“What the fuck is wrong with this guy!?” Lauren exclaims, looking on from afar as Alicia strolls around the restrained corpse, inspecting it from just out of its undead reach. “He’s one of the sick, is it really that hard to tell?” John replies, his argument immediately countered, the drug-gummed woman circling the corpse sending a momentary hush over the gathered collection.
“No, he’s dead” Alicia replies, every eye in the room immediately looking towards her, unable to ask for a repeat of her declaration before she begins pointing out her findings. “He’s got a clean exit wound right behind his heart, and there’s too much blood all over the floor for this guy to still be alive” Alicia explains, John proceeding to cautiously approach the body, looking into the discoveries for himself, “overall, this guy was shot and bled out. It’s confusing, but he’s dead dead.”
“Have you failed to notice that he’s still moving?” Meghan replies, challenging the woman’s thoughts until she suddenly hushes, watching John retrieve a lead pipe from across the room. Cautiously leaning forward, John gets the corpse to open its jaw before ramming a led pipe between his teeth, the free hand he has being placed against the man’s neck, feeling for a pulse.
“I’ve got nothing here” John replies, looking back to Alicia, suggesting that he finds her assumptions credible, his ear placed against the man’s heart, finding the lack of a beat. “This guy isn’t dead, but he’s most certainly not alive” John concludes, removing the pipe once more before tossing it across the room. “I don’t understand, why is he moving?” Janice replies, the certainty in their conclusions not being accompanied by any definitive statements.
“That’s what’s boggling the rest of us” John replies, admitting that he has no idea why anything about the scene is as it had been found. “If he had a fucking pulse, it’d be easy to argue that’s he’s just sick” Alicia replies, looking towards John, admitting that she no longer trusts the input he’s getting from his fellow veterans, “but I can’t make that same call when he’s fucking dead.”
Dumbfounded, Meghan blurts out a question that leaves the rest of the room silent, something fairly outlandish now having become as real as death and taxes. “So, are you saying he’s a zombie?” Meghan replies, both John and Alicia looking back towards each other before their eyes lower to the growling lump of flesh between them, unsure of how to respond, partially unable to admit the truth to themselves.
= Rise: Remastered is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“Em? Em!” a voice shouts, the gubernatorial candidate blinking unresponsively, the blood having rushed to his head, his brain unable to process what has happened. “Em?” the voice continues to beckon, finally earning Emilio’s attention, the man looking to the side to find his boyfriend, Bill already having left his seat, now kneeling upon what used to be the roof.
“What happened?” Emilio groggily asks, finally able to notice the danger he is surrounded by, only to fall short of fully comprehending everything as it unfolds, only the chorus of terrified screaming surrounding the vehicle to guide him along. Tilting Emilio’s head, Bill unbuckles the seatbelt and carries him to the new floor of the car, metal bending with the addition of Emilio’s body weight.
Turning around, Bill begins to tend to Franklin, the man having been thrown across the backseat by the sheer impact of the twist, his seatbelt having torn apart in the process. “Frankie, can you hear me?” Bill asks, Franklin’s eyes open and blinking, not a single word leaving the man’s lips until Bill tends to him. “What’s going on?” Franklin asks, watching Bill’s lips move, but unable to fully understand what’s being said, his attention finally taken by the thrashing of the vehicle.
Tilting slowly to one side, Bill notices the front seat of the car beginning to collect water, rushing waves running over the window borders and the shattered windshield, their time running out. In a moment of panic, Bill pushes his boyfriend through the opening in the window before rushing over to do the same for Franklin. Looking into the front seat, Bill fails to spot the car’s driver, a body-shaped hole in the windshield suggesting there is no safety for their accompanying guide.
In the nick of time, Bill crawls through the window just as the car begins to tip heavily, soon swallowing up the retention pond’s surface, disappearing below the calm waves. Hunched over, Emilio lets his dinner crawl back up his throat and spill out of his mouth, Franklin quickly trying to force himself to regain his steadiness, pushing himself to his feet and making sure he remains there.
“Can you walk?” Bill asks Franklin, a moment of consideration being taken before Franklin’s assurance, Bill quickly pulls his boyfriend over his shoulder and begins to lead the pair up the hill. After a struggle, Bill leads Emilio and Franklin back to where their car lost all control, a massive sea of people running towards and away from the scene of a massive blast.
The day begins to settle down, Bill begins to lead those with him towards a closed barbershop near the center of the blast, the twirl of the illuminated barber’s pole. “Why won’t you tell me what happened?” Emilio mutters, Bill promising him that he would explain everything if he were able to. “I don’t know what’s going on” Bill replies, quickly watching three people race towards them, knives in their hands, prompting the politicians to stop.
“We don’t want any trouble!” Bill exclaims, unable to throw his hands up without letting his boyfriend collapse, his explanation ignored as the trio pull the group away, leading them back where they came from. “You don’t want to go back there!” the woman exclaims, two other men beside her immediately racing towards Emilio, helping lead him away.
“What happened here?” Bill asks, the woman hesitant to respond with anything other than the simplest form of an answer. “The whole fucking building exploded, the dead are everywhere!” the woman exclaims, the little she offers providing brief, yet lackluster information. “Who are you?” Bill asks, the woman stopped from answering before she can even open her mouth, a set of bullets firing through the air in their direction forcing them to duck behind cover.
“Take ‘em out, boys!” the woman exclaims, barking out the order as if this attack was something she’d expected, both Bill and Franklin diving behind a car alongside her. In a moment of hesitation, the two men throw Emilio towards his boyfriend and running mate, only one able to retrieve their firearms in time. A bullet through the eye taking one of the men out, the woman’s second friend immediately ducks behind a tree, holding fire until he can get a better shot.
“Dude!” the woman exclaims, her friend’s attention paid fully to the individuals responsible for the gunshots, unable to notice the stumbling burn victim taking an interest in him. Ducking out of cover, the second man begins to return fire towards their attackers, a single bullet to the chest ending any attack he had been hoping to wage, the gun leaving his hands as quickly as the bullet lodges itself in his chest.
With a groan, the woman takes aim at the burning figure closing in on her friend, but fails to get a decent shot before the charred remnants bury its teeth into the man’s throat. Horrified, the man screams in agony as he drops to his knees, unable to defend himself as the blood runs from his neck, Bill and Franklin watching on as best they can, muttering expletives to themselves as the sight unfolds.
Punching the bumper of the vehicle she takes cover in, the woman waits a moment before ducking out of cover, a single shot audibly finding its target, putting her attacker down in his place. Keeping aim as she presents herself, the woman strolls over to her friend before firing a single shot into the back of the burn victim’s head, the bullet ripping through the burnt skull and imbedding itself in her friend’s own, a single bullet ending the misery of two souls.
“We’ve got to go now!” the woman exclaims, Bill’s request to hear her name falling on deaf ears, a conversation to be had elsewhere. Lacking any specific destination, the woman helps guide Franklin away as Bill carries Emilio, the political spokesman slowly coming back to sound mind, understanding the gravity of the situation they face.
Slamming her hand against her horn, Jess remains stranded in the midst of bumper-to-bumper, dead-stop traffic, her car empty aside from herself, business casual attire exchanged for a t-shirt and shorts to combat the hot summer sun. “As the summer winds down, we’re beginning to find ourselves embattling the last true heatwaves we’ll see for the rest of this year” the anchor over the radio explains, her head shaking as she switches the station, finding the nearest pop station before settling.
Frustrated, Jess begins to let the tips of her fingers tap against the steering wheel, waiting for the line of vehicles ahead of her to move another few inches closer to where she’s going. The sun begins to set on a day where she’s spent more time in traffic than at work or home, Jess grows more impatient as each second turns into an additional minute, her only reprieve coming from a phone call from her husband.
“I’m trying to get home, John… I’ve been in frozen traffic for the last four hours” Jess explains, unhappy with her predicament, but left with little to turn to. “Jess, I think that might be the last of our problems” John replies, the vagueness in his tone not offering much, but the slight resemblance of worry his words carry doing enough to convince Jess that, whatever this problem may be, is one to take seriously.
“The Fairbanks’ skipped town a few hours ago, and that old guy that’s been staying with them?... He’s dead” John explains, the woman immediately growing concerned, not yet having been delivered the true stunner. “He’s not breathing, he’s got no pulse, no heartbeat, and there’s a bullet hole ripping straight through his chest and a massive pool of blood” John explains, “but he’s strapped to a chair, growling at everyone he sees, and biting at us whenever we get close.”
Telling her husband to stop messing with her, Jess finds herself lost for answers when John assures her of the truth, swearing the sights he hosts on their daughter’s grave. “Jess, something is seriously fucked up right now” John explains, speaking into dead air, Jess letting him finish before interjecting, “I don’t wanna say zombie, but I think this guy’s a fucking zombie.”
Still uncertain her husband is telling the whole truth, Jess runs down the checklist again, the answers she receives being nothing she can put any other answer down upon. “So he’s a zombie? Like… an actual zombie?” Jess replies, the mostly-assured answer from her husband being something that still fails to truly connect with her. “Are you fucking sure, John?” Jess replies, unable to fathom how something so outlandish would grow to become so real.
“Jess, I wouldn’t be calling you if I wasn’t positive something completely unbelievable was going on” John explains, promising that everything he’s offering her is as close to the truth as he can offer, “however you get it done, you need to get home now.” Looking through her windshield, Jess notices two younger-appearing people talking a few cars ahead, prompting her to end the call, promising to do what she can.
Ending the call, Jess emerges from her vehicle and approaches the young pair, a man sitting through his car’s spoiler, using it as a dinner tray for his sub sandwich, a second young lady stood beside him. “Have either of you-?” Jess begins to ask, the whirring sound just above cutting her off, all three people looking to the skies to see a set of jets ripping through the air, advancing towards the nearest population center with intent.
“Have either of you figured out what’s going on?” Jess asks, the man all too happy to answer the question. “The dead are rising” the man humorously replies, watching the older woman’s eyes roll before correcting himself, “well, the undead are rising.” Squinting, Jess looks towards the young man with a confused stare, wondering what he means in the words he’s offering.
“These people are dying up there...” the young man begins, pointing to his head, “...but they’re still kicking in here” he concludes, pointing to his chest. “I’m sorry, I think I’m-” Jess begins to reply, quickly cut off by the woman standing beside the man, apologizing for the vagueness of the sandwich-eating informer’s behalf. “People are getting sick and their whole bodies are shutting down… except for the heart” the girl replies, “the heart kicks the bucket once it restarts the brain.”
“Break it down in normal terms, please?” Jess quickly replies, the man immediately arguing such a chaotic scene is impossible to do justice for in such a case. “I’m Troy, this is Katie” the man explains, offering an introduction to kickstart the mess of a conversation, “and you are?”
“Mildly confused” the woman replies, both hands placed against her hips, “also, Jess.” With a nod, Troy expresses his appreciation for the woman’s sarcasm, quickly returning to his point. “We’re coming up from Delaware… We got our hands dirty with a few friends a couple of days ago and have been on the run ever since” Troy explains, “we’ve seen it happen, the body dies everywhere except for the heart… The heart kicks the brain on and then dies off, too.”
“So we’re being infested by zombies?” Jess replies, quickly corrected by Troy, who takes intrigue in the readjustment. “No, we’re being infested by corpses… The brain never truly dies” Troy explains, chalking up the beasts beneath the term ‘undead’, “they’re both dead and not dead.”
Taking her turn to speak, Katie explains that they’re too far gone to come back, but will rip into anything that moves. “It’s an infection, that’s as much as we know” Katie clarifies, rolling her eyes towards her friend, “everything Troy just spewed off at you with is the conclusion he’s come to.” Downing the bite of his sandwich, Troy explains that the only functions the undead have come from their brain, and those simple motor functions turn towards people with violence.
“I can’t tell you how one of these things thinks, if it even really does…” Troy admits, his finger pointed towards Jess, confident in his analysis, “...but whether it be out of need or want, these fuckers are going to rip your face clean off if they want!” With a sigh, Jess holds her head in her hands and turns back to her vehicle, returning to her car with a half-hearted ‘thanks’, the door slamming shut on her way in, proving to be the only outlet for her persistent anger.
Removing himself from his seat, Jack walks away from the warehouse floor where many fellow employees remain, watching a movie out of their own wish to, or through force due to the heavy traffic. Ascending the steps, Jack begins to walk towards the cubicle-filled sector of the building until a second set of footsteps present themselves behind him, a voice calling out for his attention just as he picks up on the light steps.
“What’re you doing, Jack?” a man’s voice calls out, a relieved Jack leaning forward and taking in a solid breath, a concern having come over him for a moment, unsure of what walks behind him. “I’m good, Reg… Just getting the blood rushing to my legs again” Jack replies, the man patting him on the shoulder before turning on a desk lamp, his spooked fellow employee watching Reggie take a seat in a cubicle not belonging to him.
“You seem off today” Reggie explains, the conclusion not one that he alone has come to, “something going on back at home?” Looking down in disappointment, Jack admits that he’s got very little going on in the place he sleeps at every night. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m getting used to her not being there every night” Jack explains, the problem not being the empty space beside him at night, “I’m just not too thrilled about actually getting used to it.”
With a laugh, Reggie hears Jack remind him that what was said was not intended as a joke, a conclusion Reggie had already made. “I’m just laughing at how short of a time it’s been” Reggie explains, “it may not feel like eight months, but it’s been eight months… Everyone grieves a breakup differently, that goes double when talking about an engagement ending.”
Nodding his head, Jack reaches over and pulls a chair up beside the desk, kicking his feet atop the wooden surface before him and admitting that he wants to move on as much as he doesn’t. “Do you think I don’t know exactly how you feel?” Reggie replies, Jack being reminded of their past through the man’s own perspective. “I played with suicide the same way every damn day, my dude” Reggie replies, patting him on the shoulder, “it wasn’t until you came along that I chose my side.”
“So, you’re supposed to be my guiding light?” Jack jokes, a subtle smack on the chest from the back of Reggie’s hand redirecting course. “The world’s a fucking mess right now, Jack” Reggie explains, leaning back in his chair with both hands behind his head, “enjoy what you’ve got while you’ve-.”
Noticing the same banging sound as Jack, Reggie pulls himself out of his chair and returns to the warehouse floor, a group of workers standing by with their eyes draped upon the front gates. “I need help!” a woman shrieks, a man stood just beside her, clutching at an open wound upon his chest. “What the fuck is going on?” Reggie exclaims, noticing the lack of rush from his coworkers to help the woman, a sight he takes pity on.
“The fuck is wrong with you motherfuckers, we’ve got wounded!” Reggie exclaims, following Jack as the pair rush to the gates, calls for medical equipment and phone calls to be made emerging from the worried crowd. Unlocking the restraints, Jack and Reggie pull the gate open and hurry to the man, their questions of what he needs not answered at first, a much more calm reflection in the woman’s tone being offered as she answers on his behalf.
“Everything” the woman replies, watching Reggie and Jack look back at her, confronted with the barrel of a gun in their faces, her finger resting upon the trigger, ready to fire at any moment. “The two of you need to get back inside and get everyone to cooperate” the woman explains, three vans pulling up to the side of the road and allowing uniformed men to swarm the premises, “don’t make this harder on yourselves than it needs to be.”
“I need to get up to Maine before everything goes to shit” Doris explains, packing her vehicle and making for the driver’s seat, “I wish you luck, John… I really do.” Entering her car, Doris backs her vehicle out of the driveway and takes onto the road, John watching her vehicle and an assortment of others vanish down the street as the neighborhood begins to evacuate.
“Shit’s already gone to hell!” John exclaims, shouting towards Doris’ car well after it has already left, Meghan stood at the top of the Fairbanks’ doorstep, watching on. “I can see the tremors are back” Meghan calls out, watching her brother-in-law return to the home, his hands shaking of their own volition. “Spend a few years at war, your body will betray you, too” John remarks, walking past the woman with his eyes on the basement, a shout catching his attention in the distance.
Shouting at the cars that pass her by, a woman leads three people, all at varying levels of discomfort, to the top of the hill, her eyes spotting John and Meghan immediately. “Hey!” the woman exclaims, watching the pair remain stood atop the stairs, hearing the woman out from afar. “Do we know you?” John proceeds to ask, originally not believing himself to have ever seen the foursome before, a moment of recollection bringing one of the faces ahead of the other.
“Are you the guy running for governor?” John calls out, his finger aimed at a loopy Emilio, verifying the man’s accuracy through a cloudy haze. “Our car got fucked up downtown, I still don’t even know what happened” Emilio explains, the woman quick to fill in the blanks. “One of the old warehouses blew like a lit fuse” the woman recalls, “people were convulsing, others were going ballistic… It was bad.”
“And the rest of you are?” Meghan proceeds, apologizing for the cold introduction, preferring to simply know what she can about the people she’s interacting with. “That’s Bill, Franklin, Emilio, and I’m Salem” the woman replies, finger pointed at each individual person as she goes along. “I don’t mean to be a bother, but do you guys have a phone I can use?” Salem asks, her voice carrying a somber hesitation, not wanting the phone, but rather, needing it.
“Yeah sure, but… We’ve got a problem in here” John replies, the intrigue of Salem immediately captured in such an introduction. Giving into the behest of the woman, John leads the four into the basement, the sight they stumble upon baffling the newest additions to their ranks. Introducing the four to Alicia, John watches Emilio and Franklin approach the body, told to remain cautious as Bill looks on from afar.
“Are those the things you said were back there?” Emilio asks, looking back towards Salem and Bill, not a moment of hesitation proceeding, the interaction puzzling John. “Wait, you’ve seen more of these?” John asks, Salem immediately looks back with assurance, promising the man that every instance he’s heard of is real. “There’s a lot more going on than anyone’s being told” Salem explains, “shit’s getting real, and I’m pretty sure it’s being covered up to avoid a mass-panic.”
“So these fuckers are everywhere?” Alicia clarifies, Salem looking back to her with a wide-eyed nod. “This ‘stand down’ thing the government’s got going on… It’s only making the spread worse” Salem explains, her head shaking with great disapproval, something Bill and Franklin notice, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we were only a few days away from a global emergency.”
Walking back towards the woman, Franklin begins to ask her about the other experiences she’s had, a brief snap cutting his question short, the restraints of the undead figure giving out. Lunging out of his seat, the old man tackles an unsuspecting Franklin to the ground, the sudden change in events catching everyone by surprise. Pushing the corpse back with his forearm, Franklin feels the tip of the old man’s teeth sink into his flesh, ripping off a chunk of his forearm with ease.
Screaming out in excruciating pain, Franklin manages to hold off any second attack long enough for a dazed Emilio to rip the corpse off his running mate. The only people unphased, John and Salem burst into action, John taking his flashlight into his hand whilst Salem calls out for someone to find something sharp. Now pushed against the floor with the corpse atop him, Emilio struggles to keep the chomping teeth of the undead figure above him from taking another bite.
Trying to pull the corpse off his boyfriend, Bill finds himself unable to rip the grasp of the corpse’s hands from Emilio’s shirt, his stamina depleted from the journey to the neighborhood. Proving to have the magic touch, John cracks the corpse over the head with the flashlight at the demand of Salem, a splatter of blood running across the wall as the corpse topples to the side.
A change in the man’s eyes, John steps over Emilio and Bill and kneels over each arm of the elderly corpse, both hands clenched upon the flashlight before bringing its most solid end crashing into the grandfather’s eye socket. Unsatisfied with his work, John listens to the growls of the corpse below him before taking the flashlight to him once more, continuing to deal blows until the fight in the zombie beneath him finally dies out.
Fighting for every breath, John lets the flashlight topple to the floor, rolling to the wall before coming to a stop. Despite the ongoing chaos behind him, John takes a moment to reflect, the sight of the results to his actions below bringing a steady calm over his usual tremor-heavy hand. “What are you doing!?” Emilio exclaims, watching Salem tie Franklin’s own belt buckle over the bitten wound, a large saw clutched in her opposite hand.
“You fuckers clearly don’t understand how these things work” Salem exclaims, making it simple for them to understand. “If you die, you’re coming back… If you get bitten, you’re dying and then coming back” Salem explains, taking the saw into her opposite hand, “you want him to have a chance of living? Sever the infection before it can spread- however the fuck that happens.”
“This is insane!” Emilio shouts, quickly learning that the woman has no care for what seems logical or illogical based on the environment she’s in. “This is how it is, this is how it works” Salem explains, challenging the man to do his job and make a decision, “you gonna let your friend die, or are you gonna let me do what I can to keep him alive?”
Allowing Alicia to toss a bottle of rubbing alcohol and towels beside her, Salem continues to keep her eyes upon Emilio, the man’s silence being taken as a failure to act when necessary. Shaking her head, Salem wastes no further time, the saw being brought upon the man’s arm, just below his elbow, and running over his flesh until the saw hits the floor.
Unable to watch, Emilio and Bill turn away, John looking on from afar, engulfing himself in the truth of what this new environment calls for in the return of survival. Screaming in a mixture of pain and horror, Franklin feels the control of his hand quickly deplete, his arm growing uncomfortably loose as blood oozes out of the incision.
Too drugged to truly take in the full effects of this sight, Alicia watches the scene unfold beside a sickened Meghan, Salem finally ripping through the other half of the man’s arm amidst a chorus of groans. Quick to race into action, John helps Salem dress the wound properly, Franklin remaining conscious through it all, refusing to slip out of consciousness for the second time that day.
“I think you’ll be just fine” Salem mutters beneath her breath, tying the towels to Franklin’s injury whilst looking at John, the man glancing back at her, expressing his intrigue in her statement. “Why do you say that?” John replies, the sadistic smirk upon the woman’s face telling him most of what he needs to know. “You seem to get it” Salem replies, giving the man a nod of approval, “this world is gonna need people like you.”
Made extremely uncomfortable by such a statement, John offers his ingenuine appreciation for her conclusion, continuing to look her in the eyes while he continues to wrap the wound.
== Rise: Remastered ==
“Another day, another call for chemical processing plants to be shut down” the personality over the local news explains, “workers in these plants have begun protesting all across the country, calling for work to stop and their workplaces to be investigated.” Knocking at the front door, a woman stands on the steps of a quaint residence, waiting to be greeted from those inside.
Nearly tripping over a plastic spoon, the man inside lowers the volume on his television and begins descending the staircase, unlocking the door and moving aside. “‘Morning, John” the woman replies, stepping in at the man’s behest, her sunglasses sat atop her head, not intending to stay long. “How’s it going, Meg?” John replies, a shrug from the woman offering him the only answer he needs.
“Where’s Jess?” Meghan replies, letting out a huff when John gives her the answer. “She left early for work, she’s been gone for a few hours” John replies, the woman immediately rolling her eyes as her head tiredly shakes. “Auntie Meghan!” a small child exclaims, bursting through the halls as if she had caught a glimpse of the tape at the end of a decathlon. “Amsie!” Meghan shouts back, eyes suddenly perking as her ears do the same, picking the small child up into her arms.
“Why the f-u-c-k does Jess leave for work so damn early?” Meghan replies, an answer-less John shaking his head at the conclusion of the aforementioned question. “I think she’s been expecting the board to give her the ‘shut down order’ everywhere else has been getting” John replies, both Meghan’s eyes and his own turning towards the television, recordings of people attacking innocent bystanders with a far-away look in their eyes accompanying the anchor’s words.
“My sister’s never been the paranoid-type” Meghan replies, the man immediately arguing the same sentiment. “It’s not that she’s worried about this, she’s just worried they’ll catch her off guard” John replies, a brief chuckle parting his statements, “those greedy fucks haven’t closed her down yet, but she’s expecting them to at the least-optimal time imaginable.”
“They’re old, wealthy and powerful” Meghan replies, admitting to being one that likes going against the stereotypes, “even I can’t argue that they’re the perfect type to fuck over everyone without ever even realizing it.” Tossing a shirt into a laundry bin across the room, John begins to walk towards the kitchen, Meghan following closely behind, continuing their prior conversation. “So what do you think, mister military man?” Meghan replies, setting Amy down on the floor.
“What do I think about what?” John replies, unsure of the question at first, his attention redirected to the ongoing news report. “I think it’s something freaky that I trust our military to properly combat against” John replies, shrugging towards the woman and continuing to approach his toaster. “So the fact that the number of the sick continues to rise doesn’t bother you?” Meghan replies, an answer the man does not agree with.
“It’s never great to see more and more people get sick, but it’s just that” John replies, another shrug, this time towards the notion, “whatever it is, it’ll get contained and we’ll move on.” Nothing left to respond with, Meghan becomes quiet, her silence allowing John to ask about how she views the illness. “They say it’s a lot like rabies, so we should just not get bit by them” Meghan replies, her gut feeling suggesting something less flattering.
“So we’ve got crowds of people with rabies, all biting anyone they see, and you’re not allowed to defend yourself if they attack you” Meghan explains, “I’m sorry, but that equation just doesn’t work out to a good answer.” Shaking his head, John admits that he has no reason to consider anything he’s told by his former army veterans as anything less than true.
“We’d be told if something was off” John replies, patting the woman on the shoulder, “they’re just trying to keep people from getting hurt.” Returning the man’s response with a sarcastic nod, Meghan calls out for Amy, the child returning to the living room with a lunchbox in hand, excitedly shouting that she’s ready to leave. Carried in the woman’s arms, Amy gives her father a hug before leaving with Meghan, the young woman telling the man she’ll return within a few hours.
“Have fun you two!” John exclaims, standing on the front step and waving goodbye to Meghan, his daughter having been buckled into a car seat, the woman pulling out of his driveway. Pulling onto the road, Meghan’s vehicle slowly vanishes behind a collection of trees and shrubbery in a neighbor’s yard, John waving until the moment the car disappears. Turning to return to his home, John catches the sight of another neighbor out of the corner of his eye, a family loading their car with luggage.
“Hey, Steve!” John shouts, holding his hand high, waving to the worrisome-expressioned man, his kind greeting poorly reciprocated. “Good morning, John!” the man exclaims, a subtle caution in his voice, coming off with the sound of a man in the midst of a well-hidden struggle. “Going somewhere?” John calls out, the man stammering over his words, forcing his over-packed bags into the bag of his suburban minivan.
“Ugh… Uh, yeah” Steve replies, slamming the door shut three times before finally getting it to remain so on the fourth attempt, finally looking back towards his neighbor, “heading out to see family!” Returning a confused nod, John asks the man if anything is wrong, the uncertainty and concern in the neighbor’s voice as clear as day. “Have a good trip!” John exclaims, the man quickly loading his kids into the van before heading for the driver’s seat, prompting John to exclaim, “see you soon!”
Turning back to reply, Steve lets his mouth hang open for a minute before shutting it once more, a half-hearted smile returned to John as he replies with a silent wave. Bolting out of his driveway, Steve drives off and doesn’t look back, leaving John to question these actions. Strolling across the street, John walks up to Steve’s driveway before a second neighbor calls out, asking the man if he found that response odd as much as he had.
“I’m glad we both picked up on that!” John exclaims, offering the short response back as he climbs the stairs, his eyes set on the door at the very top. Resting his hand on the doorknob, John twists the mechanism with ease and pushes the door in, the lack of a lock worrying John further, such a mistake only common in instances of extreme distress and a lack of intention to return.
“That don’t look good!” the neighbor calls out from across the street, John’s mind travelling to various places before finding itself in a better-suited area of reason. “Do me a favor, call the cops and let ‘em know something is off with the Fairbanks’” John calls out, closing the door and leaving it be, hoping for the best result, “give them the rundown of their car and the people in it, let them take it from there.”
Returning to her home to do so, the neighbor vanishes within the confines of her house as John returns to his own driveway, a second look back at the newly-vacated lot across the street from himself giving him a strange feeling. Taking in a deep breath, John lets the early morning sunrise glisten off his sweaty brow, a shake of his head preceding the return to his home, shutting the door and locking it tight from the inside, attempting to move on with his day.
= Rise: Remastered is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“You’ve been storing up on vacation days since Amy was born, wouldn’t now be a fair time to use them?” John replies, speaking into the phone cradled between his shoulder and neck. “Sure, that’s not a good enough reason to use them, though” the woman on the other end replies, her hands shuffling through papers atop her desk, sifting files into different folders, stacking them in different assortments, “I just don’t like taking time off of work.”
Dead air presented to her from the other end of the line, the business casual-dressed woman pauses for a moment before calling out her husband’s name, checking to see that he’s still there. “Yeah, Jess… I’m still here” John replies, approaching the window of his living room and looking out at his neighbors house, a lack of police or any other presence at the property continuing to intrigue him, “I just think it would be nice, with all this shit going on, to have a few days away from work.”
With a sigh, Jess wraps folders with elastic bands as they fill, replacing it with another folder identical to it. “Why is this a massive deal now, just all of a sudden?” Jess wonders aloud, compelled by her husband’s sudden suggestion to take time away from work, “I thought you were skeptical of all this stuff.” Assuring his wife that such a truth has not changed, John explains that there are plenty of examples of things offering him bad omens.
“The Fairbanks’ just completely skipped town” John explains, citing the unlocked door as a reason to suspect they don’t intend to return, “they seemed rushed, and he served just as I had.” Taking in a deep breath, Jess attempts to respond before the tone of a second call coming in captures her attention, a sudden rush to end the conversation coming over her. “It’s the board, I’ve got to go” Jess quickly explains, John abruptly wishing her a fair remainder of her day before the call ends.
Switching lines, Jess greets the individuals on the other end of her call, the board of directors to her company offering the news she had been waiting for. “Mrs. Callis, we’re calling to let you know that we’ve made the decision to cease operations temporarily, effective immediately” the man on the other end of the line explains, a smile coming over the woman’s face as she humorously swipes the stack of folders off her table, letting them drop to the ground.
“That sounds like an idea my workers might appreciate, sir… Thank you” Jess replies, a quick rundown of protocol being offered before the call ends, a skipper Jess immediately calling John back, the phone ringing to no answer. With a shrug, Jess ends the call upon the voicemail returning to her, a brief gesture for her secretary to walk with her preceding her entrance to the warehouse grounds.
“Pack it up, ladies and gentlemen!” Jess exclaims, both hands pressed against the metal railing overlooking the large floor space, all eyes dawning upon her, “we’re closing shop!” With a few fleeting cheers offered, others proceed to exchange high fives or fist bumps with the exception of a small few. “Go help your boyfriend pack, Shauna” Jess mutters to the woman beside her, their own high five exchanged.
Returning to her office, Jess continues to walk the halls before brushing shoulders with one of her employees, the man not having seen her before turning the corner. “It’s fine, Jack” Jess replies, her hands held out, keeping the man from apologizing, in complete understanding, “just keep you eyes higher than the floor, okay?” With a nervous chuckle, Jack agrees and proceeds to move on, a man walking up the stairs and to the second level just as Jack looks to descend them.
“Hey Tyler, are we still doing the movie night?” Jack asks, the man he approaches explaining that he was about to ask Jess the same question. “My door’s still open” Jess exclaims, taking a seat at her desk as her eyes glance towards the men just a few feet away from her door, “as long as you promise to close up shop properly, use the floor however you see fit.”
With a nod, Jack and Tyler turn back for the staircase, their job on the second level already done, their next course of business being to set up the warehouse for the remainder of the evening. “You and Shauna sticking around, Reggie?” Tyler asks, the man hesitant at first, brought around when Shauna begins to nudge him towards accepting the offer.
With a sigh, Reggie gives the men a nod, agreeing to remain put and help as they need.
“Do you have any word on the national halting of the ‘stand your ground’ law?” a reporter asks, the question pointed towards a well-dressed man descending the steps of a courtroom, an American flag and pride flag pin latched to his collar. “In Connecticut, we don’t have ‘stand your ground’” the man replies, the two similarly-dressed individuals behind him remaining silent, allowing him to speak unless otherwise asked, “but I’m sure the President doesn’t want the jails overcrowded anymore.”
“Mr. Vasquez, does-?” a woman proceeds to ask, quickly interrupted by the man as he lifts one finger towards her, walking along the sidewalk, circled by the crowd of reporters, “I’d prefer you call me ‘Emilio’ until I’ve won the election.” Changing her approach, the woman rephrased her greeting, “Emilio, do you agree with President Clinton’s decision to cease the implementation of ‘stand your ground’ or not?”
“Well, you’re backing me into the corner of supporting or arguing against my own party” Emilio replies, bobbing his head from one side to another, “but I think it’s an issue rooted more in the President’s concern for the workload law enforcement already has to deal with.” Another hand from within the sea raising, the question offered presents a smile upon Emilio’s face.
“Emilio, do you or your campaign believe these attacks present a wider issue, one more dangerous to the public than currently portrayed?” the reporter asks, watching Emilio shake his head as he stops at his town car. “I believe these people are sick and they need help, which is not going to happen if we answer them with bullets and bombs” Emilio replies, opening the door to the backseat of his car, “if the President believes the answer is to crowd these epicenters less, I support her.”
Ducking into the backseat, Emilio and his two associates take the backseat and allow the driver to begin moving forward, the loosening of Emilio’s tie and the deep breath leaving his lungs allowing his mask to fall. “We’re in trouble” Emilio exclaims, throwing his hands out and immediately making it known that he believes none of what he just said, “we have ill people attacking innocent people, and these innocent people are being threatened with punishment for defending themselves.”
With a laugh, the man to Emilio’s right throws his hands out, immediately asking the candidate what he expected to happen. “You shoot someone, self defense or otherwise, you’re going to get booked” the man explains, watching Emilio’s head turn towards him, “if everyone can just run around with guns, firing at whatever they think is a threat, in the midst of chaos, how do you expect the breakouts to stop in the holding cells?”
Rolling his eyes, Emilio begins to think of a counter, his opportunity quickly stolen away by the man on his left. “Franklin, let’s call this what it is… We’ve got zombies roaming the streets!” the man argues, an audible groan coming from Franklin, who offers a counter argument. “Why aren’t they aliens then, Bill?” Franklin replies, Bill’s head hanging as the question is offered, “yes, they’re biting people, they’re strange, we can’t explain them… Why must it be zombies?”
“Have you not watched television for a single minute in your life?” Bill replies, admitting that he doesn’t want to come off as a nutjob, “how is this not like that one show, with the cop and his family?” Corrected on the title of the show by his boyfriend, Bill argues that everything they’ve seen screams nothing but ‘the undead are rising’, and anything less is ridiculous.
“Those shows are based on something that’s not reality, Bill” Franklin explains, admitting that the most likely conclusion to come to in the world they live within is that these people are sick and need treatment.
“I get that it’s easy to say ‘that’s a zombie, shoot it in the face’, but we can’t jump to the idea that this isn’t curable” Franklin explains, the side of his hand placed against the palm of his other, “if these people are just sick, we’re not defending ourselves, we’re committing murder.” Having heard enough, Emilio throws both hands out, telling both men to stop arguing, the ultimate conclusion to the problem, not one they have any power to come to.
“The only thing we can do is-” Emilio begins, stopped when the car violently shifts, thrown in the air by a massive explosion, one that levels a massive amount of area beside them. Thrown down a hill, the town car flips and skids across the ground multiple times, severed pieces of the metal skeleton of the vehicle flying through the air until it comes to a slow stop, halfway-submerged within a retention pond.
“I’ll be right back” John mutters, removing himself from his seat and handing Amy off to Meghan, the woman having two friends sat beside her, one with a child of her own, the other on her own. Travelling through the hallway, John reaches out for the handle to his bathroom before pausing, his ear pressing to the door to listen for what he can hear inside. With a sigh, John pushes the door in and looks towards the woman at the sink, a bottle of pills in her hand.
“I didn’t know my bathroom was a pharmacy” John jokes, the woman holding an apologetic look, any attempt at an apology waved off as John enters, locking the door behind him. “That’s the Viocodin, right?” John asks, the woman nodding in approval, the man proceeding to hold his hand out, waiting for the bottle to be returned to him. “Taking these with water isn’t as effective” the man explains, moving the woman aside before crushing a few pills upon his countertop.
Dividing the powder into two piles, John lifts his finger to his tongue and moistens it, instructing the woman to follow before dipping the tip of his finger into the powder. With his free hand, John pulls his bottom lip down and lathers his gums with the powder, walking the woman on how to do the same before finishing with his upper lip. “That’s the most effective route” John replies, emptying half the bottle into an already-empty, clear container and handing it to the woman.
“Don’t crush more than two pills at a time for yourself” John warns, watching the woman sneak the prescription into her bag, “I don’t know why you’ve got what you seem to have, just don’t let it kill you.” With a silent, still-guilty nod, the woman proceeds to walk off, her name called for before she can leave, prompting her to look back to the man. “Alicia!” John calls back, flashing her a smile before giving her a guilty nod of his own, “don’t tell anybody about this.”
Without a response necessary, John watches Alicia remove herself from the bathroom and return to the rest of the group, John letting out a deep sigh as he looks through the small window at the back of the room. Attempting to lose himself in his own train of thought, John begins to hear the sounds of crackling gunfire, guttural screams and beckoning calls echoing throughout grass-depraved rolling hills of dirt, a million screams bouncing through his head before his eyes shoot open.
Breaking out into a cold sweat, John forces himself to regain his composure, the tension in his arms forcing itself away, slowly easing to a loose grip on the towel rack. Licking his lips to replenish his bone-dry mouth, John wipes away at his face before attempting to leave, a moment of hesitation preceding his return to the window, a single glance out at his backyard affording him a view of the yard just beyond his wooden fence.
On the next plot of land over, John notices the open backdoor of the house behind his own, part of the final row of buildings in the neighborhood, it’s frontyard facing the bottom of a large layer of thick trees. Gazing at the sight, John notices the unusual look of the property, its sights affording him a peculiar view, something appearing off beyond any reasonable doubt.
His right hand shaking, John forces himself to ease up, the tension that runs through his muscles bringing itself on at the worst of times, disappearing in this moment at the sound of his home phone ringing. Hurrying into the kitchen, John answers the phone calling out his wife’s name, the voice on the other end belonging to the neighbor just beside him instead, a concern in her voice.
“John, I’ve been calling the police all day and they haven’t shown up yet” the woman on the other line explains, her tone carrying worry, “I just tried them again, but the line never stopped buzzing.” Knowing this to be odd, John thinks to himself for a moment before assuring the woman that he’d be going over to check the property out for himself, something that puts a general ease over her concerns for the minute.
“I’ll let you know what I find, Doris… Thank you for the update” John concludes, attempting to return the phone to its receiver, failing the first time due to the shaky hand, only succeeding on his second attempt. “I’m heading over to the Fairbanks’ next door” John explains, promising to be back in a moment, “Janice, you and Tyler should get home soon… Alicia, Lauren, Meghan, I love your company, but the same applies to you.”
Quick to point out the heavy congestion on the freeway, Janice explains that they’ve been waiting to leave since the moment the afternoon rush kicked in. “It hasn’t slowed down for the last six hours” Janice explains, a statement that confuses John, the sun beginning to fade on the neighborhood, leaving him little time to consider alternatives.
“If you’re planning on staying the night, just fix yourself up a place to sleep” John replies, not willing to waste anymore time on the conversation than he already has. Leaving his home, John begins to stroll across the street, leading himself to the neighbor’s driveway before climbing the stairs again, a knock for assurance being ignored as soon as it’s offered.
Prepared to enter at his own volition, John pushes the front door in and begins to navigate the main foyer, leaving the front door open to afford him light. Knowing the home to be empty, a strange feeling dawns upon John, the atmosphere suggesting ‘abandoned’ whilst the shiver that is sent down John’s spine suggests ‘occupied.’ Reaching into his pocket, John removes a flashlight, illuminating the dark interior of the home as his legs carry him up the stairs.
Facing the kitchen, John stands at the top step and looks to the recreational area to his left and the hallway to his right, the floor below the one he entered upon serving as the basement. Walking into the kitchen, John opens a few drawers, checking as many stashing holes the home can offer, wondering what has and has not been taken. “These guys don’t intend to come back” John mutters to himself, the small things having been left behind, but food and water having been brought along.
His hand beginning to shake less frequently, John continues to venture throughout the home, his curious mind taking him down the bedroom-lined halls. Not wishing to turn on any lights in fear for being misinterpreted as a burglar by anyone across the street, John begins to peer into bedrooms, each bed having been stripped of its linens, things like toys and backpacks left behind, seemingly considered unimportant to where they were going.
Entering the master bedroom, John veers into the area to find all the same remaining true, a single portrait of the family and the mother’s elderly grandfather left on the wall just beyond the door. “Simpler times, I suppose” John quips to himself, approaching the very end of the hallway before a rattling sound emerges from deeper within the home. His flashlight quickly turning down the way he came, John calls out for the attention of anyone left behind, his call answered immediately.
Clanking metal answering him back, John begins to return the way he came, continuing to call out for a response, the further he walks proving to be the closer he gets. Finally at the staircase, John calls out again, a set of pots and pans slamming together, making a strong sound from the home’s basement.
Descending the staircase, John calls out for the attention of those he continues calling out to, the closed door at the bottom of the stairs proving the be the barrier between himself and the occupant. Thinking whomever is on the other end is in trouble, John hurries to the bottom of the stairs and reaches out for the knob, intending to twist before a moment of realization dawns upon him, a brief hesitation allowing him to pull his hand away from the knob.
Thinking his position over for a moment, John taps his knuckles against the wooden door and hears a slamming of metal pots and pans again, a few muttered groans emerging from the other side of the door. Unsure of exactly what is on the other end, John backs away a few steps and keeps his flashlight upon the figure on the other end, ready to run out of the house if what he finds is less than flattering.
With a deep breath, John places his hand against the knob again, a gentle twist proceeding before the man shoves the barrier inwards, rushing back up the stairs before pointing the flashlight upon what rests inside. Not followed, John finds nothing awaiting him directly on the other side, the sound of pots and pans continuing to ring, this time more violently, though not any closer than it had originally been.
“John!?” a familiar voice calls out, hurrying up the stairs of the home and looking inwards, Meghan finding the man looking frighteningly worried at whatever rests at the end of his flashlight’s reach. “Stay behind me” John replies, honestly not comfortable with going in alone, preferring to do so with the woman now that she’s here. In agreement, Meghan follows John down the stairs, the man leading the push into the basement before finding the source of the noise.
“Oh, what the fu-?” John remarks, Meghan’s speechless response offering his reaction credibility, the zombified corpse of the grandfather to the Fairbanks’ matron restrained loosely to an old rocking chair, a system of strings allowing pots and pans to clash together when movement is made. The room filled with clanking metal, John and Meghan look on at the verge of sickness, a twisted reality unfolding itself right before their eyes, unable to truly explain itself.
== Rise: Remastered ==
Sitting in an old rocking chair, John looks through the window at the neighborhood, his hands pressed against the intricately-crafted armrests as his seat soothingly glides back and forth. “John?” Meghan whispers, standing in the doorway with her eyes kept towards the man, a response not offered, “I think we should all talk now that the kids are asleep.”
The fingers on his dominant hand beginning to twitch, John clenches hard at the end of the wooden rest before letting out a sigh, removing himself from his seat and following his sister-in-law to the living room. As the pair approach the living room, John begins to hear Emilio and Bill exchange words. “This is insane!” Emilio exclaims, keeping his voice lowered, presenting his dissatisfaction in alternative ways, “she chopped the man’s arm off.”
“Correction, I saved his life” Salem replies, sitting in a seat by herself, arms crossed as Emilio turns towards her, still questioning what it is that she knows. “I’m about to become a goddamn governor, what could you possibly know that I don’t?” Emilio challenges, Salem quickly to name the little things that make him look out of touch, not one of them being the answer Emilio is looking for.
“Tell me, up front and honestly, what the fuck do you know that the rest of us don’t?” Emilio replies, repeating himself to make his reluctance to give up on the question known. Pressing her hand against her face at the onset of a headache, Salem leaves Emilio without an answer at first, prompting the man to throw his hands out. “Un-fucking-believeable” Emilio exclaims, dialing for emergency services once again, receiving no answer.
Keeping herself quiet, Salem watches the man continue to grow frustrated at the lack of an answer from the other end of the phone, his past eleven calls to the police having failed just as his twelfth does. Tapping his foot against the hardwood floors, Emilio continues to stare out at the street, waiting for an answer as John and Meghan rejoin the group, waiting for Emilio to finish.
Pulling the phone away from his ear, Emilio turns towards a wall and hurls the phone at it, breaking both the device and the drywall. Hanging his head, Emilio tries his best to regain his composure, looking over his shoulder towards John, unable to say anything at first. “Sorry for the wall” Emilio mutters, John’s ease to forgive him allows Emilio’s frustrations to lower substantially.
Both as the homeowner and a man awaiting the return of his wife, John takes it upon himself to assume control of the conversation, leaning forward in his seat and coupling his hands. “Today has been a very, well, jarring day to say the least” John explains, not a word coming from anyone other than him, all attention placed upon him, “because of that, we’ve likely been focusing on the wrong things and asking the wrong questions.”
Clearing his throat, John checks the clock in the corner of the room, the late hours of the evening being returned to him in the form of dimly-lit, red LED lights. “Obviously, something is going on” John explains, not wanting to make it sound like the most outlandish possibilities have come to life, “we don’t really know how to explain it in a way that makes sense, but we all know they’re happening.”
In agreement thus far, the room continues to watch the man, taking his lead and only speaking when called upon. “We’ve known about this for weeks, but it seems like it’s only now just becoming a, dare I say, threat” John concludes, his head turning towards Salem, his coupled hands held close to his chest as the woman looks towards him, “and there’s only one person that, as far as we can tell, knows anything noteworthy about it.”
Pushing his hands towards the woman, John admits that he has little idea of how to perceive the woman, but has high hopes that she’ll be understanding and reasonable. “We’re all in the dark here, we’re lost, people that we care about are in trouble, and we’re in desperate need for answers” John explains, showing all of his cards to Salem with hopes that she’ll do the same, “please, tell us everything you know, just so we can try to comprehend all of this.”
Receptive to the man’s gentle exterior, Salem pulls her hands away from her face and looks out at the group, all eyes having moved away from the man and onto her. Looking into John’s eyes, Salem fails to find any well-hidden intentions in his glare, taking his request as genuine, and returning the ‘showing of the cards’ in return. With a nod, Salem pulls herself closer to the edge of the chair, allowing John to retake his seat, the conversation left in her hands.
“A few weeks ago, people started getting sick all around the world,” Salem explains, recalling her earliest memories, “people would feel like they had the flu, then it would worsen, then their vital functions would stop, and… I’m sure you can guess the rest.” Her words stopping for a moment, Salem begins to look away from the group, the images running through her head presenting themselves like a slideshow, each image haunting her like an ever-present nightmare.
“I had been visiting my brother out in Delaware when it all started… Our mom was sick and he was the doctor caring for her” Salem explains, the family visit having turned sour quickly. “They ordered an evacuation of the building one night… It was real sudden… But my brother didn’t want to leave my mother without someone to look after her” the woman continues, her leg anxiously tapping against the floor, “so he disobeyed the instructions and locked off his wing of the hospital.”
“You said ‘was’” Emilio interjects, the attention moved towards him, Salem’s recollection all the same, “When you’re referencing your brother, you’re saying ‘he was’... Is he not here anymore?” Hitting his boyfriend in the side with his elbow, Bill gestures his hand in a way to tell Emilio to stop talking, an order Emilio is quick to follow. “He was with my mother when she passed…” Salem replies, wiping away a tear before it can run down her cheek, “...and he was with her when she came back.”
Keeping her emotions in check, Salem watches John toss her a box of tissues before kicking it back to him, the placement of her foot sending the box directly back into his arms. Impressed, John sets the box beside her, acknowledging her refusal and allowing her to continue. “She attacked him, and before we could get her restrained, she left a nice tooth mark in his arm” Salem explains, her eyes looking towards Franklin, who sits silently in the corner, his amputated arm still stinging.
“He put her in a ton of machines when we ran out of explanations, and by that time, he’d already started getting really sick” Salem explains, admitting that she had still held out hope that the hospital staff would return and find them. “Her brain was operating fairly well, her heart was beating subtly, her blood was still coursing through her veins, everything seemed normal” Salem continues, her head shaking as she finally comes to a conclusion she’d kept herself from saying aloud.
“She wasn’t our mom anymore” Salem finishes, the silence in the room, apart from her voice, still present, her final recollection offering insight into how she found herself in Connecticut. “Eventually… he died” Salem explains with a disappointed sigh, shaking her head at the thought of having been stupid enough to not know what she does today. “He came back, I started cracking him over the head with a fire extinguisher, and that was all she wrote” Salem concludes.
Describing the events inside the hospital like she’d been caught in a dystopia, Salem recalls her escape from the hospital as having been one of world-shifting proportions. “We’d been cooped up there for days, and when I left, nothing had changed” Salem explains, shaking her head in disbelief, a finding she retains to this day, “people were walking to work, cars were blaring at each other, it was all business as usual. The hospital had just been cut off from the public.”
Having found people with similar experiences in the days that followed, Salem began to realize what kind of information she’d become privy to. “Get bit, get scratched, get sick… It doesn’t matter” Salem continues, the tension in the room beginning to build, the situation spelled out for everyone in a manner unable to be argued against, “however you die, you’ll come back, just like the rest of them. Mindless, directionless, and gunning for anything that walks.”
Looking back at his wound, Franklin begins to come around to the woman’s claim, not having found a moment of deceit in any syllable she’d spoken. “So, yeah” Salem remarks, looking towards Emilio, who watches on in grave disbelief, still trying to process what he’s just heard like the rest of the group, “I saved his life.”
Pushing herself out of her seat, Salem walks over to Lauren and removes a box of cigarettes from her side, a lighter of her own carefully clutched in her hand as she walks through the front door. “Fuck” Alicia mutters, the brief response providing a thought process that calls upon the rest of the group.
Looking around the room at each other, each member of the group slowly begins to look towards one central figure, John’s confused posture presenting the image of a man making peace with his new reality. Realizing he’d become the center of attention, John removes himself from his seat and begins to walk back to his daughter’s room, telling the rest of the group to get in touch with their loved ones.
= Rise: Remastered is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“What are you gonna do with us?” Jack quips from the back of the room, hands bound, both arms bunched against his sides, gripped tightly by rope. Without a response, the woman continues to sift through the belongings in the office, quickly growing annoyed at the sound of Jack’s voice. Having noticed his lack of progress long ago, Jack becomes antsy, looking to the ceiling and letting out a deep sigh, the lack of answers offering a more uncertain future.
“Are you going to kill us?” Shauna follows, speaking up for the first time in a while, most of the workers around her having been quietly wondering the same, fearful of bringing attention to the topic. Rummaging through the cabinets of a desk just a short distance away, the woman stops what she had been doing, taking specific interest in the woman’s question. “Why would you say that!?” Reggie whispers, he and Shauna having been tied together, back-to-back.
“I’m tired of not knowing whether I’m gonna die tonight or not” Shauna mutters beneath her breath, the pressure of not knowing perhaps worse than the least-welcomed of the two answers. “Do you want to die?” the thieving woman replies, looking behind her, eyes falling upon the area to which the question originated from, looking for the person in question, finding Shauna’s fixated glare in the sea of nervous heads, picking her out from her peers.
“No, I don’t” Shauna replies, swallowing a wad of spit, beginning to grow more worried than before, the woman in question slowly approaching her. “Why not?” the woman asks, slowly lowering herself into a kneel, looking Shauna in the eyes, loose strands of short, blonde hair covering a single side of her face.
“Because I’m not ready to die” Shauna replies, the answer bringing a loose smile over the blonde woman’s face. Bobbing her head up and down, the woman reaches around her side, just below the flannel shirt she’d recently scavenged from the building, from which she removes her firearm. Eyes widening, Shauna struggles to remain calm, the weapon in hand proceeding to waver in the air, only further striking fear upon the captive woman.
“Charlotte!” one of the infiltrating men calls out, the blonde turning back with a grimace, a single finger being lifted to her slightly-parted lips, demanding he refrain from interjecting himself into her business. “I want a real answer” Charlotte replies, turning back to Shauna, the loosely-held gun being taken full control of, aimed at a blank wall in one moment, finding Shauna’s head in its path the next.
“Why don’t you want to die?” Charlotte asks, challenging Shauna to dig deeper, a gesture which goes ignored at first. Repeating her question, Charlotte readies herself to fire, demanding an answer. “Shauna, answer th-” Reggie begins to shout, immediately finding himself silenced by Charlotte, who fires a bullet just beside his feet. “I don’t need help from the peanut gallery” Charlotte replies, keeping Reggie quiet before pointing the gun back at Shauna, “why don’t you want to die?”
“I’m not ready!” Shauna calls back, watching Charlotte’s finger steady itself on the trigger, implying her answer to not be good enough. “No one’s every truly ready to die, that’s why accidents don’t tend to be purposeful” Charlotte replies, her arm stiffening, “why don’t you want to-”
“Because I haven’t done enough yet!” Shauna shouts, interrupting Charlotte, this time earning silence in return. Squeezing her eyes shut, Shauna awaits for her life to be taken, her rapid breathing remaining for seconds thereafter, still no gunshot to be answered with. Moments passing, Shauna stops being able to hold herself together, briefly opening her eyes and glancing at Charlotte, who lowers her aim on the gun, taking the danger of the situation away for at least a moment.
Her breathing calm, Charlotte looks at Shauna, continuing to stare at the woman as a muffled cry originates from near her foot. Glancing down, Charlotte finds a young woman with her head hung, tears streaming down the girls face, a drastic change in scene from the still-collected Shauna. “You’re not the one with a gun to your head” Charlotte quips, the woman below her slowly looking up, her bloodshot eyes meeting Charlotte for a brief moment.
Puckering her lips, Charlotte gives the woman a nod and raises her weapon again, firing a bullet straight between the eyes of the once tearful survivor. Horrified, various gasps and shrieks emanate from the room, those in the room having been witness to murder done in cold blood. This display only going to prove her ability to kill in the eyes of the incarcerated workers, Charlotte disarms herself and returns to business.
Pressing a few buttons on the tube-television, Charlotte switches the channel to the local news, one story after another flashing by on the screen, showing vulgar displays of unbelievable scenes. Looking back at Shauna, Charlotte feels the silence overwhelm the room, no one wanting to make a sound out of fear that they’d be the next to find themselves gunned down.
“There’s not much else for you, or anyone for that matter, to do anymore” Charlotte replies, readjusting her flannel top as she begins to walk back to the warehouse floor, “I’m not gonna be killing you, I’m gonna be sparing you.” Descending the stairs, Charlotte leaves the huddled workers in shock and awe, having written the workers as being better off dead than left alive to face the world.
Muffled chaos surrounding her in every direction, Jess is guided awake, only partially aware of the gunfire and screams just beyond the limits of her driver’s side door. Peering over her steering wheel, Jess watches a few people stumble their way forward, strolling through the crowded highway in the dead of night as if they were still asleep. Finally realizing what the gunshots indicate, Jess begins to assume the worst, laying into her horn without a care over who she disturbs.
Trying to get the line of vehicles ahead to move, Jess continues to lay into the horn, every car around her refusing to follow Jess’ lead. Within a few seconds, Jess catches the attention of every midnight walker around her, all looking at her vehicle as a dinner bell. Just ahead, the lone stroller begins to turn around, its mouth stained with a deep red color, flesh drained of color, a horrific expression draped across its face.
Disturbed, Jess leans her hand closer towards the door’s handle, the single growl from just beyond the thick panel of glass prompting her to pull away instantly. Guttural moans emanating from the figure’s imposing stature, the corpse just beyond her door plastering itself against her vehicle, staring into her soul through the lone pane of glass. Looking in each direction, Jess notices the increasing number of bodies approaching her car, every door having been blocked by at least one of the sick.
Unsure of how to respond, Jess begins retreating into her seat, trying to maintain as much distance between herself and the corpse as she can. Unable to look away, Jess becomes entranced with the look on the zombie’s face, his red-stained teeth and ghost-white eyes bringing a horror upon her she’d once believed was only possible in movies. Before long, just as Jess begins to consider the few remaining options she has, the end of a stake splits through the corpse’s skull and shatters her window.
Dragging the body out of the now-permanent opening in Jess’ door, the young girl from earlier tells Jess to hurriedly exit her vehicle. With another few shots at the oncoming fleet of the undead, Katie gives Jess an opening no one else had been willing to. “Don’t get bit, don’t get scratched, don’t let them grab you” Katie says, running through the bullet list as if it were muscle memory, a jagged rock being placed in Jessica’s hand.
“What the fuck is happening!?” Jess exclaims, a gunshot ripping through the air just beside her, the gun in question belonging to Troy. “The dead are closing in and we’re running out of time” Troy proceeds to reply, scolded by Katie as soon as he fires the shot. “Save the goddamn ammo!” Katie exclaims, another few shots being fired off before Troy has the chance to respond.
“We’re moving uphill from here, Kat” Troy responds, giving the woman a shrug as he holsters his weapon, “we need all the distance we can get.” Asking why she’s been given a rock, Jess is confronted with the situation in play, broken down as best as Katie can manage. “As we suggested before, think of these things as zombies” Katie explains, forcibly wrapping Jess’ fingers around the stone, “if they get too close, whack ‘em over the head until they stay down.”
Only confronted by more questions, Jess is left to follow the lead of the younger survivors beside her, their feet carrying them back the way they had come, battling an incline in the road as they return southbound. Armed with a pair of baseball bats, Troy and Katie begin to level the field ahead of them, the undead standing in their way brought to a heap immediately.
Doing her best to keep up, Jess begins to feel her feet begin to ache, the shoes she had worn the morning prior to work not ideal for physical labour. Assisted only by the street lights above, Jess continues to do her best to keep up, staying away from the undead at any cost.
Still keeping within shouting distance of the pair ahead of her, Jess’ pace is broken up by a wrong move, the sudden appearance of a zombie forcing her to step aside awkwardly, prompting her to slam against the side of a car. Arms and knees scraped from colliding with the asphalt, Jess turns onto her back and kicks the encroaching undead away before it can grab onto her leg.
In a sudden moment of genius, Jess evades trouble by sliding herself below the vehicle, dragging her back against the asphalt until she reaches the other side. Rock having fallen from her hand, Jess emerges on the other side unarmed, two corpses noticing her instantly. Hearing a whimper from beside her, Jess’ eyes are taken by the open driver’s side window of the car, where an older woman clutches to a wrench, watching the undead approach in hopes she’d not have to use her weapon.
No other choice left, Jess lunges into the driver’s side window and tries desperately to rip the wrench out of the woman’s hand, the only weapon at her disposal being guarded by a frightened elder. Following a brief struggle, Jess manages to pry the tool away from the woman’s arms, allowing her to back away from the vehicle just as the dead close in.
Leaning out of the window in hopes of grabbing at Jess, the older woman falls prey to the predatorial corpse as it catches up, biting into the back of her neck as she dangles out of the open window. To the sound of screams, Jess prepares herself to defend her life, clutching at the wrench as if it were a baseball bat. One of the undead not satisfied with the elderly woman, it instead directs its attention at Jess, a swift shot with the wrench forcing it backwards instantly.
With a crack, Jess hears the bones break and the teeth shatter, the guttural moans from the old woman only adding to the sickening backdrop. With the corpse responsible for her having to switch lanes originally now closing in on Jess, all morals fly out of the window. Swinging back and forth, taking out one corpse after another, Jess downs the lingering threats before taking a final, very swift shot at the old woman’s murderer.
Stopping for a moment to catch her breath, Jess looks down at the old woman’s lifeless corpse in the window and rolls her eyes, unable to stop from blaming herself for the sights on display. With little else, Jess looks into the direction Troy and Katie had been going before glancing back, the direction she was intending to head towards practically calling her name.
After ransacking the elderly lady’s car, Jess removes what she deems necessary and offers an apology for what she’d been the cause of. Slamming the passenger’s side door shut, Jess disembarks the vehicle and begins walking northbound, prepared to take on whatever tries to stop her.
“You planning on voting in November?” Emilio jokes while exiting the front door, joining John on the front step of his home, amusing the former militant. “It’s my duty as an American citizen” John replies, the patriotic answer he’d been used to giving for many things. “Can I count on having your vote?” Emilio continues to joke, seeing where the conversation is led.
“I’ll think about it” John replies, moving aside to allow Emilio room along the bannister, a smile flashed as an offer of reassurance. “You don’t think anyone will be voting in November, do you?” Emilio replies once more, watching John’s head hang, his hands already folded as he leans against the metal railing. “No, I do not” John replies, allowing himself to be honest, his hopes for a future for his children having been dashed in the last twenty-four hours.
“I thought, as a veteran, I’d be clued in on the world going to shit” John explains, having held hope that the regression of circumstance over the prior weeks had been blown out of proportion. “Sensationalization from the media, that was what I thought it was” John explains, shaking his head as the orange bulb arrives over the horizon, “it seems I was wrong.”
A few seconds pass, not a word leaving either mouth until Emilio speaks from his own perspective. “If it makes it any better, I had no idea either” Emilio replies, John continuing to stare off into the distance, only squinting or nodding to whatever Emilio says, “all I was told was, ‘if Washington sees a problem, we’ll let you know’.”
“Washington’s been clueless before, this wouldn’t be the first time they missed something important” John explains, catching his own words, feeling the need to correct himself, “but it might be the last.” Beginning to recount a story about Washington from early in his career, Emilio falls short of the goal upon crackling from within the distance. “What’s that!?” Emilio exclaims in confusion, the rest of the conscious survivors inside the home dashing onto the front lawn.
Unable to truly discern the sounds from what he perceives them to be, John waits a few seconds to listen closer, the nearing sounds suggesting the source to be coming closer. “Gunshots” John mutters beneath his breath, catching only Emilio and Salem’s attention, them being the only people immediately around John. “Those are gunshots, everyone- get in the house!” John exclaims, issuing his commands just as two helicopters fly in from the morning sky.
Leading friends, family and other survivors back within the safeties of the home, John locks the entrance and stands just beyond the door, whispering for Meghan to retrieve his rifle from the bedroom. “Where’s your damn rifle!?” Meghan mutters, directions given just as rubber screeches along the ground outside, the vehicles coming to a stop just beyond John’s front lawn.
“Which house!?” one man calls out, bullets continuing to fly through the air, the sound more startling than anyone other than John had ever heard prior. Retrieving a knife from a hidden slot in a wooden end table, John prepares himself to defend his home and the people inside of it. Shrieking from deep within the home, the children awaken from their sleep and begin racing through the hallway, Tyler running into Janice’s arms, Amy running into John’s.
A set of feet dashing up the front steps of the Callis residence, John is left without a proper means of defense, the front door being beaten by the sole of a boot as Amy wraps herself around her father. With a final push, the armed militant kicks John’s door off two of the three deadbolts, raising a weapon into the air and calling out John’s name.
Dropping his knife, John speaks up, hiding Amy behind him as best as he can. “Come with us sir, right now” the soldier exclaims, not getting his way at first, John demanding to know where he is going. “Come with us, right now!” the soldier shouts again, raising the barrel of his gun towards the man, who instinctively puts one hand up, the other wrapped around his daughter.
“I’ll go, just tell me if it’s safe for my daughter!” John exclaims, luck coming just in the nick of time. “Yes, but you and your daughter only!” a second soldier shouts, this one much more receptive than the first. “Guys, get somewhere safe and secluded!” John exclaims, approaching the soldiers with his arms still raised. Before he can finish, the first soldier takes John by the arm and begins tugging him through the door, ripping him away from the home and leading him to a van.
Taking a momentary glance at the rest of the armed forces, John notices the lack of government symbols on their uniforms, the logos feeling more private and corporatized than militant and federal. Looking out at perhaps a greater concern, John watches the private military begin firing into a crowd of oncoming corpses, bullets penetrating the fleshy bodies of the dead.
Thrown into a van, the soldiers call for the forces to retreat, the order being the final thing heard by John before the door slams shut. “Howdy, Cowboy” a woman’s voice coos from beside John, the man turning towards the woman, finding an unfamiliar face. “You’re even prettier in person” the woman exclaims, playfully flirting with the man, his frenzied rush for answers amusing her.
“Relax and sink into your seat” the woman explains, Amy’s crying keeping him from progressing with the line of questions. “I’m Charlotte Walters” the woman introduces herself, holding out one hand for a handshake that is never reciprocated, “we have a long ride ahead of ourselves, so let’s get acquainted with each other.”
Feeling uncomfortable, John watches Charlotte flash him a smile, her joy in his displeasure and the recently-bandaged gunshot wound on her shoulder something that fails to sit well with him. Pulling her jacket over her arm, Charlotte conceals the gunshot wound and directs the driver forward, pulling her forces away from the neighborhood, getting her journey underway.
“Someone give me a phone number!” Emelio calls out, the home having been abandoned by the militants. Grabbing a marker, Emilio writes down the phone number given by Janice, telling her to keep the phone on her. “Where are you going!?” Lauren chirps as Emilio dashes out of place, the man just insisting the residents trust him. “This could be our ticket out, we can’t lose it!” Emilio exclaims, dashing into the basement and bolting through the backdoor.
Confused, Janice does as she was told, grabbing a charging cord and her phone, keeping it in one of her jacket pockets, giving Emilio the trust he’d requested. “We’ve got problems!” Franklin exclaims from the back of the home, bolting back into the living room, his arm still pressed against his chest, “those things are back!”
Sneaking around the house, Emilio keeps close to the bushes, watching a horde of the undead begin to ascend the hill, one bullet after another ripping through their bodies. Keeping himself hidden, Emilio begins to hurry up to the side of one van in particular, it’s driver’s too preoccupied with the horde to notice. Sliding into the backseat, Emilio lays flat on the floor and keeps himself pressed against the roll cage.
After a few seconds, the militants retreat back to their van, climbing into the front seat and pulling off after the rest of their convoy, completely unaware of Emilio’s presence. The last of the vans pulling off, those now pouring out of the house are left to fend for themselves. Taking the rifle from Meghan’s hands, Salem begins to fire shots out into the horde, picking off a few members whilst directing the rest of the group to scramble.
“My keys!” Meghan shouts from the front seat of her van, the getaway vehicle unable to start without them. “I’ll get ‘em!” Lauren shouts, dashing out of the front seat and directing everyone into the car. Assisting Salem in the defense of the group, a still-wounded Franklin and a healthy Alicia begin charging back towards the horde, survival instinct taking over with each temple they force the tip of a blade into.
Already having trouble with the removal of his weapon, Franklin’s blade soon becomes separated from his hand, the corpse taking it to the ground alongside itself. Defenseless, Franklin begins to push his way through the horde, a gesture Alicia quickly takes notice of. “What are you doing!?” Alicia shouts, continuing to put down one corpse after another, the force-heavy grunts of Franklin serving as little answer.
Firing shots in Franklin’s direction, Salem does what she can to assist in the amputee’s efforts, soon finding the swarm to be too close for comfort. “You’ve gotta go, now!” Salem shouts, climbing off her platform and dashing towards the horde, taking it as her responsibility to protect the man she’d been responsible for handicapping. “I’ll get ‘em back here!” Salem shouts, fighting for her voice to triumph over the whirring helicopters above.
Using the end of the rifle to crack one corpse over the head after another, Salem fights her way up to Franklin, finding Alicia standing right beside him, also helping protect the man. “This way!” Salem shouts, leading the pair back towards the van until a massive explosion above lights the sky on fire. Pushing back, Salem guides Franklin and Alicia further towards the horde as two flaming heaps of metal fall from the sky, crushing the undead and blocking the trio from the rest of the group.
Hit with a wave of heat, Salem, Franklin and Alicia begin battling their way through the horde, trying to get a better vantage point. Unable to cross the wreckage, Salem pushes the group backwards, fighting deeper into the horde, this option now remaining as the only one left.
Emerging from the home, Lauren carries the keys in her hand, the swarm of undead standing in the path between herself and the van. In a moment where everything outside of the screaming children goes silent, Lauren makes the split-second decision to toss the keys into Meghan’s hands. Demanding the woman drive off, Lauren watches the first member of the dead to begin climbing the stairs towards her, this being the sign she needs to retreat back to the home.
Slamming the front door behind her, Lauren closes herself off from the rest of the group, the horde now too close for comfort, forcing Meghan’s hand. Slamming her door shut in frustration, Meghan twists the keys in the ignition and pulls the vehicle out of the driveway, a final press of her horn calling for Salem’s return. Left with no other choice thanks to the wreckage, Meghan calls off the wait for Salem, Franklin and Alicia, pulling out onto the road and moving forward.
“We can’t just leave them!” Bill exclaims, sat in the passenger’s seat, Meghan guaranteeing that to have been the last thing she wanted to do. “The entire road is cut off by those fucking choppers, I had no choice!” Meghan exclaims, tensions riding high as Tyler cries out for his mother’s attention. Normality having fallen in the blink of an eye, the neighborhood exists empty, chaos having been created from peace, survivors being forced to earn such a title rather than it being inherited.
== Rise: Remastered ==
“I’m Tori” a woman’s soft voice says, both hands held in the air one day into the events of the outbreak, dropping the knife in her clutches. “I’m Kelsey” the woman across from her, aiming a handgun at the opposite woman’s chest. “Are you going to shoot me?” Tori asks, the changed expression on the other woman’s face speaking to uncertainty. “I’m not sure yet” Kelsey replies, easing her touch on the trigger, “are you going to give me a reason to shoot you?”
Slowly stepping up, Tori drapes the head of her shoes over the blade she’d allowed to slip from her grasp. With a push, Tori allows the knife to slide across the pavement, skidding along the ground loudly before resting at Kelsey’s boot. “I hope not to have to” Tori replies, her gesture being digested by Kelsey, who remains hesitant.
Stepping over the knife, Kelsey approaches Tori, telling her to turn around and lean over the hood of a nearby vehicle. Doing as instructed, Tori allows Kelsey to pat her down, the firearm-wielding survivor pleased with her findings until stumbling upon the crest of a second blade. Throwing Tori’s shirt up, Kelsey removes a knife tucked behind the woman’s belt loop, immediately thinking the worst.
“Were you planning on keeping this quiet until you got close?” Kelsey asks, holding the knife to Tori’s throat, her other hand continuing to aim the gun. “If I was, I wouldn’t have let you check me” Tori replies calmly, Kelsey’s hesitance only building. “Why didn’t you drop this one too?” Kelsey asks, unsure what answer she’s looking for.
“In order to drop this one, it’d require me reaching behind my back” Tori replies, staring Kelsey in the eyes with a smirk, “that didn’t seem like a good decision.” Snickering at Tori, Kelsey tosses the second blade near the first, backing away from her fellow survivor, gun still pointed. “I’ve given you no reason to fear for your own safety” Tori explains, both hands held in the air, “there aren’t many friendlies out here, have I proven to be one yet?”
Biting the fleshy bit of her lip, Kelsey considers her choices for a brief few seconds, leaving Tori in limbo before lowering her weapon. Noticing this sign, Tori slowly walks up to Kelsey and lowers her hand, introducing herself again, “I’m Tori.” Removing one hand from her weapon, Kelsey extends her non-dominant hand, returning Tori’s gesture. “I’m Kelsey” the second woman replies, no additional words to be had.
As a week and six days pass, Tori and Kelsey maintain cover behind a litany of abandoned cars on the freeway, their focus placed on a conversation shared amongst two men a distance ahead. Splitting apart, the girls cover each side of the road, their footsteps drowned by the sound of undead corpses hitting the ground ahead. “I’m telling you, the place sounds legit” one of the men explain, the girl beginning to overhear the discussion the closer they get.
“If it was built in preparation for all of this, I don’t trust whoever’s in charge” the other man explains, much to the first’s displeasure, “besides, New Jersey’s just too far away.” An eye on Kelsey, Tori gives the nod for their plan to be put into effect, both women emerging from behind cover with guns aimed. “Both of you, on the ground!” Tori calls out, both men startled by this sudden interruption, neither with the firepower to fight off such declarations.
“Okay, okay!” the first man responds, putting both hands in the air and lowering himself to his knees. “You too, big guy!” Kelsey shouts, the second man less agreeable than the first, his eyes darting from one woman to the other, movements appearing more frantic with each second. “Big guy, I said-” Kelsey begins, stopping herself when the man reaches back, the grip of a holstered firearm taken into his palm before a gunshot rings out.
Hitting the man in the back of the shoulder, Tori watches the supposed gunman fall to the side in pain, his friend still knelt on the ground, pleading for the gunfire to cease. “Don’t fire! Jet, get down!” the first man exclaims, the pleas falling on deaf ears, Jet continuing to reach for his gun. Trying to take aim at Kelsey, Jet takes a second slug to the chest, the woman he attempts to aim at beating him to the trigger.
This shot more effective, Kelsey watches the gun fall from Jet’s hands as the bigger man topples back, his elbow shattering through the window of a nearby truck. Once the shattering glass ceases, a distinctive growling sound emerges, the side of the car Jet has fallen into housing a member of the dead. Still tending to his wounds, Jet fails to notice the touch of the corpse on his arm, slinking to the ground slightly before finally spotting the dead.
“Jet, get away!” the second man exclaims, watching the blood pool from his friend’s wounds as he comes to eye-level with the undead. Pushing past her seatbelt, the dead lunges forward, her teeth pressing against the small of Jet’s throat before sinking in, a gnarly bite taken from the man’s flesh, his open wound allowing blood to gush. Putting a bullet in both the undead’s skull and Jet’s own, Kelsey and Tori change course, guiding the second survivor to his feet.
“Grab the pack!” Tori exclaims, running off with the second survivor as Kelsey removes Jet’s bag, following after the duo. Once night falls, Kelsey and Tori stock the chimney of an abandoned home with firewood, the second man’s arms restrained with tape in his lap. “You haven’t spoken much” Tori calls out, her words intended for the other man’s ears, “you have a name?”
His head directed towards the ground, the second man peers at the woman through the corner of his eye. “Mark” the man replies, watching the women continue to load the bricked-off opening. “We heard you and your buddy talking about a camp earlier” Tori explains, taking a seat in an old chair with a box of matches in her hand, “something about a place in New Jersey?”
Scoffing at the women as he shakes his head, Mark keeps himself quiet, this reaction questioned by the women around him. “What’s that reaction for?” Tori asks, upholding the conversation as Kelsey continues to load the pit, remaining quiet on the matter, “we saved your life.”
“You killed my friend!” Mark shouts back, the woman he screams at lifting her hand towards him, a visual reminder for Mark to keep his voice to a minimum. “We gave your friend a chance to put his hands up and leave alive, we only wanted your shit” Tori responds, Mark’s head shaking in disgust. “He made-” Tori begins, her explanation cut off by Mark, who cuts back at the woman with a stern, yet quiet reminder.
“Jet. His name was Jet” Mark replies, the woman obliging. “Okay, fine. Jet made the decision to be stupid” Tori replies, the man shaking his head at the notion, not buying into the story Tori is selling, “Jet made the decision that got Jet killed.” Climbing from her knees, Kelsey backs away from the firepit, exclaiming ‘done’ when finished.
“In due time, you’ll see that” Tori concludes, striking her match and tossing it into the pit whilst maintaining eye contact with Mark, “and you’ll understand my point of view.”
Four weeks and five days into the outbreak, Tori, Kelsey, and Mark emerge from the cover of fauna, three guns aimed at a single man in the forest. “Get down, don’t fight” Tori exclaims, the man rolling his eyes once realizing that he’s become surrounded. “Fuck” the man mutters to himself, throwing his bag to the side whilst placing his hands in the air.
Keeping their weapons placed upon the man, Tori and Mark maintain control whilst Kelsey takes ownership of the discarded bag, ruffling through what’s stored inside. “I’ve been on my own for three weeks” the man explains, disregarding the weapon-bearing survivors as he glances to Kelsey, “running on empty has sorta become a habit at this point.”
With a smile, the man watches Kelsey lower the junk-filled bag to the ground, assuring her fellow survivors that the man has little of use. Thinking amongst themselves for a second, Kelsey proves to be the first to make a move, reaching into her own bag and removing a bottle of water. “What’s your name?” Kelsey asks, the strong-looking man curious to her motives, cooperating with all he’s asked of.
“Br- Brent” the man replies, watching the woman extend her cautious hand towards him, the water within her palm. “Your lips are chapped, Brent” Kelsey replies, her arm mid-stretch, offering a peaceful gesture she expects to be taken, “it sounds like you’re tired of running on empty.”
Six weeks and two days into the outbreak, Tori, Kelsey, Mark and Brent walk the length of the abandoned freeway, a number of days having passed since they’d last heard a noise, a number of weeks having passed since they’d last encountered people. “If more come, keep two paces ahead” Tori exclaims, firing her gun off at stragglers ahead, a few wandering corpses having been separated from a greater group, their attention now falling upon these survivors.
One shot after another putting down corpse after corpse, Tori takes aim at another roamer, steadying her aim as it approaches before freezing. Her finger gently resting upon the trigger, Tori watches this particular corpse stop, looking at the group without a word. Without a word, the entire group looks on at this straggler, confused by her mannerisms, such a display not found amongst the dead.
Lowering her aim slightly, Tori calls out to the woman, a few additional corpses marching a few yards behind her. “Are you alive?” Tori calls out, watching intently with the rest of her group, awaiting an answer. For a reason unbeknownst to the rest of the group, the figure ahead does not respond with words, instead choosing to nod. Looking at Tori, Kelsey considers another question before settling on the obvious, “what’s your name?”
Covered in dirt, the person ahead remains steady, clearly trying to speak without the physical ability to do so. Knowing the effort being put in, Tori approaches, keeping the woman at gunpoint before firing at the corpses behind her. “What’s your name, girl?” Tori asks, the rest of her group quickly catching up, the quivering lip of the poorly-dressed woman meeting her.
Speaking through a scratchy throat, the woman attempts to respond, her words coming out through desperate hushes. “What was it?” Tori asks, the sleeveless shirt and jean shorts the girl wears only made more confusing by the lack of supplies with her, the sight difficult to describe. “Lauren” the woman whispers in a hush just as her legs give out, leaving the woman to fall to the cold asphalt, dependent on the assistance of those around her to save her from the elements.
= Rise: Remastered is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
Stood atop the border wall, John looks out at the growing number of survivors pleading for entry into his community, unable to enjoy the protection of what rests inside whilst the people outside live without it. “I know what that look is for” Jessica mutters, walking through the catwalk-like path towards her husband. “What look?” the man asks, curious as to how the woman had caught up to him, but hesitant to inquire over any such matter.
“The look you gave the kids in Amy’s class that didn’t have money on them for the ice cream truck when it stopped by the playground” Jessica replies, “it’s the same one you’re giving the people outside.” Shrugging off the look as a coincidence, John gives into the honest truth, which Jessica is too chipper to supply. “You can’t just give all these people three bucks like you did all the kids back then” Jessica explains, her husband looking at her with an eyebrow raised.
“You’re guilty about leaving these people out in the cold” Jessica explains, the eyebrow lowering amidst her findings, the truth lying in her words, “I’m worried about what that’s gonna do to you.” Shaking his head, John tries to put his wife’s concerns to bed, Jessica not buying what he says for a moment. “It’s not going to do anything to me” John replies, the hand he stuffs into his pocket beginning to shake behind the denim-compartment, “they’ll get in when Charlotte gives the nod.”
Looking at her husband with a frown, Jessica shakes her head, not saying a word until asked to. “We both know letting people in means less rations overall, and Charlotte isn’t interested in starting war” Jessica replies, her hand running down the small of John’s back, “and as long as she isn’t, your going to spend every day up here, looking at the same people you can’t help.”
Letting out a sigh, John turns to his wife and pulls up a half-hearted smile, appreciating the woman’s words with a nod. “I’ll try not to let it get to me” John responds, unable to bring himself to let the sight of those beyond the walls slip from his mind, each life lost outside carving another talley mark into John’s conscience.
Disappointed, Jessica gently pats her husband on the back and turns away, walking the way she came. Instinctively peering out at the crowd, Jessica catches a glimpse of something familiar, faces she has recognized before jogging their way back into her memory. “John!?” Jess calls out, her husband looking towards her for a moment, hurrying up to her side at the look on her face.
“What’s up?” her husband replies, following the woman’s finger as it points out at the midst of the crowd, “I know them.”
“Everyone move!” a flurry of guards exclaim, aiming at the retreating crowd as Jessica emerges from within, her eyes peering to one particular side. At the front of the row, Troy and Katie’s familiar faces stand out from the rest, the curl of Jessica’s finger guiding them within the walls of the New World Order, much to the dismay of those stranded outside.
“How the hell did you get here!?” Troy calls out, the man having assumed Jess had perished long ago. “I went north, that’s how” Jess replies, both civilians looking towards the woman’s husband, Katie’s eyes glancing down at their matching rings. “The patroller dude is your husband?” Katie wonders aloud, both husband and wife confused by her question.
“The patroller dude?” John replies, eyes squinted and head pulled back as Charlotte approaches. “When did I give clearance to let people in!?” Charlotte exclaims, her question more intended to be answered with an explanation rather than a response. “The wife said she recognized someone, and I do as the wife says” John replies, Charlotte’s eyebrows raising towards him instantly.
“No, you do as I say” Charlotte replies, looking towards Jessica with her arms thrown out, “I don’t remember hiring her to lead my compound.” With a shrug, John ends the discussion there whilst Jess disregards it all together, her attention focused on the pair. “Tell us what you know about the people outside” Jessica asks, peering at Charlotte with a lifted eyebrow, the authoritarian woman crossing her arms with a shrug, giving credit to the woman’s idea.
“They’re hungry, obviously. They know she’s in here, and they’re getting desperate” Troy replies, his eyes peering towards Charlotte when she’s hinted at, “it seems like it’s going to get nasty out there.” Thinking to himself for a moment, John’s attention turns with the rest of the group’s own, eyes falling upon Emilio as he speaks. “Have any of you ever seen the movie ‘Snowpiercer’?” the man asks, not a soul before him speaking up.
“To say a lot with very little, the undesirables fight their way inside a train during the start of another ice age” Emilio explains, his arms folded. “The train is the only lifeline to humanity, and it never stops running. The undesirables are stowed in the back of the train and fed scraps” Emilio continues, the situation eerily similar to their own, “the wealthy and otherwise privileged occupy the rest of the rain. The undesirables attempt to infiltrate the train, and eventually take it over.”
Not fond of what she’s hearing, Charlotte thinks amongst herself as John and Jessica glance in her direction, the metaphorical loaded gun silently aimed at her. With a nod, Charlotte turns back, returning to her warm cabin with her arms still crossed. “Let’s get you some tags” John says, disarming Troy and Katie of their weapons and leading them through the grounds of their new home, a passing glance taken at Jessica as he pushes on.
Unarmed and alone, Jack rests his back against a brick wall, momentarily peering out onto a bigger road before ducking back with each distant gunshot. “Stay back, you fucks!” a man shouts, firing off an additional two rounds, unaware of Jack’s presence as the factory worker sneaks closer to the sounds of his voice. Growling surrounding his every direction, Jack maintains a low profile, the far-off shooter drawing all the attention upon himself.
Sneaking within the shadows, Jack keeps his position quiet, an opportunity presenting itself when a corpse begins stumbling past him. Taking the dead by surprise, Jack pulls the corpse into his alleyway and crushes its skull against a metal drain pipe. Digging through the body’s pockets, Jack finds little of value, pocket change and broken necklace falling between his fingers.
Discarding the body, Jack takes a glance out at the horde, reaching to the ground to pull a broken piece of concrete into his hand. Backing towards the edge of a long peer, Jack finds the unnamed survivor having little room left to maneuver. Finding few openings, the man begins firing additional shots at the undead until his clip runs empty, all options now spent.
Picking his spot, Jack takes the concrete block and hurls it through the shop of a nearby sandwich joint, the windows shattering loud enough to distract the survivor for one second. Finding Jack’s outline, the figure begins to dash towards the man, pushing past other corpse’s on his way to perceived help. Pulling the man to safety, Jack removes the backpack from this survivor’s shoulders as the man thanks him.
“Thank you, kid!” the man shouts to Jack in a breathy tone, holding onto the younger gentleman’s arms as weight is lifted from his back. “Do you have a camp?” the man asks, exhausted and dehydrated, the gun ripped from his hand without an answer from Jack’s lips. Confused, the man looks to Jack, attempting to ask a question before a shot connects below his chin, everything going black for a mere second as he falls to his knees.
His uppercut connecting, Jack pulls the man to his feet and looks him in the eyes, the unknown man dazed and confused. Throwing the bag over his own shoulder, Jack lets the horde catch up before delivering his boot to the man’s midsection, sending the nameless survivor into the grasp of the undead force, disappearing below a sea of hands, blood spewing from beneath the pile of dead mass.
Dashing back the way he came, Jack gives five knocks against a metal door before watching it burst open, Shauna clearing the path for him to return to safe walls. Climbing the stairwell, Jack and Shauna return to an empty office, the man tossing the sack of belongings into the center of the room. “Tell me we got something good” Jack mutters, placing the handgun atop a desk before plummeting into the plushy embrace of a set of couch cushions.
“You get rid of the guy this belonged to?” Reggie asks, he and Tyler closing in on the bag. “I didn't do as much as the horde did” Jack replies, resting up as Shauna hands him a bottle of water. “Thank you, dear” Jack humors, quenching his thirst as packets of perishables, bottles of water, dozens of rounds of ammunition, and other essentials fall from within the burlap sack.
Pleased with their findings, Tyler and Reggie shovel the supplies into piles, bundling them with bigger piles of the same type, stocking up for a long winter. Dousing a rag with some of the water, Jack moistens his forehead, cooling himself off until Tyler raises the obvious question. “How much longer are we supposed to do this?” the man asks, eager to trade in the view of their upper-floor office for the comfort he was led to believe would be found elsewhere.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’ve got somewhere safe to sleep” Tyler explains, his eyes peering towards the stashes of supplies, “but our whole plan was to make it to the New World Order.” Hands on his hips, Reggie takes the onus of answering the question. “The horde outside is still too big” Reggie explains, his arm reaching behind Shauna’s head, holding the woman close, “we barely made it out of the last one. If our theory is right, they should slow down as the temperature drops.”
Hesitant to take the plan at face value, Tyler plays into the suggestion, wishing for it to be followed through. “And if our theory doesn’t prove itself, we’re stuck up here to freeze to death” Tyler replies, his hand waving towards the window, flocks of birds flying south every day, “we can’t battle the cold, and the horde, and a shortage of supplies all at once.”
“Our plan is solid” Shauna quickly tries to argue, the reluctance to give in that Tyler holds made evidently clear. “Nothing is solid, Shauna. We don’t know anything, we’re just hoping that we’re right” Tyler replies, turning his head towards Jack, who begrudgingly removes the rag from his own head, expecting to find himself caught in the crossfire eventually.
“I want to get down to this N.W.O as much as the next guy, but there’s too much dead out there” Jack replies, Tyler’s head dropping as a result, “I’m sorry, but our best hope out of here is when the hordes are weaker.” With a deep sigh, Tyler glances back to Jack, correcting him. “If they’re weaker” Tyler replies, turning back and walking off into the rest of the room, his group left behind, feeling guilty.
Eyelids squeezing themselves together, Lauren feels herself guided out of her slumber, the sensation of a cold rush streaming down her face. Waking up, Lauren rubs at her face gently, her fingers getting in the way of the water running down her face, a rag soon pressing against her skin. “What the-” Lauren begins to groan, pushing herself off a thin mattress before being guided back by Tori, who remains in possession of the soft towel.
“Lay back down and let me wash your face” the woman mutters, looking Lauren in the eyes for a brief second, the dirty survivor taking the advice to heart. “How long have you been on your own?” Tori asks, continuing to gently rub the dirt away from Lauren’s sunburnt skin. “Since the start” Lauren replies, Tori’s hand falling from Lauren’s face, her eyes looking at her with a hint of suspicion.
“I was with my friend’s brother in law and a couple of other people” Lauren explains, her following weeks laid out exactly as they’d happened, “I’m not lying.” Believing the woman’s story, Tori returns to soaking Lauren’s face, the woman’s soft skin caressed by Tori’s thumb, the stains of dirt disappearing to reveal shades of light pink.
“You’ve got a gnarly sunburn, but it’s nothing to worry about” Tori explains, soaking the cloth in a half-filled bucket of water, then returning it to Lauren’s arms, cleaning the dirt from them. “If you would’ve told me this was a bath, I would’ve stripped down” Lauren jokes, Tori’s silence prompting her to assume she had poorly timed the response. “I’ll make sure to tell you next time” Tori replies, catching Lauren off guard before smiling, only adding to the dirty survivor’s surprise.
Just when Lauren was starting to have fun, a rhythmed knock at the cabin door breaks into their tension. “We’re clear” Tori calls out, returning to Lauren’s bath as Kelsey emerges from the outside, a string of fish carried over her shoulder. “We’ve got something to put over the fire” Kelsey mutters, a smile emerging on Tori’s face once the string of fish plops into a separate bucket.
“I see our little friend’s awake” Kelsey says aloud, stopping Lauren from standing up once the attempt is made, “no, no, no. You look like a steamed ham, keep your shoes off and lay down a little.” Obliging, Lauren nuzzles back into the mattress, the feeling of springs digging into her back made bearable by the ability to sleep somewhere other than a mountain of dirt.
“How’d you end up marching with the dead?” Kelsey asks, noting her ability to blend in nearly seamlessly with any other roaming corpse. “I didn’t mean to” Lauren replies, the days prior to her encounter with Kelsey’s people blurring in with each other, “I’d been following the dead since I ran out of water. I figured they’d lead me somewhere worth a damn.”
Nodding to herself, Tori takes a glance at Kelsey, watching the woman think for a moment, Kelsey instinctively turning back to Tori. “Sounds legitimate to me” Tori mutters, the puckered lips Kelsey gives accompanied by a smile. “I’m sure it does” Kelsey replies, crossing her arms as she returns to her bucket of fish, an amused wink given to Lauren from her caretaker once Kelsey’s back has been turned.
Her sharpened fire poker digging into the skull of a walking corpse, Meghan follows after Bill, Janice and Tyler maintaining cover fire from atop a nearby gas station. “There’s a clearance to your left, Bill!” Janice shouts, shooting down a corpse in said direction, leaving the pair a path to the front doors. His fist bashing against the metal frame of the door, Bill waits to hear silence from the other side, disappearing with Meghan within.
Her service done for Meghan and Bill, Janice backs away from the ledge, keeping herself out of view of the dead as she reaches into her pocket. “What’s that for, mom?” Tyler asks, the small black device Janice removes from her pocket appearing more like a toy than anything else. “This is a beeper, honey” Janice replies, pressing her thumb upon a little gray button, triggering a repetitive alarm to emerge from within the device before hurling it down the street.
Janice and Tyler now having left their sight, a distant sound of aggravating noise begins to lead the horde down the street, blissfully unaware of the survivors remaining. Enough time passing, Janice leaps onto the roof of a nearby moving truck, her son leaping into her arms shortly thereafter. “Anything!?” Janice bursts through the door calling out, Bill and Meghan’s rummaging not suggesting wonderful results.
“Not yet, but you’re welcome to help” Bill replies, pulling out desk drawers and file cabinets, all to no avail. “It’s a police station, there’s got to be a talkie or something” Meghan exclaims, shoving multiple file cabinets of her own onto their side, lining them up with the door, blocking the exit. “I’ve got something!” Bill shouts, the group rushing to the second level of the station, soundwaves hitting their ears once they run into range.
“How do I change the frequency of this thing? That’s how you change the channels, right?” Bill asks himself, fumbling with different knobs in search of the right one. Minutes passing before a noticeable change is made, Bill catapults on the opening he’s discovered, pushing a red button near a microphone. “Hello!? Hello!?” Bill exclaims, his finger pulling away from the machine, giving anyone on the other side the option to speak.
Continuing to hear empty static, Bill is pressured into changing the frequency again, turning the knob in each direction, still failing to earn a response from those on the other side. Hours pass, Bill remains sat at the radios, his finger gently rolling the knob in each direction as the group settles in for the night. “We’ve cleared three undead from holding, two actually dead from other offices” Janice declares, the entire building having been ridden of threats.
“If you need us, we’ll be catching some shut-eye in holding” Janice concludes, turning back to the lowest level of the station with her son, Meghan and Bill remaining to oversee contact. Dissatisfied with his lack of response, Bill pushes his chair out and throws his arms into the sky, a groan leaving his throat as the tension eases in his back. “I don’t even know what we’re hoping for anymore” the man mutters, leaving his seat and walking off into the deeper parts of the station.
“We’re still going north, right?” Meghan calls back, following Bill to the backroom, groaning audibly from beyond the filing cabinet-wall Meghan had erected. “Sure, but that still doesn’t say much” Bill replies, pulling a police jacket off a peg in the wall, “Heather and Cam wanted New Hampshire, you want Maine, and Janice wants Canada” Bill explains, his arms thrown out at his sides, “we want to go up, but none of us can agree on how far up.”
Laying out on a cot, Bill folds his hands atop his chest and shuts his eyes, continuing to answer the woman who’d accompanied him. “Why does it matter?” Meghan responds, leant against a nearby sink, her hands pressed against the lip of the counter, “why don’t we keep going until we find somewhere secluded?”
Wriggling into a comfortable position, Bill rolls his eyes behind his eyelids. “We’ve passed eight big plots of land in the last three weeks” Bill replies, nearly chuckling att himself, “none of those were good enough, why will the next one be?” Failing to see his point, Meghan continues to argue what’s being left undisputed. “We won’t have room for being picky soon enough” Meghan answers, hearing the sigh that leaves Bill’s mouth, “we screwed ourselves passing those up, we know that now.”
“Meghan, I’m not arguing that we haven’t learned our lesson” Bill explains, eyes still shut, hands still folded, “I’m pointing out that we don’t have direction, and that’s gotten us in more than a few problems.” Agreeing, Meghan fails to give up her hold on optimism. “There are a few plots of land, private beaches, along the coastline” Meghan explains, a more audible sigh now leaving Bill, “we’re a day’s walk away, we can be there by sundown tomorrow.”
Smacking the mattress he lays atop, Bill gives up on the idea of getting sleep, marching out of the room, only growing more annoyed with the persistence of Meghan’s footsteps. “Fine, I’ll cave. What’s your plan?” Meghan questions, the legs on the man ahead of her beginning to slow. Hands on his hips, Bill posits the question, turning back to Meghan when he’s found an answer.
“I’ve got family down south, not too far. Somewhere around Delaware” Bill explains, a smile appearing alongside a nod, “that’s the plan I prefer.” Her eyes showing compassion, Meghan watches Bill turn back, his newfound energy to debate opinion giving him the room to return to the radio.
“Come in!” Charlotte exclaims, the knocks at her door originating from John’s hand, the woman intrigued by the man’s frame entering her home. “Welcome to my residency, Cowboy” Charlotte remarks, a hint of cockiness carried with her greeting, “to what do I owe the pleasure?” Shutting the door behind himself, John removes his firearms and places them atop a table, his stroll taking him to the table, where he occupies the seat opposite his boss.
“I think you should go back about business as usual” John replies, Charlotte’s laughter anything but infectious. “That’s like the inmates telling the guards, ‘yeah, go home. Us, the prisoners, can take it from here” Charlotte replies, shaking her head at such an idea, “nice try, come back with that thought when it’s more convincing.” The temple tips of her glasses falling over the bridges of her ears, Charlotte looks down at loose papers, check marks placed in random boxes.
“This is about keeping you alive, not kicking you out” John responds, the pen hanging tightly in the woman’s hand, her grip only loosening when he follows his prior assertion. “The people out there may not realize it, but you and I both do” John explains, watching the tip of the pen wave through the air slower with every word he speaks, finally coming to a stop.
“The people out there seem to have the idea that taking you out will help them take this place over” John explains, the greater picture blind to those beyond the walls, but resoundingly clear to those within, “little do they know, taking you out kills everything you’ve spent the last however many years crafting.”
Finding the same point as John, Charlotte subtly removes her glasses and rests them upon the table, the cap removed from the end of her pen, returning to its tip. “You’re saying this is about me, not about you?” Charlotte replies, her eyes still placed upon the pen, which she now holds between both hands. “This is about what you built, Charlotte” John replies, the woman finally looking up at him, “everything crumbles when you do, including me.”
Seeing the man’s point, Charlotte pulls back in her seat, her arms clasping together atop her papers. “So, you’re saying I get to choose between tempting death, and leaving the keys to the castle in your hands?” Charlotte asks, laughing when John meets her with silence, her head shaking as her eyes trail off, “oh, how cruel this fucking world is.”
Both hands in the air, John concludes his peace, volunteering to leave her with her thoughts. Weighing her choices, Charlotte struggles to keep her words to herself, this inner battle allowing her less-preferred choice to emerge victorious. “Wait!” Charlotte calls back, watching John begin for the door, his head glancing back to her, noticing this conflict.
“Why is this difficult for you?” John asks, not allowing the woman to speak her mind at first, feeling a moment where honesty can prevail between the two. “What do you mean?” Charlotte asks, her mind having been so wrapped around her original response that a second question phases her. “You put me in charge” John explains, the woman’s head falling, lips puckered as she begins to sense another question coming, “why are you so hesitant to let me lead?”
Gritting her teeth, Charlotte leaves her chair and walks into her kitchen, a stroll John follows her through. “You weren’t my first choice to lead this camp” Charlotte explains, John having assumed as much in recent weeks, “however, of the choices that I had remaining, you were the one I felt I could trust most.” Confused, John challenges the thought, bringing forth the obvious.
“You figured I was the most trustworthy, but you don’t trust me. How does that work?” the man wonders, watching the woman pour water from a hot kettle, a teabag lowered into her mug. “I needed someone that understood the principle of ‘watch my back, I’ll watch yours’” Charlotte replies, pressing the small of her back against the counter, her eyes locking onto John’s, “Most trustworthy doesn’t mean ‘I trust you’, it means ‘I trust you more than the other choices I had’.”
As John settles himself with this new piece of information, Charlotte places another burden on the man’s shoulders, one less genuine than what came before it. “Plus, I needed someone with experience in the military” Charlotte replies, that alone not risky enough to rub John the wrong way. “So you went out of your way to find a repatriated veteran in Connecticut to look over a compound in New York?” John replies, the woman’s smile beginning to form, “you couldn’t find someone closer?”
Biting into her lip, Charlotte’s smile becomes more menacing, less authentic and more deviated, her shoulders doing a little dance. “Not one with a family” Charlotte replies, the response confusing John at first, his face slowly changing to represent the new revelation. “You needed someone with skin in the game” John replies, the woman’s sadistic laugh answering him.
“I’m really glad you’re a smart one, Cowboy” Charlotte replies, turning her attention to the bag of tea in her cup, “since your family’s here, you’ve got incentive to keep the walls standing.” His eyes rolling, John turns around, laying his eyes on the door before glancing at his weapon-clad table, sinister thoughts beginning to form in his mind.
“Let my walls fall, and the mob gets your family, the dead get your family, or I do” Charlotte continues, unaware of John’s slow march towards the front of the home. “So bringing my wife back wasn’t done out of the kindness of your heart, I assume?” John replies, his voice noticeably distant, something both he and Charlotte recognize. “The point is, I kept my word” Charlotte replies, her hand reaching for a drawer, subtly pulling it free, “we both got what we wanted.”
Quick on his feet, John repositions himself, answering the woman’s claims in the same manner as he had been. “No, you got a pawn to use at your whim” John replies, looking over his shoulder at Charlotte’s slow mannerisms, picking up on the escalated tensions, “I got blackmailed.” Chuckling to herself, Charlotte reaches into the compartment, her fingers wrapping around the grip of a handgun.
“You have a home, more power than you’ve ever had in your life, and a world to raise your kid in” Charlotte continues, removing the weapon from the drawer, “you call it blackmail, I call it heaven.” Spinning around, Charlotte aims her gun towards the door, expecting to find her aim taken upon John, only for surprise to consume her, the man’s frame leant against the home’s support column beside her kitchen entry, just to the side of the gun’s barrel.
“What’s that for?” John asks, his voice confident and without fear, arms crossed, awaiting an answer. Mouth agape, Charlotte glances between John and the door, still aiming her gun before deciding otherwise. “I- I don’t-” Charlotte stumbles, returning the gun to its original place, shoving its compartment shut. “If you were to ask me, I’d say you’ve got trust issues” John remarks, his statement at first being taken as a joke, prompting him to double down.
“Seriously, I don’t know what it is, but you seem to have the wrong impression of me” John explains, weaponizing the woman’s own self-doubt against her. “I’m very happy with the sanctuary I have here, I just don’t like the terms that make it possible” John explains, his confident look turning into one of discontent. Letting silence surround them, John plays the card stuffed up his sleeve, his opportunity ripe for the picking.
“Maybe your lack of trust in me isn’t my fault as much as it is yours” John explains, leaving the wall and approaching a silenced Charlotte, looking her in the eyes, “if you chose me to lead, let me lead.” Her eyes taken by the imposing frame before her, Charlotte pulls herself out of a brief fascination, taking the tea into her hand and returning to her table with a request for John’s departure, not another word to follow.
“Please leave, I have work to get to” Charlotte concludes, her attention turned away from John, who stares at her for a moment before obliging. Exiting the home, John purposefully appears to forget his weapons, only returning for them as he’s halfway out of the door. Without another soul around, Charlotte drops her pen and stares off at the depths of her home, thinking about the interaction, and considering her options past that.
“Don’t jump” Jack quips, entering one of the floor’s back rooms, seeing Tyler sit on the fire escape, occupying one side of the staircase. “Don’t push me” Tyler jokes back, making room for Jack on the stair, their shoulders pressed together, both men having a view of lower Manhattan across the Hudson. “Look at how dark the city is” Jack mumbles, the sun beginning to make its final descent past the horizon, dipping below the skyline to turn the world dark.
“I sit out here for a few minutes every night, right around this time” Tyler replies, his voice carrying the weight of awe, “it never gets any less insane.” A breathy laugh leaving his lungs, Jack begins to recall his past life as silence begins to persist, the street lights below as powerless as the grid they’re managed by. “I used to take the metro out there every weekend after work, get off on Broadway and Isham” Jack recalls aloud, Tyler’s attention solely belonging to him.
“Suzie and Christopher lived a few blocks off, just along Post Ave” Jack continues, feeling a knot begin to form in his chest, the words he wishes to use having a hard time leaving his mouth. “We’d go to a little shop two streets down, Havana’s Taco’s” Jack summons the memories of, a smile peering through his lips, “that was the plan, every single week, and we never once questioned it.”
With a huff, Jack’s fonder memories cease, reality setting in, matching the attitude of the city presented to them, cold and lifeless. “You never did say what happened between you two” Tyler interjects, his curiosity beginning to wander, Jack’s half-hearted smile answering. “You don’t have to, I j-” Tyler says, stopped by Jack’s sudden response, the man beginning to feel as though the answers he accepts in his head are better off spoken aloud.
“She found someone better” Jack replies, looking at Tyler, his eyes beginning to water, hands tucked away in the pockets of his coat, “kicked me to the side, never once questioned it.” Licking his lips, Jack lets his breath cloud the air, feeling the need to return inside as the chill picks up.
Returning to the building, Jack takes himself back to the rest of the group, his attention promptly called back for. “I’d be dead if it weren’t for you” Tyler mutters aloud, his words bringing Jack’s head around, “Reggie said it himself. He wanted to call it, but you kept trying to bring me back.” Intending to discredit himself, Jack’s efforts are quashed where they are presented, Tyler remaining adamant Jack is recognized for what he’s done.
“You saved my life. You did. I wouldn’t be looking at that city if it weren’t for you” Tyler explains, Jack’s head dropping, the credit too much for him to accept graciously, “I’m here because of you, and come to think of it, Reggie is, too.” Without the words to answer with, Jack watches Tyler re-enter the room, shutting the window behind him. “I trust whatever your call is” Tyler explains, his hat placed in Jack’s corner, “if your call is to wait for the cold to take over, I’m in.”
A pat on the back given, Tyler departs, walking off with the conversation in his possession, the last word left as is. Watching Tyler turn the corner, Jack looks to the skies with a chuckle, his shoulders shrugging as he seemingly accepts his role in the group.
Rubbing at his eyes, Bill begins to fall into the clutches of sleep, his head finding comfort in the cold desktop. “Yeah, I’m here” Bill mutters to himself, partially asleep whilst also being partly conscious, his attention stirring. “Can you hear me? Please respond?” an indistinct voice asks, Bill’s answer from before repeating, “Yeah, I’m here.”
“Hello!? Can anyone hear me?” the voice asks again, desperately hoping for an answer, the question finally bringing Bill out of his half-slumber, “Please, if you can, respond!” Wiping the drool from his chin, Bill leans back in his chair, the disgust he feels in himself slowly subsiding, his mind gradually becoming more aware of the changed pitch in static.
“Hello!?” the voice calls out again, this time earning Bill’s attention, his mind unsure of how to respond at first, his rush to engage in conversation emerging. “Can anyone hear me!?” the voice cries out, Bill’s shouts and rapid movements waking the rest of the station. “Yes, Yes! I can hear you!” the man shouts, forcing his thumb against the red button, begging for those on the other end to respond.
“What are y-?” Meghan begins to ask, pulled out of her sleep in the next room over, immediately noticing what’s occurring when her eyes fall upon a frantic Bill. “Hello, are you there!?” Bill shouts, still going without an answer from the other end, a faint shake of the ground beginning to occur. “Earthquake!” Janice shouts from the lower level, her son carried through the door and up the stairs.
“Come in, do you read me!?” Bill shouts, the shaking of the ground only growing in violence, a noise emerging from the distance, something unexplainable to those in the station. “I read you, I read you!” the man on the other end of the line replies, “this is Captain Eric Waynes, Elkwood Flight 488!” His eyes wide, Bill reacts on his first thought, informing the pilot of the unstable conditions below.
“I believe we’re experiencing an earthquake, bear with us!” Bill calls out, wishing to explain any failed connection between the two, the answer he gets back only serving to chill him to the bones. “No, that’s us!” the pilot calls back, his frantic voice suggesting something seriously wrong, “we’re experiencing engine failure, and- Oh god!”
The feed cutting out, Bill tries achingly to establish a response, the rattling of the floor now becoming too much to withstand. “Captain, do you hear me!?” Bill shouts, his radio beginning to shake back and forth, threatening to come down on the man. “Captain, do you-” Bill exclaims again, his name screamed for by Meghan, her interruption preceding the wrapping of her arms around his body.
Pulling herself back, Meghan rips Bill away from the table he’d once sat atop, the massive stereo-like structures controlling the radio pushing themselves over, inches away from crushing Bill below them. “How did-!?” Bill questions, his wondering put on hold as Meghan takes him by the hand, leading him to the lower level, where Janice and Tyler pull the filing cabinets away from their exit.
Dashing through the front doors, the group emerge onto the streets, the dead that surround taking interest in them immediately. “Where do we go now!?” Meghan exclaims, the rumbling ground knowing over both themselves and the dead their safety is threatened by. The first to stand, Bill removes a hunting knife from a pouch in his pocket, digging into whatever rot comes across his way.
Clearing a spot in the middle of the road, Bill looks off in the near distance, his eyes widening as the shocking sight he witnesses closes in. “Duck!” Bill screams, breaking from his spell for a moment to turn back, warning his group a moment too late. Their feet swept out from beneath them, a thunderous sound crater rips through the air, the back wheels of a plane zipping through the low skies, its momentum lifting Bill off his feet, violently hurling him down the road.
Their ears ringing, Meghan, Janice and Tyler are forced to watch the plane descend, unable to stand without being thrown down. In seconds, the metal frame rips apart, holes gash in the passenger airliner, whatever existed within them now filled with scorching flames. In due time, the entire plane is engulfed in flames, replaced with a plume of smoke, the midnight sky replaced with a horrifyingly deep orange tint.
Cut and bruised, Meghan pushes herself up, reaching over to Janice and Tyler, patting them on the shoulder to appear friendly, her hearing so demolished that she fails to hear her own words. Helping the pair to their feet, Meghan carries the mother and son to a car, stuffing them in the backseat whilst telling them to stay low, every window having been blown out.
The only thing clear to her being the violent ringing encompassing her every thought, Meghan removes her fire poker from within her belt, her sights set upon finding Bill. The dead now beginning to rise, Meghan puts down one corpse after another, still unable to hear their insatiable groans, every inch of her surroundings now a threat to her life.
Breaking out into a sprint, Meghan slashes at any corpse that comes within her path, multiple blocks covered in her travels, still unable to find Bill. Gasping for air, her cardio barely improved upon from the initial days of the outbreak, Meghan begins to realize what mess she’s found herself in, the dead only increasing with each minute they have to regroup.
Considering Bill lost, Meghan takes a three hundred and sixty degree turn, looking at every corpse in her way before mistakenly stumbling upon a peculiar sight. Violent slamming its palm against a car door, a heavily-scraped hand emerges from beneath a car, desperately begging for Meghan’s attention. Having lucked out, Meghan digs her weapon into a few corpses before making a rush for the vehicle, Bill’s skinless arm taken into her grasp, pried out from below the wreckage.
Pulling Bill’s arm over her own, Meghan glances back at the undead, unsure of what to do next. Resting Bill against a heavily-damaged vehicle, Meghan rushes into the sea of the dead, her fire poker raised at one corpse in particular. In a moment of hesitation, Meghan watches the head she had targeted combust in front of her, the body dropping to the ground, giving her the ability to watch Janice dash down the street, a handgun wielded in her right hand, Tyler carried on her back.
Tucking away her gun, Janice removes her rifle from her shoulder, wielding it like a bat and aiming for the fences, brains splattered as if they were home run shots. Still unable to hear, Janice leads Meghan down the street, Bill’s carved arm draped over her shoulder, their legs carrying them off in the direction of the scorched bird.
“Yo, Cowboy” Charlotte calls out with a whistle, the man turning back from his post atop the wall, eyes squinting at her luggage-packed figure. Climbing down, John approaches the woman with a confused look, curious as to the reason behind her appearance. “If I so much as smell a plot cooking between you and anyone here, I will personally roast your testicles over an open fire and serve them to the people beyond the walls” Charlotte explains, her personal way of announcing her departure.
“So, you’re actually going to leave?” John replies, clarifying such matters for his own certainty, “any reason as to why?” Not taking glee in having to admit her shortcomings, Charlotte explains as if John were five. “In order to know I can trust you, I need to see what you do on your own” Charlotte replies, tightening the strap on her over-the-shoulder bag.
The walls parting to allow Tom’s car to enter the grounds, Charlotte takes the moment to leave her departing words with the man beside her. “I’m not the most likable person, Cowboy. I’ve had rebels try to take what’s mine already, and they weren’t very successful” Charlotte explains, backing up to her car with a smile. “Do yourself a favor, Callis” Charlotte decries, opening the backseat, setting one foot inside, “learn from history, and don’t let it repeat itself.”
His chin lifting, John watches Charlotte sink into her car, the door slamming shut behind her as the car repositions itself. The wall parting, a line of guards take aim at the crowd, allowing the car to veer off into the night, chased by a handful of the less fortunate. “Move back” the guard orders, his militants falling back, their guns still aimed at those outside.
“When we-” the lead guard begins, his commands interrupted by a gunshot, the bullet ripping through his skull, spilling his brains in the sand and leaving his body limp. “Who was th-!?” a second guard shouts, suffering the same fate, this time piercing through the throat with a second slug. Without a leader, the militants take aim at random civilians, this display quickly being noticed by John, who rushes out to the front line.
Removing his gun from his holster, John takes aim at one man, a revolver clutched within his hands as he hides within the crowd. The pull of the trigger sending a bullet directly through the gun’s right eye, John orders the soldiers back inside, hurrying back himself as the crowd begins to storm the walls. Closing up in the nick of time, the crowd begins to pound at the metal-plated entrance, some begging to be let inside whilst others threaten death upon leadership.
Rushing after the man, Jess and Emilio check on John’s well-being, his perfect health bringing reassurance upon the concerned civilians. “Did they shoot at you!?” Jess exclaims, her husband having to correct the question. “They’re getting tired of waiting out there, it’s gonna get uglier in time” John explains, an immediate question being brought over the man in the back.
“So what are we gonna do about it?” Emilio questions, both John and Jess looking back to him with puzzled expressions. “What do we do about it?” Jess asks, her eyes falling upon her husband’s, John’s confidence in his answer made by the seeming support of the two beside him. “We keep playing along, I suppose” John replies, looking to Emilio, whose smile is accompanied with a satisfied and approving nod, “and when the time’s right, we take this place over.”
== Rise: Remastered ==
Twenty-four hours having passed since she’d last encountered her closest friends, or contacted her relatives, Lauren emerges from the Callis’ master bedroom, entering an empty living room. With a sigh, Lauren turns to the kitchen, preparing herself breakfast, helping herself to what remains in the still-powered fridge. Sat at the counter, Lauren stares into her ceramic bowl, a carton of milk in her left hand, a box of cereal in her right, a sorrowful expression worn.
Forty-eight hours having passed, Lauren sits at the counter, again plunging her bent spoon into the milk-filled ceramic bowl. Advancing to the counter, Lauren removes her phone from the outlet-inhabiting plug, running through her contact list before pressing the phone to her ear, answered with the same disconnected buzz.
Seventy-two hours on her own, Lauren powers on the television, finding herself running through the same routine, each morning mirroring the last. Met with a disrupted signal, Lauren walks away, leaving the blue screen behind and throwing on a light jacket. Emerging from the home, Lauren looks out at the baron street, a charred hunk of metal cutting her off from the street connecting to what resides downtown.
Ninety-six hours in, the sunny morning has turned into a cloudy, rainstorm-clad environment, the ground soaked in multiple inches of water. Descending the staircase, Lauren hurries to the nearest abandoned home, a gentle tap at the door answered by nothing. Waiting a few moments, the girl takes her shoulder to the door swiftly, pushing it in with ease, emerging into the main foyer.
One hundred and twenty hours in, the bright morning lets Lauren enter the abandoned home with ease, her feet carrying her up the stairs as if the property belonged to her. Advancing to the basement, Lauren walks around the deceased corpse and severed arm, pulling a box of laundry detergent and dryer sheets into her arms. Satisfied, Lauren departs the home and returns the way she arrived.
One hundred and forty-four hours in, Lauren removes herself from the neighboring home once more, her body freezes when she arrives at the top step. Through the blinds of the former Callis home, Lauren spots a figure traversing the living room, quickly dashing through the space. Taking in a heavy breath, Lauren lets the stuffed animal she had entered the home for fall to the ground, a small kitchen knife being removed from her pocket, her intentions set in stone.
One hundred and sixty-eight hours in, Lauren drags a trash bag full of loose parts down the front steps of the home, a trail of blood left behind. Spraying down the concrete stairs with a hose, Lauren watches the blood trail off with the water, the bright red liquid running into the soil just beside the staircase, disappearing into the dirt. Turning off the hose, Lauren drops the utility to the ground and enters her home once more, locking the door behind herself.
One week and one day in, Lauren takes her seat at the kitchen counter again, pouring the carton of milk atop her cereal just as before, a clump squeezing through the opening. Face scrunching up after taking a whiff of the carton, Lauren tosses the milk in the bin, emptying the bowl by dumping its contents in the trash.
One week and two days in, Lauren continues to press her ear to the phone, hoping for any response other than the same dull tone she’d become accustomed to. Her prayers coming up unanswered, Lauren lets her phone rest atop the marble counter once more, both hands covering her face as reality continues to seep in.
One week and three days in, Lauren exits the home and makes her way towards the neighboring home, discarding the bag of trash she carries into one of the holes in the helicopter. Rummaging through the neighboring fridge, Lauren finds most items to have gone bad, a few canned food items in pantries the only thing presenting itself as digestible.
One week and four days in, Lauren sits upon the couch she’s now claimed as her own, a bowl of tomato soup in her arms, her eyes fixated on the unresponsive, blue screen on the television. Sipping at the steamy contents in her spoon, Lauren hopes for a feed from any news network to interrupt her diner, her hopes, again, unanswered.
One week and five days in, Lauren sits by the window, her chin pressed against her folded arms, eyes set on the street below, waiting to find someone. No longer caring whether or not it’s the return of her friend’s, Lauren just wishes for the arrival of someone, a soul as alive as her own.
One week and six days in, Lauren continues to hear the empty buzz emerge through her phone, hopes draining with each failed attempt. Slowly setting the phone back atop the counter, Lauren stands with her hands folded, looking at a blank wall aimlessly, thinking of filler thoughts to pass the time.
Two weeks in, Lauren runs a stick of glue over the edges of multiple sheets of paper, bringing them together to create a large canvas in the middle of the living room. Taking dark-colored markers and crayons over the combined sheets of paper, Lauren scrawls atop the paper, her teeth sinking into her bottom lip. Folding the collection of paper, Lauren leans the makeshift-banner between a bookshelf and the wall, hoping not to require it.
Two weeks and one day in, Lauren eats a packet of tuna fish atop the kitchen counter, all the dishes she could have used now collected in the sink, dirtied. Legs crossed, Lauren basques in the silence, humming along to the songs playing in her head, shoulders jutting out to the imagined rhythm.
Two weeks and two days in, Lauren meets with the horrid buzzing on the other end of her phone again, moving on with her day. Consuming her canned breakfast, tuning into the blue screen on her television, and waiting for the lack of motion beyond the walls of the home, Lauren begins finding herself glancing at the folded banner more.
Two weeks and three days in, Lauren ransacks every neighboring home in the area, taking with her supplies and perishables, medical equipment and all. Stuffing her bag to the brim, Lauren returns to the Callis home, both straps pulled over her shoulders, her backup plans put in place.
Two weeks and four days in, Lauren’s head perks up at the sight of movement from behind the curtains. Wandering through the neighborhood, a young man begins running through each home, the bag by his side filling slowly with each exit. Entering the Callis’ home, the boy lifts his arms the moment Lauren’s blade touches his throat. “I just wanted to look for supplies and go on my way” the boy explains, looking Lauren in the eyes, the fear he is consumed by measuring off the charts.
Two weeks and five days in, Lauren sits on the opposite side of the room as the man, their interactions being few and far between. “Where do you come from, Haynes?” Lauren asks in a quiet tone. “Litchfield” Haynes replies, his answer met with a nod, their interactions brief.
Two weeks and six days in, Lauren awakens in the middle of the night, the sound of ruffling beside her concerning. Haynes’ weight crashing into her, Lauren feels the man’s fingers cover her mouth, the waistband on her pants being tugged at with a tight grip. “Don’t struggle” haynes mutters, his demands being met with obedience, Lauren’s hand only moving to her pillow’s side. Pulling down his own pants, Haynes groans at the piercing sensation of a jagged blade plunging into his side.
Three weeks in, Lauren drags a trashback through the main foyer and down the concrete stairs outside, another trail of blood left behind. Dumping the contents into the helicopter’s wreckage, Lauren reaches for the hose and twists the nozzle, a sad stream of water trickling out of the head before slowing to a pathetic few drops.
Three weeks and one day in, Lauren climbs into the downed bird and puts a blade into the skull of the undead pilot. Taking with her his helmet, Lauren rips the name tag off of the body, reading the name ‘Aaron’ aloud. Climbing into the other downed bird, Lauren finds the front seat empty, not a single soul aboard what was presumably a manned helicopter.
Three weeks and two days in, Lauren retrieves her phone and dials the first number on her contact list. Awaiting the dreaded buzz, Lauren is met with total silence, not a single sound emerging from the other end. Pulling her phone away, Lauren looks at the screen, a ‘no service’ icon meeting her at the top of the screen. Enraged, Lauren begins to lose the last shred of civility she once had, letting out a roaring scream before hurling her phone at the wall.
Three weeks and three days in, Lauren sits atop the couch, legs folded and arms dropped in her lap. Thinking of her next steps, Lauren throws herself off the couch the moment an eruption occurs in a neighboring yard. The night burning bright, Lauren looks out at the darkened street, a ball of flames shooting out of a hole in the ground, burning the grass around every edge.
Three weeks and four days in, Lauren removes the banner from its stored area, a box of nails and a hammer in hand. Descending a ladder in the front yard, Lauren takes a couple steps back, marveling at her work. With a nod, Lauren begins noticing the groans of the undead, a fleet of corpses marching towards the source of the blast. Unphased, Lauren returns to the inside of the home.
Three weeks and five days in, Lauren sits at the window, watching the flames shoot out of the ground, burning each corpse that stumbles into it alive, trapping them within the pit. Instinctively meeting this sight with a smile, Lauren rests her chin atop her folded arms, her entertainment for the day provided by the never-ending horde.
Three weeks and six days in, Lauren watches the falling rain put out the burning crevasse in the earth, drowning the hole and the damned souls trapped within it. As the storm passes, Lauren emerges from the home, rain still falling upon her as the horde clears. Looking into the water-filled pit, Lauren looks below the surface, the burnt bodies at the bottom still reaching their charred arms towards the surface, their melted skin having become one with the elements at the bottom.
Four weeks in, Lauren pulls the backpack over her shoulders, a winter coat carried by her side, a light jacket adorned upon her torso. Exiting the Callis home, Lauren salutes the building she’d spent the last month within, departing the neighborhood in the direction the New World Order vans had taken. The charred helicopters, the flooded crevasse, the supply-depleted home, and a banner reading ‘thirty days in, I’m done waiting. - Lauren’ left behind, Lauren enters the new world.
= Rise: Remastered is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
His elbow slamming through the window of a rundown sedan, Jack forces a dull blade against the head of a corpse, a few shots taken before finally getting the edge through the skull. “You need a new knife, homie” Reggie jokes from behind, the struggle something commonly found on their travels. “You joke around, but all bets are off when I find a blade sharpener” Jack quips back, reaching into the passenger’s seat, a few items left behind.
“We’ve got a few cans, I’m sure they’ll find use” Jack calls back, tossing various containers into Shauna’s bag. “I need to take a minute” Tyler mutters, his left arm draped over Reggie’s shoulder, the strength not having fully returned to his body. Sorely lowering himself against the back wheel of the car, Tyler meets with the ground and takes a sigh of relief, the tension in his legs easing.
Catching his breath, Tyler graciously accepts a bottle of water from Jack’s hands, leaving Shauna to continue the group’s search. “Thanks for looking out for me” Tyler mutters, a knelt-Jack gently patting the man on the shoulder. “Like I said, we don’t give up on each other” Jack replies, listening to the shattered glass in the background, the sound of a call for his assistance.
With ease, Shauna buries a wooden stake through an undead skull, taking a holstered firearm and two clips of ammunition off the body. “This one seems like a prepper” Shauna calls back, Jack immediately removing the crowbar from his bag. Tapping against the trunk, Jack listens to the silence before declaring it safe, the edge of his tool propping itself within the slot before tearing open the compartment.
Flinging up, the trunk opens to reveal a camping bag full of supplies, multiple items of food and other medical equipment scattered around it. With a smile on his face, Jack makes room for Shauna to step beside him, her reaction expressed with similar glee. “Let’s find ourselves a spot in the woods to camp out” Jack calls back, removing the duffle bag from the trunk, holding it within eyesight of Reggie and Tyler, “we’ve got something worth settling in for.”
A small, well-concealed campfire dug into the dirt, Jack and his group indulge in a thoroughly-cooked meal for the first time since the onset of the apocalypse. “What’re you lookin’ at, Jack?” Reggie asks, stirring the soup in his can with a silverware spoon. Turning the map towards Reggie, Jack offers the man his answer without needing a word, returning to his reading.
“How close are we now?” Tyler asks, the map-wielding man thinking for a moment, his eyes running over dotted lines and deep markings. “We should be a mile and a half from the Holland Tunnel” Jack replies, his finger trailing south, landing upon his preferred route as he licks his lips, “we’d be better off crossing the rail bridge over Newark bridge after a bit longer.”
His guidance having gotten them this far, the group goes along with whatever Jack plans, the ‘Guide to the New World Order’ marking at the top of his map declarative of the intended destination. “I think it’s time for me to hit the pillow” Reggie exclaims, hoisting a towel-filled backpack above his head triumphantly before walking off into the night.
Agreeing to do the same, Tyler pushes himself to his feet and staggers away from the campfire, a blanket dragged along the ground beside him. “G’night, Ty” Jack calls out, left to himself once Shauna gets up, preparing to join her boyfriend a short distance away. Head leant against a sloped tree, Jack looks into the starry night, the air beginning to grow colder with each passing day, their hope being to find the New World Order before the snow begins to fall.
Minutes turn into hours, and Jack remains awake, his attention given to any unexplainable noise within the night. The fire concealed well-enough to hide any orange flames, Jack watches smoke rise from the hole, the only thing worth watching. Unfolding his hands, Jack takes down the rest of his dinner from what is now the night prior, not paying any mind to its now-cold contents.
The sun begins to rise, Jack watches Tyler’s shadowy figure stumble towards the campsite, joining Jack at the center. “How’d you sleep?” Tyler asks, the chuckle coming from Jack not matching the man’s answer. “Like a baby” Jack replies, the look Tyler responds with showing no believability. “You didn’t sleep at all, did you?” Tyler asks, lowering himself against the fallen tree he’d sat beside the night prior.
“Like I said” Jack replies, leaning over to hand the man the closest thing to a cup of coffee he can offer, “I slept like a baby.” Blowing on his drink, Tyler lifts and lowers the cup from his lips, both men looking at each other, silently waiting for the other to begin the conversation. Letting his arm fall against the top of his bent knee, Jack stares at Tyler, who rests the back of his head against the fallen timber, a smile on his face as his chin tilts upwards, neither man wanting to budge.
“I don’t know what pride this is supposed to bring us” Tyler says, cracking first, his ignition bring a laugh over the sleepless survivor. “It’s the only way friendly competition still exists, I suppose” Jack replies, laughing again when Tyler challenges that thought, demanding Jack beat him in a race. “Why don’t you sleep anymore?” Tyler asks, switching the conversation, interested in the question he has no first thought to the answer of.
“Someone’s gotta keep watch” Jack replies, lifting the metal cantina to his lips, one eyebrow raised. “Why does it have to be you?” Tyler asks, Jack’s single-raised eyebrow peering even further into the air. “You’re hobbling on one side of your body, and Reggie and Shauna still need an excuse to have sex” Jack replies, both reasons decent in value, “plus, why shouldn’t it be the insomniac watching over everyone?”
Rolling his eyes, Tyler takes another swig of his drink, listening to the chirping birds above, a few dots in the sky zipping from one end of sight to the other, before continuing. “What’s the plan until N.W.O?” Tyler asks, following Jack’s eyes towards the map, a single circle drawn what should be nearly a mile away. “We’re close to the city, so we should be nearing high-rise territory” Jack replies, his suggestions narrowing down to office buildings and book stores.
“We’ll look for the places that hold the least value” Jack replies, expecting libraries and banks to be less-frequented than restaurants and equipment shops. Not caring to argue with plans, Tyler nods as he always does, enjoying the silent morning while he has it. “We should be a week out by now, right?” Tyler asks, Jack finding the presumed timeframe reasonable, “what happens if it’s not as we expect it to be?”
Asking for more detail, Jack watches Tyler’s struggle, his face scrunching up as he conjures up the potential roadblocks. “What if the place isn’t standing anymore?” Tyler wonders aloud, imagining what the people fighting to gain entry would appear as, “I guarantee we’re not the only ones looking for refuge.” With a sigh, Jack crosses one leg over another, sitting the cantina in his lap, buying into Tyler’s suggestion and planning ahead.
“If we don’t gain entry, we don’t gain entry” Jack replies, his confidence raised by Tyler’s wounds having healed well, “we’ve made it this far on our own, we can keep doing so.” The confidence he has in Jack’s plan falters slightly, Tyler grants Jack the benefit of the doubt, a smile-accompanied nod as he lifts the cup to his lips again.
“Stay put” Bill mutters, lowering Heather and Cameron to the ground, pushing them behind the cover of an overturned produce rack. “We’re not looking for trouble!” Meghan exclaims, Bill following close by, both ducking behind cover, advancing further into the ransacked grocery store. Discarded items strewn about the overturned aisles, the hatchet-armed survivors remain silent, waiting for a response to emerge from within the building’s depths.
Without warning, the figure Meghan and Bill speak to fires off two consecutive shots, both falling short of their mark, aimlessly crashing into twisted metal. “I’ll say it again, we’re not meaning ha-” Meghan begins again, speaking swiftly and calmly, the passionate approach being met with additional shots. “We’re low on supplies and want to trade with you if we can!” Bill exclaims, furthering standing upon the point.
After a moment, Bill and Meghan find their declarations met with silence, no words, nor gunfire exchanged. “Is that okay with y-?” Bill begins, stopped in his tracks by additional gunfire. “Seriously, if you keep shooting, this is not going to end well!” Meghan exclaims, her warning immediately bringing on a confident claim from further out. “It won’t end well for you!” the man shouts, audibly preparing his gun to fire further rounds, his point being made clear.
“He’s not negotiating, Meg” Bill whispers, his fellow survivor having already recognized that. “We need those keys, Bill” Meghan replies, the option to turn back not one of preference, the only way path being to move forward. “I’ll ask one more time” Bill calls out, continuing to speak through the fired gunshot that interrupts him, “will you please peacefully negotiate with us?”
Firing another three shots, the man makes it clear that he wants no part of Meghan and her group. “Leave here or I’m gonna kill you!” the man shouts again, offering his final warning, silently waiting for a response. “We’re not going to do that, sir” Bill calls back, his answer producing another few gunshots from afar, the cover-inhabiting shooter now emerging from his post, carrying himself towards the source of the shared voices.
“You haven’t fired back, I know what that should mean” the man exclaims, readying his rifle to fire at the first thing that moves. “Back, back, back” Bill whispers, directing Meghan the way they came, a shift in their direction set as the plan. Positioning themselves behind the gunner, Meghan and Bill divide, the woman maintaining her position whilst Bill sneaks across the open aisle.
Ducking down one empty aisle in particular, the man takes interest in the route, the space holding enough room for multiple people to walk through, a luxury brought on by the new layout. Sneaking down the route, the man presses his eye to the stock, preparing his shot. Shuffling around, their mouths gagged, Heather and Cameron wriggle around on the floor, their arms restrained behind their backs.
Hurrying to the source of the noise, the man catches sight of the hostages, lowering his guard for a mere moment, the details not connecting. Before the chance can be had to consider any options, a bullet whips through the pane of glass, ripping through the shooter’s head, the limp body falling with a thud. “What the fuck, Janice!?” Bill shouts, both arms stretched, the man having been a few short feet behind the now-corpse.
“You could've killed me!” Bill exclaims, Janice shrugging off such a notion, lowering herself from the roof of a nearby vehicle. “I didn’t, that’s the important part” Janice replies, proudly throwing the rifle over her shoulder, “and even better than that, I’m getting to be a good shot.” Answering with a scoff, Bill shakes his head whilst tending to the body, stripping it of all valuables.
“Well done, you two” Meghan mutters, tearing the restraints away from Heather and Cameron, both dusting themselves off. “You could’ve been quicker on the trigger and-slash-or the hatchet” Heather suggests, a humorous apology offered by Bill. “I found one!” Tyler exclaims, running back to his mother with a license plate in his hands. “Boston?” Janice questions, patting her son on the back when proven correct, “well done, Ty.”
Tossing the metal identifier into his backpack, Tyler wonders aloud what the next plan is, the question one that sparks interest. “We start looking for a key, Tyler” Meghan replies, the greater challenge being what comes after, a question Tyler follows with. “Well, we start driving to New Hampshire” Bill replies, his answer left at that, its vocalization putting an eye roll over Tyler’s face.
“Why can’t we go to Cam and Heather’s house?” Tyler asks, the disappointment in his voice understandable. “Because there’s nothing left to go back to, kid” Bill replies, his head hung in an equal amount of dissatisfaction, “we can’t get through to anyone out there anymore.” Spinning a ball of yarn over a metal pole, Bill finds his thoughts questioned by Tyler, who remains unopposed to oppositional thought.
“Just because he hasn’t gotten back to us doesn’t mean he’s d-” Tyler begins, his point invalidated on the spot, Bill raising his voice with a commanding tone, refusing to let the boy finish his thought. “It means what it means, we don’t need to know the details of what happened” Bill concludes, turning away from the group and venturing further into the shop.
“They could still be alive” Tyler softly mutters, forcing himself to hold back tears. “Probably not, Tyler” Heather softly coos, the unfortunate suggestion one mentioned with a warm tone. “We have to go somewhere we know is safe” Meghan continues, looking at Tyler, displeased with the upset look on the kid’s face, “maybe going north will be that, but going to New Jersey won’t.”
Head hung, Tyler gives the woman a nod, sheepishly walking past her, intending to join Bill in searching for the key. “Bill didn’t need to be that hard on the kid” Cameron mutters beneath his breath, the point holding truth and fault. “He could have been less of a dick about it, but I understand why he was” Janice replies, tightening the strap on her weapon, “he lost his husband, and, understandably, he doesn’t want to think about it.”
Carrying on, Janice walks past the remaining trio, joining her son in the back of the store. “I guess that conversation is over now” Meghan remarks, her declaration prompting Cameron and Heather to rise from their seats, “back to work.”
“Commander!” a young militant exclaims, approaching John with his hand extended. The odd introduction put aside, John accepts the offer, a solid grip delivered back to the man. “Please, call me John” the man replies, shaking his head with a sigh, “never commander.” Noting the request, this soldier explains that he’s been sent to deliver John a notice.
“Mrs. Walters is making a detour from her route to the northeast” the young man explains, his start bringing a dark cloud over John, “she wishes to see you urgently.” A glance taken towards Emilio, John nods to the young man, voicing his appreciation for service. The young man trailing off, John is left within Emilio’s company, both men growing more uncomfortable with their environment each day.
“What do you think we owe this pleasure to?” Emilio wonders aloud, both men staring off at the central square, civilians approaching small stands and purchasing goods as if society took a step back, not a step away. “Probably a controlling, ego-inflated cunt” John replies, not needing to see Emilio’s nod to know he’s not alone in such an opinion.
“No one yet?” John wonders, the answer already one he’d come to the assumption of, his hope still held out that such outcome would change. “No one” Emilio replies, his voice dropping a bit, taking an equal displeasure in such a statement. Sucking in a deep breath, John pats Emilio on the shoulder, thanking the nanny he leaves Amy in the care of, before departing the front steps, venturing deeper into the New World Order.
“Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” Emilio asks, following closely behind, an overtly-honest John answering in kind. “Not at all, but this is a nice hat” John replies, picking the headwear off a metal post, switching the conversation with it. “How much is this fedora?” John inquires, the woman operating the stand insisting he take it. “I can’t take a hat like this without payment” John replies, sliding three cotton notes from his back pocket.
“Pleasure doing business with you” John remarks, walking off with a fedora in hand, the woman responding with an appreciative look. “What are you doing?” Emilio wonders aloud, the sarcastic strut John puts on matched by his adorning of the felt hat. “I am walking in style” John replies, his attitude allowing him to stand out from the crowd with ease.
“You do realize you still need to maintain the appearance of a man fit to lead, right?” Emilio asks, obviously not flattered by the light-hearted nature of their stroll. Easing up on his animated walk and loose-hanging arms, John pauses in the middle of the path they walk upon, taking the fedora off his head. “The only reason I’m still here is because Charlotte promised to bring my wife home” John explains, citing the same truth for Emilio, inserting Bill in Jessica’s place.
“This isn’t supposed to be a permanent solution, I’m not supposed to be a permanent fixture here” John explains, “this is supposed to be temporary.” Shaking his head, Emilio argues that nothing has changed. “We made that clear on day one, John” Emilio explains, the break of eye contact preceding John’s shaking head, “we wait for our families to find us, then we figure out how to get out from there.”
“You don’t get it, Emilio” John quickly rebukes, gently pressing the fedora into Emilio’s chest, “they’re not going to find us.” Walking off, John leaves Emilio where he stands, the man confused in the events that just occurred. “What the hell are you talking about!?” Emilio calls out, quickly catching back up to the only friend he has within the gates, “they know where we are!”
“No!” John shouts, shoving Emilio’s arm away the moment it makes contact with his shoulder, regaining his composure once the civilians begin looking in his direction. “The only people that know where we are happen to be your boyfriend, my sister in law, and her friend” John replies, lowering his voice to within a whisper, shaking his head in disapproval, “and even they aren’t coming for us.”
Turning away, John feels Emilio’s hand tug back, pulling John towards him, making sure to even his eyes with John’s own. “Don’t say that like you’re giving up” Emilio replies, again finding his arm shoved away, John now becoming annoyed. “It’s been how many weeks? Four? Five?” John asks, leaning his head in, shortening the space between them, “here’s the answer. Long enough for me to lose track of how long it’s been. I think that’s plenty enough to start losing hope.”
Walking away, John tries to distance himself from Emilio, feeling every call out that the man wages enough to pull him back, this next exclamation especially gripping. “So four weeks is all it takes to get big, bad John Callis to give up?” Emilio beckons, watching John stop, placing both hands on his hips, head hung, “how does a war veteran let a few weeks away from the wife turn him into such a pussy?”
The declaration purposefully insulting, Emilio’s words do their job, earning John’s attention. Turning back towards Emilio, John nods at the statement, returning to Emilio casually. Swinging his hand through the air once close enough, John plasters the bottom of Emilio’s chin with the force of his knuckles. The uppercut sending Emilio falling back to the ground, John continues to approach, standing over the man.
“I’ve got more priorities than the people beyond these walls, namely, the daughter I’ve got inside them” John explains, pointing his finger at Emilio as the man pushes himself up, “you’d be well-off following my lead.” His hand trembling, John pulls back, tucking his arm behind his back and leaving once more.
“That’s where you’re wrong, my king” Emilio says mockingly, pressing his hand to his jawline, one elbow planted into the dirt for support. “I may be a politician, but I don’t have Washington’s weak spine, John” Emilio explains, John looking at the man from over his shoulder, “you don’t get to tell me when to quit.” Licking his lip, John nods to himself and begins looking away, walking into the crowd, leaving Emilio to dust himself off.
“Do we need to stop?” Jack calls back, the question directed towards the group mostly intended for Tyler. “I’m fine, we’re ahead of schedule” Tyler replies, the daylight continuing to burn longer than the group had assumed it would at this point, “don’t let me slow you guys down.” Given the greenlight, Jack carries the group forward, their collective pace taking them into the alleys, cramped corridors between high-rise buildings in every direction, all leading to the tunnel.
Driving the blunt end of a hammer into a roaming corpse’s face, Jack moves aside for Reggie, the man bringing a brick over the corpse’s head, quick work made. “How far out are we?” Shauna calls up, the faceless concrete jungle they dash through not affording much in the way of clues. “I don’t know, Shauna” Jack replies, another swift one-two combination done on an approaching corpse before his response can be concluded, “we’ll know when we get there.”
One opening passed in particular catching Jack’s eye, the hurry to navigate the winding passageways becomes a scramble. “Pick up the pace!” Jack shouts, his brief glimpse revealing a horde of the undead crammed in the narrow entry, all taking a liking to the hurried survivors, their position compromised by the dead. Before a hurry can be brought on, the dead push their weight upon the trailing pair, Shauna and Tyler both being shoved apart.
“Reggie!” Jack exclaims, pushing back towards the pair, his hammer swinging at anything that stands. With Reggie ripping Shauna away from the dead, Jack takes it upon himself to direct them away. “Go! I’ll handle this!” Jack exclaims, pushing through anything that walks and yanking Tyler out of harm’s way, volunteering to play catch up. Not wishing to waste time leading Tyler away, Jack throws the man over his shoulders and races to keep up with the rest.
“Fuck, oh fuck!” Reggie shouts ahead, stopping himself so abruptly that his shoes glide against the asphalt. “Go back! Go the fuck back!” Shauna shouts, pulling Reggie back the way they came just as Jack emerges from the corridor. Returning to the street, Jack looks out at the sea of undead, likely numbering in the hundreds, all standing between the survivors and the tunnel they wish to make it to.
Speechless, Jack freezes in the sight of such a horde, the size of which he’d once thought of as impossible. “Jack, come on!” Shauna exclaims, pulling him around, the spell he stood in broken. “Where do we go!? We’re cornered!” Jack exclaims, stumbling upon the only appropriate response. Stopping again, the group stares down the undead they had evaded before turning back to the undead they ran into.
“We’re trapped!” Reggie exclaims, the obvious predicament pointed out for a second time. Hot on his feet, Jack lowers Tyler into Shauna’s reach and looks to Reggie, a concerned look shared between the two. “We’ve gotta fight one, it might as well be the smaller group” Jack mutters, both men realizing this to be their final stand, “it’s been a pleasure, ‘Reg.”
His response interrupted, Reggie shares the captivated look Jack wears, Tyler having burst between the pair, hurling himself at the horde with a blade. Mustering the energy to quickly dispose of two corpses, Tyler staggers back, refusing to die without fighting for a different outcome. Their will sparked by Tyler’s defiance, the rest of the group joins in the fray, dropping one body after another until the crowd thins.
“Right, right, right!” Jack shouts, directing the foursome through an opening, every survivor barely avoiding the reach of the dead in their dash to safety. Emerging on the other side of the initial crowd, Jack directs his group down a second passage, this one taking them back out into the street, their destination still obscured, but their breathing room having increased.
“What the fuck do we do now!?” Jack grunts to himself, looking in each direction, only finding more of the dead. “We fight ‘till we’re fuckin’ dead!” Jack exclaims, the plan at least more than nothing, which the group finds worth settling for. The first to break away, Jack lunges at a corpse and buries his hammer’s claw into the first decrepit skull he comes across.
Quick to follow Jack’s lead, Tyler dashes onwards, adrenaline taking over, the blade he carries plunging into the side of another corpse’s head. Joining in, Reggie and Shauna begin wailing on the undead themselves, the streets of New Jersey being littered with the discarded corpses. Swinging at anything that moves, Jack takes note of a struggle the moment he hears it, turning back to find Shauna pressed against a brick wall, the corpse atop her forcing the weapon out of her hand.
Shrugging off the pull of an incoming corpse, Jack buries his weapon into its skull before failing to retrieve it, the hammer slipping from his reach as the dead approach. Forced to move on unarmed, Jack glances back towards the woman, his eyes falling upon the pizza shop window she’s restrained beside. With a grunt, Jack charges towards the scene, throwing his arm through the large pane of glass and ripping at the first shard he can find.
Splitting his hand open in the process, Jack rips the glass from its place and drives the jagged end through Shauna’s foe. “Keep near Reggie and Tyler!” Jack directs, pushing Shauna back whilst tightening his grip on the shard, further deepening the wound. Cutting into a frail skull, Jack puts down each corpse that comes his way, one step taken back for each kill.
The swarm begins to stack up, Jack forces himself to be creative. Using walls to push himself off of, and kicking the knee out of every approaching corpse, Jack buys his group enough time to find an opening. “Jack, follow me!” Reggie shouts, his implied idea more than enough to earn Jack’s trust. Returning to the group, Jack watches Reggie hurl his brick through the window of a corner shop, granting the foursome entry.
“It’s a burger shop, they’ll have a second exit!” Reggie shouts, leading the group through the newly-minted entrance. “Pots and pans, find what you can and make noise!” Reggie exclaims, his plan finally coming into question. “I’m sorry, you want us to draw attention towards ourselves?” Jack exclaims, failing to find the end goal. “No, he wants to group the dead inside the dining room!” Tyler exclaims, finding the same page Reggie’s on, “we’ll lead them in the front and leave through the back!”
“You beautiful bastard!” Jack shouts back, seething at every little sensation his gashed hand feels, the rush he experiences too great to be overcome by such cuts. Slamming metal pots together, shattering pictures, throwing over tables, and putting holes in walls, the group ransacks the restaurant, watching piles of the dead begin to form at the window.
“Let’s move!” Jack shouts, dashing through the kitchen on his way to bursting through the backdoor. “Order up, motherfucker!” Tyler exclaims, the first to follow Jack out, cracking a straggling corpse over the head with his frying pan. “Wonderful comedic timing, Ty” Jack jokes, slamming the door shut the moment his group exits, joining their dash towards the tunnel.
Zipping past anything that approaches them, the group hurls themselves onto the train tracks and begins their dash into the tubes. Their only chance at crossing the waterfront, Jack’s group follow the tunnels below the surface of the Hudson River. “Let’s make this quick!” Jack shouts, his boots stepping through a pool of water stretching the length of the tunnel, “if this thing comes down, it ought not to come down on us.”
A pile of dead leaves thrown from her hand, Alicia maintains the campfire she, Franklin and Salem sit around. Watching Franklin redress his wound, Alicia inquires into the healing process. “How’s it making out?” Alicia asks, Franklin almost not noticing the question at first. “Me, Oh! Yeah, it’s looking good” Franklin replies, pulling the alcohol soaked cloth away from his stump, “I’m not an expert on this stuff, but it doesn’t hurt and I’m still here. That probably counts for something.”
Letting out a sigh, Salem pushes herself up from her seat, walking off from their roadside camp with her rifle. “Where are you going?” Alicia asks, the little emotion Salem answers with presenting contempt. “I’m going on a walk, don’t follow” Salem replies, leaving with that, a response Alicia doesn’t challenge further.
Continuing to stoke the fire, Alicia sits silently whilst Franklin battles with an internal struggle, to open his mouth or keep it shut. “I know I’ve said it in passing, but- I’m really grateful for what you did on that first night” Franklin explains, the victorious side of his decision emerging, “people never really stand up for people like me. At least not like you did.”
“It was the right thing to do” Alicia responds, not wishing to praise herself as if she were a hero. “You saved my life” Franklin replies, a statement Alicia doesn’t accept as factual. “She might not have gone through with it, I-” Alicia replies, her refusal to accept praise shot down by Franklin. “You saved my life” Franklin says again, firmly standing by the opinion Alicia vehemently refuses.
“How many people do you know that would jump in front of a gun aimed at a big black dude?” Franklin asks, the question, as weighted as it is, providing a spurt of comic relief. “I see your point” Alicia replies, accepting the admiration, tossing another handful of leaves over the flames. “You should be tossing one leaf in at a time” Salem says, ending her walk short to return to camp, “we don’t want to spark a wildfire.”
“You told her to stoke the fire, you didn’t tell her how you wanted it stoked” Franklin replies, the raised eyebrow he’s met with showing disinterest. “Was I talking to you, Franklin?” Salem replies, the cold shoulder treatment given back. “Please, don’t start an argument” Alicia interjects, well aware of the direction this has begun trailing towards.
“I’m telling him to stay in his place, and I’m telling you to stoke the damn fire” Salem replies, tossing her weapon into the leaf-covered dirt. Propping herself up against a fallen tree, Salem rips her gloves off and tosses them over the barrel of her rifle, the camp falling quiet, the only noise made by the fire, eating one leaf at a time.
“Were you this much of an asshole before the world went to shit, Salem?” Franklin cuts in, pushing himself through the silence to slice at the dissatisfied survivor. “Watch yourself, handicap” Salem replies, knowing a challenge when she’s approached by one, her advice unheeded. “I am, I’m watching myself call you out on your bullshit” Franklin replies, pushing himself to his feet the moment Salem does the same.
“You tried to kill me in cold fucking blood back at the house, that’s some bullshit in my eyes” Franklin calls out, Alicia throwing herself between the two, much as she had before, keeping things from escalating too far. “I don’t need to explain myself to you, I made the decision to keep you from getting me killed” Salem replies, her chest pushed at by Alicia just as Franklin’s is, neither figure taking kindly to the physical restraint.
“Don’t touch me, druggie!” Salem exclaims, her anger now pointed at the woman in the middle, Alicia beginning to reach the boiling point of what she will tolerate. “What the fuck is your problem!?” Alicia shouts, pushing Salem back and pressing her forehead against the other woman’s, the moderator of the altercation now playing the role of instigator.
“You’ve been a self-righteous prick since the minute we got split from the rest of the group!” Alicia exclaims, the tip of her nose touching Salem’s own, “quit bitching and tell me why!” As Alicia finishes her question, the faint sound of a growl emerges from a few feet away, a wandering corpse takes interest in their altercation and begins approaching the trio.
Pulling away from Alicia, Salem retrieves her rifle and takes aim, her finger squeezing the trigger quickly, placing a bullet directly between the undead’s eyes. “Look at that!” Salem exclaims, her rifle held by the chamber, pointed out at the road, “why couldn’t I be saddled with people that could do that?”
Looking out at the road, Alicia and Franklin turn their attention to Salem, allowing the woman to continue without interruption. “How many people were in that house when everything went to shit?” Salem asks, her true care not on the figure, but rather on the people in question, “out of all of them, who are the two that I got stuck with!? The amputee and the pill-popper.”
“You’re an asshole because you resent us?” Alicia replies, the tone she responds with holding confusion. “Listen, princess. This world is made for the fittest. It’s about survival” Salem explains, making herself as clear as possible, “and being saddled with a junkie and a dude with an arm and a half, your chances plummet.”
Turning away from the pair, Salem prepares to return to her seat, the air beginning to cool, their breath subtly visible. “So we’re baggage to you?” Alicia replies, her question prompting Salem to place her hands to her hips, head shaking. “No, Alicia” Salem replies, looking over her shoulder at the disgruntled survivors, her view of them not very high, “you’re two people that don’t get it yet. And when people don’t get it, they get others that do killed.”
Puckering her lips together, Alicia nods to herself whilst nudging Franklin back, clearing a space on the grounds around her. “Show me what there is to get then, Salem” Alicia replies, the woman ahead of her turning back around, both of Alicia’s arms spread, welcoming the challenge, “tell me what I’m missing.”
With a chuckle, Salem shrugs, her gun leant against the fallen tree, approaching Alicia as Franklin attempts to convince her otherwise. “She’s a big girl, she’s made her choice” Salem replies, brushing Franklin’s concerns off as cannon fodder. Throwing a fake punch with her left hand, Salem swings her right towards Alicia’s face, the foul-mouthed brunette pointing out the illusion instantly.
Ducking the real shot, Alicia shoves Salem’s right arm through the rest of her punch, answering with a palm to the bridge of Salem’s nose. This display surprising her, Salem stumbles back, her shoes kicking up leaves and dirt on her way. Pressing her hand against her nose, Salem looks up at Alicia, the surprised glance not making any attempt to hide.
“Come on, I’m waiting” Alicia continues, not convinced she’d gotten her point across the first time. Playing into Alicia’s request, Salem closes the distance again, a straight punch thrown directly at the woman’s teeth. Easily side-stepping the shot, Alicia pulls Salem’s arm the remainder of the way, switching positions instantly.
“Don’t be a coward, use the knife” Alicia orders, watching Salem turn with a angry look. “Alicia, don’t get ahea-” Franklin begins to argue, his warning avoided by both women, who engage in each other’s demands. Unholstering her hunting knife, Salem adjusts her stance, three blade-first swings sent in the direction of the described-junkie, all failing to hit their mark.
The fourth attempt proving to be the difference maker, Salem watches Alicia pull back, the edge of the blade missing the woman’s throat by mere inches. Taking Salem’s arm into her hand, Alicia lays an elbow to the side of Salem’s face, disorientating the woman to her liking. Ducking below Salem’s arm, Alicia forces the woman over her back, flipping her through the air and onto the ground whilst keeping her grasp on Salem’s arm.
Colliding with the ground, Salem looks up to watch Alicia finish proving her point, bending Salem’s arm towards her face, the knife dangling a hair’s length away from Salem’s eye. Knelt over the woman, Alicia rests the blade against Salem’s cheek, caressing the woman’s flesh with the razor-sharp dagger. Catching her breath, Salem recognizes her position, Alicia’s hairs dangling over her face, the look the woman holds being enough to prove to Salem that her initial assumptions were wrong.
With ease, Alicia breaks Salem’s grip on the knife and takes it into her possession, Alicia’s forearm now resting against Salem’s throat as the brunette tosses the blade aside. “I’m still waiting, Salem” Alicia mutters below her breath, confident enough to disarm herself, the only thing stopping the physicality from ensuing being the arm she presses against Salem’s neck, “tell me what I’m missing.”
Her gaped-mouth now closing, Salem snickers at Alicia, silently accepting the fault in her stance. “Point proven” Salem replies, keeping her answer brief, resulting in Alicia’s arm removing itself from the space between Salem’s chin and collarbone. Satisfied, Alicia nods as she returns to Franklin’s side, taking her seat beside the fire back whilst Salem dusts herself off, a newfound respect for the woman now brought on.
“Find anything!?” a frustrated Meghan calls out, audibly throwing random pieces of furniture over in search of what she had arrived looking for. Peering over the corner, Bill looks into the office Meghan stands in, watching her aggravatedly storm through anything that stands in her way. “Take it easier, Meg” Bill mutters, his unexpected presence startling the woman, who stops her rummaging to regain her composure.
“A simple ‘hello’ would have sufficed” Meghan replies, accepting Bill’s apology when offered. “I know it’s getting annoying, coming up short all the time, but you’ve gotta take it easier on yourself” Bill explains, taking a seat beside the woman atop a plain wooden desk, “we don’t have any reason to rush.”
Shaking her head, Meghan stares off at the cramped hallway beyond the door Bill had entered, loose hairs waving in her face with each relinquished breath. “I haven’t heard from anyone in weeks” Meghan replies, her isolation from life beyond her immediate group taking a toll, “my parents, my sister, my niece. I’m completely cut off and I have no way to get to them.”
His hands pressing against the lip of the desk, Bill nods along, having found common ground. “I felt the same way after our first few days on the road” Bill replies, each day without contact from Emilio driving him closer to giving up, “I couldn’t help myself but feel like the odd-man out. You had Janice, Cameron and Heather had each other. I was the straggler, honestly.”
Without eye contact, Meghan begins finding herself compelled by the man’s theory, her mind wandering towards the obvious question. “What changed?” Meghan asks, the less-compelled expression on the man’s face suggesting the lack of an easy answer. “In some way, coming to peace with not seeing the man I love helped guide me towards some empty acceptance” Bill replies, shaking his head just as Meghan begins looking at him, “and it gave me something else to live for.”
“What’s that?” Meghan replies, Bill doing a double-take at her, not having expected that statement to be dug further into. “Well, I suppose it’s just the want to figure out what comes after all of this” Bill replies, citing the ideas of moving north, settling down and living out their remaining days as peaceful, “my life has been a chaos, I think it would be nice to have peace in spite of what the world wants.”
A smile appearing on her face, Meghan finds serenity in the man’s words, picturing what a life such as that would be like. “Let’s find our peace together then” Meghan decides, extending her hand, offering unity with a man who’d once felt alone. With a laugh, Bill accepts the offer, placing his palm within Meghan’s, “we’ve got ourselves a deal” he replies with a handshake.
“Guys!” Cameron shouts from within the store, the warm moment shared between Meghan and Bill breaking instantly, all ears set towards the declarative cries. Rushing into the backrooms, Meghan and Bill find Janice and her son scaling a stairway, Cameron and Heather standing in the doorway leading to the roof. “We found something better!” Heather shouts excitedly, the conclusion bringing about a reason to hurry.
Joining the remainder of the group at the top of the store, Meghan and Bill look off at where Heather’s finger points. “Just to the right of the tree, atop that big concrete wall!” Heather exclaims, directing their attention to the roof of a nearby hospital, “I can’t see the rest, but I can see the blades!”
Despite the top level of the building covered by a concrete guardrail, the wings of a helicopter peer from above their cover, presenting the group with an answer greater than one they’d been searching for. “If that thing still has power, we won't need a car” Cameron explains, eager to change the course of an already-established plan. “It’s risky, but if we can get up there, our live will be a whole lot easier” Heather explains, looking to those beside her for approval.
“If we make it up there, what’s the plan from there?” Bill questions, only one prevailing hope warranted. “We fly as far north as it’ll let us. We’re getting closer to winter each day, we’ll be in New Hampshire before the snow hits” Cameron theorizes, a hopeful smile worn, “if we don’t take this opportunity, we’ll probably still be on the road by the time spring comes around.”
The theory tempting, one roadblock remains keeping them from their answered prayer, a roadblock Janice is quick to point out. “That hospital could be filled with hundreds, maybe thousands of the dead” Janice replies, staring back at the former militant pilots, “if we’re gonna talk about traveling into the spring, let’s also point out that this could get us killed before sunset tomorrow.”
An easy option not to be found, the survivors weigh their options internally, an answer becoming necessary upon Cameron’s interruption. “You guys don’t have to come along, but if you choose to stick back, Heather and I are going after that bird” Cameron explains, throwing his hat into the ring, his intentions to leave it there made known.
“So what you’re saying is, if we chose to stay behind, you’d fuck off and take your chances?” Meghan replies, beginning to recognize this not as a vote, but as a separation of their collective group. “Sorry, Meg. We’re not going to go homeless through the winter when a better option is a few blocks away” Cameron replies, the consequence-filled decision he makes at least being reasonable.
Before she can think, Meghan looks towards Janice, the woman answering on behalf of herself and her son. “I’m not sending my kid into that mess” Janice replies, the dangers within their suicide mission outweighing the risks associated with surviving through the winter. “I’ve got no idea what’s in there, and I don’t want to know” Janice explains, Meghan failing to convince Janice otherwise, “Meg, if you had a kid, you’d understand. I’m not risking his life for a stupid plane.”
“Janice, the place could-” Meghan begins, Heather interjecting herself into the conversation before Meghan can finish her thought. “She’s made her decision, and she’s not changing her mind” Heather concludes, looking back to Meghan and Bill, the only parties having yet to respond. “It’s up to you two” Heather looks back, her eyes falling upon the undecided pair, “what’s it going to be?”
Unhappy with this predicament, Meghan looks to Bill, the man’s eyes locking with hers. “We have a deal” Bill remarks, offering the woman a shrug, “whatever your decision is, that’s mine too.” Looking away, Meghan’s eyes fall upon Heather and Cameron, her intense stare then moving to Janice, who holds her hand over Tyler’s heart, looking at Meghan, indifferent to whatever the woman’s decision may be.
Letting out a deep sigh, Meghan looks back at Cameron and Heather, offering them an apology. “I’m not going if Janice isn’t going” Meghan decides, looking at Bill, who nods in agreement. Disappointed, Cameron and Heather begrudgingly accept the woman’s decision, their hands extended. “We wish you guys luck” Heather says, the hopes shared amongst the remaining four, who watch Heather and Cameron descend the staircase, their destination in sight.
His eyes traveling across the open pages of a soft-cover book, Emilio hears the front door open and shut behind him, not paying any mind to it. Silence persisting for a few more seconds, Emilio continues to read, only lifting his eyes from the thin sheets once words have been spoken. “I’m sorry” John says aloud, watching Emilio rise from his seat, letting the front cover close.
“I’m sorry is what you say when you accidentally eat someone else’s lunch” Emilio replies, looking back, noticing the disappointed expression on John’s face as he continues, “you sort of punched me in the face.” Tossing the fedora he’d brought back on the couch, his jacket strewn about the same, John walks up to Emilio, taking a second seat at the table Emilio had just sat at.
“The people outside the walls are getting restless, Emilio” John explains, the floor left open on Emilio’s behalf, the New World Order’s leader being given the room to speak his mind. “The people in this place look to me as their leader, as if I’m supposed to know how to help them” John furthers, his tremor hand beginning to shake, rattling the table until stopped, “I’ve got my own problems, I’ve got my own family to look after. How am I supposed to view these people equally?”
Taking the question as one warranting an answer, Emilio recalls John’s earlier plan. “Like you said on that first night, we play along” Emilio explains, the disgruntled expression John gives as he peers through a nearby window palpable.
“We’re both doing our part to get the people we care about back” Emilio explains, “I snuck a ride in a van so I could point your sister in law in your direction, you’re playing god here so they can have time to catch up to us. We have to hope they’re doing theirs.” Sucking on his teeth, John folds his now-steady hands, looking at Emilio without an answer.
“My wife is still out there, at least I think she is” John explains, running down the people they’ve been waiting weeks to have arrive. “The world outside of these walls were shit back then, they’re even more shit right now” John explains, the point not being to have hope, but to live realistically, “they don’t have a community like us. They aren’t trained in the act of killing the dead. They’re out there, probably alone, living in fear and being able to trust no one.”
Growing angrier, John stands and approaches Emilio, the man still leaning over the back of his own chair, forearms pressed to the head of the seat. “There is no room for hope, and the likelihood of them walking through the door decreases every fucking day” John begins shouting, spit flying from his lips, “I’ve got a kid to look after, I’ve gotta raise her without her mother, where the fuck do I have room for hope!?”
His eyes having been directed at the window since the moment’s John’s had, Emilio lets John finish yelling before slowly turning towards him. John’s breathing now heavy, Emilio continues to play the peacemaker, trying to level with John, his words carried in a low, yet perfectly-clear tone. “You were held hostage, in your own words to me, in a shithole in the sand for nearly a month” Emilio explains, “people damn near went through entire billing cycles before you were ripped out of there.”
Not fond of what Emilio is equating this situation to, John tells the man to get to his point, a gesture which Emilio takes no problem with. “Your wife, my boyfriend, our friends… They’re in that shithole in the sand right now” Emilio replies, John’s anger beginning to lessen, “I see how angry you are right now, and I don’t blame you. As a matter of fact, you should be. You should be fucking livid.”
Compelled by Emilio’s line of thought, John keeps himself quiet, letting the man talk freely. “Instead of taking that anger and using it to yell at me, take it to run the fuck out of this place” Emilio explains, demanding John uphold his vow to keep the walls standing, “you never lost hope, and it resulted in you being brought back home. Now keep this place standing long enough for the people we love to be brought back home, too.”
Interrupted by the sound of a knock at the door, John calls out to the figure on the other end. “Mrs. Walters has arrived, Mr. Callis” the boy declares, the statement bringing an abrupt end to the conversation. “We’ll pick this up later” John concludes, walking to the front door before suddenly turning back, Emilio stopping in his place.
“Before we go out there, I feel the need to correct you” John explains, twisting the knob as he opens the door, “There was room for hope in that pit. There’s no room for it now.” Exiting his home, John travels the path, Emilio following the man the way towards the front gates, Charlotte sitting elegantly atop the hood of her car, waiting for his arrival.
“Howdy, Cowboy” Charlotte greets, her voice raised slightly, the sound of an angry mass of people at the front gates challenging her volume. “I thought you were skipping over us this month” John answers, a statement Charlotte laughs off at first. “That’s a funny way of saying ‘hello’, Cowboy” Charlotte responds, openly wondering who taught the man his manners.
“Charlotte, why are you here?” John asks, his unphased tone and open distaste for her presence something his good looks allow the woman to look past. “I heard through the grapevine that the front gates have been getting an earful lately” Charlotte explains, walking up to John with a seductive hint in her voice, the soft vibrations in her pronunciation wholly intentional.
“I’ve got it under control” John replies, a look of surprise brought about the woman’s face, Charlotte answering such assurance with a simple glance towards the supported walls. “I’ve got to be honest, Cowboy. It doesn’t sound like you do” Charlotte replies, brushing off the notion before John can have the chance to respond, “I wanted you on your toes. You’re new to this role and I didn’t want you going too long without a watchful eye checking in.”
Squinting, John struggles to take Charlotte at her word, trusting his better instincts, the ones that tell him not to trust the woman. “That’s not the reason, and no you didn’t” John replies, the head-tilt given by Charlotte suggesting an intrigue, her statements typically left unchallenged, “you wouldn’t adjust course unless you had a specific reason to stop by.”
“You speak as if you’ve known me for years” Charlotte replies, a gesture John easily shakes his head at. “No, but I know how people like you tend to operate” John replies, watching Charlotte’s head pull back, her animated gestures playing such declaration off as a novel joke. “People like moi?” Charlotte replies, her hand elegantly falling over her chest, “whatever do you mean by that?”
With a smile, Charlotte listens to John’s response, her nonchalant attitude falling aside, the smile on her face becoming more like a result of intrigue. “People whose power comes from the way people perceive them, not necessarily because of what they’re capable of” John replies, his hands tucking into his pockets, shoulders lifting with a grin on his face, “y’know. Those people like you.”
“Paint me seduced, Cowboy. You sure know how to flatter a lady” Charlotte replies, her northeastern accent contorting into a poor southern one, her amusement still abundant. Thinking over John’s conclusion, Charlotte begins to nod in agreement, finding truth in the conclusion John’s come to. “You’re definitely following the right path, I’ll give you that” Charlotte says, backing up towards the rear of her vehicle, “however, you fail to give me the credit I deserve.”
His eyebrows narrowing just an inch, John watches the woman walk off, every word she says lingering in his mind. “I don’t need to kill people, or make myself look like a hero to regain control of my power” Charlotte explains, her regular accent returning as she removes a gun from her waistband, holding it in the air momentarily before tossing it a few feet in front of her, “I still have my moments where I can walk the steps I lay out with my words.”
With a smile, Charlotte rests her hand on the backseat’s handle, her opposite hand still suspended in the air. “I appreciate how much interest you’ve taken in figuring me out, but I you still have a lot to learn about what I’m capable of” Charlotte explains, pulling the backdoor open as she concludes, “the most notable being that, as I’ve hinted at before, I’m a woman of my word.”
Backing away from her vehicle, Charlotte keeps both hands hung in the air, looking towards the interior of her vehicle. Her feet leaving the posh interior, finding refuge in the dirty, New World Order streets, Jessica emerges from her car, looking out at the man standing in the middle of the road. Watching his wife exit the vehicle, John ceases thought on anything other than Jess, his heart racing as his mouth finds itself without the words to match.
“Je-” John mutters, his lips quivering as a tear forces itself from the corner of his eye, the woman walking up to him in disbelief, rushing into her husband’s arms as her name lingers from his lips with a whisper. “Jess?” John says, wrapping his arms around the woman, his chin pressing against the soft spot of her neck, the tears beginning to fall loosely from his eyes.
“I think we’re good here, Tommy” Charlotte calls out, giving the approval for her brother to depart the community, “Come back tomorrow and let me know how the Delaware issue works out.” Doing as instructed, Tom hops into the driver’s seat and backs the vehicle through the front gates, Charlotte left to walk off in the direction of her on-again, off-again residence.
Still tucked within each other’s warm embrace, John’s attention is taken by the man behind him, Emilio stood looking on with a smile, his hands tucked into his pockets. “Hey John?” Emilio calls back, the man’s eyes falling upon him, Jess’ finding their way towards Emilio eventually as well, “what were you saying about ‘there’s no room’?”
With a laugh, Emilio watches John’s smile emerge again, the point both being made and taken. “I stand corrected” John replies, his voice breaking with the escalating emotions. Accepting John’s cease, Emilio looks back to the gate, Tom’s car dividing the sea of people begging for entry, his eyes furrowing. “There’s room for hope” Emilio mutters to himself, watching the doors close on the crowd, quartering the desperate survivors once more, “there’s still room” Emilio whispers again.
== Rise: Remastered ==
Nine weeks into the outbreak. The Pond.
Lauren follows Kelsey through snow-covered trees, the chill air making the turn of the month into December unmistakeable. “We’re getting close” Kelsey says, reassuring the accompanying woman that the walk shouldn’t take much longer. Leading the way so as to give Lauren pre-made footprints to occupy, Kelsey snaps overhanging branches and kicks through uneven terrain, her destination finally appearing through the trees.
“Tah dah!” Kelsey declares, her hands stretched out, positioned as if she were presenting the newest vehicle in a name brand chain. “It’s-” Lauren begins, looking at the empty field of white, only a small pond presenting anything different, “-It’s a lake.” Placing her bag against a rock, Kelsey agrees, removing two fishing rods from within and handing one off to Lauren.
“You’re great at the hunting and gathering thing, but I’m going to make you a much better fisherman” Kelsey explains, wrapping Lauren’s glove-covered fingers around the handle. “You want me to fish?” Lauren replies, curious, her heart set on knowing something deeper, “I thought you said a few days back ‘I don’t like fishing with anyone, they ruin my me-time’?”
“Yup, that’s a perfect imitation of my voice” Kelsey replies, taking the piss out of the question, “if we flip the ‘m’ in ‘me time’, it becomes ‘we time’. I’m trying to figure out how that works.” Ending any chance at follow-ups, Kelsey leads Lauren towards a bridge in the middle of the water. “The pond’s not that big, so we only wanna pull back a little” Kelsey explains, her line loose as the rod gently eases past the side of her head, “then you cast it” she concludes, bucking the rod forward.
Trying to mimic Kelsey, Lauren pulls the rod back, bucking it just as Kelsey did without avail, the line still restrained to the head of the rod, the handle jolting up, hitting Lauren in the face. “Ow!” Lauren amusingly says aloud, she and Kelsey both laughing at such display, “I don’t think I’m doing the fisherman thing right.”
Setting her pole down, Kelsey walks over to Lauren and guides her, hands wrapping over Lauren’s arms, fingers interlaced with the inexperienced rookie, casting the reel out. “There, just like that” Kelsey mutters, her chin pressed against Lauren’s shoulder, her front against Lauren’s back. Forgetting to pull away, Kelsey and Lauren look towards each other, their position prompting them to turn in awkward directions.
“Ehem, anyway-” Kelsey says, cutting the unexpected encounter short, backing away and returning to her reel, “now we wait for the bobber to duck below the water, and we’ll have a fish.”
Thirteen weeks into the outbreak. The Bridge.
“If we used the top of the cars, we could bypass the dead” Tori suggests, standing on a hilltop with the rest of her group, eyes falling upon a long bridge littered with abandoned cars and more of the dead. “There’s still too many out there” Mark replies, hesitant to buy into the idea of making it across unscathed, “we’ll all have to be perfect. No fuck-ups.”
Turning towards Brent, the man adjusts the bag on his back, squeezing tightly upon the straps. “We’ve made it this far, we’ll be fine” Kelsey reassures, Tori nodding along, looking back to the wreckage-strewn bridge. “We’ll make it” Kelsey says, her long coat and hair flailing in the frosty winds, eyes set upon Lauren, their hands locking together, no fear shown in either.
Seventeen weeks into the outbreak. The Rooftops.
“Stairwell!” Brent exclaims, shoving his way through a bundle of the dead, eyes set on a door near the elevators. The end of his crowbar jamming into the door, Brent prys at the door, its rustic locks giving enough to show weakness, the man’s foot slamming into the center of the door, finally getting it to budge. Immediately grazed by rotten fingertips, Brent turns back to kick another corpse away, the claw of his weapon digging into the decrepit skull with ease.
Undead pouring out of the stairwell he’d just opened, Brent goes clueless, his realization only dawning at the behest of a pair of teeth sinking into his back. “Ah, you fuck!” Brent exclaims, pulling away from his would-be fate-decider, laying into it with his iron tool. “Brent!” Lauren exclaims from farther within the room, the man raising his voice, guiding those with him to his spot.
The first to emerge from the horde, Tori eyes the stairwell immediately, the hatchet she carries aiding Brent’s crowbar in clearing the way. Toppling a bookshelf over a few members of the decaying crowd, Kelsey clears a path for herself and Lauren, the pair reuniting with their group, helping to lead the way forward. The undead crowd quickly losing numbers, Tori seizes the chance to advance upwards, entering the concrete tomb first.
Wielding a heavy flashlight, Tori swings at everything that moves, those following behind her keeping her path lit. Staring down two corpses, Lauren swings at the first, its body stumbling over the bannister to the ground seven stories below, the woman’s weapon still imbedded in its skull. “I’m disarmed!” Tori shouts, backing away from the oncoming second zombie.
“Cover your ears!” Kelsey shouts, firing a round towards the dead, its brain matter splattering against the wall as it topples over, laid out on the stairs. Taking the lead, Lauren charges forward, grabbing Brent’s crowbar on the way up. Clearing the path now ahead, Lauren pushes the foursome to the top of the stairwell, the end of her weapon digging into the jammed metal fire exit.
“It’s frozen shut, give me a sec!” Lauren shouts, slamming her weapon into the doorframe, Kelsey and Brent both without a weapon, staring down the oncoming swarm of corpses closing in. “Lauren, hurry up the pace, please!” Kelsey exclaims, trying to remain calm on the matter, her panic breaking through the well-manufactured guise of tranquility she’s adorned.
Calling for Brent’s assistance, Lauren jams the crowbar in a gap, letting it rest there before making room for Brent. With another swift kick, the crowbar pierces through the crevasse, metal shards from the lock colliding with the ground, their exit route now open. Hurrying out, Lauren and Tori stay behind, slamming the door shut on their way out, fitting the tool they’d used to earn their freedom into the bottom of the door, holding it shut.
“Okay, what now?” Kelsey asks, aware of how shortened the group is on time. Walking towards one side of the top level, Brent glances towards the nearest building, a nearby rooftop two-levels below them being their safest route. His finger pointing towards the overturned eighteen wheeler that prompted them to require their current alternate route, Brent makes his conclusion.
“We can make it down there next, and then hop on top of that apartment complex across the alley” Brent explains, “from there, we climb down and get back on th-”
“Brent?” Kelsey interrupts, the worry she carries in her voice noticeable. “What?” the large man asks, his fellow survivors all looking at him in concern. “Your back” Lauren replies, watching his head glance over his shoulder, looking towards where Tori’s finger points, “it’s bleeding.” His jacket tied around his waist, all that Brent wears on his upper body is a white t-shirt, the bright red bloodstain on his shoulder easily noticeable, even to him.
Reaching to his waist, Brent pulls the shirt over his head, a grunt emerging from Tori’s disbelief, the woman shaking her head, both Lauren and Kelsey sharing a reluctant face. “Fuck” Brent mutters to himself, pulling his skin back, allowing his eyes to fall upon the teeth marks he wears. “You’re bit” Kelsey mutters, the obvious finally stated aloud. Glaring back at his group, Brent bites into his lip, eyes lifting towards the skies, dissatisfied with his fate.
= Rise: Remastered is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
Nine weeks into the outbreak. The Escape.
Void of the living, Jersey City’s streets are covered with snow, the dead struggling to move around, their deteriorated flesh and weak bones practically turning to rustic metal. The concrete jungle that surrounds reaching into the heavens, all the dead can hope for is a meal to walk into their arms, their feet helplessly dragging through the snow, making imperfect lines in the fluffy winter mix.
“Down, turn right in five blocks!” Jack exclaims, bursting through a backdoor with a sack draped over his back, Tyler, Reggie and Shauna kicking up snow in their path, the time to depart being now. Easily navigating the corpse-filled streets, the survivors swipe at heads when the need to is had. “Hold up!” Jack exclaims, turning one corner in particular that forces him to slow to a screeching halt.
“Where the hell do we go now!?” Reggie exclaims, staring at the bottom of an overturned eighteen wheeler, the likes of which having cut off entire roads. The clumped-together horde still slow enough to buy the group time, Jack takes his surroundings into consideration. Whilst navigating the street, an odd door catches his sight, the path before it shoveled away, almost as if the door had been opened within the most recent snowfall.
Trudging through the slushy mix, Jack pounds his fist at the door, calling out for anyone that can hear his voice. “Please, they’re slow but they’re still hungry!” Jack proclaims, calling out to no one, the rest of his group looking on, puzzled. “I know you’re in there, I know you can hear me” Jack explains, his voice lowering, appearing much more personal whilst the rest of his group takes the fight to the dead.
“Please, you can save our lives” Jack explains, his index finger bent, its knuckle tapping upon the metal door, the rest of his group calling out for Jack to make a decision. “Please” Jack mutters, his voice lower in tone than it has been at any prior point, his request left to anyone, if they’re on the other side, to answer. A few moments of silence ensuing, Jack lets out a sigh, his head shaking in disappointment, the firearm on his hip being removed, aim taken at the oncoming dead.
His finger grazing the trigger, Jack’s attention is stolen by the door opening, an older man in a puffy jacket calling for the survivors to hurry inside. Leading his people through the door, Jack enters last, helping the long, gray-haired, thick-bearded man keep the door shut. Finally with the chance to catch his breath, the reprieve doesn’t last long, a few mechanical noises piercing through the breathy-quiet.
Swallowing a wad of spit, Jack turns around, the older man holding a gun to his head, his apparent wife, a younger man and his pregnant wife all doing the same. “Can we help you?” Jack asks softly, slowly lifting his hands into the air, his firearm held by the grip, its barrel pointed at the ceiling. Grabbing Jack’s gun, the older man snarls at him, speaking out of half of his mouth, “I guess we’ll see” the man replies, not wasting time with his introduction.
Thirteen weeks into the outbreak. The Narrow Path.
“Everyone, careful” Jack calls back, hand pressed against the back-most train car, guiding his feet atop a slim platform, “we rest when we’re halfway through.” The distance between the train to his left and the railing-less edge of the bridge to his right the length of his shoulders, Jack starts the journey, Tyler following closely behind, Shauna just behind Tyler, and Reggie in the back.
Made out of metal, the platform Jack leads his group over begins to creek beneath their weight. Gusts of wind whipping through their ears, their fairly-high place above the glacial waters below begins feeling more like a planet’s length away, the platform they stand upon becoming more like a tightrope between two skyscrapers. “We’re getting closer, just-” Jack explains, his foot extending out towards a crooked piece of metal, tripping the man up mid-sentence.
Hushing himself, Jack reaches out to break his fall, bouncing off the grating before tumbling over the edge. “I’m good! I’m good!” Jack exclaims as his feet disappear over the edge, dangling over the icy waters as he clutches towards metal pegs for dear life. Hanging at a straight angle, Jack glances up, looking at his fellow survivors through gaps in the structure, the pegs he holds onto reaching the length of the bridge, supporting the platform above like a deadly set of monkey bars.
“I can make it to the other side, just keep moving!” Jack orders, swinging his feet onto the pegs, pulling himself along the bridge's underbelly, using the bars as a capsized ladder. “We can pull-” Tyler exclaims, his suggestion stopped by the sound of gunfire, the bullets hitting nothing close, only sounding near. “Were those for-?” Shauna asks, the gunshots firing off again, this time colliding with the side of the boxcar they stand next to.
“Look for cover!” Jack frenzied orders, continuing his push further along the bridge whilst his group scrambles above. Whilst Tyler ducks into the gangway connection, Reggie and Shauna climb do the same, forcing themselves to the tops of the cars the moment an additional set of footsteps emerge from hiding. Stopping his march below, Jack listens to the footsteps pass him above, the intent of the person they belong to holding horrible intentions.
Pausing, the person above undoes a chain and lock, fiddling with different mechanisms before sliding one of the train cars open, a hissing noise emerging from within. “It’s a horde!” Tyler shouts, prompting the couple behind him to pull themselves higher, the car emptying a group of dead onto the occupied platform.
Watching the shadow of the man pass him again, Jack begins assuming they’d been purposefully allowed to pass, their final push towards the New World Order blocked off by a saboteur.
Seventeen weeks into the outbreak. The Final Push.
“We can’t start thinking like that” Jack replies, looking at Tyler out of the corner of his eye. “We need to know what we do if things go south” Tyler replies, a rifle carried on his chest and a concerned frown on his face, “we can’t just wander around out here if that’s what it comes down to.”
“That’s not what it will come down to” Jack replies, the man to his left stopping, both Shauna and Reggie following Tyler’s lead. “And how do you know that?” Tyler questions, watching Jack slowly roll to a stop, the man having walked ahead of the rest. “I don’t have to know anything” Jack replies, turning back towards his group, an unamused glare shared with those behind him, “we pushed this far on empty hope and never questioned it, we don’t need to start now.”
Understanding of his group’s growing concerns, Jack comes down to their worried level. “I get it. We’ve been fighting this whole way, and now we’re finally here. It’s jarring” Jack explains, returning to the trio and putting his hand on Tyler’s shoulder, “but we made it. If nothing else, we pushed this far, and we fucking made it. Now let’s get our goddamn reward.”
Bestilling confidence within his friends, Jack eases his last motivational point into the nick of time, the final word in his statement made as gunfire erupts in the distance. Looking the way they intend to go, the survivors recognize the presence of life where the New World Order should be, their eyes widening. Assured of its existence, the group runs down the length of the dirt road, their sights set on long-awaited salvation.
Nine weeks into the outbreak. The Truckstop.
“Can anyone hear me?” Bill asks, his voice tired and soft, his healing wounds tended to by Janice. Wincing at the alcoholic disinfectant, Bill musters through the rest of his cleaning, arms and legs showing scars, but returning to their closest, most realistic normal. “I bet you didn’t expect your first brush with death to come from almost getting hit by an airplane” Janice remarks, earning a laugh from Bill, which quickly becomes a wince with another touch of the booze-soaked rag.
“My first brush with death wasn’t the plane. It wasn’t even the car crash” Bill replies, sitting at a desk, pushing the microphone towards the wall in front of him. “My family’s got a history of cancer, a long, long history of it” Bill replies, graciously accepting the rest of the liquor, a neat swig poured down the hatch, “ironically enough, my first brush with death was being born.”
“Take it easy, Bill” Janice advises, leaving the well-lit room all to the heavily-scraped man. “How’s he holding up?” Meghan asks, crossing paths with Janice on her way towards the showers. “I’m pretty sure he’s healing, he looks fine and all” Janice replies, placing the potent rag in Meghan’s arms, “throw that in the wash for me.”
Rolling her eyes, Meghan ventures through the halls, all lit in large part to the solar panels atop the roof. Discarding the rag in a nearby laundry bag, Meghan twists the nozzle on the showerhead and replaces her dirty clothes for a towel. Having forgotten to bring soap, Meghan ventures the way she came, stopping at Bill’s room.
“Bill, do you-?” Meghan begins, pausing herself at Bill’s hurried sight, the man’s eagerness only suggesting one thing. “Yes, I’m here. Can you hear me?” Bill replies, pausing for a moment, his foot tapping against the floor in anticipation. “Yes, we can hear you” the feminine voice on the other end replies, a wide-eyed smile coming upon Bill’s face.
Thirteen weeks into the outbreak. Decisions.
“I’m good” Bill assures Meghan, brushing off her help with a gracious appreciation. “Are you sure?” Meghan replies, watching the man struggle to continue walking without struggling for his breath, each individual pocket of air noticeable, the frigid temperatures allowing spurts of air to be visible with every gasp.
“Yeah, I’m fine” Bill replies, his mind made up, his choice certain, “I need to be.” Giving in, Meghan’s concerns begin falling elsewhere, the mid-January winter making it impossible to walk much further. “We’ve already crossed back into Connecticut, Jan!” Meghan calls out, the woman a fair distance ahead finally stopping, her reluctance to turn around obvious, “we need to find somewhere to spend the night.”
Annoyed, Janice does as necessary, shaking her head as she adjusts course, taking Meghan and Bill towards a rundown pub. A small fire built in the pizza oven of the building's small kitchen, Bill catches sleep whilst Meghan approaches Janice, the woman’s cold exterior masking greater pain. “We should have gone with Cam and Heather” Janice murmurs to herself, purposefully quieted whilst intended for Meghan’s ears, “we should have. We should have gone with Cam and Heather.”
Frustrated, cold and lacking in sleep, Meghan’s better instinct to keep herself quiet goes ignored, her mouth opening despite her best intentions to keep it shut. “Are you gonna beat yourself up over every fucking decision we’ve ever made?” Meghan replies, the disgusted look she gets from Janice answering her question. “I guess not” Meghan replies to herself, snapping a small twig in half before throwing it in the fire, watching Janice turn towards her, arms crossed.
“Why? Does it bother you?” Janice replies, snickering at the woman’s gall, a gesture that fails to phase Meghan. “Yeah, it’s kinda pointless” Meghan replies, speaking little more than truth through her aggravated tone, “you’re gonna get yourself killed thinking about the past. We all made the worst decision available at some point, the point isn’t to dwell on it.”
Shaking her head, almost laughing at herself, Janice walks away, pushing through the kitchen door as Meghan follows. “You don’t care, do you?” Meghan calls out, her voice carried throughout the hallowed halls she navigates. “No I don’t, Meghan” Janice replies, walking through the front door, not looking back at the woman for a moment.
“What about Bill and I!?” Meghan calls out, their voices rising now that they’re outside, the reasons to hush now silenced, the snow falling over their heads as they stand in the middle of the road. “I understand that you want the New World Order, I really do” Meghan explains, Janice angrily turning back, looking at Meghan from the other side of the street, her feet dug into the snow, “but if we keep moving at this rate, we’re all going to freeze to death.”
Lip quivering, nose shriveling, Janice looks off at the distance, shaking her head as tears freeze on her cheek. “I don’t care about that stupid fucking camp, Meghan. You know that” Janice replies angrily, trying to keep herself contained, “stop lecturing me.” A puff of air leaving her mouth as she laughs at herself, Meghan begins shaking her head, displeased with Janice’s response.
“You may not have much care for life anymore, but I do” Meghan replies, walking towards Janice with her hands tucked in her pockets, “and I know I don’t wanna die chasing some bitch through the snow.” Squinting towards the woman, Janice remains standing where she last stepped, nodding to Meghan. “Who’s chasing who through the snow in your analogy, Meg?” Janice replies, the answer not clear at first, “am I chasing Charlotte, or are you chasing me?”
Her shoulders shrugging, Meghan illustrates her lack of care to the answer, “does it really matter? Hell, just take your pick, it applies all the same.” Fist clenched, Janice and Meghan prepare themselves for what they know is coming. Discarding her knife, Meghan lets Janice toss her rifle into the snow, their persons now completely disarmed. “I think you need this as much as I do” Janice remarks, the woman across her not refusing, Meghan’s smile giving the answer.
Seventeen weeks into the outbreak. Ambush.
“I’ve got it under control, my friend” a man replies, speaking with a thick Russian accent into a hand radio, driving down a previously-cleared road. “I will send a message-” Nico says, a loud popping sound and the sudden lack of control he has over his car silencing him. “Argh, ah fu-” Nico grunts, the left half of his car leaving the ground, the vehicle skidding across the asphalt before tipping over, grinding to a stop somewhere further down the street.
Suffering minor wounds, Nico unbuckles his seatbelt and crawls through the window, its glass lining the snow-touched streets. The screeching metal bringing the slow, unconcerning dead out from the woods, Nico pulls himself up and removes his gun. A single shot fired, Nico moans in pain as blood spews from his knee, his firearm falling into the snow, creating an imprint.
“No, please!” Nico exclaims, looking to his side to find multiple people, one with a large gun aimed in his direction, approaching with one concern. Firing off at the dead, Janice provides Meghan and Bill cover fire, the woman retrieving the gun whilst Bill hits him over the head with a rock. Dazed to their liking, Nico barely feels the rubber cable binding his hands together, his ears ringing even as he’s lifted to his feet.
“You move, I’ll make the next shot kill you” Bill warns, leading the uniformed militant through a snowy field, a dimly-lit barn in the distance calling their names. Trying to fight free, Nico struggles with Bill, throwing his legs towards him without care. Aggravated, Bill pushes Nico onto the ground and spreads his legs, the rock he carries in his hand hurled towards the hostage’s testicles.
The wind knocked out of him and his lower body numb, Nico’s hands became a handle for Bill, the man now dragging his victim’s body through the barn doors. “Nice touch, B” Meghan remarks, having herself a chuckle when Bill takes a bow, Janice’s first thought being to increase the restraints. Pulling Nico to his feet, Janice ties the weak arms of their prey to the wooden columns beside each sty.
“Hey, fucktard?” Janice exclaims, snapping her fingers in front of Nico’s dizzy eyes, “can you hear me?” Opting to play nice, Nico responds in kind, preferring not to see what insult is bound together with injury. “I’m gonna ask you some questions, you either answer them, or you’re dinner to the dead. Got it?” Janice explains, the breakdown leaving Nico no choice but to oblige.
“You work for the New World Order, right?” Janice asks, the worried nod Nico gives back affording the woman her answer. “Do you know who Charlotte is?” Janice proceeds to ask, Nico’s eyes turning to Meghan and Bill, who stand by and watch. “Hey, I’m talking to you” Janice exclaims, snapping her fingers in Nico’s face again. Answered with a nod, Janice lets the smile appear on her face, the night only beginning in her eyes, “excellent” she replies with.
Nine weeks into the outbreak. The Withdrawal.
Her hands folded atop her chest, Salem lay wrapped in her sleeping bag, the snow falling above quickly melted by the fire she resides next to. The rustling of Franklin’s bag a few feet away earning her brief attention, Salem allows her mind to run on autopilot. Thinking over the next few days worth of planning, Salem loses herself in thought, veering off into aimless consideration until her hand is forced, her ears drawn to the leaves rustling a few yards away from her.
At best, the rustling leaves are the result of tomorrow morning’s breakfast, at worst, they’re a result of a predator. Slinking out of her bag, Salem reaches for her rifle and crawls over to the man nearest to her, a finger placed over her lips once she finds the whites of his eyes. Her approach on Alicia’s bag following, an empty nudge presents a strange finding, Salem’s hands pushing down on an unoccupied lump of space, the woman nowhere to be found.
Whispering into the darkness, Salem calls for Alicia, her name rolling through the spaces in her teeth. “Where is she?” Franklin whispers, waiting for Salem’s answer, which never comes. “Salem, where is-?” Franklin asks again, ignored for a second time as the woman walks off, stomping through the snow with her rifle in hand. “Alicia!” Salem continues to whisper, her hand being forced the longer a response is refused.
Turning a flashlight onto a low setting, Salem peers through the barren trees, a dark wall of black in the distance regardless of direction. His finger pointed at the ground, Franklin points Salem towards a set of footprints, the line of booted imprints beginning near the absent woman’s bag. Following her trail, Salem and Franklin walk for nearly a mile through the frozen ground below them, the farther they walk, the louder the sounds of running water appear.
“Frank, I know this is going to sound ridiculous-” Salem whispers, looking at the man with a confident stare, “-but you should go back to camp, pack everything up, and get the car ready to leave.” Returning Salem’s expected reaction, Franklin refuses. “This is a scene straight out of a horror movie, I’m not splitting up!” the man responds, the answer not sitting well with the armed survivor.
“Franklin, if shit goes south, we’re not gonna have time to pack shit and run” Salem explains, the demands she makes not of her preferred choice, but one she knows is necessary. “If I find Alicia, and we’re safe and sound, we work from there” Salem explains, trying to convince the single-armed man to depart, “but if I don’t, and shit gets bad, we need to be ready to move.”
Frustrated, Franklin obliges, aware of the woman’s ability to look after herself. “If you find her, don’t kill her” Franklin replies, laying forth his one request. “If she’s not one of the dead, I’ll have no reason to” Salem replies, giving Franklin her word. Returning to the camp, Franklin leaves Salem to her own vices, the woman returning to her retracing of the available footprints.
“Hello?” a voice mutters in the distance, the presence spooking Salem at first, the woman quickly freezing where she last walked. “Alicia, is that you?” Salem calls out, her voice now raised, calling out into the darkness, both hoping for and dreading an answer. “Yeah” the woman replies, her voice more recognizable the second time around, prompting Salem to begin running forward, following the footsteps the rest of the way.
“Alicia!?” Salem confusedly exclaims, dashing up to the side of the woman, her question-inducing appearance leaving Salem speechless. Sickly red circles around her eyes, Alicia sweats profusely despite her short-sleeved shirt, the onset of winter easily mistakable for the middle of summer. “My flashlight died” Alicia mutters, clearly confused herself, exhaustion written over her face and carried in her slurred words.
Found sat in the snow, arms wrapped around her legs, a depressed look on her face. “I didn’t know how to get back” Alicia continues, her arms cold to the touch, a dead body likely hosting more warmth than Alicia does in that moment. “I didn’t know how- I- I-” Alicia begins to weep, turning to Salem with tears freezing to her cheeks, the other woman wrapping a coat around her chilled, sweaty friend, “-I thought I was gonna die.”
Wrapping her arms around the woman, Salem rubs the sides of Alicia’s arms, trying desperately to warm her. “Frank!” Salem screams into the distance hoping the man hadn’t walked too far out of reach. “It’s alright, we’re gonna get you back to camp” Salem whispers, making room for Alicia to lean her head against Salem’s chest, the lone wolf of a woman now having become Alicia’s source of care, a position she doesn’t question, her only concern being Alicia’s well-being.
Thirteen weeks into the outbreak. Cast Iron.
“Take it easy, man” Alicia says calmly, her hands held up, a packet of dry food held in the air. “What are you doing here?” an older woman asks, her hands gripping at a shotgun aimed to Alicia’s back, the woman having been caught on her way out. “Looking for food, trying to survive. The same as you, I suppose” Alicia remarks, waiting for the silence to pass, her face wearing a look strangely resembling a calmness.
“Turn around” the woman demands, Alicia left no other option but to do as told, her slow spin allowing her a better look at the woman’s face. “What’s your name?” Alicia’s asked, the question bringing a smile over her face. “I haven’t been asked that in a long time” Alicia says, her teeth shown to the unamused weapon-holder. “Alicia” the woman replies, her smile turning into a puckered frown, “if you want your food back, take it. I’ll find something else.”
Cards shown, Alicia leaves the woman to think amongst herself, the shotgun lowered after a few, brief seconds. “I’m Bethanne” the woman replies, inspecting Alicia’s person, her young face, long hair and less winter-suited clothes striking Bethanne as odd. “You’re young” Bethanne remarks, the response’s Alicia prefers to answer with not coming from a friendly place.
“Thanks” Alicia settles on, graciously tossing the packet of food in her hand to Bethanne’s feet, “I’ll leave you to your dinner.” Turning her back to the older woman, Alicia begins to approach the door, her hand nearly caressing the handle before Bethanne calls out. “Wait” Bethanne mutters, Alicia’s head turning over her shoulder, eyes falling back on the self-disarmed lady, “we can share” Bethanne adds, glancing at a portable stovetop.
“Where do you come from?” Bethanne asks, stirring a fork inside the packaged meal, the minutes that have passed allowing the pair to settle in for the time. “Connecticut. Old Saybrook, specifically” Alicia replies, blowing on the contents of her meal packet, cooling it off. “And you?” the younger woman asks, the semi-transparent packaging allowing Alicia to watch the clumps inside Bethanne’s packet vigorously broken up, the food fitted to the woman’s liking.
“Maine” Bethanne answers, removing a clump of tuna from the pack, the piping metal fork sliding into her mouth without a second thought. “Why are you going south?” Alicia wonders aloud, her direction having taken her the opposite direction. “I’ve got family in Atlanta” Bethanne replies, feverishly digging into her packet, “besides, I can’t stay in Concord anymore.”
“Why not?” Alicia replies, the amused glance she gets from the older woman making her feel blind to something she should otherwise know. “The New World Order’s taken over Concord. It’s a middle-man to their other compounds now” Bethanne replies, looking at the lost expression on Alicia’s face with suspicion. “You lost over something, young one?” Bethanne asks, the woman across from her unsure of a response, “you look like you just took the red pill.”
“What’s this New World Order about?” Alicia replies, the packet and her fork now dangling from between her fingers. “You just slide out of a rock?” Bethanne replies with a laugh, the head tilt from Alicia suggesting something similar. “Wait, you really don’t know about them?” Bethanne follows, noticing the honest confusion Alicia wears, “I’ll be damned. That’s a first.”
Wiping the grease from her face, Bethanne sets her meal pack against her shotgun, both hands waving through the air, illustrating her point. “There’s a bunch of camps, they’re fucking everywhere” Bethanne explains, only speaking from what she could gather, “from what I can tell, they’re at their strongest along the east coast. Five camps, five cities, one authority. Nova Scotia, August, Newark, Dover, Virginia Beach.”
“Slow down, you said they’re everywhere” Alicia replies, citing the one piece that doesn’t line up. “Yeah, they’ve got camps all over the states. But, if anyone’s being honest, the chick in charge only pays close attention to those five” the woman explains, watching Alicia’s face scrunch with every new detail.
“Anyway, there’s one woman that mainly runs the Nova Scotia plant, it’s an oil refinery” Bethanne explains, Alicia’s attention hooked, “she visits the others, makes sure they’re functioning, then dips.” Little else to tell, Bethanne leaves Alicia with that, her knowledge having run dry. “That’s it?” Alicia mutters, Bethanne’s hands thrown out, the wealth of information dried there.
“Like I said, I can’t go back to Concord. They came in, took over downtown, demanded cooperation or exile” Bethanne admits, her time inside having lasted two days, “I had family in Atlanta, figured I didn’t need them running my life.” Taking her meal back into her hands, Bethanne returns to dinner, her eyes set on the younger woman. “So what brought you here?” Bethanne replies, her story having been strung together in fragmented bits.
Another bite taken out of her packet, Alicia begins to think about the question, the answer belonging to it not clear cut. “I was split up from my group at the start, we went north, just kept moving from there” Alicia replies, unsure of what led her to the station, “I’ve just kept moving from there. I haven’t really found a reason to stop.”
“You have friends?” Bethanne replies, that small detail sticking out like a gardner’s green thumb. “Just another chick and a dude with one-armed. I didn’t know them before everything went down” Alicia replies, promising they have no ill intentions, “if you need a ride, I’m sure they’d be happy to bring you along.” Cautious, Bethanne continues the conversation, her guard lifting slightly, trusting that the woman means as she says.
“But saying ‘nothing brings me here’ feels like a cop-out, even if it’s true” Alicia replies, her eyes falling, the topic pulled down by disparaging thoughts, “I guess we’re just looking for something permanent, but I’m not even really sure of that.” Picking at her meal, Bethanne grows more interested in the woman’s story, Alicia’s appearance not matching her conscience.
“You don’t seem happy about that” Bethanne remarks, Alicia’s eyes meeting hers for a moment, her head quickly falling back to her dinner, “are you happy about that?” Her shoulders shrugging, Alicia puckers her lips, forming a frown. “I don’t really know how to feel about that” Alicia responds, her uncertain answers speaking largely of who she is, “I don’t really know if direction has ever been a big deal to me.”
Feeling like a counselor, Bethanne plays into her temporary position, her questions now digging deeper into Alicia’s past. “What did you do before hell froze over?” Bethanne wonders, a momentary relief brought over the younger lady, questions returning to topics with easier answers. “I was studying to be a social worker” Alicia replies, the recollection bringing a smile on her face, “I wanted to help people get over addictions, which is a little ironic.”
“We all have addictions, don’t get too hard on yourself” Bethanne replies, already sure of where the conversation was heading, her focus placed on getting over the hump. “We all have something we run back to when things get hard” Bethanne explains, “the only difference between them is what society does and doesn’t accept. If you’ve got an addiction to crack, you’re a burden to society. If you’ve got an addiction to social media? You’re human. It makes no sense.”
Comforted, Alicia lets a smile break through her mouth, an appreciative look given back as she raises her fork to her lips. “Where’s your fami-” Bethanne asks, the sound of a ringing bell emanating from close by, alerting her of the front door being opened. “No, no, no!” a bearded man exclaims, his gun raised towards Bethanne, “hand away from the shotty.”
Her life threatened, Bethanne moves her hand back, four more men and two women following the man inside, all armed with enough firepower to take the small building easily. “I thought you said your group was small, Alicia” Bethanne angrily groans, a judgmental glare given back to the woman across. “This is not my group” Alicia replies, watching Bethanne’s expression shift, realizing the complications this encounter entails.
Seventeen weeks into the outbreak. Choice.
“Do you guys know what the definition of ‘insanity’ is?” Alicia mutters aloud, unaware of the eye roll she gets from Salem. “Enlighten us, snowfoot” Salem replies, her eyes placed on the snow-covered road ahead, cautious with every touch of the gas pedal. “It’s doing the same thing, over and over again, expecting a different result each time” Alicia explains from the backseat, Salem not understanding the point she’s trying to make, Franklin staying out of this in the passenger’s seat.
“Where are we driving?” Alicia replies, changing the conversation whilst keeping its roots intact, her question open to an answer. “On the road, somewhere in Massachusetts, while it’s snowing” Salem replies, fully aware of what Alicia wants to know, fully insistent on leaving the proper answer aside. “When are we going to stop?” Alicia replies, looking into the rear-view mirror, finally catching the unamused look that comes with Salem’s audible sigh.
“Why does it matter, Alicia?” Salem responds, the issues she assumes the woman must have not been clear, “we have a warm car, plenty of gas, and shelter from the dead. Why do we need to stop?” Returning Salem’s inquiry with silence, Alicia folds her hands in her lap, looking out at the road out of her window. “Thanks for seeing my side” Salem sarcastically remarks, her full attention returning to the road.
A strong dislike taken to Salem’s dismissal, Alicia interjects her voice within the silence out of defiance, challenging Salem’s patience. “We can’t keep running forever, that’s why” Alicia remarks, well aware of the annoyance Salem takes to the discussion, “the longer we drive, the further we get to nowhere.” Licking her lips, Salem takes in a deep breath, the air escaping her lungs in a heavy rush, the conversation beginning again.
“We can keep running as long as the tank is full, as long as that remains the case, we’ve got protection, transportation, and warmth” Salem replies, peering at Alicia through the rear-view mirror, “is that good enough for you?” Staying silent again, Alicia lets Salem believe the conversation has been put to bed, her intentions existing elsewhere.
“No” Alicia replies after a minute, her purposeful attempt at further aggravating Salem proving successful, the woman stomping on the brakes instantly, bringing the drive to a halt. “If that’s not good enough for you, I more than welcome you to fuck off” Salem replies, her hand pressing against the back of Franklin’s seat, allowing her to peer into the backseat.
“Is that what you would like, Salem?” Alicia replies, a snickering look given back to the woman. “I’d like you to stop being a pain in my ass!” Salem frustratedly shouts, watching Alicia’s acceptance persist, the woman nodding back as she exits the vehicle, slamming the truck door behind her. “Fine, fuck her. Whatever!” Salem exclaims, pulling back into the driver’s seat and driving back onto the road.
“Stop the car” Franklin calmly mutters, his order refused immediately, Salem’s decisions made up in the heat of the moment. “No” Salem replies, continuing to pull onto the road, her foot only hitting the breaks when Franklin slams a heavy prosthetic into the dashboard. “Stop the fucking car, Salem” Franklin demands louder, finally getting his way, putting the vehicle into park for the exiting driver.
Leaving his seat, Franklin follows after Salem, who walks after Alicia, calling out for the woman’s attention. “What the fuck is your problem, junkie!?” Salem exclaims, purposefully trying to dig below Alicia’s skin. “I’m tired of going nowhere, what’s yours!?” Alicia shouts back, her arms thrown at her sides. “Stop shouting, you’re gonna bring in the dead!” Franklin yells, ending the heat of the discussion there, his voice taking on a deep, end-of-his-rope tone.
“The two of you need to put your shit aside before it gets us all killed” Franklin explains, both Salem and Alicia silently staring at each other, still wanting to yell. “She needs to learn to be a part of a group first” Alicia replies, turning her attention away from Franklin and back towards Salem, who looks to the skies with her head shaking. “Ever since day one, you’ve been looking at us like baggage” Alicia explains, watching Salem’s eyes look into her own, “that’s never changed.”
Laughing off the aggravation, Salem crosses her arms and thinks quietly to herself for a moment, answering Alicia’s claims. “I could’ve left your ass for dead in the woods, but I didn’t” Salem explains, her list of examples not stopping there, “I didn’t sneak out in the middle of the night, I didn’t hang back and let your ass get shot up at that gas station, I wouldn’t have ditched you just now even if I really wanted to. What more do you want from me!?”
“I want us to be your choice, not your circumstance!” Alicia shouts back, immediately silencing Salem, the woman ducking her head down out of shame, “I want us to be a team, not the people you got stuck with when all hell broke loose!” The passion in her pleas clearly getting at Salem, Alicia makes her position clear, no longer caring about the tears streaming down her face or the anger she blames the world for.
“How- How, how the fuck do I do that!?” Salem replies, taking a moment to gather herself, “I’ve been on my own for nine goddamn years. How do I magically just be perfectly okay with this like you?” Met with a question lacking a reasonable answer, Alicia stays quiet, allowing Salem to continue unimpeded.
“I was paired with you two at the start because of circumstance, the people I ran into Frank with were due to circumstance” Salem explains, “if I had my say, I’d be here alone, I’d be making due alone. I’d keep to myself because I fucking chose to.” Her empathetic look given to Salem, Alicia lets the woman air her grievances, Salem’s voice breaking, bringing her to terms with who she is.
“I don’t like it anymore than you, but that changes nothing” Salem explains, standing in one spot as Alicia approaches her, “I don’t know how to not be alone.” Wrapping her arms around Salem the moment her sentence concludes, Alicia whispers apologies, the same ‘I’m sorry’ repeatedly, a gesture Salem doesn’t refuse, her arms still hanging at her sides, eyes still pointed at Alicia’s former position, mind unsure of how to respond.
Nine weeks into the outbreak. Warning Signs.
“Let us in!” countless souls beyond the New World Order’s walls exclaim, desperate for sanctuary they’d been told once resided here. “Like I said, they’re built to last, but the more pile ups we have, the further my confidence meter falls” a guard explains, walking along the base of the questioned structure with John. “I appreciate you talking with me” John concludes, shaking the man’s hand and parting ways.
His soldiers forced to overlook the mob outside through vantage points scattered along the interior, John’s tremor persists, his attention given to easing it as Emilio approaches. “Hey John, do you have a-?” Emilio stops, noticing the falling confidence John walks with, “-what’s wrong?” Shaking his head, John makes a failed attempt to suggest the opposite, his friend, the former politician, quickly calling his bluff.
“I just have a bad feeling about the people outside” John replies, passing off the inhospitable actions of those on the other side as less than bothersome. “What did you need to talk about?” John changes course, desperate to talk about anything else. “Have you heard from Bill recently? Emilio replies, earning the same answer he’d been getting since the first time he’d asked.
“No, still nothing” John replies, time beginning to wear Emilio’s optimism down, his hope maintained as a way to balance the difference. “Listen, I’m not gonna be a downer, because-” John starts explaining, a frantic screaming from the distance stealing his attention away. “The back wall! The back wall!” a guard shouts, calling John’s name in hopes of being pointed in the right direction.
Thirteen weeks into the outbreak. Trojan Horse.
Fist tapping at a strong, oakwood door, a militant requests access from those on the other side. “Come in” John calls out, the militant entering the room to find the man sitting behind his desk, sifting through sheets of papers, all filled to their brim with names. “You asked to see me, sir?” the large man replies, John’s hand motioning towards the chair in front of him. “Please, have a seat” John replies, setting aside his documents in favor of the impending conversation.
“Your nametag” John points out, his first impression taken by the shiny piece of metal on the man’s left pec, “your name is ‘Jerome Levit’, so why does your nametag read ‘David Cassius’?” A guilty look on his face, Jerome tries to avoid eye contact, a gesture John discards quickly. “My eyes aren’t on the floor, place them here” John interrupts, two fingers pointed towards his eyes, “as you were saying.”
“I sort of lost my name tag, sir” Jerome replies, the puzzled look John gives back appropriate to the situation in his own eyes. “What do you mean, sort of?” John replies, hands folded on his desk, “you either lost them or you didn’t. Pick one.”
“I lost it, sir” Jerome corrects, the nod he receives from John settling the discussion. Clearing his throat, John pushes himself out of his desk and walks up to his window, the vantage point he has allowing him to see right over the wall. “Would you describe your fellow militants as, I don’t know, responsible?” John asks, speaking to the view despite his words being meant for the man’s ears.
“Most of the time” Jerome replies, his eyes stolen by the man’s frame, the moonlight draped over John’s back. “You grew up in Harlem, correct? How did you end up working for Charlotte?” John questions, continuing to look out the window. “She scouted me while I was in R.O.T.C, sir” Jerome replies, his answer already knowledge to John. Backing away from the window, John occupies the seat beside Jerome, dropping the tough guy routine in favor of something more personal.
“Your father died in battle three years ago, correct?” John asks, watching Jerome’s posture sink slightly. “Yes, sir” Jerome replies, keeping emotions to a minimum, just as he was trained. “It says on your background report that your father’s death made you want to join the military” John explains, “you wanted to serve your country as your father had?”
“Correct, sir” Jerome replies, John’s head nodding as his answer is given, his hand reaching deep into his pocket, emerging with a single American flag pendant. “Do you know what this is?” John asks, the obvious being pointed out, focus placed on appearance until such is inevitably replaced by sentiment. “Correct, it is an American flag” John replies, carefully spinning it between his thumb and index knuckle, “however, it is more than that. It’s special.”
Hiding his tremor-inflicted hand from Jerome, John continues to twirl the pendant before his eyes, taking the time to warm up to his prior service at war. “I was held captive in Ghowr for too long of a time to accurately track” John explains, Jerome’s eyes placed on the pendant, only leaving when the first name John recalls instantly rings a bell, “when I was saved, I looked at the man who had cut me out of my restraints and decided to read his name tag. ‘Marvin Levit’.”
Speechless, Jerome continues to hear John out, every word sticking in the back of his mind like transparent tape to paper. “He must’ve gotten caught on my uniform or something, but what I know is that, while waiting to be returned home, I found this in my pocket” John explains, smiling at the small flag before extending it to Jerome, “I think this belongs to you.”
Accepting his father’s pendant, Jerome struggles to think of a response. “You can cry, I won’t think less of you” John explains, fully aware of the gesture’s importance. “Jerome, I don’t want to make you feel like you have to pick and choose, but if you’re going to serve this compound, you need to understand what’s important.”
Handing Jerome a new name tag, the ‘Levit’ last name slightly larger than Jerome’s first name, John finds his way to the original point. “You signed up not to fight for your country, but to fight for what’s right” John explains, wishing for little more than Jerome’s full understanding of such truth, “something is going to happen someday, I don’t know when, and I don’t know what. But when that happens, don’t fight for the New World Order, don’t fight for me, fight for what’s right.”
“Do you think it worked?” Emilio replies, walking with John through the town’s center, his earlier encounter failing to leave his head. “I’m not sure, but I’d like to think it did” John explains, his mind set on taking his time with setting everything in motion, “we get one shot at an overthrow, we need perfection, not efficiency.”
Finishing his thought, John’s mind travels elsewhere, his eyes falling upon his soldiers, a small group of five lining up at the front gates. “What the fuck is going on!?” John calls out, the man stationed at the front gate calling out. “We’re letting Charlotte in!” the man calls out, yanking on the chains to open the compound’s entrance. “Didn’t she just leave three weeks ago?” Emilio blurts out, aware of the ‘surprise visit’ that was promised, only to have assumed it to be further out.
“Let’s just be on our best behaviour and get her the fuck out” John replies, hands placed on his hips, watching his soldiers venture out into the sea of humanity, parting the crowd in biblical fashion. Quickly jetting through the front gates, the heavily-damaged convoy van stops at the entrance, remaining windows rolling down without a departure.
Without the words to describe the picture, John and Emilio feel a chill run down their spine, something about the van just sitting there, engine running, no interest in dropping people off all feeling odd. Though falling pointless, a gun extends out of the vehicle, a single shot put through the head of the gate operator, the chains left unattended.
“Intruders!” John exclaims, the van’s back tires kicking up dirt, driving into the main grounds, running over anyone in the way. “Go look after Jess and Amy!” John exclaims, joining his fellow militants in making a dash towards the entrance, the less fortunate outside now rushing in, their intentions fully set on taking the compound over.
Seventeen weeks into the outbreak. Familiar Faces.
“No, I don’t have confidence” John replies, turning away from his wife, eyes set on the booze counter at the back of the room. “Then why are we here?” Jess responds, sitting on the floor with her daughter, giant plastic blocks held in her hands. “Because you thought it was a good idea” John replies, mid-pour on a glass of scotch. “Of course I did, I wasn’t expecting this place to get ransacked!” Jess replies, taking a breath to calm herself, John doing the same.
“Our problem isn’t the compound, our problem is the scavengers outside” John replies, his statement holding plenty of truth. “If we didn’t have to worry about them, this place would be utopia” John explains, the obvious wrench in such a plan still present, “that, however, requires a lot of self-sufficiency, and a lot less Charlotte.”
Downing the rest of his glass, John presses his back to the wall and reconsiders his position, quietly asking himself questions he finds irredeemable. “Is there room for good in this world anymore?” John wonders aloud, the vocalization of this question putting concern on his wife’s face. “Play with your blocks, okay honey?” Jess whispers into Amy’s ear, climbing to her feet and walking up to her husband, each side of the man’s face taken into her hands.
“Please don’t think like that” Jess replies, the man’s teeth sinking into his bottom lip, his wife’s eyes showing worry. “Answer the question” John replies, brushing off Jess’ plea as it repeats, asking his original question once more. “Is there room for good in this world anymore, answer the question.”
Not wasting a moment, Jess responds with a less than favorable answer. “I don’t know, John” Jess replies, quick to use those specific words, repeating them when the man fails to reply. “I honestly don’t know, John” Jess finishes, her hands running down the sides of her husband’s face as he turns away. “John, come back” Jess mutters, watching the man walk off, leaving through the front door.
“Everything okay?” Emilio asks, entering the room to the sound of the door shutting. “Watch over Amy, please” Jess replies, chasing after John.
Nine weeks into the outbreak. The Pond.
“Where’d you learn to fish?” Lauren wonders aloud, her elbow pressed to the cold wooden bannister, eyes set on the bob just floating along the water. “My dad” Kelsey replies, her eyes also following the bright red orb floating over the surface, a warm smile practically melting the cold frost around her, “he taught me when I was little.”
“Must’ve been nice” Lauren replies, half of her mind paid to the words leaving Kelsey’s mouth, the other half silently begging for the red and white ball to fall below the surface. “It was” Kelsey replies, having taken a seat upon a bench originally belonging to a picnic table, “we’d go out on the water every weekend when I was done with homework.”
Handle pressed between her legs, Kelsey leans against the railing, using it to support her back, both arms resting against the snow-covered, wooden top. “I remember one time, I was probably, like, thirteen?” Kelsey recalls, her eyes wandering around the snow-covered treeline, “my mom got promoted at her job, and to celebrate, we all went out on the lake and tried to teach her how to fish.”
Gently resting the back of her head against the bannister, Kelsey dreams back to that day in her childhood, Lauren’s eyes drifting away from her bobber, falling onto the woman. “She didn’t understand what the point was. She thought it was stupid to purposefully go fishing when you could just buy fish at the store” Kelsey explains, her voice softening, “but she agreed because she knew I liked it.”
“So fishing was like a reward?” Lauren replies, watching the woman’s dark brown eyes stare back at her, head turning away from the world, focusing on Lauren. “Not always” Kelsey replies, voice still soft, still carrying the same recollected joy, face slightly formed to content, “sometimes it was an ‘I’m sorry’, sometimes it was a ‘thank you’, sometimes it was an ‘I’ll see you later’. It was anything it needed to be.”
Calm, feeling safe in a way she hadn’t since the world fell apart, Kelsey begins wishing for herself, dreams of better days returning. “There was one day when I came home from school, it was a half day and my father didn’t know” Kelsey explains, a pain coming over her briefly, quickly vanishing as she continues, “he was packing boxes. He seemed upset, not awfully upset, but kinda upset.”
Moving aside to make room for Lauren, Kelsey rubs her hands together to keep warmth, their eyes returning to the water. “He brought me out to the lake and we fished until the sun went down” Kelsey explains, nodding to herself during a pause, a long breath leaving her lungs, “that’s when I learned what ‘divorce’ was.”
Looking back to Kelsey, Lauren notices the unphased arch of Kelsey’s lips, the woman having long accepted the complications of her past. “I’m sorry” Lauren feels the need to reply, Kelsey looking back to her with a shrug. “It’s fine. It’s been fifteen years, I moved on a while ago” Kelsey replies, a light wind throwing her own warm breath back at her.
“Where is he now?” Lauren asks, her legs extended, one foot crossed over the other. “I don’t know” Kelsey replies, visibly curious, as if she’d asked herself that many times before, “my mom won custody of me, and then she stopped letting me see him.” Annoyed by this fact, Lauren voices her disapproval, something Kelsey understands far too well. “That’s fucked up” Lauren remarks, a nod from Kelsey suggesting an agreement.
“Yeah, it is. And if I’m being honest, there will always be part of me that resents her for it” Kelsey replies, another puckered-lip shrug given back, “but she’s my mom, so what am I gonna do about it?” Retiring to the lost cause, Lauren’s mind drifts elsewhere, her investment in Kelsey’s fishing expertise only growing. “So, that was the last time you fished?” Lauren asks, quickly earning a shake of the woman’s head.
“God no. But it was the last time I fished with him” Kelsey replies, her foot tapping along to non-existent rhythms, “mom got the house, so I still lived on the water. My weekends belonged to the fish.” A partial smile beginning, Lauren’s face soon retorts, additional questions bubbling up inside her head. “So now you fish to, what? Escape?” Lauren replies, the suggestion something sitting well with Kelsey.
“I guess you could look at it that way, yeah” Kelsey replies, a grin emerging, “but there’s obvious importance to it, now. This place is also lovely to look at. And I hadn’t fished with anyone else since that day, so make of that jumbled mess what you will.” Eyes squinting, Lauren looks at Kelsey, her head tilting to her shoulder. “Wait. Does that mean-?” Lauren begins, interrupted by the woman, who finishes the question for her.
“Are you the first person I’ve fished with in fifteen years?” Kelsey replies, a cheery expression embellished, “yup.” With a giggle, Kelsey turns back to the pond, looking out at the water until her attention is called for again. “What makes me so special?” Lauren replies, the question raised just as Kelsey’s bob dips below the water, little air bubbles emerging from below. “Who said you were special?” Kelsey replies humorously, leaving her seat to reel her catch in.
“I’m gonna need your help here, special one” Kelsey jokes, her foot placed upon the wooden railing, “this is a big one.” Unsure of what to do, Lauren awkwardly maneuvers around the woman, fumbling her hands around Kelsey’s arms. “Just put both hands around my hips and keep me from falling over, you goof” Kelsey jokes, struggling to pull her reel in, whatever bites at the end of the line seeming to put up one hell of a fight.
“Almost got it, here we go!” Kelsey exclaims, laughing aloud as her line emerges from below the surface, a small minnow hanging from the end of the line. “What the-?” Lauren gasps, watching Kelsey take glee in the display, a moment passing before she catches onto the joke. Hands placed at her hips, “very funny” Lauren remarks, walking back the way she arrived, returning to the cabin.
“Oh come on!” Kelsey remarks, Lauren’s own laughter visible as she turns, walking backwards whilst her eyes are kept upon Kelsey. “Don’t be a buzzkill, get back here a-” Kelsey calls back, stopped by the sound of snapping below her, a brief second passing. Suddenly breaking through the splintered wood, Kelsey’s foot snaps off one piece of the railing, her body weight taking her into the rest of the bannister, which snaps beneath her body weight, letting her plunge into the chilly waters.
Calling out the woman’s name, Lauren watches Kelsey’s body disappear below the surface, a quiet coming over for a moment before the woman bursts back through. “Fuck, it’s cold!” Kelsey shrieks, both scrambling to the shoreline and laughing at herself. Reaching through the remaining bannister, Lauren takes Kelsey’s hand and guides her back to land, what the small body of water lacks in size, it more than makes up for in temperature.
“My bones are ice” Kelsey mutters to herself, shivering as she’s ripped from the water, the snow having never felt more warm than in that moment. “We gotta get you back to the house!” Lauren exclaims, lifting a heavily-soaked Kelsey into her arms, trying to walk on her behalf with no progress. “I can’t, I can’t. Sit me down for a sec” Kelsey explains, needing a moment to gather herself before the rest of her body will cooperate.
Tripping over a tree root protruding from the ground, yet hidden below the snow, Lauren topples over, taking Kelsey to the embrace of the wintry mix below. “Kelsey, you’re gonna get hypothermia if we don’t get you back right now” Lauren remarks, looking into the woman’s eyes, her thoughts pausing for a moment. Her trance-like state not lasting long, Lauren makes the second effort, pushing herself up before carrying the frostbitten woman in her arms.
“Do I call you ‘my hero’ now?” Kelsey jokes, her sopping clothes abandoned in a pile on the floor, her nude body wrapped in blankets and other sources of warmth. “I don’t care what you call me” Lauren replies, sitting beside the woman atop a couch near the fireplace, both women greeted by the heat of the fireplace and the moment.
“I’m just glad you’re safe” Lauren concludes, losing herself in the woman’s eyes once again, Kelsey more than aware of this, as she has been to each other time. “Why hesitate?” Kelsey asks aloud, Lauren unsure what she means, slowly coming along. “If you’re going to make a move, you should” Kelsey remarks, lifting her hand from below her blanket, the tips of her fingers grazing the side of Lauren’s face, her soft skin warm to the touch, “who knows how long we’ll have?”
Lip quivering, Lauren processes the woman’s words, forcing herself to act on instinct and give in. With a lean, Lauren presses her lips to Kelsey’s own, keeping them there for a few seconds before pulling back, her eyes melting with Kelsey’s own. “Do it again” Kelsey replies, her hand sliding down to Lauren’s neck as the woman obliges, choosing to take what her time affords her, giving into her instinct.
Thirteen weeks into the outbreak. The Bridge.
Leading by example, Tori approaches a rundown truck, propelling herself off the running boards and climbing into the truck bed, an army of the dead separated by the length of the truck bed. “One at a time, never get on a car someone else is still on” Tori warns, steadying her feet, the weight of the dead putting a noticeable shake on the car. Easing her breaths, Tori climbs atop the cabin, sliding down the windshield cautiously, keeping her distance from the dead, having a narrow window to do so.
A sideways vehicle just beyond the hood, Tori makes her first jump, her feet graciously squeaking along the top, a moment taken to steady herself right after. “Next man up!” Tori calls, her attention given fully to her next approach. “I don’t care who goes next as long as I’m last” Mark proclaims, his obvious dislike for this plan made evidently clear. Taking this as his call to action, Brent clasps his backpack straps together and climbs atop the truck, quickly preparing himself.
The addition of a second person thinning everyone’s individual attention, Tori and Brent find noticeably less resistance, their task a little easier. “I’ve got nothing around me” Tori calls out, her next attempt less certain than her previous, eyes scanning the area before peaking interest. “It’s time to be ballsy!” Tori exclaims, turning to the lesser-populated group of the dead, a steady breath taken as she leaps over their heads.
“Where are you going!?” Kelsey calls out, watching Tori rush through a crowd of the dead, wailing on anything in her way. Without a word, Tori dashes towards a bright red sports car, sliding onto its hood and setting herself again, leaping onto a nearby van before taking a break. “What the fuck was that, Tori!?” Mark shouts, drawing more attention to his group, the woman peering her head over the edge of the van to respond.
“Like we said, perfection” Tori exclaims, standing to her feet whilst calling out for her group, significant progress made, “we don’t have an easy path, we’ve gotta make due with what we’ve got!” Her point clear, Tori leaves the rest of the group to think amongst themselves, the chain of command quickly breaking down, everyone now looking for a worthy route.
Following Tori’s footsteps, Brent skips over the nearby car and throws himself into the pit, fending off the dead just as Tori had, his success less notable. Forced to redirect himself, Brent shakes off the countless arms reaching for him, his attention now set on the side of the bridge. “The ladder, run for the ladder!” Lauren exclaims, her eyes set on the set of rungs along the abutments, the pegs forming a makeshift ladder Brent is all too happy to seek salvation in.
The only way out of the dead’s reach being to climb up, Brent discovers his new predicament, the waiting hands of the dead just below him leaving him now room to turn back. “Brent, stay up there!” Lauren exclaims, running to the opposite side of the bridge, throwing her body over the roof of a nearby Cadillac. The dead with their back towards her, Lauren lunges herself at the closest corpse, shoving it into the rest like a bowling pin, their attention now taken by her.
“Lauren, what the hell are you doing!?” Kelsey exclaims, watching her girlfriend fight through the dead, maintaining her distance despite becoming the center of attention. “We can fight our way through!” Lauren shouts, swinging at anything that moves with a pocket shovel, the grooves carving deep gashes in every zombified skull standing in her way. Seeing her opportunity, Tori takes the distraction for what it’s worth, climbing down from the van and brandishing her hatchet.
“Sway them!” Mark mutters aloud, his racing mind having stumbled upon their solution. “If you gather the dead to one side, you can use the empty path to get across!” the man shouts, scanning the area for his own route. Making as much noise as she can, Kelsey draws the dead towards her, battling for attention with the persistent car alarm.
His path clearing, Brent climbs back to ground level and makes a break for the other side of the bridge, his crowbar coming down on anything that moves in front of him. Biding her time, Kelsey waits for the perfect opportunity to reroute, dashing to the other side of the bridge, taking Lauren and Brent’s newly-cleared route. Keeping out of sight, Mark lets the dead follow after Kelsey, allowing the path to clear before hurrying along the opposite side.
Leading the pack, Tori slashes at anything ahead, intending to clear the path ahead before her eyes are taken elsewhere. “Get down!” Tori exclaims, throwing herself into the side of a minivan the moment gunshots ring out, her force prompting another alarm to begin buzzing. “Head of the bridge, ducking by a big chunk of concrete to the left!” Brent calls out, another bullet firing off in his direction, the situation now becoming dire.
“I don’t have much time to work with, guys!” Tori calls out, the dead now focused on the mixture of gunfire and the blaring alarms, their sights upon her. “Same problem!” Mark exclaims, the dead previously following Kelsey all now locking onto him. Limited rounds to spare, Tori fires back at the shooter, two warning shots failing to ward them off, her window closing.
His anxiety levels peaking, Mark forces himself into action, dashing out of cover and into the waiting arms of the horde, swinging at whatever moves. “Mark, duck!” Brent exclaims, watching the barrel of the enemy rifle take aim at the exposed man, the lightbulb in Lauren’s head flashing. Removing herself from cover, Lauren takes aim at the figure across the bridge, her shot lined up as the enemy begins firing again, one pull of the trigger dealing massive damage.
“They’re hit!” Lauren exclaims, the declaration giving Tori enough reason to make a dash towards the opposing gunfire. “So is Mark!” Kelsey horrifically exclaims, Brent and Lauren turning to find what Kelsey does, a shocked Mark cupping his neck and he hesitantly pulls away from the oncoming horde. Turning towards those watching on, Mark’s shirt quickly stains red, the blood oozing from his jugular like spilled milk, his eyes widened, perfection tarnished.
Stumbling backwards, Mark desperately clings to life as he tries resiliently to escape the dead’s reach, his momentum taking him over the edge of the bridge, sending him cratering to the icy waters below. Furious and stunned, Lauren and Kelsey watch on, quickly having to be guided to safety by Brent, who himself deals with the vision replaying in his head.
“Take what you want, just leave me-!” the woman responsible for the loss of life pleads, her words cut off by Tori’s gunfire, a single bullet ripping through her skull. Turning back, Tori notices Mark’s presence lost, eying the group of dead glancing over the edge Mark had fallen over, the dots connecting in her head. “Come on” Tori says with a defeated sigh, stealing the gunwoman’s bag from her corpse, their lives still counting on moving forward, “we’re burning daylight” she says, upset.
Seventeen weeks into the outbreak. The Rooftops.
“There’s gotta be thousands” Kelsey mutters, peering through the blinds at the neighboring street, the slow undead still bountiful in size. “We can’t camp out in here” Brent whispers, the night having fallen over their trail, “too many broken windows, no way to light a fire, nothing.” Considering their options quietly, only one outcome prevails, Brent’s bite making their efforts a race against the clock.
“I say we risk it” Kelsey remarks, eyes finding her out of the moonlit foyer they occupy. “We split into two groups, lessen the bodies to grab at” Kelsey explains, her idea sound in logic thus far, “we regroup at the mall downtown, take it’s rear entrance onto the next street, figure out how to address Brent’s bite when we get there.”
“That’s a good plan” Tori replies, her eyes spotting out the tall frame of Brent from the rest. “I’ll take Brent, we’ll go towards the overpass” Tori explains, leaving Kelsey and Lauren to group together, “we make noise, draw the group in two directions, cut the horde in half like before.” In agreement, the group nods to each other and takes a second to catch their breath, a cool rush of air hitting them in the face the moment Kelsey shoves the door in.
“Hey, you undead fucks!” Kelsey exclaims, running off to the left with Lauren whilst Tori and Brent veer right, slamming pans against lamp posts, drawing the dead. “Take a left at the overpass, we’ll run three blocks worth down the side road and pop out on main street!” Brent exclaims, leading the charge, hurling his crowbar at everything that walks.
Making their first turn, the rest of the journey becomes a straight shot, the ease of navigation made up for by the sheer size of the frozen undead in their path. “Oh shit, that wasn’t what I was expecting” Brent mutters to himself, he and Tori now stood at a stop, caught in the intersection, their original plan failing. Forced to adjust, Tori pulls Brent down an alleyway, the hole to squeeze through the present just long enough for them to enter unscathed.
Their progress impeded by another wall of the dead, Brent and Tori begin to realize how surrounded they truly are, with very little in the way for error. “Fuck it, stay behind me!” Brent exclaims, handing his backpack off to Tori. “What are you doing?” Tori calls out, watching Brent sprint into the dead, his crowbar crushing the skulls of the countless dead all around him.
“I’m already dead anyway, I might as well use that to my advantage!” Brent exclaims, his arms and upper body scratched at and lunged for, his end goal having become a suicide mission. “Get behind me!” Brent exclaims again, Tori nearly falling too far behind. “Let’s go!” Brent shouts, picking up the pace, his arms spread outwards. Using his body weight, Brent barrels through the dead, his arms and torso being littered with scratches and bites, the path cleared for Tori.
“Back on the side road!” Brent exclaims, nursing his wounds, some barely visible, others fairly deep and aggravating. Taking the crowbar from Brent’s hands, Tori takes the lead, swinging at the straggling bodies as they emerge from the concrete jungle, the horde they approach attracted immediately. “Through the burger shop!” Brent suddenly shouts, running past Tori pushing aside every undead corpse in his way, the front windows across the street calling out for him.
Lunging himself off the curb, Brent shatters the artsy display into bits and pieces, the vacant restaurant offering brief safety for the moment. “Brent, you’ve gotta stop trying to get yourself killed!” Tori shouts, climbing through the wreckage as the brute of a man cleans himself off.
“Tori, I’m already dead. As far as I’m concerned, my only job is getting you through this alive” Brent remarks, brushing off the statement as nothing, whilst Tori thinks it over continuously, Brent’s words sticking with her. “Come on, through the back and into the alley!” Brent directs, breaking the woman out of her statue-esque pose, their attention turning to the rear exit.
With a deep breath, the pair push through the rear entry and tear through the undead, pushing through the second road and venturing down a final alley. Taking his crowbar back, Brent continues to attack the dead, downing his would-be killers with precision, the tide turning when he fails to finish off one in particular. Merely toppling the corpse, Brent moves on as if he’d taken care of it, a violent tug at his leg below making it clear that he hadn’t.
Both rotten hands gripped around his ankle, the prematurely discarded zombie sinks its teeth into the man’s muscular calves, the sharp pain sending a shriek out of the large body. Falling to the side, Brent takes out Tori on his way down, his large upper body jamming the woman’s knee against a neighboring concrete wall. Finishing the undead with one final blow, Brent pulls Tori to her feet, both survivors now nursing a fairly hindering progress.
Spilling out onto the main road, Tori begins to notice Brent’s weight carried more by her than the other way around, this realization handicapping them as they spill onto the main road. “We’re almost there!” Brent gasps, a few yards separating them from two separate hordes, one trailing behind them, one approaching in front of them. “We’ve just gotta get past this last bunch!” Brent exclaims, trying to stand on his own two feet, quickly finding his efforts fruitless.
“How many rounds you got?” Brent questions, trying to catch his breath, the woman glancing into her clip, only three bullets left at her disposal. “That’s not gonna be enough” Brent mutters to himself, preparing himself for a final push. “We’ve gotta set of bushes at that end” Tori says to herself, speaking as if Brent weren’t beside her, brushing off his presence as non-existent, “and we’ve got a car right here.”
“What are you going on about?” Brent asks, finally standing on the weight of one leg, his severed one bent back, rendered useless. “I’m thinking” the woman replies, making sure she can place weight on her bad knee before looking back at Brent. “Thank you” Tori whispers, firing her gun at Brent’s final good knee, the man’s body slamming into the frozen ground below, the woman firing one final shot at a car window nearby, the alarms blaring into the night sky.
“What the fuck, Tori!?” Brent exclaims, watching the woman pry the crowbar out of his hands before dashing across the street. “I’m sorry!” Tori exclaims, hobbling towards a set of bushes before diving into the shrubbery, leaving Brent immobile in the street, a sitting duck to his impending death. “Fuck you, Tori!” Brent shouts with vigorous rage, desperately trying to crawl away from the dead, their slow pace still faster than the length Brent can crawl.
“Fuck you, you bitch!” Brent shouts again, the woman watching from behind the snowy plantlife, the dead beginning to tear into his helpless body, devouring him alive. “Rot in hell!” Brent exclaims as the teeth sink into him, every other sound that follows rendered into wails and cries, his desperate voice pleading for mercy until the very last moments.
“No, please!” Brent shouts, trying to push the countless bodies away, the man disappearing below the undead mass, his voice carrying for a few moments longer. “Please, have-” Brent exclaims, shrieking in veiled noises, fighting for every last second on this earth, “pleeeaass!” Brent’s final words are, his life fading the moment his voice stops, the bellowing groans replacing his frail existence, the lone car alarm singing to Tori from afar, the flashing lights illuminating the horde.
Nine weeks into the outbreak. The Escape.
“I think this is a bit unnecessary” Jack remarks, his knees resting on the tiled floor, the cold touch noticeable through his damp slacks. “I think it’s perfectly reasonable” the older man replies, watching his daughter’s husband slap cuffs on Jack’s wrists, “we saved your life, you shouldn’t be complaining.” Conceding, Jack drops the subject, his mind already set on a second question.
“What’s your plan here?” Jack inquires, noticing the irritated look on the man’s face, the cards he intends to play kept close to his chest. “What do you mean by that?” the older man replies, his hands patting each side of the four survivors. “You have us cuffed, you have the dead outside, the ball is in your court” Jack replies, looking the man in the face, the scowl he gets in return sticking well at the back of his head, “what’re you going to do with us?”
Refusing to answer, the older man pats him down and walks away, his daughter’s husband left to watch over them. Taking the group’s secrecy and restraints into consideration, Jack’s mind begins leaping from one conclusion to the next, shuffling by until one end point sticks out from the rest. “You’re stuck in here” Jack mutters to himself, the words just loud enough to be heard by those around him.
“You’re keeping your distance so you don’t get attached” Jack explains, glancing back at the wife’s husband, who holds a handgun by his side, ready to fire if needed. “You waited to let us in because you were making a plan” Jack continues, earning the ire of the man standing over him. “Keep your mouth shut” the man orders, his warnings falling upon deaf ears, Jack considering himself dead, either by the hands of the other group, or by the teeth of the dead.
“You wanted to use us as bait” Jack continues, the eye roll the man behind him replies with noticeable, “you just wanted us to cooperate. It’s less difficult that way.” Looking towards the front of the store, Reggie, Tyler and Shauna notice the rest of the other survivors talking amongst themselves, pointing to different directions, appearing as if an escape was in the works.
Beginning to notice the compliance of Jack’s fellow survivors slipping through his fingers, his need to act kicking in. “I told you to shut your mouth” the husband exclaims, holding his gun to the back of Jack’s head, this display earning his family’s attention. “What’s going on back there!?” the older man shouts, taking charge of the situation, returning to the back of the store.
“This guy won’t stop the crazy talk” the husband replies, Jack’s head turning back towards the father and son-in-law, a half-smile appearing through his lips. “Tell me I’m wrong then” Jack replies, looking at both men, trying to find the gall within either of them to be upfront and honest. “What are we gonna do with this guy?” the husband asks, looking to his father in law for the answer.
“Yeah, pops” Jack mocks, daring the two men to prove him right, even if it means paying the price of his life, “what are we gonna do with me?” With a snarl, the older man considers his choices for a moment, his eyes traveling back to the front of the store, a decision made quietly. Taking Jack by the cuffs, the older man pulls Jack to his feet and leads him away, their legs carrying them to the front of the store.
“True colors, I see” Jack remarks, his heart beating, the handcuffs pairing his wrists by his lap making this act a death sentence. “I guess this was bound to happen eventually” Jack remarks, still lead towards the front door, a sudden display of humanity suddenly emerging. “We can’t do this, dad” the pregnant daughter remarks, her concerns brushed aside, her father telling her to move out of the way.
“Dad, we can find another way” the daughter replies, her arms crossed, feet firmly planted on the ground, refusing her dad passage. “Sweetheart, we need to get you to the New World Order” the man replies, still failing to find a give within her stance. “We can figure something else out!” the lady replies, steadfast in her position, “we’re not those kinds of people!”
“We have to be!” the man angrily shouts, raising his voice for the first time, the woman visibly affected by it. “This isn't a book club, sweetie. This is survival of the fittest” the man remarks, a few straggling corpses beyond the front doors now looking in through the windows, begging for the chance to get a hold of the survivors inside.
“We do this so we can get you help. We do this because we have to” the man continues, his daughter still opposed to the idea, but clearly being worn down. “We don’t have to do this” the woman replies, her softened tone matched by her father. “Yes, we do” the man replies, his wife walking up to their daughter, inaudible whispers spoken into her ear, finally convincing the daughter to stand down.
Sheepishly walking away from the doors, the young woman clears the path, a disgruntled look worn upon Jack’s face, his fate sealed. “Do the bidding” the older man orders his daughter’s husband, the man walking up to the glass and tapping along. “Fresh meat, come get it!” the younger man shouts, drawing the horde closer.
“Let him go!” Shauna exclaims from afar, Reggie and Tyler having slipped their handcuffed wrists over the heads of the two women. “You make any poor moves, we’ll snap their necks” Reggie remarks, the threat laid down. “We’ll fucking shoot you down, don’t think otherwise!” the older man declares, her and his son in law raising their firearms towards the enemy.
“You were gonna use us as bait, we’re already dead to you” Shauna remarks, hidden behind Reggie, Tyler and their captives, “you’ve got no leverage.” No words left to exchange, the standoff ensues, groans and guttural cries from the dead beyond the glass vantage points the only thing surrounding the air. “Where would you go without us?” the older man remarks, neither group able to run beyond the boundaries of the building, “your only hope is that we- AaaHh!-”
Yanking the hunting knife out of the older man’s holster, Jack drives the blade into the man’s side, the sudden piercing causing his finger to pull the trigger, a shotgun blast obliterating his daughter’s skull. Collapsing, the older man clutches at his wounds, the knife remaining in Jack’s hand, screams filling the room whilst the husband looks on in shock.
Unable to process what had just happened, the husband looks on in shock, his wife’s body lifelessly colliding with the ground. Without another move, the husband’s throat gushes blood, a swipe with the knife in Jack’s hand slitting his throat. Only coming to an understanding of what’s happening after the fact, the husband drops his weapon, his body weakly falling to his knees as his hands wrap around his neck, failing to stop the bleeding.
Her family wiped out in the span of seconds, the mother looks to Jack, her husband’s blood on his hands, her son in law’s blood on his chest. Stood there, hands still cuffed, blade still dripping blood, Jack looks back to the mother, her inhuman shrieking a sign of things to come. “You alright, Jack?” Shauna calls out, Reggie quickly pulling his handcuffs away from the headless daughter, his wrists only sporting a few minor cuts.
“Jack?” Shauna calls again, the man having failed to answer her the first time, his eyes stoically pressed to the mother’s. “Yeah” Jack replies in a breathy tone, reaching down to pull the keys off the father’s waistband, “I’m fine.” Freed of his restraints, Jack takes his knife to the older man’s skull, putting an end to his life as he had with his younger counterpart.
Freeing his group of their restraints, Jack keeps his own within grasp, kneeling beside the mother and keeping his eyes upon her. “Your daughter didn’t deserve what happened to her” Jack whispers, the shocked woman only able to stare back, her heart racing too quickly for her mind to think coherently. “Your husband, however, he did. So did the other guy-” Jack concludes, slapping one cuff over the woman’s wrist, attaching it to a low-placed pipe, “-and so do you.”
Reversing the roles, Jack orders the rest of his group to strip the bodies of valuables, a few weapons, bullets, and other equipment carried in tow. Standing over the mother, her son in law’s pistol in his hands, Jack makes his parting words effortlessly clear. “You didn’t have to be those people, you chose to be” Jack explains, aiming his weapon at the window and pulling the trigger, allowing the horde to spill in, “and now we choose to be, too.”
Their equipment in tow, Jack and his group return to the back of the building, the older woman’s pleas for safety only now emerging, those with the power in no hurry to come to her rescue. “Just another second” Jack says, stopping with his hand on the doorknob, delaying their escape purposefully, “if we’re doing this, we have to stomach it.”
Forcing themselves to take in the woman’s helpless cries, the survivors watch every second of the dead’s approach, their hungered growls closing in further. Shrieks emerging, the group watches the dead tear into the woman, her deafening hollers firmly sticking to their conscience. “Now” jack finally utters, pulling the door and leading the escape, their return to the midwinter coming at a cost.
Thirteen weeks into the outbreak. The Narrow Path.
“Stay off my bridge!” the pistol-wielding, middle-aged man exclaims, firing at Reggie and Shauna randomly, hoping for one bullet to finally make contact. Pausing briefly with each gunshot, Reggie and Shauna attempt to walk along the top of the sloped train cars, each sudden move threatening to roll them straight off the bridge.
“Both sides are swarmed!” Tyler shouts, his only safety residing in the gangway connection, his height keeping him from climbing higher. “Hold on, Ty!” Reggie shouts, picking up the pace of his run, no longer stopping at random gunfire. “Grab my hand!” Reggie shouts, throwing himself against the sloped cabin, his hand reaching into the open slot.
The cabin below her feet shaking with each step she takes, Shauna becomes increasingly unstable, her body jolting with each gunshot fired near her. Still maintaining her position, Shauna prepares to jump the gap between two cars, a last moment hesitation proving costly. Yelping out in pain, Shauna crashes into the side of one box car, falling straight into the gap below, her reaction indicating a massive problem.
“Go get Shauna!” Tyler exclaims, ordering Reggie to back away, his mind having been made up. Picking a side, Tyler stands between the looming undead and Shauna’s position, buying Reggie time to retreat.
Finally halfway up the bridge, Jack pulls himself to the surface and glances back at his group, his attention only stolen by the rippling gunshots just over his head. Ascending a ladder, Jack sneaks up to the shooter, an angry frown worn on Jack’s face. Unsheathing the hunting knife from his belt, Jack catches the ear of the middle aged wanderer, who jumps back at Jack’s sight, his gun falling from his hands, crashing into the icy waters below.
Out of moves and cornered, the older man throws his hands up in a sign of surrender, a gesture that does nothing to help him. With force, Jack plunges the knife into the man’s sternum, keeping it lodged within for a moment before cutting up, gutting the man where he stands. Choking on blood as his own organs spill onto the platform below, the middle aged man looks into the eyes of his killer in fear.
Throwing the man over the bannister, Jack lets his victim join his gun below the water’s surface, attention immediately returned to his people.
Keeping himself close to the train, Tyler throws each corpse that closes in over the edge, unknowingly approaching the same twisted metal that nearly spelled disaster for Jack earlier. “Do what you’ve got to, Reg!” Tyler shouts, continuing to hurl each corpse in his path to the river below, the line of zombies nearly disposed of. “I’m trying Ty, she’s fucked up!” Reggie exclaims, the woman’s knee badly wounded, a deep gash and additional swelling making it impossible to walk.
Reaching out for the final corpse, Tyler jumps back the moment a blade plunges through the front of its face, the back of his foot caught on the earlier wreckage. Disposing of the final corpse himself, Jack catches Tyler’s hand mid-fall, saving him from a troubling fall. “Can we get some help back here!?” Reggie shouts, the neighboring side of the bridge still infested with the dead.
“Get her leg up!” Jack exclaims, ripping a piece of his flannel shirt off, tightly knotting it along the woman’s thigh. “The two of you cover me, I’ll carry her” Jack orders, pulling the woman’s arm over her shoulder, carrying her like a bag on his back, their destination lying at the end of the bridge.
Seventeen weeks into the outbreak. The Final Push.
“Let us in! Let us in! Let us in!” a jumbled group of survivors exclaims, cheering into the night sky, aimlessly firing bullets into the air, trying to capture the attention of those inside. “This is going to boil down to a gunfight” Shauna remarks, her leg supported by a makeshift cast, the rest of her group in agreement. “Keep your distance” Jack replies, his orders given to everyone, “if this gets ugly, we’re not getting caught in the crossfire.”
Backing away, the group begins to join those at the back of the mob, taking on the dead drawn to the sparse gunfire. “Do we wait for them to let us in?” Reggie wonders aloud, the next step having never been less clear. “Like I said before, if they don’t let us in, they don’t let us-” Jack replies, the heavy metal gate opening before he can finish his statement, the mob beyond the front walls having finally brought upon the forces from inside.
“Hold your fire!” an unreasonably familiar voice declares, Jack’s ear drawn towards the commanding officer, failing to pin a face to the words. “Who is that?” Jack finally chooses to ask his group, the remaining survivors all failing to recognize it as well. “What do we-” Tyler finally asks, stopping himself when Jack silently disobeys his own orders, pushing through the crowd in search of the front of the line, his group’s hand forced to follow after him.
Nine weeks into the outbreak. The Truckstop.
“Are we really going home again, mommy?” Tyler wonders aloud, Janice’s arms wrapping around him, holding the boy tightly by her side. “Hopefully, honey” Janice replies, smiling down to the boy, her honest expression of concern returning when she glances back at the oncoming trucks, “hopefully.”
Pulling into the open lot, a fleet of trucks and vans stop in the snowy ground, many armed men and women emerging from within, stopping a few yards away from the miniscule group of survivors. “Which one of you is Charlotte?” Meghan calls out, her question receiving no answer, prompting her attempt to ask it again. “Which one of-?” Meghan asks, a random white man at the front of the group interrupts, asking a question of his own.
“Are you the leader?” the man calls out, his eyes set upon Meghan, who stands a short distance away from her peers. “Are you going to answer my question? Meghan replies, finally getting her answer. “Nope” the man responds, immediately presenting the power dynamic, their guns, their number, their conversation, all of it under their control.
“I’ll ask again, don’t make me ask for a third” the man calls out, his warnings issued, “are you the leader?” Keeping herself from getting out of line, Meghan looks back to her group. “We don’t have a leader” Meghan replies, still standing a few feet away from the rest of her people. Dissatisfied, the man subdues a disapproving look, opening his mouth to speak before a woman gets the drop on the conversation first.
“You’re not a very good group if you don’t have a leader, then” Charlotte replies, casually hiking out from the back of the group, confidently strolling up to the forefront of her forces. “I think we’ve done pretty well so far” Meghan replies, a shrug being given back by the distant woman, both hands in her pockets. “Yeah, you’ve stayed alive if that’s what you mean by ‘pretty well’” Charlotte replies, her shoulders shuffling the cold away, “but have you been thriving?”
Looking to the building they’ve briefly called home, Meghan gives herself a nod. “We’ve got a truckstop. That’s not bad” Meghan replies, speaking with an unamused, stoic tone. “You’re funny” Charlotte replies, taking honest humor out of the woman’s presentation. “Leaderless groups never fare very well” Charlotte explains, her presence the way that it is giving her point credence, “democracy can only work so well. You need one mind making calls, not multiple.”
“Why is that?” Meghan replies, overhearing a giggle emerge from Charlotte. “I’ll answer your question with my own” Charlotte replies, taking her seat at the game table Meghan wishes to occupy, “let’s say you and mumsy over there have two different plans in mind, which plan do you go with?”
“Whichever one Bill chooses” Meghan replies, another laugh emerging from Charlotte. “And if Bill’s dead?” Charlotte replies, the ominous statement carrying more trouble than it otherwise should. “Then we pick the better plan” Meghan replies, each answer only bringing out more of a laugh from the blonde woman across the lot. “And if you both think your own plan is better?” Charlotte replies, finally interrupting Meghan just as she goes to answer.
“And there you see why you need a leader!” Charlotte exclaims, her hair whipping in the bitter cold winds, “in the time it takes you to make a choice, a leader will have shit already getting done!” Laughing off the discussion as pointless, Charlotte breaks away from her militants and begins to approach Meghan. “I’m gonna pretend you’re the leader, because your stance already suggests it” Charlotte explains, pointing out Meghan’s distance from her people.
“If you four are doing ‘pretty well’, why are you calling out to us?” Charlotte replies, her fingers snapping in Meghan’s face as the woman attempts to look back. “I’m not asking them, girly. I’m asking you” Charlotte explains, taking another few steps closer, getting in Meghan’s face, expecting an answer, “why are you calling out to us?”
Keeping her eyes on Charlotte, Meghan gives a vague, unsatisfying answer. “We wanted to know who else was out here” Meghan replies, an obvious disinterest in Meghan’s response taken by Charlotte. “Really?” Charlotte replies, a snobbish tone taken, “you called us out here to make friends?”
Her chin lifting, Meghan bites at her bottom lip, returning Charlotte’s shrug back to her. “Is that a problem?” Meghan replies, Charlotte’s lips slowly parting, giving Meghan a smile back. “That itself isn’t much of a problem” Charlotte replies, a suddenly chipper tone quickly appearing, her follow-up returning to normal, “the lie, however, that is.”
Close enough for the heat from her breath to warm Meghan’s face, Charlotte asks her question again, this time wanting a genuine answer. “Why did you call us out here?” Charlotte asks again, toying around with the woman, purposefully closing the distance, stripping away comfort. “I’m sorry, but we don’t have an answer” Meghan replies, noticing the head-tilt Charlotte holds, “the truth is, I don’t think we were truly expecting an answer.”
Offering Meghan the benefit of the doubt, Charlotte removes a gun from her hip, aiming the barrel of the gun towards Bill, her eyes remaining fixated on Meghan, practically piercing her soul. “I’ll assume that was why you looked for a radio, but that doesn’t answer my actual question” Charlotte explains, her finger gently grazing the trigger, “when we answered, you led us to you. You didn’t think to ask questions, you didn’t want supplies, you asked us to come here. Why?”
Her demeanor unchanged, Meghan recognizes what Charlotte wants to hear, the gun aimed at Bill no longer serving as a threat, her understanding superseding all conflicts. “We wanted more” Meghan replies, the head tilt Charlotte takes leading her to the right answer, “we’re tired of being miserable. We don’t want to survive anymore, we want to live.”
Digesting Meghan’s answer, Charlotte remains standing there, silently thinking to herself, the gun wavering in the air. “That’s a better answer, Meghan” Charlotte replies, smiling at Bill, the gun still wavering in the air, “why couldn’t you have said that sooner?” Confused, Meghan looks at Charlotte for a moment, opening her mouth to speak. “Wha-?” Meghan responds, watching Charlotte’s weapon turn, her finger squeezing the trigger, a bullet leaving the chamber.
Grabbing their ears the moment the weapon is fired, Bill and Meghan take cover, waiting for the air to settle before directing their attention elsewhere. “That’s how a leader operates, Meghan” Charlotte declares, turning away from the group, returning to the welcome of her own, “I’m afraid I can’t save those that learn that lesson too late.”
Her mind gone unpaid to Charlotte’s words, Meghan’s stare follows Bill’s, their eyes fallen upon Janice’s hunched over body, their thoughts racing. “Janice!” Bill exclaims, crawling through the thin layer of snow, reaching out for the woman immediately. Packing into their cars, Charlotte’s militants drive off, pulling back onto the road as Meghan’s group tries to tend to the injured.
“Janice, Janice!” Bill shouts, shaking the woman to noticeable resistance, only bringing on confusion. “Janice, are you-?” Bill asks, the woman’s head lifting, a pool of blood staining the snow beside her. “Meghan, get towels!” Bill exclaims, removing his shirt as he leaps over the woman, pressing the clean white top on the older woman’s side. “Meghan, hurry up!” Bill shouts, the woman still laid on the ground, staring at Janice’s crumpled heap in awe.
Coming back to earth, Meghan does as ordered, hurrying into the building insearch of aid. “Janice, can you hear me? Janice!?” Bill exclaims, shaking the woman, who stares awestruck at the ground, very much alive, though unresponsive. “Janice, answer me!” Bill continues to exclaim, failing in his effort of getting the woman’s attention.
“Meghan, towels!” Bill shouts the moment the woman emerges from within the storefront, his hand reaching out for her. “Oh my god!” Meghan exclaims, stopping fast enough to fall, the towels falling from her hands as they cover her mouth. “Meghan, the to-!” Bill exclaims again, stopping himself the moment he looks to his hands, very little blood of any sort on his palms.
More confused than he was before, Bill glances back towards Janice, the woman slowly removing herself from the ground even more, finally allowing the man to piece the picture together. “Janice?” Bill asks as the woman pulls up enough, his eyes falling towards the ground, where the true sight-stealer captures the man. “Tyler” Bill mutters beneath his breath, the glassy, lifeless eyes of the young boy staring towards the heavens, a bullet wound in his chest.
Thirteen weeks into the outbreak. Decisions.
“You’re turn” Janice growls, blood running from her nose, her lips cut and face a bright red. Snarling at the woman, Meghan drags herself up, pulling herself out of the snow as Bill emerges from the pub. “What the hell are you idiots doing!?” Bill exclaims, pushing himself forward, shoving Janice and Meghan back to the ground, their exhaustion making such action a viable way of restraining them.
“We’re supposed to be a group!” Bill calls out, both women looking up at him, the blood running from their beaten faces. “We’re gonna get nowhere if you two are insistent on killing each other!” Bill shouts, drawing the frail, lingering undead towards him. “I’m not gonna let her talk to me like she gets it” Janice grunts, turning to her side, crawling towards Meghan, “I lost my son. She’ll never relate!”
Taking matters into his own hands, Bill pulls Janice to her feet, looking her in the eyes before decking her with a straight right hand. Dropping to the ground, Janice catches her bearings for a moment, the shot enough to draw the violent thoughts out of her head for the moment. “The two of you need to get it the hell together!” Bill exclaims, catching Meghan mid-leap, the woman having tried to capitalize on Bill’’s work.
Laying an uppercut into the woman, Bill lets Meghan fall to the snow as well, both women now rattled enough to forget the infighting. Waiting for the air to clear, Bill watches Janice stumble back to her feet, a moment passing before Meghan does the same. “Janice, Meghan didn’t kill your son, a bitch with a god complex did” Bill explains, the truth hitting the awestruck mother like a ton of bricks, “if you’re gonna take it out on anyone, save it for the person that deserves it.”
Looking at Meghan, Bill throws his hands out, puzzled. “And what the hell is your problem?” Bill asks the woman, no answer given. “I blame myself” Meghan suddenly proclaims, Bill’s turn towards Janice stopped, his eyes back upon her. “What?” Bill replies, Meghan left to catch her breath, repeating herself. “If I played nice, Tyler wouldn’t be dead” Meghan replies, her conscience constantly eaten by the blame that consumes her.
“If Charlotte wasn’t a prick, Tyler wouldn’t be dead. This isn’t your fault!” Bill exclaims, Meghan’s tilted head suggesting a different view. “You don’t believe that, do you?” Bill asks, turning back to Janice, her refusal to immediately answer giving Bill enough reason to redirect. “The two of your are fucking idiots!” Bill exclaims, astonished at the lack of self-awareness either have.
“If neither of you can see how wrong you are, I don’t think-” Bill says, stopped mid-sentence by Janice, who gasps for air. “I don’t blame her for what happened to Tyler” Janice exclaims, leant against an abandoned vehicle, “it would be easier to blame her, but I don’t. I only blame one person.”
Dragging himself closer to Janice, Bill kicks snow in his path, finally bringing himself to the woman’s side. “We’re going to find Charlotte” Bill reassures the woman, Janice’s head falling, Meghan’s limping-self following not too far behind. “We know where she is, or at least where she’s going to be” Meghan explains, toppling to her knees, mind still set on Janice, “you’re going to get your shot. All you’ve gotta do is make sure your aim is right.”
Trying to convince herself to believe in that, Janice feels her cold skin grazed by Bill’s warm hand, this time not in the form of a punch. “You’re going to get your revenge” Bill explains, the woman’s face looking into his, the honesty he speaks with recognizable. “We need to do this right” Meghan explains, her point stated clearly, “rushing into things will just get us killed. We need to be on the same page.”
Accepting her group’s point, Janice nods her head, the cramps in her neck present, visually taking their toll. “Let’s get you back to warmth, though” Bill mutters, he and Meghan taking help to lead Janice back to the bar, their differences set aside for now.
Seventeen weeks into the outbreak. Ambush.
“How many times do I have to say it, she’s not here!” Nico exclaims, the heels of his boots dragging along the dirty floor, legs constantly shuffling. A knife in hand, Janice kneels to the ground, Nico’s restless feet kicking himself as far away from the woman as he can manage, every little inch counting.
“Why are you people doing this?” Nico asks, viewing his captors as inhumane heathens, “if you wanna get in, you’re better off waiting for entry than you are doing this!” Attempting to ask a question, Meghan finds Janice’s hand extended towards her, all five fingers firmly placed together, her palm presented. “Hold on, Meg” Janice mutters, slowly lowering her hand, her own question asked first, “what is it you think we’re doing?”
The tip of her dagger falling towards the ground, Janice backs away, giving the man room to breath. “You’re - you’re trying to use me as a hostage” Nico replies, his eyes darting back and forth, shared between the three survivors, “that’s- I mean, that’s what you’re doing, right?” Sucking on her lip, Janice looks back to Meghan, the same look shared back.
“Do you soldier-people get nabbed very often?” Janice replies, the conversation taking a strange turn, no one truly knowing where it’s meant to go. “Maybe, I don’t know” Nico replies, still trying to maintain his distance, “why have you taken me if not to trade me?” Unsure of her own response, Janice drops from her knees, taking a seat on the ground beside Nico, the man still desperately trying to stay away.
“What can you tell us about Charlotte?” Meghan asks, the man giving a shrug. “I don’t know her very much” Nico replies, understanding his original assumption to have been disproven. “She’s got a family. Her brother, her husband, her kid” Nico remarks, the final mention catching Janice’s attention, the woman interrupting immediately. “She has a kid?” Janice asks, looking away from the man, staring off at a random corner.
“Yeah, she’s got a kid” Nico replies, both meghan and Bill glancing towards Janice, already aware of where the woman’s mind is heading. “What’s wrong with her?” Nico questions the distant survivors, a minute of silent consideration on Janice’s part leaving Nico in the dark. “She’s thinking of getting even” Bill remarks, leant against a post in the corner, his eyes joining the rest of the group’s, all attention paid to Janice.
“An eye for an eye” Janice mutters, her words concealed beneath her breath, a gasp of air taking her back to the moment, head turning back to Nico. “Where does her family live?” Janice asks, the man’s face riddling with disappointment, the concerns for his safety coming back. “I don’t know” Nico replies, Janice’s teeth sucking on her inner gums, the knife’s handle taken back into her fingertips.
“Where does her family live, Nico?” Janice replies, slowly lifting the blade back towards the helpless man, his distressed attempts to break free of his restraints coming on again. “I don’t know, no one ever sees them!” Nico shouts, the woman now pulling away from his face, her knife taken to his hands, the only part of his body he can’t move an inch. “Where does her family live, Nico” Janice replies, his responses having turned into pleas, “you really need to tell me.”
“They don’t live in any of the camps!” Nico exclaims, filling what he doesn’t know with what he does, “if they’re still alive, they’re kept somewhere private!” The lack of direction frustrating her, Janice takes the very tip of her blade to the side of the man’s hand, pressure gradually added before Meghan’s exclamation puts a stop to things. “Janice, ease up” Meghan calls out, the woman stubbornly keeping her blade to the man’s flesh, looking him in the eyes for a few extra seconds.
“Aren’t you lucky?” Janice mocks, backing away from the prisoner, leaving her space open for Meghan to occupy. “Please, don’t kill me” Nico mutters, Meghan’s hand waving for him to quiet down, the woman lowering herself to a seat beside the man. “Do you know what Charlotte’s travel pattern is?” Meghan questions, Nico’s head shaking in refusal.
“I just want to go home” Nico replies, the fear beginning to truly settle in. “I understand that, and we’re trying to get you back home” Meghan replies, patting the man’s knee, making herself seem friendly. “You don’t understand, she won’t trade with you” Nico explains, still failing to fully understand what’s happening. “She’ll kill me on the spot! No questions asked!” Nico exclaims, the strategy of trading his life for sanctuary practically sentencing him to death.
“Listen, Nico. I need you to understand me, okay? Tell me something about Charlotte I don’t already know” Meghan requests, extending a branch of safety the man’s way. “I don’t know” Nico blurts out, the woman’s head falling, his answer not one she hoped to hear. “I don’t know anything, I’m sorry” Nico says again, pleading for mercy, a gesture Meghan seemingly attempts to offer him.
“Nico, it’s okay” Meghan remarks, calming the man’s hysteria as best as she can. Reaching for the shiv on her hip, Meghan’s friendly mask slips, a burst of adrenaline coursing through Nico’s veins. Desperate for freedom, Nico throws himself forward, restraints snapping under the pressure, allowing the man to run free. “Nico, wait-!” Meghan exclaims, reaching out for the man until a gunshot rings out, the gun Bill had aimed at his hip firing a round through their prisoner’s stomach.
Falling to his knees, Nico gasps for air, a second bullet quickly put through the back of his head, Bill having done the deed neither Meghan, nor Janice could. “I didn’t wanna use up ammo for this!” Meghan exclaims, blaming Bill for the attraction of the surrounding undead. “Well, tie a better fucking knot next time” Bill quips back, leaning down to strip Nico of his uniform, both Janice and Meghan emerging from the barn, buying Bill time away from the incoming corpses.
The gear in hand, Bill takes his own fight to the dead, leading the women back towards the road, their plans set in motion.
Nine weeks into the outbreak. The Withdrawal.
“I was burning up, I just went out for a walk” Alicia replies, both Salem and Franklin worriedly sitting around her, their arms wrapped around the woman’s back, blankets piled onto her. “You went on a mile-long walk?” Franklin replies, a baffled expression on his face. “No, she went on a mile-long withdrawal” Salem interrupts, the woman’s bloodshot eyes and trembling hands leading Salem to a conclusion, her heat-flash amidst a cold winter showing Salem her destination.
“You’re out of pills, aren’t you?” Salem inquires, momentarily aggravated at the woman’s display of self-medication, her anger alleviated slightly once Alicia corrects her. “I’m not out of pills” Alicia replies, her voice still trembling as much as her hands are, “I’m out of patience.” Awaiting further explanation, Saleem and Franklin stare at Alicia, the woman’s inner thoughts spilling out.
“I practiced judo in my junior year, and I fucked up my leg going up for a takedown” Alicia explains, keeping her explanation brief, “I kept competing on it until I couldn’t anymore. I went to the doctor, they fixed the damaged ligaments, they said everything would be fine.” Removing a half-full bottle of pills from her pocket, Alicia stares at the label, John Callis’ name written on the bottle.
“Needless to say the pain kept going, I kept visiting the doctor, and every new doctor came up with the same answer” Alicia explains, giving the pills a gentle rattle, “the pain was chronic, they couldn’t fix anything, and I was going to be in pain forever.” Unsure of what to say, Salem glances towards Franklin and nods to the vehicle, “start the car, we’ll be out in a few minutes.”
Almost on command, Alicia pushes herself through the blankets, emerging from beneath a pile of fluff despite Salem’s best advice. Pushing the rifle-wielding woman away, Alicia refuses help, forcing herself to stand upon her own two feet. “You’ve said it before, I’m not counting on you to save my ass now” Alicia remarks, pushing her feet into her snow-covered boots, “I’ll look after myself.”
Nothing more she can do, Salem holds her hands up in surrender, looking over her shoulder as she slowly returns to the car, climbing into the passenger’s seat. Gently shoveling snow upon the fire, its smoky remnants rising into the air, Alicia limps forward, her hand placed on the backseat handle as she stops. “You coming or what?” Salem jokes from the front seat, rolling her window down to ask the question, Alicia pulling away momentarily.
“Yeah, I just gotta do something first” Alicia mutters, backing away from the car, the bottle still in her opposite hand. Looking to the label, Alicia squeezes the orange cylinder tightly, a brief glance at her leg allowing her to make peace with the decision she’s come to. With a grunt, Alicia throws her hand forward, the bottle rattling as it leaves her hand, flying off into the dark night, burying itself in the snow some distance away, her past left to another time.
“I’m good” Alicia calls back, pulling the backdoor open and climbing aboard, her seat taken as the car rides off.
Thirteen weeks into the outbreak. Cast Iron.
“Just take whatever you want and go” Alicia calmly explains, her attempt at making peace foiled the moment Bethanne opens her mouth. “Fuck that, these asshats aren’t taking my shit” Bethanne remarks, her defiance bringing a shared laughter amongst the armed enemy. “It’s a bunch of tuna and chip bags, Bethanne. There’s nothing in here worth dying for!” Alicia argues, the older woman clearly defining her point.
“It’s not about the shit, Alicia” Bethanne replies, glancing towards the younger woman behind her, “it’s about principle.” Closing her eyes with a sigh, Alicia accepts the woman’s refusal, backing away a few steps to make her stance known. “You don’t just get to come in here and take what’s mine” Bethanne remarks, slowly reaching for her shotgun, intent on being defiant, “you fight for it.”
Their weapons drawn, the enemy group makes their stance known, neither woman’s firepower intimidating them. “You can take that shotgun and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine, lady” the stern man at the front of the line explains, his finger placed upon the trigger, “you’re already dead.”
Daring the man to shoot first, Bethanne lowers the barrel of her shotgun towards the man, each inch bringing the first shot closer to fruition. “Duck!” Alicia suddenly shouts, lunging at Bethanne and pulling her to the ground, countless rounds of gunfire spat out from beyond the station, Salem and Franklin riddling bodies with a flurry of bullets. Seconds passing, the dust settles, a few sparse shots fired off in the following moments, splattered blood throughout the room.
Bits of glass covering the floor, dust flying through the air and bodies scattered throughout, Alicia crawls out from beneath Bethanne’s body, bullet wounds littering her back. “Alicia, you alright?” Salem exclaims, nearly tripping over the shattered glass as she kneels towards her friend, the woman looking sorrowfully at Bethanne’s corpse.
“She’s dead” Alicia replies, dozens of bullets having penetrated the woman’s body, her life having been lost the moment triggers were pulled. “Yeah, she is” Salem replies, hairs falling in front of her face, her rifle placed on the ground beside her. “She wasn’t one of the bad ones” Alicia remarks, Salem answering the woman’s claim with silence, a look out of the corner of her eye all that Alicia receives.
Patting Alicia on the back, Salem backs away, unable to understand the grief Alicia feels, leaving her to handle it the way only she can. “Find anything?” Salem asks, turning to Franklin, who stands away from a body, a rounded object carried in his hands. “I think it’s a prosthetic” Franklin replies, slipping the cast iron peg over his amputated nub, a perfect fit.
“Everything’s coming up Frank, huh?” Salem remarks, patting the man on the shoulder as she glances back towards Alicia, a somber look given back towards her. “We’ve gotta go, ‘Licia” Salem calls out, the woman letting out a sigh as she pulls away, picking up a few loose weapons before silently returning to the car. “What did we miss?” Franklin whispers to Salem, the woman as unsure as he is. “I don’t wanna know” Salem replies, following Alicia’s lead.
Seventeen weeks into the outbreak. Choice.
“Going somewhere?” Alicia asks, leant against a tree, watching a bag-carrying Salem walk aimlessly down a snow-covered road. “How long have you been awake?” Salem replies, surprised at the woman’s presence, many questions popping into her head, “how did you even get out of the car without me knowing?”
“Those questions aren’t important” Alicia replies, walking after Salem with a smirk on her face, “but mine is.” Lost for words, Salem tries and fails to make up an excuse, her vulnerability presenting itself again. “Look, I’m not good at good-byes. You’ve got the truck, you’ve got the map, and you’ve got a shit ton of supplies” Salem explains, fastening the strap over her shoulder, “you guys will be fine on your own.”
Backing away, Salem tries to return to her walk, already aware of Alicia’s intent to convince her otherwise. “I meant what I said, don’t think I didn’t” Alicia exclaims, Salem turning back instantly, a shrug returned, “I want you to view us as a choice, not a circumstance.” Biting her lip, Salem’s eyes veer off, the snowy surroundings in her every direction making it very difficult to take her mind out of the conversation.
“I don’t think I can do that, Alicia” Salem replies, regretful of the point made, but aware of the truth within it, “I’ve been on my own for years, I don’t think I can be part of something more anymore. I can’t be part of something more anymore.” Her hands tucked in her pockets, Alicia walks up to Salem, the look she gives the woman suggesting her lack of belief in that answer.
“I think you’re afraid to” Alicia replies, the rolled eyes Salem gives her coming from a woman who’s heard that suggestion before. “I think you’ve spent so long being alone that you don’t know how to not be on your own” Alicia explains, Salem not wanting to believe what Alicia says, but unable to steer herself away from the topic, “I think you’re scared of us. I think you’re scared of losing us.”
Playing Alicia’s game, Salem gives the woman what she wants to hear, answering with something she considers the truth, even if she doesn’t want to think about it. “I’m scared of caring about the two of you” Salem replies, quickly interjecting her opinion where Alicia finishes her own, “I’m scared that I’ll like being around the two of you, then I’ll lose you, and I’ll have to go back on my own.”
Letting out a deep breath, Alicia allows the sting of such a statement to settle, Salem’s guilt obvious in the look on her face. “I’m sorry, but I can’t get comfortable. Not like that, not anymore” Salem explains, Alicia’s head falling, a moment passing in silence before Alicia nods to herself. “You don’t want to” Alicia replies, earning an eye roll from Salem, “as long as we’re circumstantial, you can walk away when things get messy without feeling guilty.”
“You don’t think I feel guilty?” Salem replies, insu;ted by the suggestion, quick to argue it. “I’ve spent the last week’s worth of nights lying awake, trying to talk myself out of this” Salem explains, “I feel guilty, but I do this out of necessity. The two of you will be fine, if I stay, I won’t be.” Eyes squinting, Alicia accepts the woman’s point, arguing with one question.
“Do you really feel guilty?” Alicia asks, a pause originating from Salem, her answer coming seconds later. “Yes, I do” Salem replies, waiting for Alicia to respond. “Well then” Alicia replies, backing away from the woman, returning to the car, “it seems like you’re running away from something you’ve already got.” Stepping forward to argue, Salem falls silent, thinking about the woman’s point, its honesty wrapping around the woman’s mind effortlessly.
“You can stand there until the sun comes up, thinking that your biggest threat is feeling like you’re not alone” Alicia calls out, leaving with parting words, “but your biggest hurdle is yourself, Salem.” Hands still tucked into her pockets, Alicia watches Salem grow farther away, each step creating more distance between them. “You’re scared to choose us because you don’t want to lose us” Alicia explains, her hand pressed to the car’s handle, “but the only one taking us away from you, is you.”
Climbing into the backseat, Alicia closes the door behind herself and stares up at the ceiling, Franklin groggily emerging from his sleep, Salem still standing in the middle of the road ahead. “Please choose us, Please choose us” Alicia mutters under her breath, her confident exterior falling apart, the need to hope kicking in not unlike instincts.
“What’s going on?” Franklin asks, wiping the crust from his eyes as he looks into the backseat, soon noticing their third groupmate’s absence, “where’s Salem?” Letting out a sigh, Alicia opens her mouth to respond, cut off by the driver’s side door opening, Salem climbing into the car and throwing her bag into the backseat. “Where’d you go?” Franklin asks as the woman closes the door, settling herself in for the night.
“Nowhere” Salem replies, a partial smile given, once glance into the rear-view mirror showing a joyful Alicia, the woman looking towards the driver with her hands folded atop her chest. “Where’d you really go?” Alicia whispers, Salem leaning her seat back as Franklin settles back into bed. Hearing the woman’s question, Salem ruffles her pillow and looks the woman in the eyes, a worried expression on Salem’s face, “I made a choice.”
Nine weeks into the outbreak. Warning Signs.
“What the fuck are they doing?” John mutters beneath his breath, a crowd gathering near a wall at the back of the compound, hefty pillars holding up the walls subtly shaking below the pressure of those outside. “They’re trying to get in” one soldier replies, his discovery quickly argued against. “No, they’re not” Emilio calls out from beside John, looking at the man with a concerned glare, “they’re trying to get our attention.”
Thirteen weeks into the outbreak. Trojan Horse.
“Take cover!” soldiers exclaim, pushing civilians behind cover, risking their own lives to do so. “Soldiers, march to the-!” John exclaims, a stray bullet ripping through his shoulder, forcing him off his feet, the adrenaline helping to numb the pain. “All hands at the front gate!” John exclaims, pushing himself off the dirt, retreating with his men towards the town square.
Down the use of one arm, John fires back at the invading mob with resilience, his fire power outmatching their own. “We just need to draw them back!” John declares, multiple soldiers collapsing to the ground, hit with gunfire and left to fall victim to war. Hunched over, running as far back as he can, a second immediate threat begins barreling towards the man, the disguised militant van returning from within the depths of the New World Order, coming back to the front for a second swing.
“Duck and cover!” John proclaims, the vehicle speeding right towards him. Aiming his gun, John is swept from his feet by a much more aggressive weight, shoulder tackled into the grass. Crashing into fauna, John looks back to where he stood, Troy taking aim at the van and firing one shot, the uncontrollable steering of the vehicle that persists making it clear that the shot had connected.
Stepping to the side, Troy avoids falling victim to a hit and run, the van eventually jolting to one side, sweeping itself off its wheels and launching it into the invading mob. “Grenade!” a voice calls out from a nearby balcony, launching an explosive towards the crash site, allowing an explosion to emerge from the front of the compound. “Come on, get up!” Troy exclaims, reaching out for John’s hand, helping the man to his feet.
“Thank you” John says in astonishment, Troy immediately charging back towards the front of the community. “Jess!?” John exclaims, looking towards the balcony, his wife looking on in shock at the damage she’d caused, John’s shock coming from the sight he didn’t know his wife had been capable of. “How did-?” John begins to ask, stopping himself, thinking better of having the conversation amidst their current conflict.
“Katie, help me out here!” Troy exclaims, charging at the mob, bullets sent towards them, the ease at which they’d fallen victim to the New World Order’s forces prompting them to retreat. “Are you alright?” John asks, hurrying to his wife’s side as Troy and Katie close the entrance, those unable to leave with their fellow invaders surrendering to arrest.
“I’m fine, but the compound isn’t” Jess replies, multiple civilians taking advantage of the lessened tensions to put out fires and drag wounded militants to safety. Rushing to aid in her fellow resident’s efforts, Jess leaves her husband to stand atop the balcony alone, looking out at the damage, other soldiers helping Troy and Katie lock the gate down.
Seventeen weeks into the outbreak. Familiar Faces.
“Open the gates!” John declares, marching to the front of the compound with Jess following closely behind. “John, will you fuckin’ listen to me?” Jess asks, the man following a heavy fleet of armed men, the gates slowly rolling open. “No, not right now” John replies, looking his wife in the eyes, “now go back home in case shit gets ugly again.”
“John, stop” Jess exclaims, taking her husband by the hand as gunshots continue to emerge from the other side of the wall, pleading for the acknowledgement of those inside. “Jess, get back inside” John orders, pulling his hand away from the woman, the trembling in his hands stopping with a tight grip. “Hold your fire!” John exclaims, speaking to the people on the other side of the wall the moment the doors open.
Letting the crowd hush down, John takes on the address, giving into the mob’s demands for answers. “If you think I don’t want you in here, you’re dead wrong. I may be in charge of this camp, but I’m not the one that makes those calls” John explains, purposefully shifting blame, “there’s one woman to pin your suffering on, and she’s not even here right now. If you want an entry, you take that up with her.”
Not pleased with the man’s response, the mob continues to demand more, their countless chants all leading to the same demand, safety. “I know you’ve all come a long way for this, and I’m sorry you’re stuck out here” John explains, his wife soon marching through the front gates, approaching her husband’s side. “I want to take you in, I want to give you home, I want to give you help” John explains, ignoring his wife’s attempts to gain his attention, “but I can’t give you what you need.”
The mob calling out demands once more, John begins to accept his lack of progress, his wife trying to pull him back home before things go south. “They’ve been out here for damn near six months, they’re not going to listen to reason” Jess explains, her husband looking out at the angry mob, his face falling. “I know you want to do right, but you just can’t” Jess explains, “at least, not right now.”
The truth acting as a bitter-to-swallow pill, John surrenders, allowing his wife’s arm to guide him back to safety. “Jess!” a voice calls out from the crowd, the exclamation standing out from all others being shouted for, the attention of the New World Order’s leaders captured instantly. “Jack?” Jess mutters beneath her breath, watching Tyler, Reggie and Shauna emerge from within the mass of people to join their leader, a smile shared between both groups.
== Rise: Remastered ==
Season 1 Finale
“Come in” John utters, his wife stepping through his office door, the room bathed in the orange tint an open flame gives it. “Jerome took Jack and the rest to Charlotte’s cottage” Jess says, her husband sinking back into his chair, “we’ll work on getting them something permanent in the next few days.” An apathetic nod given back, John stares off at the window, his wife closing the door on her way inside, the candle reacting to the brief gust of wind.
“What’re you thinking about?” Jess asks, John’s fingertips tapping along his desk, view still on the pane of glass beside him. Leaning on her husband’s desk, Jess waits for a response, John’s head shaking before a word can be spoken. “Too many things, and all at once” John whispers, his breathing becoming heavy, the weight of the world pressing down on his shoulders.
“You’re being too hard on yourself” Jess replies, unsure what exactly dances around the man’s mind, but knowing him well enough to expect nothing good. “I’m in charge of a camp six hundred people strong, nine hundred if you count soldiers” John replies, finally looking his wife in the eyes, the ware his position made obvious in the bags below his eyes, “I’m not being hard enough.”
Letting a sigh break free from her throat, Jess takes her husband’s usually tremor-bound hand into her own, their eyes locking. “I’m worried about you” Jess remarks, her husband’s eyes falling away, “you’re convincing yourself you can save the world, and it’s only going to get you hurt.” Gently pulling his hand away, John folds his cold palms in his lap, his eyes on the window once again.
“I don’t know what I’m doing, Jess” John confesses, the conclusion one the woman had already come to expect. “This place wasn’t supposed to be the plan, it was the bridge to get back to you” John explains, trying to accept his growing disinterest in leading the New World Order. “We both know how fucked up it is out there, John” Jess explains, her husband hiding an eye roll, “even if this isn’t what you wanted, it’s what’s best for our family. That’s what matters most.”
A deep breath leaving his lips, John leaves his seat and approaches the window, glancing out over the walls surrounding their compound, a darkness cast over the world beyond. “If you can’t bring yourself to lead this place, what have we been working for?” Jess challenges, joining her husband by the vantage point, his hands buried in his pockets, “why try to lead a coup against Charlotte? Why keep the walls standing? Why do you do anything if you can’t believe in your ability to lead?”
“Because someone has to!” John shouts, snapping back at his wife, the questions only adding to his frustrations, a few seconds passing, tension alleviating before John continues. “Even if I can’t lead, a percentage of me is a better alternative to that woman” John explains, Charlotte’s twisted motives never failing to stir him, “she views no life with any modicum of care. Even if this place ends up being a dysfunctional mess with me at the helm, it’ll be over-fuckin’-run with her instead.”
Almost on command, another knock at the door captures the couple’s ears. “Come in” John calls out, walking away from the window and returning to his seat. “I heard yelling, figured I’d check in” Emilio replies, closing the door behind himself on the way in. “Just civil disagreement” John replies, the look on his face giving little reason to believe him, this truth obvious.
“What’s that look for?” John asks the entering man, who shakes his head quietly. “He believes you as much as I do, which is to say he doesn’t” Jess replies, earning a huff from her husband. “Jess thinks I’m pushing myself too hard” John remarks, scrawling notes on a sheet of loose paper. “Wait, do you not?” Emilio replies, John’s eyes drifting up towards him, surprised at the response.
“No, I think it’s perfectly fine to not want anyone to suffer out in the cold while I’m in here, feeding my family and sleeping in a warm bed” John replies, “anything less is criminal.” Taking a seat on the opposite side of the desk, Emilio responds. “Yeah, I don’t disagree with you there at all” Emilio explains, John’s posture implying skepticism, “but I don’t think Jess is saying the problem is your guilt.”
“I know what Jess’ problem is” John replies, refusing to argue the point she makes, “but there’s no such thing as a perfect world. And because of that, the people that lead that world shouldn't sleep soundly.” Hanging his head, Emilio leaves the floor open for Jess to interject, her concerns shot down instantly. “Can the two figure out a way to understand that this wasn’t my choice” John asks, both Jessica and Emilio silent, “as long as I’m in charge, that’s my reality.”
“But it shouldn’t be” Jess replies, her argument falling short of her mark. “Like you said, you didn’t ask to lead, you were forced to lead” Jess explains, her husband rolling his eyes once more, “it’s not fair to ask you to hold every single life on your conscience.” Slamming his fist against the desk, John silences the room again, both his wife and Emilio glancing back at him.
“I never said it was fair, but that’s life. Nothing’s ever fair and it never will be” John explains, his pessimistic view too daunting to overcome, “I’m not equipped for this job, but I have it. I didn’t want these responsibilities, but I have to serve them.” A lighter knock at the other end of his door, John finishes his point before welcoming those on the other side in.
“And I don’t know how to be the leader, but I have to be” John concludes, his office door slowly pushed open, “I have a responsibility to these people, and now I have to provide for them, even if I hate it.”
“Daddy?” Amy’s voice asks, the little girl walking into the room, her father’s voice having woken her. “Why are you yelling?” Amy asks, taken into Jess’ arms before handed to John, the larger man unsure of how to answer. “I’m tired and cranky, it happens sometimes” John replies, apologizing for having woken her up. “Let’s go back to bed, I’ll get you settled in” John promises, approaching his office door, only stopping when called back by his wife.
“How about our daughter?” Jess asks, the man’s turning back, his shoulders shrugging. “What about our daughter?” John replies, not seeing the woman’s point. “You have a responsibility to her, just like I do” Jess explains, her husband’s head hung, “which one comes first?” Looking up, John’s expression carries a disappointment, his heart sinking with that question.
“You come first” John replies, his family never once falling from his top priority, “you’ll always come first, and don’t forget it.” Turning back, John carries Amy back to her room, vanishing into the dark hallway, only Emilio and Jess left behind. “Your husband is a complicated man” Emilio mutters, a passing joke offered to the woman, the mood lightened for it. “My husband’s a good man” Jess corrects, Emilio turning to her as she stares off at the dark hallway, “his mind is just a mess.”
= Rise: Remastered is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
Sat at the steps to an apartment complex with her feet crossed, Tori watches the dead below walk by, her silent observance allowing her to be unrecognized by the dead. “Tea?” Kelsey whispers, two steaming cups held in her hands, joining the woman atop the cold, concrete steps. “Sure, thanks” Tori whispers back, taking the cup into her hand, moving aside to make Kelsey room.
“They move really weird, huh?” Kelsey notes, neither she, nor Tori making any effort to be hidden, their inconspicuousness just keeping them hidden. “They’re like animals” Tori replies, a light snow falling, her hand held over her mug both to shield her drink, and keep her hand warm, “unless we give them a reason to, they don’t split away from their pack.”
A gust of air exiting through her nose, Kelsey shakes her head in awe, their movements profound for walking piles of decaying innards. “Lauren asleep yet?” Tori asks, trying to redirect the conversation. “Yeah, she’s been out for an hour or so” Kelsey replies, the answer bringing on silence, a few minutes passing before Kelsey changes the subject again.
“Things haven’t really felt right since Mark and Brent have been gone, have they?” Kelsey remarks, noticing the sigh that leaves Tori’s mouth. “What?” Kelsey replies, curious to the reaction. “Brent’s been gone for two weeks now, nearing three” Tori responds, looking to Kelsey with an exhausted expression, “can we drop this already?”
“We’d been traveling with them since the start of all this” Kelsey defends, the rubbing of Tori’s own brow indicating her tiredness of the topic. “Fine, whatever. It’s dropped” Kelsey replies, giving into the woman’s wishes, silence filling the space between them again. “Why have you been so distant recently?” Kelsey asks, watching Tori’s eyes narrow, the woman trying to read into the question.
“I’m not trying to pick on you or anything, I just wanna make sure nothing’s wrong” Kelsey explains, the shrug Tori answers with serving to clear the air. “I’m fine, nothing’s wrong” Tori replies, flashing a wide smile to the woman beside her, “is that good enough? Are your troubles clear?”
In the moment it takes Kelsey to form a response, Tori picks up her mug and returns indoors. “Thanks for the tea” Tori mutters, walking back into their shared home, the front step occupied by Kelsey for a few seconds longer. “Tori, what’s wrong?” Kelsey asks, closing the front door behind her, walking off after her fellow survivor.
“Nothing’s wrong, you’ve already asked me that” Tori replies, taking her drink up the main staircase. “I did, and it feels like your answer wasn’t very honest” Kelsey retorts, following the woman up the stairs, a gesture Tori isn’t too keen on. “Well I’m sorry you didn’t like my answer” Tori replies, stepping into her room and placing her hand on the door, “it’s the only one you’re gonna get.”
Pushing the door shut, Tori’s attempt falls short of their intent, Kelsey’s rubber-tipped shoe laid between the door and its frame. “I’m not moving my boot until you give me something better” Kelsey replies, the woman she speaks to completely hidden by the wooden door. “You don’t like my answer, so rather than assert its truth, you want me to change it to something less true?” Tori replies, peeking her head through the small opening, “that doesn’t make much sense.”
A disappointed look on her face, Kelsey repeats her original question, settling on accepting whatever is spoken as the truth. “Are you okay?” Kelsey simplifies the question to, Tori’s less-genuine, still-notable smile given back. “I’m totally fine” Tori replies, waiting a moment before glancing down towards the impeding shoe, Kelsey allowing a moment to pass before sliding it away from the door’s path.
“Thank you, goodnight” Tori remarks, closing the door and locking it shut, leaving Kelsey in the pitch black hallway alone, her eyes kept to the door, holding out little hope that it would open soon enough.
“Welcome back” John remarks, an obviously feigned enthusiasm in his greeting, hands folded by his lap as Charlotte approaches him, an unimpressed face adorned. “You frenzy an army just outside of my border, you redirect my cargo deliveries to an off-site camp, and you let more people in without my clearance and gave them my house” Charlotte explains, the man’s sour expression telling the story, “and you have the gall to stand there and give me that half-hearted bullshit?”
His hand shaking despite being well within the grasp of the more dominant reach, John looks Charlotte in the eyes, not breaking contact. “Relax, shaky. You’ve kept the wall up, that’s better than what others would have expected” Charlotte notes, brushing off the tremors, “walk with me.”
Strolling through the New World Order, swathes of people move away from the path of their two lead figureheads, Charlotte and John both talking as this occurs. “Were any of these people your friend’s husband?” Charlotte asks, forgetting Emilio’s name. “No, they are not” John replies, a specific tone lingering in his words. “You’re disappointed about that” Charlotte says, pointing to the inflection in the man’s voice, “you care about their reunion.”
“We see differently on some things, Charlotte” John remarks, unaware of the woman’s raised eyebrow, “this just happens to be one of them.” Finger raised into the air for dramatic pause, Charlotte corrects the man’s point. “That’s where you’re wrong, handsome chin” Charlotte replies, a specific swagger in her response, “I hope his husband comes in, kicks his shoes off, and spends the rest of his life sipping lemonade next to their yet-to-exist inground pool.”
“Hold on, wait-” John replies, stopping his walk, looking the woman in the eyes with visible loss, “-I thought he was just collateral to keep me in line?” Looking for her response, Charlotte settles on the obvious. “Sure, he’s collateral just as your wife and kid are” Charlotte responds, not seeing the connection John hangs himself up over, “that doesn’t mean I don’t want them to be happy.”
Continuing to walk, Charlotte puts the onus on John to keep up, the curiosity that builds in his head helping keep that from being a problem. “I don’t understand you as much as I’d like to think I do” John explains, the laugh Charlotte gets from that giving her great satisfaction. “I love how dumbfounded you are” Charlotte replies, her hands held behind her back, fingers interlaced to keep them there, “it’s more interesting than I could hope for, ask whatever questions you’ve got, Cowboy.”
Obliging, John gives in, the first question leaving his lips immediately. “How can you care about someone and view them as a bargaining chip?” John inquires, the look Charlotte gives him implying a disconnect. “I know you weren’t out there long, but you do understand what’s going on outside these walls, right?” Charlotte replies, watching John’s head nod.
“Great, so you know that it’s real fucked up out there, right?” Charlotte replies, again watching John’s head nod, her shoulders shrugging. “The people inside these walls are my people” Charlotte explains, stopping in the middle of the path to look at John, “yes, their lives have a specific value, whatever that value may be. But I want them to be happy, just like I want you to be happy. Does that answer your question?”
Turning back to walk the path, Charlotte forces John to keep up again. “How can you just pretend the line between those two things doesn't exist?” John asks, the woman slowing to a halt, her head aimed to the air, “you can’t say you care about life, say you want people to be happy, then leave the people outside the walls to suffer.”
“I didn’t say I cared about the lives of people, I said I cared about the lives of my people” Charlotte explains, licking her lip in the face of bitter cold, “the people outside, they’re not my people. They’re scavengers! They’re heathens! They’re mouths to feed and useless hands.” John having gone quiet, the man allows Charlotte to continue to speak, hoping her point will be made clear.
“Do you know what’s valuable inside these walls? Food vouchers, water vouchers, medical vouchers” Charlotte explains, “how about what’s out there? Guns, bullets, batteries, bandages.” Taking one hand from behind her back, Charlotte waves her fingers towards the square of people walking freely, living their lives to their own accord.
“That’s the one difference between you and I, John. It’s why I can sleep at night and you can’t” Charlotte explains, closing the distance between them, “I want to provide for my people, and you want to be their hero.” Her lip curled, Charlotte looks into John’s eyes, his anger boiling, goosebumps raised on his arms and neck. “I’m every bit the vindictive bitch people assume I am, but that doesn’t make me wrong” Charlotte clarifies, John’s desire to look away growing.
“Look a mile out in any direction you want, and you’ll see what proves me right. It stands six stories in the sky in all directions” Charlotte explains, “and whoever threatens to tear that down, no matter how pretty they may be, will be disposed of.” Pulling his head back, John’s expression changes, the woman’s statement having subtly turned into a warning.
“Leaders make decisions that aren’t easy, but instead, are necessary” Charlotte explains, the wall, which separates the dead from the living, towering above in the distance. “If everyone was let in, no one would eat, everyone would suffer, and these walls would be pointless because everyone would be dead” Charlotte concludes, tucking her hands in her pockets, “you don’t have to like it, but one side gets to suffer, the other side gets to thrive. My side, the side of my people, gets the latter.”
Snarling at the man, Charlotte turns back to the path, challenging John to keep up once more. “Does that answer your question?” Charlotte calls out from afar, John stood where she left him for a moment, begrudgingly following after the woman’s lead.
The car ride silent, Franklin sleeps in the backseat whilst Salem and Alicia occupy the front, the latter woman behind the wheel. “I think we’re in New Hampshire” Alicia inspects, pointing her hand towards a small storefront off the beaten path. “Best eatery in the Granite State” Salem reads aloud. “I don’t know what New Hampshire’s nickname is, but I know Massachusetts isn’t ‘the Granite state’” Alicia remarks.
“Good enough for me” Salem replies, not caring where their vehicle happens to be driving, a file taken to her fingernails. A few minutes pass, neither woman talking to the other, Franklin remaining peacefully tucked away into his slumber. An interest in Salem’s life suddenly sparked, Alicia opens her mouth, beginning dialogue her fellow survivor is indifferent to.
“Why were you alone for nine years?” Alicia inquires, Salem’s ease at answering implying her lack of truth to hide. “I didn’t have many friends when I graduated from high school. I kept to myself through college, and spent the remaining four years doing my job” Salem replies, one foot propped up on the dashboard, file still in hand, “why?”
“No, you said you’d been alone for nine years a couple weeks ago” Alicia replies, returning with a shrug, “I didn’t know why.” Fine with Alicia’s answer, Salem returns her focus to her nails, only beginning to notice Alicia’s attempt at starting a conversation once the woman asks a second question. “What did you do for work?” Alicia asks, Salem’s eyes slowly pulling up, the nail file placed in her lap.
“Software engineering” Salem replies, catching the surprised look Alicia monetarily allows to appear. “What? I can’t be a nerd because I fire a gun?” Salem replies, the corner Alicia tries to break herself out of only growing larger. “No, I just- I wouldn’t have expected, well, that” Alicia replies, easing when Salem’s smile sprouts across her face.
“I liked to go hunting in my spare time, traveled alone a lot” Salem explains, clearing Alicia’s misconceptions, “I had my brother, but- Well, you know the story.” Nodding along, Alicia inquires about the woman’s brother, the question less-enticing to her traveling cohort. “I didn’t see him as much as I would’ve liked to. I sometimes still don’t even consider him part of my life” Salem explains, a frown on her face, foot lowering from the dash, “but that’s easier now, ain’t it?”
The mood lowered, Alicia returns a sympathetic smile, the car going silent again, her eyes returning to the road, conversation dying there.
“We still got the dead?” Tori asks, that question the first thing to leave her mouth since waking. “Yeah, but not as much as last night” Kelsey replies, fingers of both hands wrapped around a heated pack of water. Occupying the space beside the woman, Tori gazes through the kitchen window, a litany of the dead dragging themselves through the snow-covered streets.
“There’s gotta be two feet of snow out there” Tori remarks to herself, her trio stranded inside their makeshift campsite until the elements let up. “What’re you guys looking at?” Lauren mutters, approaching the woman, eyes finding the same abundance of the undead. “This is great” Lauren sarcastically muses, splitting away from the women, her bag thrown over her shoulder.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Tori asks, her snippy attitude a product of the sleepless night prior. “The roof. I’m gonna figure out what we’ve got waiting for us once we get through the front door” Lauren remarks, walking for the staircase, Kelsey and Tori left on their own. “You better this morning?” Kelsey asks, barely a few seconds having passed since Lauren’s departure.
“Yeah, why?” Tori replies, oblivious to Kelsey’s relaunch of the prior night’s conversation at first, a sudden eye roll given once the realization dawns upon her. “Yeah, Kelsey. I’m fine, just like I was last night” Tori replies, taking a warm bottle of water into her possession, “now please drop whatever you think you’re getting at.”
Walking into the next room, Tori splits herself apart from the rest of the conversation, Kelsey’s eyes instinctively pulled back towards the horde outside. “If you don’t want to talk about your feelings, let’s talk about something else” Kelsey replies, eyes firmly kept towards the dead, “it could take days for this snow to melt, how much longer can we afford to wait?”
“How much water have we pre-boiled?” Tori replies, tending to some chore one sheet of drywall over, “we’ve got plenty for the next few days, and if it doesn’t snow tonight, we have even more.” Rolling her eyes, Kelsey touches upon other concerns. “Water’s covered, sure. But we need food, we need warmth, we need defense, must I go on?” Kelsey asks, Tori returning to the kitchen mid-sentence, “how much longer can we truly afford to stay here?”
Forcing herself to take down a swig of piping hot water, Tori takes a seat at the table a few feet behind her fellow woman. “You act like we’re guaranteed to find any of that out there more than we are here” Tori replies, noticing the woman’s disappointed stature, “it’s been six months, the timer was set once everything went to shit, and it’s long been expired.”
“I know, but we’ve used this house dry of anything it had to offer” Kelsey replies, the issue regarding ease of departure weighing on her mind. “No, we haven’t” Tori replies, quick to point out the obvious, despite its underappreciation, “we’ve still got a firepit on the roof and shelter above our heads, that’s still worth something.”
“Yeah, sure” Kelsey replies, unamused with the woman’s findings, her statement only supporting half of the truth, “but neither of those things are worth a damn if we starve to death.” Following Tori’s earlier lead, Kelsey leaves the room, this time directing herself towards the main stairwell. “I can’t argue with that” Tori mutters below her breath, allowing Kelsey to walk off, her mind conjuring up plans on how to pass the time.
Emerging through the roof entrance, Kelsey walks towards Lauren’s seat, the heavily-clothed woman taking her eyes away from the picturesque landscape. “You seem to like coming up here as much as I do” Lauren remarks, dragging a second seat towards the firepit. “You come up here a lot, it’s a pretty good reason to visit” Kelsey replies, laying a kiss onto the woman before taking a seat, the heat from the fire bringing on a blissful sensation.
“So, why did you really come up here?” Kelsey asks, the same answer given as before. “I’m checking out the road ahead” Lauren replies, looking away from her girlfriend once the familiar expression dawns within Kelsey’s eyes. “You say that every day, and yet, the buildings never seem to go anywhere” Kelsey returns, the giggle that she brings over Lauren putting a smile on her own face.
“Okay, maybe I like the view” Lauren replies, watching Kelsey lean into her again. “I think I’ve got a view that’s a little bit be-” Kelsey replies, stopping herself just before Lauren’s face, their lips mere inches apart. “Wait a second” Kelsey mutters below her breath, Lauren immediately growing curious. “You look like a lightbulb just went off in your head” Lauren mutters, watching her girlfriend push herself out of her chair, walking towards the ledge.
“What’s that building back there?” Kelsey asks, pointing towards a tall, square-shaped building just behind an apartment complex just across the street. “I don’t know, just another random building, I guess” Lauren replies, unable to see whatever Kelsey does, “why?” Pausing for a moment, Kelsey looks over the limited view of the area she has, reassuring her initial thought.
“That big building doesn’t look like it’s attached to anything else” Kelsey replies, Lauren still unsure about what she’s trying to get at. “I don’t see whatever it is you’re getting at” Lauren replies, her curiosity not addressed, a silent Kelsey quickly dashing back towards the entrance. Following after the woman, Lauren matches Kelsey’s footsteps back into the kitchen, her girlfriend speaking up once she finds Tori, the woman still sat at the kitchen table.
“What if we tried to draw the horde away from the house?” Kelsey barges in asking, the suggestion peaking Tori’s interest. “There’s a building just behind that apartment complex, as as far as I can tell, it’s not connected to anything else” Kelsey explains, her counterparts immediately recognizing what she’s suggesting, “if we can set it ablaze, we’ll be able to run right around the dead.”
Considering the idea for a moment, Tori finds herself latching onto obvious flaws. “There’s still two feet of snow outside, and we haven’t addressed the issue of how we’re gonna light the son of a bitch up” Tori replies, an answer afforded instantly. “I’ll make the run, don’t worry about that” Kelsey replies, instantly earning a concerned glare from Lauren, “as for the snow, I might have a solution for that.”
“Wait, can we just hop back a few seconds, please?” Lauren replies, her eyes stapled to her girlfriend, “what the hell do you mean ‘I’ll make the run’?” Easing the concerns away, Kelsey turns to Lauren. “The dead are slow, all I need to do is make it to the tower in one piece and I’ll be fine” Kelsey replies, reaching into a nearby bag and removing a flare, “when I get to a safe spot, I’ll strike this bad boy up and lead you two right to the promised land.”
Before she can have a chance to respond, Tori drags the conversation back to Kelsey’s original point. “You said you had a plan for the snow” Tori explains, Kelsey reaching for her bag once more, “how do you plan-” Before Tori can finish her thought, Kelsey dumps countless bottles of hairspray and a collection of lighters onto the kitchen table, the room going silent.
“I figured we’d need these at some point, so I’ve been saving up” Kelsey explains, backing up her earlier claims, “I knew we wouldn’t be able to shovel our ways out at some point, so I thought ahead.” Her hands thrown up, Tori slinks back into her chair, no longer wishing to argue the woman’s plan, “I’m convinced” Tori concludes, leaving the floor open to Lauren.
“Kelsey, we’ve already lost two people getting this far, you’re insane if you think that can’t happen to someone else” Lauren explains, Kelsey taking her claims seriously more so than before, “I don’t want to risk losing you.”
“I’ll go then” Tori replies, Kelsey’s explanation having convinced her of the lessened risks. “No, I want to do this myself” Kelsey replies, immediately refusing Tori’s advancement, a gesture Lauren grows confused by. “What? Why? What difference does it make who goes?” Lauren replies, Kelsey not giving much of a reasonable answer. “I want to, I came up with the idea, I think I should be the one to act on it” Kelsey replies, giving Lauren very little to work off of.
“If we’re gonna do this, we’re going to need to do it soon” Tori explains, “we can’t risk a snowfall putting the fire out. And it can’t be too bright, or else we won’t see the flare. If it’s too dark, we can’t see where we’re going.” The specifics set in place, Kelsey makes her mind up, the decision putting a haste to the process. “Then it’s settled, when the sky turns orange, we get moving” Kelsey replies, watching Tori walk off, Lauren instantly calling for Kelsey’s attention.
“Are you trying to prove something?” Lauren calls out, confused as to Kelsey’s motivations, “I don’t get why Tori can’t do it.” Wrapping her hands around Lauren’s shoulders, Kelsey gives the woman a smile, trying to put her worries to bed. “Anything that puts one of us in danger puts us all in danger, we risk losing each other every time we move” Kelsey explains, admitting the need to get used to such concerns, “and I’m not trying to prove anything, I just know how to start a fire.”
Ending the conversation quickly, Kelsey walks off to prepare for her group’s departure, Lauren remains standing in the kitchen. “But-” Lauren mutters below her breath, watching Kelsey walk out of view, her worries not nearly as lowered as they should be.
“Hi” Jess mutters, the door in front of her pulled open, Jack’s frame being the first to emerge from the other side. “Stopping by to welcome us to the neighborhood?” Jack jokes, noticing the woman’s uncomfortability with this interaction. “Can we help you with anything?” Jack asks, putting the humor aside. “I just wanted to check in. See how you guys were doing” Jess replies, pausing for a moment, thinking to herself during the quiet few seconds, “and to apologize, too.”
“Apologize for what?” Jack replies, not wanting bad blood between them, “you did nothing wrong.” Head lowered, Jess fumbles around with her fingers for a few seconds. “I kind of did” Jess replies, looking up to the man, who doesn’t follow her logic, “can I come in?” Making room for his former employer, Jack allows Jess entry, the ground level left to them.
“Reggie and Shauna are sleeping upstairs, and Jack’s with your doctors” Jack explains, showing the woman to a nearby seat. “I don’t know what you meant just a second ago” Jack explains, sinking into a blue, cushioned chair, “unless you started the end of the world, I don’t see what you have to apologize for.”
Visibly restless, Jess explains her earliest days of the outbreak. “On that first night, I met two people on the freeway” Jess explains, the man across the room from her getting comfortable in his chair, “they wanted to go south, back towards the warehouse, and I went the opposite way instead.” Squinting towards the woman, his finger placed over his lips, Jack fails to see the point the woman is trying to make.
“What about any of that requires an apology to us?” Jack replies. “I could’ve come back for all of you, but that never even entered my mind” Jess replies, pointlessly trying to convince herself of fault, “you were my employees, I should have had you in mind, but I didn’t.” Letting out a deep breath, Jack takes in the woman’s confession, leaning forward with his hands clasped.
“Jess, with all due respect, that’s the dumbest reason to blame yourself I’ve ever heard” Jack explains, the woman nearly laughing at herself. “It’s funny, but I am being serious. I don’t know why you feel the need to blame yourself for what happened to us, but you shouldn’t feel that” Jack explains, Jess’ eyes narrowing as he continues, “you’re not to blame, and we don’t blame you.”
“Hold on, what happened to you?” Jess replies, Jack’s confused glare answering her, “you just said ‘what happened to us’, what happened?” Tilting his head, Jack explains what happened on the first night. “These scumbags showed up, tried to kill us, then fucked off” Jack explains, admitting Jess could have done nothing to change the outcome, “that’s what your apologizing for, right? For not helping us fight them off?”
Not having heard this information before, Jess shakes her head. “No, I was apologizing for not considering all of you when I went north” Jess replies, a shocked look on her face, “who the fuck attacked you guys?” His shoulders shrugging, Jack replies, Jess’ eyes widening. “Some woman and a bunch of combat people” Jack replies, explaining it off as a depressing chapter his group had long since put behind them, “long story short, we made it out, started running for this place.”
“What was the woman’s name?” Jess asks, the man’s face shrinking, his hand rubbing at his head as he tries to recall. “Everything was going nuts, I wasn’t thinking of names” Jack explains, fighting himself for the answer. “Something like Sheryl, or Cindy, or Sammy, or something like that” Jack replies, falling short of his intended outcome, “I don’t remember, but her face, oh fucking hell, her face haunts me at night.”
Giving the man a nod, Jess hastily gets up to leave, a grave look kept on her face. “What’s wrong?” Jack calls out, Jess quickly walking for the door, leaving the man confused. “I have to go somewhere real quick” Jess replies, making up an obvious lie before dashing through the front door. “I’ll be back later, sorry” Jess concludes, slamming the door shut on her way out, Jack left stood in the center of the room, the confused expression he holds slowly dissipating.
“She’s gone” Jack calls out, Tyler, Reggie and Shauna quickly descending the staircase, Jack turning towards them with a disgruntled gleam in his eye. “You all ready?” Jack asks aloud, the three survivors all walking past him, armed with concealed weapons, Tyler handing the man a picture frame. “Let’s get this bitch” Jack replies, tucking his shirt over the grip of a handgun resting on his hip, Charlotte’s portrait left in his hand, “an eye for an eye, Charlotte” Jack whispers.
“Are you ready?” Tori whispers, the woman she prepares easing herself into the situation she’d asked to be placed into. “Yeah, I’m ready” Kelsey replies, her hushed voice showing the concerns she hides deep within. “What’s the plan?” Tori asks, the hint of hesitance in Kelsey’s voice growing worrisome. “Set the tower ablaze, find an open spot, set up the signal flare, then wait” Kelsey replies, the checklist memorized plenty.
“Hey, are you ready?” Tori asks again, spinning Kelsey towards her, their eyes locking, an aggressive certainty shared, “we can’t fuck this up.” With a nod, Kelsey gives Tori her assurance. “We need-” Tori begins, stopped by Kelsey’s insistence, the woman finishing her intended statement, “-perfection” Kelsey concludes, “we need perfection.” Puckering her lips together, Tori’s words fade, a nod given, her hands patting the woman on the shoulders.
Turning to her girlfriend, Kelsey flashes Lauren a smile, refusing to hide her optimism. “There’s still time to turn back” Lauren explains, her arms cradled in the palms of Kelsey’s hands, comforted by the woman’s warm touch, “we can wait out the snow. We can wait out the dead.” Pulling Lauren closer, Kelsey tucks her chin atop Lauren’s shoulder, a tear running down her eye.
“I’m going to be okay” Kelsey whispers, her lips grazing the woman’s ear, her warm breath running down Lauren’s neck, “this isn’t the time to worry about me. This is the time to fight onward.” Her lips pecking the soft skin on Lauren’s neck, Kelsey turns back to Tori, a parting gift offered in the moment. “I’ve got one bullet in the chamber” Tori explains, her arm extending towards her fellow woman, firearm held in her dominant hand, “make that shot worth it.”
An appreciative smirk given back, Kelsey accepts Tori’s gun and finds a place for it in her waistband. Holding Lauren’s hand for a few more seconds, Kelsey stares at the front door, walking out to the front step, the frostbitten horde below struggling through the mountains of snow. With a deep exhale, Kelsey’s breath fogs the air, her hand sliding down the bannister as she descends from safety, embracing the frigid mix below.
Armed with a crowbar, Kelsey melts away the snow before her, the burning sights proving to serve more as a beacon, every sudden burst of light only bringing more attention to herself. Wailing at the dead, Kelsey pulls herself through the street as Tori and Lauren watch, their view only obstructed once Kelsey vanishes down one of many alleyways.
“Get to the roof” Tori remarks, ripping Lauren away from the door. “Why!?” Lauren shouts, the sudden tug at the collar of her shirt surprising her. “They’ve found us!” Tori exclaims, pointing to the very end of the front steps, the largely-melted walkway Kelsey had made now giving the dead a path towards the home. Reluctant, Lauren forces herself to follow Tori up the stairs, their feet dashing through each level, their destination reaching them with a cold gust of wind to the face.
“Can you see her?” Lauren shouts, watching Tori dash towards the edge of the building, eyes peering over the edge. “I can’t see her!” Tori calls back, looking around the fire pit for weapons. “How are we gonna get down now?” Lauren calls out, her hands forcibly wrapped around a sharp stick. “We’ll worry about that later” Tori replies, arming herself with a cinder block, the echoed growls from within the home finally catching the women’s ears.
“You better be ready!” Tori calls out, standing beside Lauren with her eyes glued to the open door. “Now!” Tori shouts, watching a pair of the undead round the corner, her arms ripping the cinder block through the air, the grotesque sound of splintering bones emanating from their victims. “Back up a couple steps” Tori directs, marching Lauren forward like a soldier, taking her through the process again.
“Now!” Tori shouts, putting another set of the dead to rest, stepping away to create distance again. “Now!” Tori shouts, repeating the process over again, their attention dulled to only the immediate moment, every swift shot taking their every second of focus. Swinging her jutted stick across her body, Lauren’s body spins away, her eyes catching the sight of the neighboring tower in a split moment.
“Hold on!” Lauren exclaims, pulling Tori away, pointing towards the other side of the street, the old-fashioned tower slowly burning brighter in the night sky, sending flames through the air. “Keep going!” Tori shouts from beside the woman, preparing the woman to lunge forward again, one set of the dead piled onto the floor after another, minutes passing before Lauren’s eyes fall upon the distance once more.
“The flare!” Lauren shouts, pointing a few hundred yards away, the smokey orange tint emerging from within the concrete jungle offering the stranded women a greenlight. “Let’s go!” Tori exclaims, hurling her cinder block at the ever increasing line of undead, the earlier problem rearing its ugly head again. “How the fuck are we getting down!?” Lauren exclaims, the only exit flooded with bone-frozen corpses.
“Good question” Tori replies, navigating the rooftop whilst Lauren provides cover, wailing on whatever rotten sack of flesh falls in her way. “I’m gonna need an answer, Tori!” Lauren exclaims, the lack of a second voice only providing an avenue for the woman’s concern to mount. “Tori, what the fuck do we do!?” Lauren exclaims, forcing the jagged edge of her weapon through each decrepit skull, tiring herself further.
“Tori, answer the qu-!” Lauren exclaims with one final lunge, her body twirling backwards to allow her sights to set on her fellow survivor. Stood on the ledge of the building, Tori stares towards the ground below, silent in her perspective. “Tori!?” Lauren exclaims, her arms thrown outwards as the other woman looks back at her, answering only with a shrug.
Stepping off the ledge, Tori vanishes below the lip of the building, falling six stories to the ground below, a shriek of refusal given by Lauren. “No!” the undead-chased woman exclaims, looking towards the snow-covered earth below, only a sea of white below. “Tori!” Lauren shouts, begging the woman for an answer, the dead quickly closing in. Huffing and puffing, Lauren’s chest expands and retracts in horror, waiting for any sign of life below.
Following minute-like seconds, Lauren watches a dark figure emerge from the white-covered roads, gingerly digging herself out of a snowy crater. Eyes widened, Lauren glances back to the army of the undead behind her and makes a judgment call, tightly grabbing onto the weapon in her hands. “Lauren!” the woman’s attention is called for from below, Tori waiting hopelessly for any sign of life from above.
Pushing the horde back, Lauren creates separation for herself, fighting further back towards the roof-level entrance. With a few last strikes, Lauren switches course, turning away from the door and dashing towards the edge of the building. Pushing herself off the concrete lip, Lauren dives towards the ground below, watching the ground soar closer, her ears deafened by the air whipping past her face.
Crossing her arms over her chest, Lauren braces for impact, eyes squeezing shut as her face shrivels up, the falling sensation suddenly replaced with a stomach-punching halt. Embraced by snow warmer than the air she’d been guided by, Lauren sees nothing but darkness, a chilly grave encompassing her in every direction. Deep blue rings flashing by her pitch-black view, Lauren listens into the faint sounds closing their way into her.
Hands smacking her back, Lauren takes a moment to gather herself, unsure of how to respond. Ripped from her body-shaped crevasse in the snow, Lauren is spun into Tori’s lap, the woman wiping the snow away from her face with a smile. “You alive, Lauren?” Tori asks, laughing off the shock her friend finds herself entrenched in. “My ribs hurt” Lauren remarks, finally coming back to, catching her breath for a few seconds.
“Yeah, you jumped like a fucking idiot” Tori jokes, laughing at Lauren while she pulls her up, arm pulled over her own shoulder. “We’re in the-” Tori begins explaining, silenced by the sound of a gunshot in the near-distance, both women looking towards the flare with widened eyes. “Was that-?” Lauren begins to ask, her question disregarded by Tori, who changes the conversation. “Let’s go, we’ve gotta get moving” Tori exclaims, gingerly tugging Lauren through the less-occupied roads.
“Kelsey!” Lauren exclaims, traveling under her own power, following the lead of a homemade flamethrower-wielding Tori. Catching up to the flare, Lauren waits for the unreturned response, each call given returned with the same irrevocable silence. “Kelsey!” Lauren cries out gutturally, each step bringing them closer to the flare, yet no closer to a response.
Finally reaching their destination, Tori and Lauren spot the flare, smoke and flames rising out of a small spot in the open, undead-free snow. “Found it!” Tori exclaims, climbing over the fluff and wrapping her fingers around the charge. Surveying the area, Tori and Lauren call out for Kelsey, the woman having seemed to vanish into thin air. “Kelsey!?” Lauren calls out again, waiting endlessly for a response.
“We’re the only footprints” Tori mutters aloud, capturing Lauren’s attention immediately, a sorrowful look worn on the woman’s face, “she’s not here.” Confused, Lauren looks towards every direction, the statement Tori makes proving undeniably true. Left in a small indent in the snow, the flare appears to have been discarded intentionally, no other signs of someone having occupied the area left to be found.
“But the flare! The fucking the flare is here!” Lauren shouts, pointing to the illuminated object cradled in Tori’s palm, “why would the flare be here if she isn’t!?” Going quiet, Tori thinks to herself whilst Lauren brings attention towards them, a deepening expression of anguish written on Tori’s face. “Tori, why isn’t Kelsey here!?” Lauren shouts, finally earning the other woman’s attention.
“I don’t know, Lauren. But you need to stop yelling!” Tori replies, noticing the dead that emerge from their hiding places, all called to the sound of Lauren’s exclamations. “Kelsey!” Lauren calls out, defying Tori’s warnings, hopelessly calling out for her love’s return, the dead closing in further. “Kelsey!” Lauren continues shouting, fighting off the sharp pains in her sides, refusing to leave without her girlfriend’s return.
“Lauren, shut the fuck up!” Tori shouts, tugging at Lauren’s arm to no use, each reach pulled away from. “Kelsey, where are you!?” Lauren exclaims again, giving no care to the undead. Pushed into a panicked decision, Tori dies out the flare’s flame in the snow, wrapping her hand around the base of the object as she walks after Lauren.
“Kels-!” Lauren calls out again, her words hushed the moment her body spins, pulled around by Tori’s grasp. Attempting to speak, Lauren watches Tori lunge at her with the weighted signal flare, every sight of the cold, March night turning to a black nothingness. With a thud, Tori lays into Lauren’s face with the flare, knocking the woman unconscious, every desperate call for Kelsey’s return stopped in an instant.
Saving her skin for the moment, Tori tumbles back into the snow, her left side aching from the fall, a new situation having emerged. Hesitant to waste any more time, Tori fights through the pain to pick Lauren up, the unconscious woman draped over Tori’s shoulders. Blazing a path through the snow, Tori grimaces with each extra-weighted step, carrying Lauren over her shoulders out of defiance, refusing to lose anyone else by the time the morning arrives.
“Get to the car!” Salem exclaims, firing off pot shots at the undead from afar, Alicia and Franklin retreating to the vehicle with bags in their arms. Sliding through the opening in the sun roof, Salem takes over at the steering wheel, both Franklin and Alicia tossing duffle bags worth of supplies into the truck bed. “Drive!” Franklin exclaims, giving the orders the moment Alicia’s door slams shut.
Stepping on the gas, Salem sends the truck flying forward, their lives saved by the skin of their teeth. “We’re getting worse at this” Alicia remarks through bated breaths, this conclusion having already dawned upon the driver. “No, we’re not” Salem defeatedly says, steering the group onto the open road, the sky washed with a midnight darkness, “but what we’re fighting for is.”
Catching her breath, Alicia glances to her left, noticing the loss-accepted expression on Salem’s face, this sight different than ones before. “What are we fighting for?” Alicia replies, not wishing to misconstrue Salem’s words. “Scraps” Salem replies, disappointed in such a conclusion, both Alicia and Franklin unfamiliar with this side of the woman, one willing to accept circumstances rather than defy them.
“What does that mean?” Franklin wonders aloud, noticing a change in Salem’s character, her eyes looking at him in the rear-view mirror. “It means running isn;t working out anymore” Salem confesses, not wasting a moment before looking towards Alicia, “it’s time to find somewhere to settle down.” Mouth agape, Alicia looks towards the open road, a distance marker to Concord passing her in that very moment.
“Do you remember that woman from the gas station?” Alicia asks, eyes falling back towards Salem. “Sure, what about her?” the woman replies, watching the smile widen on Alicia’s face. “I think I have somewhere in mind” Alicia responds, not another word given from Salem.
“Hands up and get out of the car!” soldiers exclaim, their assault rifles aimed forward, sights set on the truck parked at their gate, the sun just beginning to rise upon a new day. Obliging, Salem, Alicia and Franklin slowly depart their vehicles, Salem taking the lead. “We’re here to request entry” Salem explains, her hands steadily held by her head.
“We’re gonna need Neville at the front gates” one soldier speaks into his talkie, approaching the three survivors. “We’re not asking for free entry” Salem calmly explains, keeping an approachable presence over herself, “we’ve got weapons, food, medical supplies, the whole lot in our truck. They’re yours as payment for entry.”
Consenting to a pat down, the survivors gain clearance from the soldiers, who wait a few moments before gesturing towards the front gate. Appearing from within the heavily-guarded entrance, a man in a button-up shirt and dress pants emerges from within the compound, a restrained smile worn on his face. “You say you’ve brought payment?” the man questions aloud, duffle bags of supplies thrown at his feet by the armed men.
Looking down at the supplies, the man nods in approval, looking back towards the three wanderers. “My name is Neville Murdoch” the man introduces, his hands joined behind his back, hair wet from a recent shower, “welcome to the New World Order.”
“Good morning” Tori remarks, biting into a piece of bread near an open fire as Lauren groans, her hands bound together, tied to a nearby tree. “Did you knock me out?” Lauren asks, tucking her face into the small of her elbow, the sunrise catching her right in the eyes. “Yup, I sure did” Tori replies, taking another bite from her pathetic breakfast, “had I not, you would’ve kept screaming until you’d gotten us both killed.”
Grabbing at the bridge of her nose, Lauren comes to a sudden realization, the sunrise just coming overhead only helping to truly illustrate the time she’d spent unconscious. “Kelsey” Lauren mutters below her breath, Tori silently hanging her head instantly, “where’s Kelsey?” Thinking to herself for a moment, Tori gently lays the piece of bread against a plastic plate, crawling over to her fellow survivor.
“Is Kelsey here?” Lauren asks, the woman approaching her refusing to make eye contact,Tori’s head still hung by the time her hand presses upon Lauren’s shoulder. “Tori, tell me you found Kelsey” Lauren demands, the tears threatening to leave the lids of her eyes, desperation now kicking in, “Tori, tell me you found her.”
A tear of her own falling into the snow-covered ground, Tori glances up to Lauren with an apologetic look, Lauren’s answer given just in the expression. “No, Tori. Tori, tell me you found her” Lauren pleads, tears finally breaking through her eyelids, her voice falling to a whimper, “please.”
“The gun I gave her had one bullet in it” Tori replies, her lips pressing together, head shaking, “you don’t use a gun with one bullet unless it’s for yourself.” Voice breaking, Lauren’s head falls, her heart dropping. “Lauren, I’m-” Tori starts to speak, Lauren pushing her away before she can get the opportunity to. “Go away!” Lauren demands, unable to look Tori in the face without breaking down, “get out!”
Giving into the woman’s hysterical request, Tori backs off, walking towards the sunrise through the snowy bramble, a distraught Lauren curling up into a ball. Angrily stepping through the snow, Lauren walks towards the sounds of chanting, walking to the ledge of a massive hill and peering down below. Stood by the gates and demanding entry, a mob of people call for the attention of those within, the sight itself brings a smile over Tori’s tear-filled face.
Able to look over the compound’s border wall, Tori’s eyes fall upon a man standing right behind the front gates, protected by the large sheets of unmoving metal. Arms crossed, the man below looks up at her, spotting her out through the trees, this discovery noticed by Tori. Raising her hand into the air, Tori waves to the man down below, smiling at him before retreating into the woods, returning to the bramble having introduced herself.
“Water on the rocks” Charlotte orders, taking a seat beside John at a local bar and grill, the sizzling meats cooking atop open fires nearby presenting the pair with sensational scents. Left to their own devices, Charlotte and John’s conversation falls away for a moment, the giggling of children and fraternizing of their parents eases the tension between the compound’s leaders, a brief return to normality allowing the moment to feel real again.
The warmth of the grill wafting his face with heat, and a cool glass of water fitted into his hand by the bartender, John finds himself taken back to memories of better days, the words his mind conjures leaving his mouth instinctively. “I wanted this for my family” John explains, the woman he answers to turning to look at him, his eyes filled with hope for the first time since Charlotte had met him, “I wanted this for so, so long.”
Graciously accepting her drink, Charlotte raises the glass to her lips, her eyes kept upon the man beside her, John’s sights set on the lively, joyous campground. “You confuse me” Charlotte finally replies, setting her drink upon a woven square of hay. “Why is that?” John asks in a whisper, his gravelly voice matching the sound of the campfire just a short distance away.
“You talk about how much your family means to you, make it seem like you wanted to give them the world” Charlotte explains, eyes falling away from the man’s face and down to his hand, “but your mind never seems to agree.” Following Charlotte’s eyes to his shaky hand, John remedies the tremor and returns his focus to Charlotte, the woman smiling as if she’d unearthed hidden truths.
“The truth is, all of what you think you want, the promising future, the dreams of a happy family-” Charlotte explains, another swig of her drink taken down, “-it’ll kill you.” The mood having died down, tension having returned, John looks away, stuffing his tremor bound hand into his pocket, elbow jutting out, supporting his weight upon the countertop. “It’s what I want” John replies, clear in his delivery, though his words fail to impress Charlotte, the woman laughing at him.
“No, you handsome fool” Charlotte replies, one finger parting from her condensation-covered glass, pointing towards the man’s hand-stuffed pocket, “it’s clearly not.” With a grimace, John takes a drink from his tall glass of water, droplets running down the glassy finish until they meet his stubble-covered face, falling from his chin.
“Cowboy, you can try to convince yourself otherwise all you please” Charlotte explains, John’s glass finally returning to the counter, “but deep down, you know who you are with a gun in your hands, and who you are with your daughter in your hands, are two different people.” The rising heat creating beads of sweat that run down the length of his face, John silently begins shaking his head, his free hand wrapped around his glass of water.
“You’re wrong” John replies, sharply turning back to the woman, looking her directly in the eyes, an eagerness to prove her wrong overtaking him, “I can be both. I am both.” Rolling her eyes, Charlotte looks back to her drink for a moment, thinking to herself before downing whatever liquor is left in her glass. Giving John an audible sigh of relief of her own, Charlotte turns the cup over and places it back upon the straw coaster.
Removing herself from her chair, Charlotte gives a smirk to John and answers the man in a whisper. “We shall see” Charlotte remarks, walking away from the man slowly, silently gesturing for the man to resume walking with her. Biting his lip, John thanks the bartender and begins catching up to Charlotte, the dirt path they walk upon beginning to be touched by the sunrise behind them.
“I’ll be coming back here in a month's time, Cowboy” Charlotte explains, stopping at the front gate and turning towards the man, “when I do, these walls better still be- Aargh!” Interrupted by a bullet piercing her shoulder, Charlotte topples to the ground with a grunt, the sudden turn of events prompting John to reach for his gun. “Drop it!” Jack shouts from afar, rushing towards Charlotte with his weapon aimed at the man accompanying her.
With a grunt, John aggravatedly removes the firearm from behind his back and throws it across the lot, watching the gunman wrap his arm around Charlotte’s throat, the gun turned towards the side of her head. “You remember me, bitch!?” Jack angrily shouts, Charlotte’s hair strewn over her face, her eyes rolling once she finds Jack’s face. “You look familiar” Charlotte muses, both hands wrapped around Jack’s arm, trying to fight for leverage.
Hurrying to her husband’s side, Jessica discovers the unwanted sight the rest of the compound had grown familiar with. “Jack, don’t do something stupid!” Jess shouts, Reggie, Shauna and Tyler aiming other handguns at anyone with a weapon of their own, “look around, you’re outnumbered, like what, eight to one? This won’t end well for you.”
Breathing heavily, Jack looks in every immediate direction, countless militants and other civilians lining the walls and grounds, all willing to pull the trigger in an instant. “Look at Tyler” Jack orders, pointing Charlotte in the man’s direction, telling the rest to look all the same. “Half of his body is covered in burns, scars, and lacerations” Jack grunts, Charlotte’s hair blown with each breath she takes.
“He was burned alive!” Jack shouts, eyes wide open and voice curdling in psychotic shouts, his grip on the firearm tightened at Charlotte’s head, “and she did that.” Looking back and forth at Tyler and the hostage-taken Charlotte, Jess thinks to herself for a moment, looking for what to say.
“You didn’t this far just to get yourselves killed, Jack” John interrupts, taking his position as leader head-on, proving himself to Charlotte, “take your finger off the trigger, hand over the gun, and you’ll leave this alive.” Giving John a smile, Jack shakes his head in refusal, the gesture immediately taken by John. “I know you want revenge, part of me wants it for you” John explains, watching Jack’s expression shift, “but getting yourself killed is a stupid way to do it.”
His breathing beginning to steady, Jack thinks to himself silently, staring at the side of Charlotte’s head until Tyler calls his name out. Turning Charlotte with himself, Jack watches Tyler set his gun on the ground and kneel, both hands placed over the back of his head. “We look out for ourselves, right?” Tyler asks, recalling Jack’s earlier motto, using it in hopes of sparing the man’s life, “live to fight for each other for another day.”
Taken by this gesture, Shauna and Reggie lower their weapons to the ground and follow Tyler’s suit, Jack now left as the only man keeping the situation in play. “Jack, you told me what you went through, and I can’t shake the feeling that I could have helped everything go differently” Jess explains, stepping forward to extend an olive branch, “let me help things go differently now.”
The only hand at play now being his, Jack weighs his options, a few further breaths taken before his mind is made up. Easing his grip on Charlotte’s throat, Jack begins to slowly back away, his arms parting and his feet sliding away. Picking her moment, Charlotte’s instincts take over, her feet cementing themselves in the packed dirt as she spins around, ripping the gun from Jack’s hand and aiming it directly between his eyes.
“No!” Jess exclaims in desperation, a single shot ripping through the air, echoing throughout the compound. Eyes widened, Jack prepares himself for impending demise within the brief second it takes for the roles to reverse, the woman extending the weapon towards his face, finger nearing the trigger.
“Ah, fuck!” Charlotte exclaims, the fired bullet not having come from her own gun, but from another nearby, the brass jacket ripping through the palm of her hand, allowing the gun to fall from her fingertips. Falling to her knees, hand held close to her chest, Charlotte becomes vulnerable once more, Jack left standing with the unclaimed weapon at his feet.
“Stop!” a distant voice orders as Jack reaches down, the man already halfway bent over by the time the order is given. Slowly standing up with his hands raised, Jack looks across the lot, Troy emerging from deep within the New World Order, gun raised towards the man. “Don’t-” Jack mutters, his words vanishing with one kick to the back of his knee, Jack’s face soon shoved to the ground by Katie’s firm grasp, the outlaw duo having alleviated the situation.
“Don’t even think about it!” Troy calls out to Charlotte, the guards watching on without a clear understanding of who to aim towards. Pulling her unwounded hand away from the unclaimed pistol, Charlotte watches Troy take the weapon into his possession, the sight of Katie forcing Jack to the ground impressing her.
Helping Charlotte to her feet, Troy gives the woman her marching orders. “Go to the medical tent, get those wounds checked, and resume whatever it was you were planning to do” Troy declares, bossing Charlotte around in a way the woman is unfamiliar with, “and if you go near these four at any point, I’ll put one slug straight through your eyes.”
“Sure thing, kid” Charlotte jokes, following through on the directions she’d been given, her wounded hand grasping at her wounded shoulder. Charlotte taken care of, Troy turns to John, the man looking towards himself and Katie with a pleased expression. “Take Jack and his group to the brig” John orders, taking his firearm back and ordering the soldiers surrounding the lot to stand down.
Patting Katie and Troy on their way out, John tries to regain his composure, the escalated tensions simmering down. “I’m gonna walk with Jack and the rest” Jess mutters towards her husband. Turning to look over his shoulder, John’s eyes fall to his tremor-bound hand, its steady, unphased stillness in the face of tension unusual for a common day.
Folding his arms together to hide this fact, John looks towards his wife again and nods, “sounds good.” Staying behind to basque in the sounds of a roaring crowd just beyond the compound walls, John watches the sunrise behind him reflect off the metal compound walls, a breath of fresh air taken in.
Eyes traveling upwards, John’s eyes fixate on one outlier from the rest, the very tip of a large hill peeking out over the compound’s walls, one figure refusing to blend in with the rest of the deceased fauna around them. Eyes squinting, John watches the figure, looking at it just the same as he assumes it to be. Chills sent down his spine, John watches the figure’s hand rise to its side, offering him a gentle wave before vanishing beneath the hill’s lip.
A puff of air leaving his lungs, John shakes his head in disbelief, the growing sounds of the angered mob just a wall away sticking into the back of his mind. Teeth pressing into his bottom lip, John turns away, walking back into the depths of the New World Order. Back turned to the hill, John remains unaware of the figure’s return, a second figure accompanying it this time around, both souls watching his retreat, introduction finalized.
== Rise: Remastered ==
With poorly concealed sobs and moans from his fellow workers coming from every direction, Jack remains fixated on the dead body near him, slumped over, motionless and unresponsive. At a loss for words, Jack just continues to stare at the body, only focusing on the words of the news anchors on the television, all spouting theories about how this could be the end of civilization.
As if gears were shifting within the confines of Jack’s mind, a sudden relief of fear begins to consume him, gone are the worries of this being his final hours alive, replaced with the passionate desire to break free from his restraints. With a brief scan of the room, Jack’s eyes fall upon Tyler, his colleague having been restrained in a similar fashion to himself, only with the added benefit of being near one of the many desks scattered throughout the room.
Noticing a subtle struggle ensuing from Tyler’s side of the floor, Jack takes a look at the desk just beside Tyler, a single drawer left open. Continuing to struggle, his efforts quickening with every few nudges, Tyler hears a single pop, every single valiant tug bringing about more until his restraints finally snap. Freed from his binds, Tyler is whispered to by Jack, who insists on cutting the rest of the workers free.
Rubbing at his swollen wrists, Tyler hurries to Jack, quickly undoing his binds and freeing him as well. This freedom noticed by their peers, Jack and Tyler begin to signal for their colleagues to keep quiet, the pair continuing to release their co-workers en masse. Within minutes, the entire workforce find themselves freed of their captivity, the next plan being to leave.
“There’s a chain of cars out in the street” one of the floor workers mutters, retreating from the window and returning to the group, “we’re not getting through the doors without being spotted.” Strapped for options, Jack cautiously approaches the platform overlooking the warehouse floor, taking their numbers advantage into account before deciding to make a stand.
“We’re gonna get ourselves spotted on our own terms then” Jack returns, the declaration he makes suggesting a fight, something the workers come to the conclusion is necessary. As minutes pass, the defense preparations are put into place, Jack keeping a watchful eye on the floor, waiting for the moment Charlotte approaches the stairs. As the forces below begin to retreat, having concluded their search, Charlotte begins to near the staircase, upholding a conversation as she does.
With the turn of his head, Jack nods towards Reggie, the mug-wielding man tossing his arm forward, hurling the piece of ceramic towards a glass window, rendering it to bits. Alarmed, Charlotte ascends the staircase, skipping over one step with each push forward, only stopped by the impact of a desk lamp cracking her over the back of the head. Having taken his shot, Jack lets another colleague bolt out of cover, taking Charlotte’s firearm and pulling her body against his own.
“Nobody move!” the worker shouts, taking Charlotte by the neck, presenting her to the crew below, her own weapon aimed at the side of her head. “Let us live and we’ll let her go!” the man exclaims, his demands simple and precise, a gesture that prompts the armed forces to take aim at the overhead sight. “We don’t want to hurt anyone, but we don’t want to die!” Jack calls out, still hidden behind cover, “let us go on our way, and we’ll let you go on yours!”
“They’re a threat, Charlotte!” one of the men calls out from below, hesitant to give into demands, the decision being left to the hostage-held woman. Deep breaths pushing the hair away from her lipstick-covered lips, Charlotte takes a moment to inspect her predicament, noticing the lack of anyone other than Jack stationed near the front. “Tom!” Charlotte calls out, pushing her shoulder against her captor’s body, grunting as she squirms around, looking for leverage, “fire.”
Squeezing the trigger once, the man below fires a bullet through Charlotte’s shoulder, the projectile ripping through the other side of her flesh before cementing itself in the unnamed workers’ arm. Stumbling back, grunting as he tends to his wound, the worker leaves the gun held outwards, his hostage grimacing through the pain to retake her weapon, putting a single shot between the wounded survivor’s eyes.
Their plan having failed miserably, the workers begin to scramble, multiple bullets being sent through the air, Charlotte beginning to pick off one worker after another. Intervening, Jack leaps out of coverage, knocking the gun out of Charlotte’s hand and buying himself a few precious moments. Some workers bursting through the front doors whilst others shatter windows, the scramble commences, each part of the building being flooded with workers, desperate to escape enemy fire.
Lines of blood splattering all over the walls and thin carpeting, those being picked off fight to evade the gunshots, most of Charlotte’s crew now following the workers outside. Out of bullets herself, Charlotte calls off the hunt, demanding her forces retreat to their desired location, intending to pick off what remains of the escapees whenever approached with the next chance to do so.
“Keep up!” Tyler shouts, Reggie and Shauna following loosely behind him, Jack only now just diving through an open window. In the lead of the pack, Tyler nearly rounds the corner of the warehouse before a uniformed man confronts him, the employees immediately turning back the way they came. Trained to spot opportunities, the soldier moves his aim away from Tyler, steadying his shot at a quartered-off portion of the building.
Pulling the trigger, the soldier sends a bullet ripping through thin planks of wood, engulfing Tyler and those around him in flames. In a massive explosion, the pierced propane tank sends Tyler flying across the lot, instantly roasting many other workers alive, Reggie, Shauna, and Jack being some of the select view to only be knocked down, hit with a wave of heat.
Pleased with his work, the soldier turns back, unwilling to face the scorching heat himself, answering Charlotte’s call to retreat. Screaming in pain, Tyler rolls on the ground in an effort to put out his uniform, his arms pressing against the left side of his body. “Put him out, put him out!” Jack orders, Reggie and Shauna being some of the first to hear this command issued, helping Jack attack Tyler with their own jackets, beating the flames out.
His flesh heavily burned, Tyler continues to scream in misery, insisting he’d been scarred, if not worse. “Pick him up!” Jack shouts, helping Tyler to his feet alongside Reggie, their only hope of outrunning Charlotte’s military to run in the direction of the quarry. “Get on the phone with the cops, tell ‘em we’ve got wounded!” Jack exclaims, continuing to lead the way forward, Shauna’s attempts being made to reach emergency services, whilst Reggie rushes Tyler to safety.
= Rise: Remastered is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“Where am I?” John inquires, his eyes held on Charlotte’s frame, the woman folding her hands atop the table, keeping her lips sealed. “I asked you a question” John clarifies, his point quickly pushed aside, the woman intending to leave him with little wiggle room. “You don’t ask me questions unless I give you permission to ask me questions” Charlotte replies, the snarl from John preceding his eyes wandering off to a random corner of the room, “cooperate and you’ll get your answers.”
Keeping himself composed, John begins to speak to himself, lips moving without any words to match, hand rattling atop the metal tabletop he sits behind. “Tremors” Charlotte mutters beneath her breath, the attention John had been paying to his poise allowing the bad habit to persist, “why does it happen? PTSD? Addiction? Genetics?” Balling his hand into a fist, John stabilizes his hand, returning it to his lap, speaking through gritted teeth.
“Yes, yes, and yes” John replies, the care for where his answers may land him non-present, “I’ve answered your question, answer one of mine.” Not one to allow his demands to be put to the side, John remains persistent, wanting to know what he’s found himself entrenched with. “Those were not the terms I laid out for you” Charlotte replies, the answer quickly argued by John. “You asked me a question, I gave you an answer” John replies, “you wanted cooperation, that’s what I’m giving you.”
With a sigh, Charlotte leans back in her seat and lends John his point, opening the floodgates. “One question for one question” Charlotte replies, refining the rules a little bit, just to keep the advantage in her corner, “take it, or leave it.” Extending his hand, John rests the steady palm on the table, openly embracing the woman’s reciprocated gesture. “Where am I?” John asks, the new rules allowing him some leverage, which he makes as much use out of as he can.
“The outskirts of Manhattan, just outside of New Jersey” Charlotte replies, a smile hidden in the corner of her mouth, “a little community called the ‘New World Order’.” Considering the implications of such a truth, John is alerted back to Charlotte’s next question, more willing to give into her requests knowing a question of his own resides just over the horizon. “What military background do you have?” Charlotte asks, the implication being that she’s aware of his former service.
“I served in Afghanistan from eighteen to twenty-five years old” John replies, pulling his tremor-ridden hand into his opposite, coupling them together, “I was given an honorable discharge for excellent personal conduct.” Kicking her feet onto a third chair, Charlotte leans her left arm over the back of her chair, “was that around the same time you started your business?”
“That’s a second question” John replies, quickly matching Charlotte’s own tactics against her, a gesture which puts a smirk on her face. “Go ahead, Cowboy” Charlotte replies, the floor left open for control to be taken over. “Why did you bring me here?” John asks, his question finding little ground. “I can only reveal that when I’m through with this questioning” Charlotte replies, rewarding the man’s ability to adapt to her style of questioning, “it was a wasted question, you get another one.”
“Can you find my wife?” John asks, the woman hiding a smile as best as she can, the answer lying within the words she speaks with her eyes rather than her words. “Who said we haven’t already found her?” Charlotte replies, kicking her feet away from the chair and reaching for a notebook on the floor. From behind the front cover, Charlotte slides a picture of Jessica across the table, the glossy photo landing in the hands of the man on the opposite side of the table.
“We’ve had our eyes on you for a while, so we’ve had her in our sights as well” Charlotte replies, showing off how well her people have managed to do their research, the evidence proven not being enough for John. “How do I know you’re telling me the truth?” John asks, the shrug from Charlotte giving him all the response he needs. “I haven’t told you anything, I’ve hinted at something” Charlotte replies, quickly lifting two fingers into the air, “and that was a second question.”
Pressing his lips together, John looks at the photo for a moment before glancing back at Charlotte, slowly sliding the photo into his pocket for safe keeping. Preparing for a long day, John pops all the knuckles in his hand and calmly rests his arms atop the table, his eyes glued to Charlotte.
“Left, left, left!” a woman shouts, trying to guide a man through the sky, parachute sailing above his head, casting a large shadow over the grass. Unable to change direction, the man above begins to descend into the side of a house, crashing into the finishing and toppling a short way to the ground. “Damnit, Cam! I said left!” the woman shouts, rushing to the aid of her friend, his knees having gotten up just in the nick of time, allowing himself to push at the wall, falling onto a soft spot.
“I’m fine, I know what I’m doing!” the man quips, brushing himself off just as the faint sound of an incoming motor begins to take his attention. Glancing at a line of shrubbery beside them, Cam fixates his view on the parts between each leaf, looking through cover at the nearing sound. “Heather, we’ve got to move” Cam subtly exclaims, pushing the woman back before the parted leaves reveal a speeding block of gray matter closing in on them.
“Heather, we’ve gotta move!” Cam shouts, taking the woman by the hand and rushing into the backyard, the tires of the car screeching to a halt, the inhabitants just catching the sight of the parachuting-militants on the run. “Stop!” Meghan shouts, pulling the car into park and disembarking, the same being done by Bill, leaving Janice and the rifle in the backseat, looking over her son.
“Stop running!” Meghan shouts, the clothes she’d abandoned the home in proving less-than-suitable for a chase, Bill immediately taking over where she fell short. Dashing through the side yard, Bill catches wind and begins closing in on the militant, one man dashing into the distance alone. Seizing her opportunity, Heather peaks out from behind a wall and hits Bill over the side of the head with a dull rock, the man leaving his feet, crashing into the luscious green below.
Catching up to Bill, Meghan watches the militants zip round the opposite end of the home, making for the front yard. “Are you alright!?” Meghan shouts, dropping to her knees beside Bill, the man nursing a small wound on the side of the head. “The bitch hit me with a rock” Bill replies, his humorous reaction rooted in semi-disbelief.
“Take the wheel!” Heather shouts, directing Cam to the driver’s seat, both militants practically crashing into the vehicle as they descend upon it. “I don’t care where you take us, just let it be anywhere other than the New World Order!” Heather exclaims, falling into her chair, the door slamming shut behind her. “I don’t think you should be taking us anywhere” Janice calls out from the back, aiming the rifle at the back of Cameron’s head, both militants falling defeated at the sight.
“It wasn’t our intention to cause all that damage!” Cameron exclaims, both he and Heather sat on the curb, both hands tied behind their backs, “we were just following orders.” Questioning the act of slamming their helicopter into one of their own, Bill wonders aloud where their following of commands ended and where the outright-sabotage began. Head falling, Cameron acknowledges the decisions made, but doubles down on not having wished harm upon the survivor’s group.
“What orders were you following?” Janice asks, the rear mount of her firearm resting on the ground, the tip of the weapon held in her dominant hand. Hesitant to answer, Cameron tries to change the conversation, a last-ditched prayer at escaping this interrogation. “Do you even know how to use that thing?” Cameron questions, watching the woman take the weapon into action, taking aim at the man’s head and resting her finger on the trigger.
“We only need one of you alive to talk to, would you care to find out?” Janice replies, answering the man’s question before proceeding to repeat her group’s own. Out of options, Cameron gives in, taking the group at their word in hopes of being freed in return. “The orders were to pick up an army veteran by the name of Johnathan Callis” Heather replies, intercepting the question and answering on Cameron’s behalf, “he and his family were to be transported to the New World Order.”
Placing the rifle in the back of the van, Janice continues to look after the militants, both Meghan and Bill asking questions. “Who gave you these orders?” Meghan asks, the name of the woman responsible sticking inside the head of each member. “Charlotte Walters” Heather replies, quickly verbalizing her dislike for the woman, “she took over command of our armed forces when her dad died, the whole branch got passed down to her.”
“Why did she want John?” Janice questions, Heather admitting that there is more than just one New World Order. “Our military has bases all over the country, and when all of this turmoil began, Charlotte made the call to convert them all into shelters” Heather explains, unsure of the reasoning, “she wanted people with experience, preferably honorary discharges from the U.S military, to oversee day-to-day operations.”
“This is an entire network she’s looking after then” Bill acknowledges, “she’s turning safety into something suppliable.” Agreeing with the conclusion, Heather points out the function of each individual camp, multiple operations set up through the United States and Canada.
“There’s a base in New Mexico responsible for constructing firearms, one in Nova Scotia responsible for refining oil, you name it” Heather explains, unpleased with the conclusion she’s come to, “she’s trying to be god of the apocalypse.” Realizing the gravity of what they’re working against, Bill begins to take an alternate approach, inquiring over the woman’s own appeal rather than that of her compounds.
“She’s ruthless” Heather replies, insisting that, much as what her assumed goal is, the most important thing she has is power, “she wants control over everything. To her, control gives her the right to influence whatever she wants.” This answer doing little to reward any of the survivors with hope, Bill changes the conversation around, asking about the intentions of the people restrained before them.
“What’s your plan?” Bill wonders aloud, hoping to gain insight of his own next move off the backs of what the militants plan. “Find somewhere secluded and settle down” Cameron replies, the specifics not having come to them just yet, “go anywhere other than the New World Order.” His shirt tugged at by Meghan, Bill follows the young woman behind the van.
“I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but if they were sent to get John and his family, that means my niece and sister are there too” Meghan explains, the options laid out especially unflattering. “If that’s where your friend is going, my boyfriend is ending up in there as well” Bill replies, admitting his want to go after Emilio as well, “if you’re trying to convince me to go to this compound, you’re wasting your breath, because I’m already going.”
Pleased with that conclusion, Meghan admits that her efforts were not to convince Bill of where to journey, but rather, who to journey with. “I know it might cause problems for them, but we need to figure out where this compound is before we can think about going there” Meghan explains, suggesting they use the militants as guidance towards the New World Order, “they caused us to be split up from everyone else, don’t you think they should lead us there in return?”
“What, a ‘they made us split up, so now we throw them to the wolves’?” Bill replies, already responding in a less-flattering tone, “is this supposed to be some ‘eye-for-an-eye’ punishment?” Promising her motives to be less vengeful than that, Meghan insists that the only option on the table is the one kept stored within the minds of their imprisoned militants.
“They know the way, they know the people inside, they can lead us right to the front doors” Meghan explains, leaving the door open for their freedom being given once they’re outside the compound. Reluctant to agree, Bill allows Meghan to gradually nudge him towards consideration.
“You’re pretty, but your poker face is weak” Charlotte replies, pulling her chair, thus her body, closer to the table. “Where does it really come from?” Dissatisfied, John repeats his prior answer, not a word changing. “As I said, it’s a genetic condition” John replies, the eyes in Charlotte’s head rolling, “my father had a shaky hand, he passed it down to me.”
“I have the physical the military ran on you, and I have a copy of your medical records to back it up” Charlotte replies, kicking one foot over the other, arms crossing over her chest, “where does the tremor come from?” Staring at the table, John keeps silent for a moment, making the woman eagerly await his response. The room is quiet, not a soul beside their own sharing the space with them, John can notice the ringing in his ear persist, a subtle turn of his head subduing it.
“It’s a genetic condition, my fath-” John begins to reply, stopping immediately upon Charlotte’s fist colliding with the table. “No, it’s not” Charlotte replies, pushing the chair out from behind her, allowing her feet to carry her to the other side of the table, her eyes staring daggers into the top of John’s head.
“Where does your shaky hand come from?” Charlotte asks again, continuing to stand over the man, her figure casting a shadow over the table, blocking the light from the back of the room. With both hands interlacing their fingers within one another, John continues to stare at the empty seat ahead of him, slowly redirecting his focus towards the woman, locking eyes with Charlotte the moment he finds her face.
“It’s a genetic cond-” John replies, Charlotte’s hand slamming into the side of his face before he can get another word out, her patience reaching its peak. “Where did the tremor come from?” Charlotte asks again, the man below her looking away, a red handprint slowly forming on the side of his face. Turning back, John locks eyes with the woman again, his every movement slowed on purpose, the defiance he carries is something Charlotte is well aware of.
“It’s a-” John begins, again experiencing the stinging sensation of Charlotte’s hand meeting his face, the tingling burn that follows one that John’s become well-familiar with. “Why are you so hesitant to tell me the truth?” Charlotte asks, casually walking over to her chair, pulling it beside John while she continues talking, “what could you tell me that would be so groundbreaking?”
The legs of the chair dragging across the floor, a well-appreciating smack of metal on concrete permeates throughout the room, Charlotte waiting another moment before taking her seat. “If my answer was nothing groundbreaking, why does my answer matter to you?” John replies, locking eyes without turning his head, his dark brown iris peering at the woman through the corner of his eyelid.
“Natural curiosity” Charlotte replies, her answer brief, taking the piss out of the question. “Curiosity kills the cat” John replies, meeting her nonchalant rejection of respect with a measure of his own, the man’s retort putting a smirk on her face. “It’s a good thing I’m not pussycat then. Right, Cowboy?” Charlotte replies, watching the disconnected smile emerge from behind John’s full lips.
“Curiosity is a man’s greatest weakness” John replies, the response both serving as a jab to the woman, as well as a genuine opinion, “we put ourselves in dangerous positions all for the sake of figuring out what the outcome is.” Entertaining the diversion of their conversation, Charlotte pooks a booknote in her previous question, arguing John’s point with one of her own.
“Curiosity has served as the influence behind man’s greatest accomplishments, too” Charlotte replies, proving herself anything but a trigger-happy war criminal, “we don’t discover electricity is Ben Franklin doesn’t take a kite and a key outside.” Unwilling to get into a debate, John turns his head away, a gesture which only offers the woman more confidence.
“Every argument you can give me has a positive and negative result to point to” Charlotte replies, admitting the same if the roles were reversed, “we’ll have plenty of time to argue, but I’d prefer you indulge my curiosities while we’re still here.” Pressing her folded arms atop the table, Charlotte stares at John, the man’s face turned away from her own, repeating her original question.
“Where did you get the tremor?” Charlotte asks, the subtle pressing of his eyes shut suggesting the dissatisfaction John takes out of this return. With a sigh, John lets his eyes open, but does not let them fall back upon Charlotte. “It’s a genetic conditio-” John attempts to respond, again feeling Charlotte’s hand slamming against the side of his face, numbing his skin and bringing an ache over his jaw.
Pressing his hand against the side of his face, John turns his eyes back towards Charlotte, the disassociated expression on the woman’s face showing neither pleasure, nor annoyance. “Why are you so hesitant to tell me the truth?” Charlotte asks again, the man’s face beginning to sprout the seeds of anger, each slap driving him closer to his tipping point.
His eyelids partially lowered, John continues to stare at the woman, his hand dropping to his side as he begins to answer. “I find no reason to give you an answer you already know” John replies, the truthful response bringing a small look of satisfaction over Charlotte’s face. “That took long enough” Charlotte says, her low, business-centric voice answers, the smile forming more in one corner of her mouth, “it feels like we’re getting somewhere with you.”
“We need to slow down!” Alicia calls out, matching the exhausted pace Franklin carries with him proving to be a burden on Salem. “We’re what? One hundred yards away from an army of the dead?” Salem replies, holding herself back to let the pair catch up to her, “this is not the time to be slowing down.”
“He’s hurt!” Alicia exclaims, bringing Salem’s attention back to the fresh amputation he battles to overcome, “you lobbed the poor guy’s arm off, give him a fucking break!” Pressing her hand to her head, Salem begins to feel her chances of making it out of the night alive lower with each second that passes. Biting into her lip, Salem glances back at Franklin, hearing his bated breaths from afar, eyes rolling as she reaches a conclusion.
Pulling the rifle over her shoulder, Salem takes aim at the wounded survivor and touches the trigger with her finger, the declarative cries of Alicia attempting to persuade her into dropping the weapon. “He’s slowing us down, and he’s gonna get us killed” Salem replies, her reasoning obvious, though not good enough to warrant murder. Refusing to allow Salem any chances, Alicia puts herself in front of the gun, refusing to allow a bullet to penetrate Franklin’s body without killing her as well.
“What the fuck are you doing, girl?” Salem asks, the question raised also being asked to Alicia by herself, unsure of why she’d sacrifice herself for someone she’d only recently met. “You chopped off his arm so he could have a chance to live!” Alicia argues, finding her argument in the heat of the moment, staring into Salem’s wide eyes, “lower the gun now so he can still get that chance!”
The woman’s logic being perfectly sound, Salem finds little argument worthy of disputing it, her lowering of the gun declaring Alicia the victor of this argument. “If the dead catch up to us, I’m not coming back to make the save for you two” Salem concludes, throwing the gun over her shoulder before leading the way again. “Come on” Alicia mutters, keeping one hand below Franklin’s arm, her palm pressing against his back, helping direct him forwards.
“Thank you” Franklin mutters beneath his breath, his life spared in that one moment, a realization he comes to instantly, refusing to forget.
Two doors in the front seat slamming shut, Emilio peaks his head out of cover, watching the two men from behind tinted glass, a convoy of soldiers marching for the exit of a massive airplane hanger. The lights turned out behind them, the soldiers leave the fleet of vans where they were parked, allowing Emilio the opportunity to exit his vehicle the moment darkness consumes the makeshift garage.
Popping out of the side door, Emilio flashes his phone’s light around the open space, finding a door in the back of the hanger, right around where he’d heard the soldiers exit. Not wanting to waste time, Emilio hurries to the door, catching a glimpse of a sign reading “Newark Liberty International Airport.”
Leaving the hangar, Emilio looks out at an overhauled tarmac, the grounds where planes would once return to the ground now littered with small storefronts and hut-like homes. Pulling up his cellphone, Emilio removes the phone number from his pocket and begins dialing, anxiously awaiting an answer. “Hello?” a slightly optimistic Janice replies, the sigh of relief resulting from the sound of Emilio’s voice noticeable on the man’s end of the call.
“Listen, I don’t want to waste too much time, because I don’t really know where I am” Emilio explains, the moonlight having come over the pop-up town site. “I just left a hanger that had the sign ‘Newark Liberty International Airport’ on it” Emilio explains, assuming he’d found his way to a tiny village. “There’s a ton of guards, a ton of other people, it’s some little community” Emilio concludes, watching a fleet of guards begin to talk amongst themselves, attention placed in his direction.
“Listen dude, we’ve got two pilots from the plane that crashed. They said that’s one of the compounds the woman with John owns” Janice replies, very little good to say of her. “Listen, I’ve got eyes on me. I’ve got to go” Emilio concludes, hanging up the call and tucking the phone away, walking off in search of a more populated area the moment one of the guards begins approaching him.
“You’re not making this any easier on yourself, Cowboy” Charlotte explains, her feet now having found themselves propped atop the table, her right foot draped over her left. “I never said I wanted this to be easy” John replies, the truth in his response inarguable. “You did say you wanted your family” Charlotte replies, continuing to hold that string over his head, much as she has since the minute she entered the room, “you’re burning time you might be able to spend with her.”
Squinting, John keeps his thoughts to himself, allowing Charlotte to continue speaking, the words she utters only serving to give her satisfaction, taking pleasure in hearing herself talk. “Instead, you choose to be a hard-ass” Charlotte explains, filing her fingernails while raking at the thoughts John stubbornly keeps silent.
“You’re doing neither of us any favors” Charlotte whispers, lowering the filer to her lap, her second hand remaining in the air as it had been, “why do you insist on keeping this act up?” Clearing his throat, John pulls away from the table, his back resting in his chair and his hands falling into his lap. Turning towards Charlotte, John licks at his chapped lips, challenging the filler she’d been offering.
“You said ‘her’” John replies, the vague response bringing a brief look of regret over Charlotte’s face, her stubborn mask having broken for a moment, the woman aware of her slip-up. “You don’t have my wife here” John replies, that fact proving to serve as a wrench, a barrier thrown at Charlotte and having fallen within the trajectory of her plan. “I’ll admit, I realized that long ago” John replies, coming clean with how little hope he’d had in Charlotte since the first minute.
“However, until now, the chance I’d be reunited with them was still there” John explains, this shattering of hopes presenting little reason to make this process easy, “prolonging this interrogation was just doing me a favor.” The advantage having swung into John’s corner, Charlotte begins to reassess her approach, the high ground she once had now a plateau, digging significantly deeper into the earth the longer this goes on.
“Fine, I’ll admit it, you’ve got an advantage over me now, Cowboy” Charlotte admits, the time she’s had to question John quickly running out. “I’ve got to leave here before midnight, so roughly within the next forty minutes or so” Charlotte explains, “and that means I need to get this done, or else you’ll be stuck in here until I get back, whenever that may be, while some random guard you’ve never met before looks after your daughter.”
The incentive on both to keep the questions moving now placed, Charlotte tells John to cooperate, not wanting either party to deal with the consequences of failing to finish their conversation. “If you help me get this done, I’ll help get you out of here quicker than someone can cut the head off a snake” Charlotte concludes, both feet removing themselves from the table, her folded hands finding the surface of the table, “do we have an agreement?”
The woman’s genuine interest in finishing this trial being noticed, John cracks his knuckles and returns the sides of his hands to the cool tabletop. “Next question” John replies, serving his answer, the appreciative nod from Charlotte’s head signaling their arrival on the same page.
“You’ve got to hold still!” Shauna exclaims, Reggie trying his best to remove the blood-soaked bandages from Tyler’s charred face, the campfire he uses to direct his efforts proving too poor to work off of. “Reggie, move out of the way. Shauna, hold this light where I tell you” Jack mutters, pulling Reggie aside and taking over. “Tyler, I need you to listen to me” Jack says, keeping his hands away from the wounds, leaving the man a chance to collect himself.
“Hey, listen. I know this hurts, but the pain is temporary. If your wounds get infected, you’ll suffer something more permanent, if you know what I mean” Jack explains, laying the ground rules out distinctively. Struggling to find death less desired than the suffering he endures, Tyler gives Jack a faint nod, letting Shauna prop a stick between his teeth.
“Alright, when I tell you to, bite down on the stick and squeeze Reggie’s hand” Jack explains, making it clear that he was going to rip the bandages off. Waiting for Tyler’s breathing to steady, Jack gives the signal and tears at the cloth, horrifying screeches of agony resonating from the deepest crevasses of Tyler’s soul. Within seconds, the bandages fall to the dirt, a squishy thud coming off of them until Tyler suddenly eases down.
“Tyler?” Jack calls out, snapping his fingers in the man’s face to no response, “Tyler?” Putting her ear to the man’s mouth and nose, Shauna listens for the faint sound of breathing. Upon the failure of that attempt, Shauna places her ear to Tyler’s chest, listening desperately for a heartbeat, which she also fails to do. “He’s not breathing!” Shauna exclaims, the group now fearing for Tyler’s life.
In a moment of panic, Jack yanks Tyler’s body away from the tree he had been leant against and pushes him to the ground, both hands forming into one, pressing down on his chest. Doing everything he can to bring Tyler back to life, Jack finds a silent response the only thing to emerge, the resuscitation failing. “Jack, he’s gone” Reggie mutters beneath his breath, at least a minute having passed with no signs of improvement.
“Jack, his brain has gone without air for too long” Reggie explains, trying to pull Jack away before the outcome they’d seen first responders face on the news happens again. “Jack” Reggie mutters, continuing to convince Jack to call it quits, only to continue failing. “Jack, he’s gone!” Reggie exclaims, ripping his friend away from Tyler’s body.
Laying flat on the dirt, Jack puts up no further fight, both hands falling over his eyes the moment his originally-white shirt is stained a sandy beige. “What the fuck is happening!?” Jack exclaims, slamming both fists into the ground, his body pushing itself up into a seated position, which he stares coldly at Reggie and Shauna from. “We were working in a factory twelve fucking hours ago!” Jack shouts, pushing himself to his feet, eyes burning with a passionate rage.
“Our lives were normal, none of this happened!” Jack exclaims, the silence Shauna and Reggie meet him with being palpable. “What the hell do we do now!?” Jack exclaims, challenging those around him to come up with a solution, not a soul speaking up to do so. Hands angrily placed to his hips, Jack looks at Tyler’s dead body, the lack of response from the corpse only serving to enrage him.
“I’ll tell you what we do” Jack says to himself, muttering beneath his breath as he approaches Tyler’s remains, “we fight until we’re not allowed to anymore.” Dropping to his knees, Jack begins trying to bring Tyler back once again, the eye roll from Reggie doing nothing to deteur Jack. “Jack, you’re gonna get yourself hurt!” Reggie calls out, approaching Jack before failing to pull him back, a shove from the scathing survivor forcing Reggie to stop trying to change his mind.
“Jack, you’ve seen what’s happened when you do this!” Reggie shouts, his words carried throughout the forest, a result he cares little about. “Jack, knock it off!” Reggie exclaims, storming back towards Jack before Shauna reaches out, holding the man back and allowing Jack to continue his efforts. “Come on you burnt son of a bitch!” Jack says in gasps, balling one hand into a fist as he beats at Tyler’s chest, trying to restart his heart until the last possible second.
“Get the fuck back here!” Jack keeps shouting, one hammering blow after another being dealt, his attempts rewarded with nothing for minute-like seconds. With a sudden gasp, Tyler takes a full breath of air into his lungs, eyes shooting open with one final strike to the chest, the sight bringing Reggie and Shauna to awe. “Holy shit!” Reggie exclaims, pulling Shauna back, unsure at first whether or not Tyler came back as one of the dead.
Within seconds, the pain begins shooting through Tyler’s body, prompting the group to rush back to his aid. “Rubbing alcohol, bandages, blankets, NOW!” Jack shouts, Shauna falling to her knees with the flashlight, leaving Reggie to collect. Returning with the first aid equipment, Reggie starts handing Jack whatever the man asks for, the conversation between the two only taken part in by Jack.
“We fight until we’re not allowed to anymore” Jack mutters, tending to Tyler’s wounds with the alcohol while he smiles at Reggie, “we don’t give up on each other.” Accepting the results of Jack’s resilience, Reggie closes his mouth without a word, a brief smile given with his lips as he nods, in agreement with Jack’s new policy of survival.
Head resting against a makeshift pillow, Lauren awakens in a dark closet, hidden within a silent room, the ruffling of the puffy jackets below her head serving as a wakeup call. Sweat running down her face, Lauren emerges from the stuffy room and into a dark house, not a sound to be throughout. Quietly walking through the home, Lauren lets the tips of her fingers run against the paint-covered walls, her journey leading her to the silent living room, not a soul to be found.
“I thought they would have busted in” Lauren remarks to herself, turning her head towards the front door, its heavily-reinforced locks having kept the dead out. Peering through the curtain, Lauren finds the front steps as empty as the rest of the neighborhood, the midnight hour bringing about a haunting drain of color. Putting one foot through the front door, Lauren steps out into the open air, the roads lit up with the street lamps’ faint, orange tinge.
The burning husk of the down helicopters having died out long ago, Lauren is left on her own, not a soul found for miles. Her breathing starting to become erratic, Lauren begins to feel encapsulated by the loneliness, a new world from what she had once known, not a hand to guide her into it. Head spinning, Lauren turns back into the home, slamming the door shut and locking it on the way in.
“That’s how I ended up here” John concludes, his answer bringing a satisfied look upon Charlotte’s face. “How about the tremor?” Charlotte asks, the eye roll given by the veteran suggesting his pleasure at hearing the question again. “I did you a favor and saved it for the end of the chat” Charlotte explains, the side-eye given by John noticed immediately, “we’re working on limited time and this is the last question. Do yourself a favor, and keep me from having to rehome your kid.”
Puckering his lips, John thinks of his options, clammy hands rubbing at his furrowed brow. “I was in Ghowr when gunfire broke out” John replies, his military convoy consisting of seven men. “It was a routine drive through, we hadn’t been expecting an ambush” John continues, the death toll of that day having reached the number four. “We were greatly outnumbered and forced into surrender” John explains, his title not ending merely as ‘veteran’, but as ‘prisoner of war.’
“They tortured you?” Charlotte suggests, the question bringing a somber look over John’s face, his hesitancy to respond giving her most of the answer. “They shot one of us in the chest to serve as a warning, in case we wanted to act out” John replies, recalling his hands bound in tight ropes, hanged from a rusty pipe in the cellar of a poorly-built home. “We were held captive for twenty-nine days, I think” John replies, having messed up the count after the first week.
“It wasn’t being a prisoner that brought the tremor on, though” Charlotte replies, watching the man’s eyelids shut tightly, “you were the only one that made it out alive, that’s what the records said.” Letting a calm breath leave his lungs, John lightly scratches at his forehead, keeping his second, tremor-happy hand kept at bay beside him. “The second guy, he- Eh. He, uh, he stopped fighting” John replies, nodding to himself as he forces his shaky hand still.
“I tried to convince him to stop acting out, but-” John pauses, squeezing his hand tightly, a simple shake calming it, “-he figured he wouldn’t make it much longer anyway.” The room goes silent, a chill begins running down John’s spine, his lack of a reaction to it brought on by the inability to forget the day he chose to forget.
“They put a bullet through his eye before I could get a chance to react” John says abruptly, slowly looking back at Charlotte, eye contact and all, “I felt my hand shake the moment the pipe stopped creaking.” Falling back into her chair, Charlotte looks at John with an astonished glare, the man refusing to withdraw eye contact. “I was repatriated, given entitlements, and looked after until this” John finishes, “I never gave my wife details, and she’d never fuckin’ ask.”
Met with silence, John continues to stare into Charlotte’s eyes, the woman’s expression suggesting she’d underestimated the man she’d be bringing into her community. “Have you enjoyed the story, or do you need an autograph, too?” John mocks beneath a grizzled tone, his voice weighted down with brooding hostility.
“Okay, Cowboy” Charlotte mutters aloud, pushing herself out of her chair and pulling open the exit, “welcome to the New World Order.” Remaining sat, his eyes never leaving Charlotte for a moment, John awaits whatever comes next. Led by the hand of one of the guards, Amy walks into the room and looks towards her father, her entrance the only thing breaking John out of his rising anger.
Leaping out of his seat, John races to his daughter, throwing himself to his knees on the floor as he wraps his arms around the small child. “We’ve got as much information on your wife as we could get from her work office” Charlotte mutters, the man paying her no mind, only listening to the promise she makes, “we’re keeping an eye out for her. If she’s still out there, we’ll find her.”
Pulling his eyes open, John looks at Charlotte and offers a subtle nod, his appreciation given in the gesture. Leaving the room, Charlotte moves on with her day, leaving the guards to inform John of his following duties.
Beginning to explain John’s new role, the guards place a small patch on his shirt, telling him not to lose the token. “Who is-?” John mutters to himself, brushing off the guards the moment he spots a figure out from the crowd, arms pulled back by guards as he’s forced through the central square. “Hey!” John calls out, hurrying away from his escort and dashing up to the armed men, none of them taking kindly to his interruption.
“Know your role, sir. Keep on wal-” the first guard to acknowledge him calls back, beginning to aim his weapon before taking a pause, the rest of his peers slowing down. “Sir” the guard replies, lowering his weapon to his hip, the remaining guards turning towards him with apologetic looks, “I’m so sorry, we didn’t know you had gotten here!”
Confused, John stares at the militants with a crooked frown, his escort quickly catching up to him. “Mr. Callis, what we’re trying to tell you is important” the escort explains, his concerns brushed off by the token-adorning general, all eyes placed upon him. “Emilio, right?” John calls out, the criminally-treated man looking back in his direction, a look of relief coming over his face.
“I didn’t get here under admirable circumstances, I’ll admit that” Emilio jokes, the awe he’s surrounded by brings John an intrigued confidence. “Let him go” John orders the guards, his commands met with instant obedience, realization dawning upon him. “What does this mean?” John asks, turning to the escort with his finger resting upon the crust of his patch.
“It’s the symbol of authority here” the escort pauses, watching the grin appear on John’s face before continuing, “Charlotte’s placed you in charge of the community.” With a glance, John tells the halted officers to return to what they were originally responsible for, their feet carrying them away as swiftly as they had arrived.
An hour having passed, John listens to every word to have left the escort’s mouth, his duties having been laid out resoundingly clear. “So I have full authority over this entire camp, and everyone in it, minus Charlotte Walters?” John clarifies, the approval of his peers giving him a swift intrigue over what this means for himself and his family.
Thanking the escort for their time, John leads the men out of his new, spacious home and turns back, the only people he shares the space with now being his daughter and Emilio. “So, this is like your kingdom now?” Emilio replies, the conclusion reached not being too far off from the truth. “Well, what does this mean?” Emilio asks, “The group got divided after you were taken, so I could only reach Janice, Bill, and your sister in law, but they’re already on their way.”
Hand stretched out, John acknowledges the uncertainty of the present, admitting that a plan towards the future is impossible right now. “We’re still not sure if what they’re saying is true. Everything could be restored to normal in weeks or months” John explains, the only truth being that they’re stuck, “as long as we’re unsure as to what’s going on out there, the only safety that we can depend on is what we have in here.”
Struggling to find a reason to disagree, Emilio walks off, finding a secluded corner of the large living room to wander towards. “So what do we do in the now?” Emilio replies, John’s glance taking his eyes towards the deeper interior of the building. “Honestly, Emilio. I don’t think we’ve got much of a choice” John replies, taking a bottle of whiskey from the mantle atop the fireplace, a glass poured for himself and the man he shares company with, “all we can do now is play along.”
== Rise: Remastered ==