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 ==