I ran down the dusty, deserted street, the sounds of the dead behind me. I turned and shot a few rounds from my AR-15 into the sea of rotting flesh. I pulled the trigger again. Click.
Fuck. I was out of ammo.
I sprinted into the alley where the jeep awaited me. I jumped in, turned it on, and floored it. My car screamed down the road as the moans of the hungry zombies faded. My grip lessened on the wheel and I just kept driving. I’d gone back looking for Sunday. I’d gone back hoping he was alive but he wasn’t. All I saw was blood right next to the gun that I’d given him. No sign of him. But there were signs of him being dragged.
Soon my mind wandered back to the day it all began. It seemed like a lifetime ago but I knew it wasn’t. I didn’t keep up with the time. How long has it been? A year? Two years? I was in my junior year of high school when the outbreaks started. I was in the cafeteria with a bunch of my friends and texting the love of my life.
Quest and I were never really official. Not in the way you might think. We were long distance. We met at a camp where he was one of those guys that snitched. Except he never snitched. He used to sneak me out into the woods and get high with me. One day I lean over and I start kissing him and hot damn…he kisses me back. It was my first gay kiss. Wish I could say we got any further than that but we never did. We were both too DL and chickenshit to do it.
It’s Quest who sent the text: GET AWAY.
I text him back. FROM WHAT?
I remember how chilling his reply is when he responds: EVERYONE.
I remember the swimmers on my swim team came in and started screaming. One of my best friends Adrian went after another student for no reason and tackled him to the ground. Everyone thought he was just doing it for fun, but that was before we saw the blood. People went crazy trying to get out of the building as fast as they could. I tried to run out and there was a car waiting for me. A car with these people dressed in all black.
“Get in….” They state, “And take this.”
“What is it?”
“The next stage of your survival.”
I look at these people and I know that I have no choice. If I don’t take the drug I would be left out. It’s a needle with a circle with a dot in the middle. I’ll never forget it.
They’d tried to collect me before. Something about me being special. Something about my genes. I didn’t go with them back then. I thought they were crazy but when I see the panic all around me I know that they aren’t.
I’m taken to the vault.
“Did you find him?” Lyle asks when I return.
I find them holed up in the gas station. They’ve bolted down the doors and I can see why. This wasn’t anything we’d ever dealt with. Behind the wall things were different. Lyle was my best friend. He was the only one I knew before all this. We didn’t go to the same school but his brother was my physical trainer back in my swimmer days. The first guy that I met in the vault. Everyone thought he was a jackass but I knew that he just had trouble communicating. No one knew him as I did. Most of the kids in the vault were collected well before the attack started. Not Lyle though. He had to watch his entire family get mauled by the Cold Bodies. I guess after that you turn a little cold yourself.
“Nah,” I respond, “I did find something weird though. A supply truck from the Neo-CDC.”
“Yeah. It had the symbol on it. The circle with the dot in the middle.”
It’s the sign of the drug they gave me before they took me to the vault. They continued giving me that drug all the time. When we left the vault they stopped the treatments. Everyone thought it was a little weird.
“Did you get any supplies?”
“No, it was empty…almost like. I don’t know? Almost like it was raided.”
Missy gives the same look that I gave when I saw the empty truck. It was so weird. Why would the CDC send our supplies only to stop before it got to us? Something weird was going on around here and I needed to figure it out. All those kids back at Little America were counting on me.
“I’m glad you’re back though.”
“I almost got trampled…”
“Trampled?” Missy asks.
Missy is the pretty girl who was always competitive with me. In the vault, she felt like she was the boss of everyone. Maybe it was because she was better than everyone when it came to just instincts. Lyle was awesome at analyzing and he was the smartest guy I knew. I was the hardest worker. Rebecca—-rest her soul was an awesome marksman. But then there was Missy. Missy Fucking Robinson. She was good at everything she touched. Didn’t have to read it. Didn’t have to practice. Didn’t have to work hard. She was just good at it. No wonder the Vice President put her in charge of the Black team. That was the most elite team in the school.
And I was in charge of the Neutrals. The guys who barely would be able to make it.
“A horde caught up to me,” I replied, “I had to run a couple blocks to make sure I got out of there alive…”
“How many?” Lyle asks.
He literally pulls out his notepad and starts taking notes as though he is going to write an equation. Sometimes I think he uses his intelligence as a crutch. I don’t ever say anything to him though. It’s his way of dealing with this shit. We all had our way.
Mine was the rolled up blunt I had in my hand. I light the weed up and start smoking the tension from it all away, “About 100 to 150 at the most.”
Missy nods, “I’ll go fill it up.”
She grabs the gas can and goes out towards the car. I walk out with her to keep an eye on her. The vines grew up the walls and the wooden stairs were creaky but this place looked a lot better than the rest of the building around here.
“We should call it,” Lyle whispers, “Our chances of survival are pretty low. We’ve already lost two…”
“Sunday isn’t dead…at least not officially,” I state.
“No way he could have survived that,” Lyle explains, “You just said that area had about 100 Cold Bodies…”
“I don’t know.”
I feel bad for lying to Lyle. Truth is, however, I wasn’t completely sure. Ever since the first time I saw him I felt something. Some sort of static almost. You know when you rub your feet all across a carpet and try to touch something. That’s what I felt.
Obviously for someone like Lyle, “I don’t know” wasn’t really the most ideal answer. He crosses his arms clearly not liking any of this.
“We need to head back. I’m sorry to say this to you but Sunday isn’t one of us. His friends aren’t one of us. We are the special ones. We were chosen to survive. They shouldn’t…”
“Don’t say it, Lyle.”
Lyle thinks about it, clears his throat and finishes his thought anyway, “They shouldn’t even be in Little America. Our genes make us more valuable to continue the human race. What if we mix and fuck up the gene pool?”
“Did you just insinuate that I’m going to impregnate Sunday and have deformed babies?”
He shrugs, “The NEO-CDC chose us for a reason. Aren’t you still into girls a little bit?”
“Yeah, I’m bi. So what?”
“So why don’t you get with that girl Sherie? She’s pretty and wants to ride your dick like the vaccine to the infection is in your cumshot. She’s all about you. And you know—she’s alive—-unlike Sunday—- That helps.”
Lyle shrugs as though not realizing how cruel he sounded in the moment. I roll my eyes. If he was anyone else I probably would have punched him right in the fuckin face for being so insensitive about the dead.
“Jesus Christ Lyle, you always find a way to be the biggest dickhead in the room,” I state, “Keep working at it and you might end up being the biggest dickhead alive.”
“We’re all filled up,” Missy comes back, “It’s getting really dark though…”
“We stay the night here.”
“And then what?” Lyle asks.
It hurts to say so but Lyle might have a point. I had an idea it was bad out here but I didn’t know it was this bad. My duty was to Little America. I’d already lost Rebecca. I already possibly lost Sunday. It wouldn’t be right to risk anyone else pursuing Sunday’s friends. They were just shit out of luck.
The night is really quiet. Missy is polishing her gun, being the badass that she was. Lyle is fucking around with a computer. And I’m just thinking eating up some canned beans that I found in one of the aisles. They taste like shit but I needed the energy. The best thing about the Apocalypse: great abs. Maybe it was the lean diet or maybe it was all the running around-trying to survive-killing zombie things we did all day.
I look down realizing my dick is swollen.
“Really?” Missy asks.
I shrug, “OK, don’t judge me. Just because it’s the apocalypse doesn’t mean I don’t get horny.”
“Is it the smell of decayed flesh and the fear of certain death that did it for you?” Missy asks raising her eyebrows.
“Listen unless you are going to help me out with this—just leave me and my boner in peace.”
“Do I look like Sherie?” she asks, rolling her eyes.
“Nah and I damn sure am not that guy Iggy…”
Missy smiles at the thought, “Iggy is so goddamn sexy.”
She wasn’t the only girl who was squirming over the new guy. Back in the vault, it was a sex fest. I mean what else did you expect when you put horny teenagers underground with nothing better to do? So I wasn’t surprised all the eyes were on the new folks. Missy wasn’t the only girl into Iggy. And I wasn’t the only gay or bisexual guy who thought Sunday was cute.
“He’s into Sunday.”
“Not that again.”
“I’m just telling you the truth,” I shrug off, “I never saw a bigger cock block. Your gaydar must have gotten destroyed along with modern society.”
“What about Sunday?”
“What about him?” I ask trying not to sound too defensive.
“Oh please. One doesn’t go back into a horde of zombies risking their lives looking for a stranger unless they wanted to fuck said stranger.”
“He’s not a stranger. He’s on my team.”
“You didn’t address the fuck thing—-”
“I don’t want to fuck him.”
I thought Sunday was cute. I mean yeah he was a little bit more than that. He was resourceful. He has this sexy way where his thick eyebrows would wrinkle up. He has this nice ass and always seemed to wear these pants the accentuated it. Fuck. I mean I wasn’t all crazy about the guy but…I mean…I don’t know. Why the fuck did this feel like high school all over again?
“Good because I wouldn’t want you to get your hopes up. Because Iggy might want to be with Sunday but Sunday DEFINITELY wants to be with Iggy,” she tells me.
“Why’d you say that?”
“Heard some things. From Iggy himself.”
I get up, “What did you hear?”
I don’t know why I care so much. The fact is Sunday wasn’t really mine. Just the idea that Sunday might really like this Iggy guy back just made me nervous.
“Got to get some sleep,” is her response.
Missy—Fucking—Robinson strikes again. I couldn’t even beat her in an argument. She lands her blow and literally turns around and goes to sleep. I’m not saying pretend sleep. She goes into deep REM sleep as though she was on an orthopedic mattress in a gated community and not a dusty gas station in the middle of the apocalypse.
And I’m left wondering.
I don’t know how I get to sleep but I do know one thing. This fucking Iggy kid is on my mind.
I’m alert before I realize it.
“What the hell Lyle?”
“There is movement on the cameras!”
Goddamn, the Cold Bodies never fucking let up. I give Missy a swift hard kick in the back. A part of it is payback for her putting me in this pissy mood about Iggy and Sunday’s relationship. The other part of it is that Missy was such a heavy sleeper that it took a kick to wake her up. When she’s up though, she’s up in no time, gun in her hand and a focused look as though she was dreaming about this moment in her sleep.
Missy doesn’t even need to know what we’re talking about. Almost immediately she has her gun perched up, “How many?”
“About 10…” Lyle states.
“Get into your battle positions,” Missy states.
“Missy—-we don’t have battle positions,” I respond.
“Speak for yourself,” Missy states.
I follow Missy. I don’t have bullets in my gun though. Missy is the only one with an AR-15 with bullets. Lyle has a regular Glock that he’s clutching onto for dear life. Somehow I manage to slip in between the two holding my chest up and wondering what the fuck is going to happen.
“You see them?” I ask, “You see the cold bodies.”
Missy is peering out of the boarded windows, “Yeah, they are moving kind of fast though.”
“Runners?” Lyle states.
Just not too long ago he was the one who felt like Sunday was an idiot because he believed that there were runners out there. Now he was using this as his main hypothesis before anything else.
Missy, however, isn’t convinced. She keeps shaking her head, “No…”
“What do you mean no?”
“Humans. They are humans.”
“It’s Sunday’s friends,” I state.
I don’t know what gets over me. I start heading out there removing the planks that are protecting us. As soon as I open the door I hear Missy scream. I don’t hear what she says but it’s a warning. That’s when the gunshots ring out.
BANG! BANG! BANG!”
I feel this immediate pain running all through my body. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. I almost want to faint from how powerful it comes on.
“Shit…you got shot,” Missy says.
She is trying to help me but I pull away, “Go. Go.”
I try to put pressure on the wound myself. Lyle was good at strategy. He was good at planning but he wasn’t the guy who I would go to first in a gunfight. Missy was that person and I needed her to focus. I look out towards where the tanks are. Gunfire around here couldn’t be a good thing but these people shooting at us were reckless. Almost angry about something.
“We’re alive!” I scream out, “We aren’t Cold Bodies!”
Missy is looking fiercely through the darkness attempting to take aim as best as she can just in case. That’s what I didn’t want though. These people were clearly alive. Unless the Cold Bodies learned to shoot guns then they were definitely alive.
Why did they shoot at us?
They aren’t responding. Still nothing. I know they heard me. They heard me speak. Even if they didn’t know what I said they heard me speak. They knew we weren’t Cold Bodies. Why not speak back?
Lyle immediately follows up with, “It’s us. We’re Sunday’s friends! We came looking for you.”
There is a silence and then something else.
“I’m Sunday’s friend too!” a voice states, “I’m His ex-boyfriend!”
My heart bites down at that moment.
“They dated?” I ask.
“It’s not Iggy,” Missy tells me, “I don’t know who these people are but they are strangers.”
I wish I could feel relief at the moment but honestly, at that moment, I get more afraid. There were more survivors out there. More people than just us.
“We should go out there,” I state, “We should tell them about Little America.”
“Don’t,” Missy responds.
“They might need help. They might be hungry.”
Missy shakes her head, “I don’t know. I think I see a sniper out there. A small reflection like a lens. Someone is aiming for the door.”
“They are just being safe…” I state, “People wouldn’t hurt us. Why would people hurt us?”
“People are desperate…” Lyle states, “I agree with Missy. What if these people are hostile…”
“Don’t be stupid. Humans need to work together,” I respond.
I am about to stand up and that’s when I see him. He’s standing there. He’s attractive. Very attractive even through all of that and there are two things I notice about the man who has been speaking. One was that he looked like President Beric. Brothers. Cousins. Something related to the president. The other thing that I noticed was that he wasn’t a good person. There were just some people you can feel it on. It’s as though all his life he’d been carrying a heaviness of his façade and now he had dropped that heaviness to the ground.
And he was himself.
And we were in danger.
I drop back down almost immediately. I look at the others, “We’re fucked…”
I could see it in his eyes. He didn’t care if we were Cold Bodies or not. He wanted us dead. He was going to find a way to make that happen. Anyway possible.
“I SAW YOU!” the man who looks like Beric is screaming out, “COME OUT! WE HAVE HIM. WE HAVE SUNDAY. THE PIECE OF SHIT WON’T DIE, UNFORTUNATELY. MUST BE THE VIRUS IN HIM. YOU GUYS KNEW ABOUT THAT RIGHT? YOU KNEW THE PIECE OF SHIT IS THE ONE WHO STARTED THIS WHOLE THING, TO BEGIN WITH?”
The voice is loud. Angry.
“What do you want?” I call out.
“SURRENDER YOUR WEAPONS! SURRENDER YOUR SUPPLIES! SURRENDER YOURSELVES!” he states.
“How do we know you won’t kill us?” Missy asks.
“I MiGHT. I MIGHT NOT. DEPENDS ON MY MOOD. BUT IF YOU DON’T SURRENDER, THAT WILL INCONVENIENCE ME. AND YOU’LL DIE ANYWAY.”
Why? Why kill a human? Why kill another human being when there were so few of us left? At this point, he was helping the Cold Bodies. And I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand that part of human nature. Violence for the sake of violence.
I was dealing with a monster here. And this person had Sunday. A part of me wanted to surrender. A part of me wanted to make sure Sunday was OK. But I owed something to Missy and Lyle. I couldn’t do this.
“No!” I scream out.
Almost immediately I hear him scream out and then I hear bullets ring out. Whoever these people were they were good. They were better than us. Much better. We retreat to the back of the store, Lyle grasping at me as each bullet gets closer and closer.
“Watch out!” I hear Missy say.
I know why she’s screaming. The window cracks and one of our assaulters throw something into the store. It’s a Molotov cocktail!
The bottle busts into the store and the flammable liquid ignite like mad wildfire. It becomes quite aware to me where were. There was petrol everywhere. This was place was going to go up and there was nothing we could do to stop it!
“Fuck I’m on fire,” Lyle is screaming.
Soon I realize I’m the one carrying him and not the other way around. We struggle to put out his leg that has caught fire. Missy is shooting back wildly into the darkness. Back turned, the blazing fire that loomed behind me flickered and burned, warming my back. The dark black clouds billowed above me, moving away from the fires. Crashes can be heard in the distance. Gunfire. I jerk forward trying to get to the back door. Missy and Lyle are behind me. At this point—- it is FUCK THE PAIN from the gunshot. We were going to die here. We were going to fucking die!
Screams. Cries. Fear gripped my heart, my pace quickening as they become louder.
Finally the door releases but it’s not us.
It’s someone else.
Missy raises her gun.
“We’re here to help?” a girl almost my age says, “We’re from the NEO-CDC.”
The men in hazmat suits lead us out back. I look back confused at the fact that a gun battle was taking place outside. Luckily these people throw us into the back of a van and we drive away. I just look back at all the chaos. This wasn’t from the Dead Bodies.
This was coming from our own.
I wake up in the back of the van. The people in Hazmat suits are checking my vitals. There is a woman who looms over me. She has dark black hair and a serious face.
“You’re up…” she states.
I look around. At this point, I don’t know who to trust. I’m thrusting away from the people checking my vitals until I fall right into Missy’s lap. Missy grabs me and strokes my hair for a few seconds. It helps. There is no more gunfire. There is no more exchange.
“We were just attacked. By humans!” I state.
“They are raiders,” the woman states, “We’ve been watching this particular group for a while. They loot and pillage everything in sight. Very dangerous group. You’re lucky we showed up when we did or you’d be dead.”
I shake my head, “I don’t get it. Why?”
“Supplies are getting rare everywhere. You don’t see factories producing things anymore. As resources thin out people become desperate. This is true human nature. You aren’t in the experiment anymore…”
I pause. It’s odd how she calls it an experiment.
“Who are you?” I ask.
She smiles and extends her hand, “My name is Dr. Serrano. And this is my associate Luna.”
Luna was the girl who was almost my age. A pale skinny looking white girl with a gun that was almost as big as she was. She extends her hand and smiles.
“Hopefully we can be friends…”
I look over at Dr. Serrano, “Our supplies stopped coming in from the CDC.”
Dr. Serrano nods, “Unfortunately the raiders have been interrupting the supply line and stealing from them.”
“Dammit, I should have figured it was something like that. Well, there are a group of people who went seeking you out from Little America.”
“I’m aware of the group,” he states, “They are with us back at the base.”
“Oh good. Would it possible…possible for you to take us back to Little America?”
She seems confused.
“Why would I do that?”
“There is a horde coming. Bigger than anything we know about. I need to warn the others about this.”
“We are aware.”
“Well, what?” Dr. Serrano asks.
“Can you take us back to Little America?” I ask, “After we get Iggy and the others, of course.”
Dr. Serrano shakes her head.
Lyle looks confused and raises an eyebrow, “Excuse me?”
“After deep consideration, we’ve decided that it’s best the experiment in Little America end. No need in sending supplies if the raiders keep stealing them.”
“You’re going to leave us to die?”
My heart is racing.
Dr. Seranno doesn’t even care to look at me, “Well not you. You can come with us. But Little America won’t exist. In two weeks they will be completely overcome and there won’t be anything left…”
“We are people!” I state, “Kids. You can’t fucking just leave us.”
“Is that what you think you are?” Dr. Serrano asks.
This causes Luna to smirk a little bit. That’s when I notice something. I notice how they keep their hazmat suits on. They haven’t taken them off. I’m completely confused.
“What are you talking about?” Missy asks.
“Do you remember this?” Dr. Serrano asks.
She shows me a needle. It’s the needle that I was given before I was taken to the vault. It’s the needle with a Circle and a dot in the middle of it.
“The symbol is shorthand for Sunday,” Lyle states looking at the needle, “I learned it back in high school…”
Dr. Serrano smiles, “You’re correct Lyle. Back then you probably didn’t know a Sunday. But now you do. See Sunday and his blood—-they are special. It’s called S3909. Or you can call it the Sunday Virus.”
My heart sinks. Sunday virus? What the fuck?
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re infected,” Dr. Serrano explains, “Don’t worry. It’s a different strain of the virus then what the Infected Walkers have. S3909 is a curse but also a gift. The residents of Little America were ALL infected with the Sunday virus. Left untreated you all would have turned by now. In the vaults, we gave you needles. After you left the vault we put S3909 in your food. We put S3909 in your water.”
At this point, I’m shaking. At this point, Lyle is sweating and Missy has broken down the tough act to break out into tears.
I look down at my skin. I look at my body.
I’ve been infected. This whole time.
“Why?” I ask.
“To see if the virus S3909 can inhibit someone from turning. The good news is that it can if taken consistently. The bad news—-”
Luna finishes off what Dr. Serrano is saying with a smile, “The bad news is that we’ve stopped supplies to Little America and by the weeks end…all of you will be just like the zombies outside.”