.  Beyond beautiful.  The only girl that I’ve seen in a while who was prettier than Valentina.   She had red lipstick and was one of the few people who had on a uniform.  Her uniform was black.  She also had a gun on her hip.  It’s strange because a lot of people didn’t have guns.

“I’m Missy,” the Asian girl with all black says to Iggy, “I will be your instructor.”

“Ignacio,” is all he responds before walking away.

Her eyes follow him.  Thirsty.   I think she whispers something about C to him but I don’t know what she means.

Focus.

It will be easier with Iggy not in the same class as me. I don’t know why his answer to that question bothers me so much…

“Guess black for black hearts,” a voice laughs.

I hadn’t noticed the person standing there.  I look up and see who it is.  It’s Channing.  He is making a joke, its clear from his bright smile and his happy demeanor. It’s as though no one told this kid the world was ending and we were the last of mankind. What is there to always smile about?

I hadn’t even noticed him in the auditorium.  Definitely didn’t see him taking a test.  He was there now.  He wasn’t the only one who had stayed behind either.

But I’m not the only one of our group that stays.   I turn and notice Valentina staying with a few other strangers. All together there are 6 of us.

“One of my friends answered C. His heart isn’t black,” I am offended and honestly just want to wipe off that fucking smile.

“Ay man it was just a joke,” Channing says with the same wide smile.

That was the problem.  Too much bad shit had gone on to smile. As far as I was concerned smiling should have died when all the major cities died.

“Nothing about your joke was funny,” I tell Channing.

Valentina moves closer. Knowing her she probably didn’t finish because she was overthinking it and thought it was a riddle or something. She was stuck in my class and from the looks of it, she didn’t want to be.

Valentina seems almost immediately ready to apologize for me, “Sorry about my friend.  He doesn’t mean to be rude.  We just all…been through a lot.”

Not only does she apologize but she puts on this fake smile on her face as though trying her best to fit into the group of 6.

Channing surprisingly doesn’t back down nor stop looking my way, “No.  No need to apologize.  I like that.  He’s tough.”

Still smiling. What the fuck was up with this guy?

My arms have remained crossed,  “I didn’t say it to intentionally impress you.”

“People who do things unintentionally rarely ever do,” he quips back, “Besides I think it’s great when someone sticks up for his friends even when they are not around.  That is considered loyal. With the world gone to shit, it’s important to trust people.”

I roll my eyes.  He was so nice.  It made me uncomfortable.   Just like the rest of this town did.  Channing was handsome.  He was beautiful.  He was perfect.  Everything in this town was just so fucking perfect.

“Whatever…”

I turn away.  I don’t want to talk to these people.

Valentina quickly leans over and gripes at me, “You’re embarrassing me…”

I could care less if I was embarrassing her or not.   Still, I manage to respect her enough to be quiet and let her make her small talk though.   She seems to really be a natural at it.  Then again, Valentina was always a people person.  I think she missed this the most about an in-tact society; People fawning over how beautiful she was, but being pleasantly surprised by her charisma and natural intelligence.

I’m staying off away from the group, staying silent but watching how strange it all is when they start peppering her with questions.  Questions that Valentina is more than happy to answer with a willing smile.

She is telling them way too much. I step in kicking her chair. She gets the idea and shuts up. It’s awkward after though because they know I want to silence her.

“We all know each other,” Channing states, “Outside of the two new peeps in the city.  Why don’t we go around the room and introduce ourselves…”

We meet Sherie, a girl who was attractive with a short haircut and a laugh that lit up the room. Despite her very low haircut,  Sherie was feminine and beautiful in a way. She clearly seemed to be attracted to Channing and seems to find any reason to touch him. Beside him was Loribeth, a round-faced girl with blonde hair and blue eyes who almost immediately seemed to follow Valentina around like she was the second coming.

Then there was this guy who called himself Oxen.  I had thought it was a nickname at first but no one else found it strange that his name was Oxen and he was 6’3” with a sturdy brown body.  The man looked like he could move a mountain.  I’d never met someone so big in my life.

As soon as they introduced themselves Sherie was back to flirting with Channing while the others were back to asking probing questions that I didn’t like.

“You really survived out there for that long?” Oxen ask, “With those things…”

“Biters?” she asks, “Yeah.  There were days where we ate insects…days where we ate worse than that in order to survive.  When society fell, it all went down hard.”

Oxen squint, “Man no offense but you guys don’t look tough.  The one guy with you who chose black might be a badass but—-”

“—-But you’d be surprised,” I finish Oxen’s words, “Survival isn’t all about size.  It isn’t all about appearance.  You should know that though.  Shouldn’t you?”

Shouldn’t all of them?

Valentina’s face gets red, “Oxen. Please excuse my friend Sunday.  He just lacks manners.  Is the instructor going to get in here soon—”

She wants me to stop talking.  She probably wants me to disappear.

“I know about survival,” Oxen asks, “Look at me. I can take on a thousand of those things.  Easy.  Feel this fucking bicep.”

He flexes.  He’s probably doing it for Sherie. Probably not since she feels more open to feeling Channings so maybe Valentina.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she liked it.  He reminds me a little bit of Power, except Power wasn’t nearly as big and ugly as this guy.

“Where you from?” I ask.  I can’t help it.

“Texas.”

Oxen has a southern drawl to him.  It’s faint though, as though he hasn’t been there for quite some time.

“Texas is a long way from here,” I state, “If you had traveled this far you would have known that survival isn’t all about size.   Size slows you down.  But maybe you guys traveled here, got comfortable with your washing machines and your grocery store.  Excuse me—-2 grocery stores.  You’ve forgotten right outside of those walls that society has truly crumbled and this fake reality you’ve created is nothing more than a temporary façade to remind you of a time that no longer exists….”

“What…you an expert on the dead?”

This comes from Channing. By now I can tell I’m rubbing all of these people the wrong way.  I don’t give a damn. It’s my tone. It’s the way I look. It’s everything. Valentina sighs looking around for the instructor who clearly is really late in showing up and saving her from this moment about to happen.

The others are annoyed. They all look at me.  All their faces burnt into me as though I just shit on all their hopes and dreams.

“Yes, I am an expert.  I’ve seen someone I loved, no scratch that.  The love of my life turns into one of those things.  One of those things rotting, decaying, dead, pallid, icy skin, tarnished, pale, grisly, tragic…lifeless but not immobile.  I saw the milky eyes staring blankly, bloody, silent, cruel, cold fingers reaching out for me in a hungry grip, masses of decomposing bodies walking with faces of the people you loved.  Faces of the people you adored.  Faces of the people that you cared for.   But there’s nothing left.  Nothing but stiffness and hunger and biting…”

All I can see is Alaric.  The darkness sets in.  The pain from losing him sets in.  I’m back in that dark place that I’ve never had the chance to get out of.  It’s gripping me and I don’t understand how I’m transported from a classroom into the darkest part of my soul.

“Damn…” Channing whispers.

He looks as though he’s surprised.  It’s at that moment that I know something is weird here.  All of them are looking at me as though they have no real idea of what I’m even referring to.  Only Valentina nods.   Only Valentina seems to understand what I’m talking about.

For all the times I’ve embarrassed her, right now she sees faces in her mind. She is with me in this dark place maybe not swallowed by it but she remembers. I wonder if she sees him.  I wonder if she sees Alaric as I do.

That’s when Oxen has the nerve to look at me and say out loud, “Lying ass—-”

Lying.

He thought I was lying.

And I lose it.  I find myself jumping on this big man.  I don’t even know I am able to get so high until I do.  I’m hitting him wildly in the face, in the neck.  He flings me off and almost as though the floor was made of rubber bands I’m on his ass right back again.  No one expects it.  There are screams from the girls, especially Valentina attempting to get him off me to no avail.

It isn’t until I see Channing literally grab me, punch me in the back of my neck and throw me across the floor that I manage to calm down.

“What are you some sort of animal?” Channing states, “You aren’t out there anymore? This is a city.  I don’t know what the hell you people did before you got here but that kind of behavior doesn’t fly here SAVAGE.”

Perhaps.  Perhaps survival had turned me into an animal because I lunge at him as hard as I can.  I manage to get Channing to the ground and I manage to pull a knife on him.

I press it to his throat.

“Not smiling now huh?”

I see Valentina behind me, “Sunday.  Sunday this isn’t you.  I know you’re upset.  I know you’re in pain.  We don’t have to fight.  Not here.  Not right now.  OK.”

I ignore her.  Channing is looking up at me and I’m cutting into him.  He’s fucking bleeding.  I don’t care.  I could slit his throat right now.  We all died.  Ask Alaric.  He was too young.  He was too beautiful.  His heart was too pure.  Why did he deserve to die?  I might as well spared Channing the trouble now.  He was too nice, just like Alaric.  He was handsome in his own way.  I could release him right here and right now.

“He’s fucking crazy,” Loribeth whispers.

Sherie who clearly has a history with Channing looks a bit out of it too.

Valentina remains in my ear, “Sunday…if the instructor comes in here and sees this he’s going to get the wrong idea about you.  He’s going to think you’re a danger.  You’re going to be expelled from Survival School on your FIRST day.  Do you want to go back out there?  It’s not just about you.  Think about me.  Think about Mitchell.  How would Iggy feel like if you were kicked out of Little America?—-”

Valentina.

Mitchell.

Iggy.

They were all that I had left.  All that I had left to the world.

She had a point.  Fuck…she had a point. What if the instructor came in and saw this?  I have to fall back.

I pull back, “Shit—shit I’m sorry.”

Channing is looking at me wide-eyed, “Sorry?  SORRY!  You put a fucking knife to my throat.  You’re out of here.  You’re fucking out of here.”

I can’t even beg at this moment.  I can’t even think.  I’m still trying to calm myself down. Luckily Valentina has a clear enough mind to do the talking for me.

“It’s your words against ours,” Valentina states, “No one will believe you.”

“Really—-?”  Oxen ask, “They are all fucking crazy.  You’re willing to fucking lie for him?”

The others are just as outraged.  That’s when I see just how down for me Valentina really is.  She crosses her arms and stands as still as possible without moving.

“I made a promise to my brother,” Valentina states , ”I promised to do whatever it took to keep us Alive and together.  So yes.  I’ll take his side.  Any day.”

That’s when Valentina leans in and holds my hand.

I hate I put her in this position to defend me. I clearly snapped.  I clearly was dealing with some major issues after Alaric’s death.  I was seeing him everywhere.  I had ruined a potential relationship with Iggy because I thought about Alaric.  I had sent three people to their deaths to get revenge for Alaric.  The mere thought of Alaric made me snap.  I wasn’t in the right mind.

But she’s still holding my hand.  She’s still by my side.

“Your friend doesn’t belong in a civilized society,” Channing states shaking his head, “I’m sorry.  I feel bad for whatever he saw out there, but this isn’t the place for him.”

“We’ll let the instructor decide that when he arrives,” Valentina continues to argue, “The Instructor will have to decide if he wants Sunday expelled.”

That’s when I see Channing go to the front of the room.  He grabs a box.   The uniforms that we were missing were in there.  All of them were tan.  Tan uniforms that match the uniform that Channing ALREADY had on.

“Well that makes things easy,” Channing states, “Sunday is expelled. I AM the instructor…”