“So… Now what?” The quiet campground has its silence broken with the ringing echo of the most important question of the night being asked by the man with a leather jacket on and an unlit bud in his mouth.
“I mean… We’re no safer out here than we were back in town” the man says, finally placing the flame of his flip lighter to the end of his cigarette. “Someone? Anyone? No idea? Okay…”
Finally, the blonde snaps out of her daze to fill the void left by the events immediately prior to their escape from the city. “North. Like we talked about” the woman says, sticking to the hope that if salvation can’t be under their nose, it must be found somewhere.
“If we’re not going to get answers, we’ll need to find them ourselves” the woman says, directing her attention to everyone in the group one at a time. “The best chance we have is to get out of the center of the chaos. If that means finding a place up North safe enough to figure things out, then I’m heading North.”
“Ehem” a brief interlude comes from the leathered-man and his dirty-blonde haired girlfriend, “We’re ALL going North.”
After a brief pause rises through the camp, smiles form on each person’s face as Jaime begins readying to finalize the group’s decision.
“Then it’s settled” the blonde says, her boyfriend resting the palm of his hand in hers and her mother resting the palm of her hand on her cheek.
“We head for North at dawn!”
/ earlier /
“Mom! we have to leave in, like, five minutes!” yells Alexandra’s youngest daughter mid-flight down the stairway of their home. “Jamie’s taking you to school, Ken. She’ll be down in a second” responds Alex, currently burying her face in her purse, shuffling through in search for her daughter’s inhaler. “Why does Jamie have to take me? I thought she was hanging out with her boyfriend again” Kennedy responds, putting on a scowl as she stares off to the side. “Mom has some things to take care of, honey. I’ll be there at the end of the day to pick you up, though.”
Marching down the stairs with a louder step than a drill sergeant comes Jamie, the eldest, carrying a brown sachel over her shoulder as she reaches towards the bowl placed on a shelf beside the front door where her keys currently lay. “Come on, squirt. I’m not waiting around for you” the eldest calls over, only to turn around to watch as the youngest runs out through the door in an attempt to get the front seat before her older sister could deny her request. “Okay then” Jamie says, turning towards her mother and asking whether or not Kennedy has a ride home.
Alex finally finds her daughter’s inhaler, turning to Jamie and tossing it right into her hand, only for Jamie’s expression to begin souring as she looks at her mother. “Mom?” Jamie asks, with Alex asking what the cause of her seeming concern is. The two remain silent, looking directly at each other without a hint of movement until Alex takes a deep, yet brief, inhale as she rushes towards the mirror hung up over the shelf beside the front door. “You go, sweetheart. Just stay safe, okay?” Alex says to her eldest, with her daughter hesitantly turning back towards her car with a dissatisfied and somewhat fed-up look on her face as Alex turns back to the mirror.
Rushing up the stairs, Alex makes a quick turn into the bathroom in hopes of looking for her case of makeup, one she has been forced to write “Emergency case” over to assure herself of its use, only to be unsuccessful. Alex continues to hurriedly begin looking through the shelving of the towel closet in search for her makeup bag, finally coming across it and closing the towel closet door, only to see her husband, dressed from head to toe in raggedy pajamas, staring on at her with a look of anger.
“Good morning, darling. Is there something I can…” Alex begins to ask, only to be interrupted as her husband begins stepping through the doorway. “You woke me up” he says, syllable by syllable before planting a firm slap to his wife’s face as she begins trying to apologize. “And what did I tell you about covering up your marks?” He shouts once more before taking the sole of his foot and returning it to the surface of the floor after laying in a stomp to Alex’s shoulder. “Cover those up and clean the room, bitch” Robert says before walking out of the room and down the hall, towards the main living space of the home as Alex cowards in fear hoping her husband will not return.
Catching her breath through her muffled sobs, Alex takes her hand and places it on the rim of the sink, helping herself back to her feet before looking in the mirror, noticing a bright-red handprint plastered against her cheek. Regaining her composure, Alex places the pad of her makeup brush to her cheek, as well as the black eye that began this entire chain of events to begin with. Covering up any sign of the damage done by her loose-cannon husband, Alex wipes away a tear from her eyes before turning her expression from sadness into one of an empty-happiness, with a meaningless smile and lively eyes overwhelming the inner torture she feels herself containing. Breaking once briefly, losing the ability to smile as she focuses on the makeup powder around her eye, she returns to a frown before taking in a deep breath and bringing her smile back before turning to the door and exiting the bathroom.
As the sun beams down on a busy downtown, a man in a hefty leather jacket scrolls through his phone looking at the headlines. Catching up on news stories, he instinctively reaches to the pocket of his jacket for a package of cigarettes, taking one out before reaching for a match to light it. Before he can strike the flame-starter against its box, a woman in a white t-shirt carrying a bag in her hands walks out of the cafe front the man was leaning up against the wall of and swipes the cigarette from his mouth, allowing it to fall to the asphalt below.
“What the hell was that for, Kay?” The man asks, raising both hands from his sides into the air, letting them equal out at neck height as the dirty-blonde haired woman turns around to face him with a smile. “You never told me anything about wanting a bagel with sour cream and a side of tobacco smoke, how was I supposed to know?” The woman responds, with the man’s arms falling back to his sides as he sighs with a smirk forming in the corner of his mouth. “Come on, Chevy. Let’s get our move on.”
The blonde woman turns and begins walking in the opposite direction of the leather-jacketed, sour cream bagel-having man, causing the smirk to turn into acceptance as the pairing make their way to a motorcycle parked on the side of the curb. Hoping on, Chevy helps Kay onto the bike before riding off down the road and towards the inside of the city.
As the pairing continue their path down the road, they are forced to a near-screeching halt behind a larger-SUV parked in the middle of the road. Using the moderate horn on his motorcycle, Chevy tries to get the attention of the driver of the vehicle, only for his efforts to prove futile as there remains no movement from inside the vehicle, and no movement from the car itself. “This is bullshit” Chevy says as Kayla clutches to him with a stronger grip as the two proceed to drive around the parked vehicle, with Chevy flipping whatever driver of the vehicle as they pass by.
Continuing forward, Chevy and Kayla eventually make it to their originally planned destination, a bookstore in an area on the outskirts of the downtown area. Parking his bike and setting up the kick stand, Kayla disembarks from her lovers two-wheeled death trap before starting for the door. As she reaches out for the handle, a woman beats her to the punch, opening it to let herself out whilst in the middle of fighting a coughing fit. Watching the woman walk past her, she returns to looking at the door as Chevy approaches her from behind and takes the handle of the door in his hand, holding it open for his biking partner.
“What a gentleman” Kayla says in a sarcastic tone before Chevy silently bows with one arm to her as she enters the building, with Chevy following right behind. Walking through the tables of books set on display at the front of the store, Kayla manages to eagle-eye her friend in the corner of the room taking a seat on a chair hidden away behind a stack of damaged books.
“Marcy!” Kayla says semi-enthusiastically, earning the attention of her brunette librarian friend, who makes an attempt at standing to her feet, only to be forced back into her seat. “Are you alright?” Kayla asks, brushing a strand of hair from her face, and relocating it behind her ear as she reaches her hand out towards the woman. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little hot is all” Marcy responds, with Kayla kneeling in front of her and lifting up her sleeve, revealing a trail of bright-red blemishes acting like a sore from the top of her elbow to her shoulder.
“What the hell are these?” Kayla asks, gently grazing Marcy’s skin with the tip of her index finger, only for Marcy to quickly shove Kayla’s hands away before returning her sleeve to its former position. “Stop, don’t touch it” Marcy says, drawing confusion from Chevy and Kayla, with the latter asking for a reason. “It burns” Marcy responds, “Anything that touches it makes it burn worse.”
“What do you mean ‘it burns?’” Kayla asks, only for Marcy to admit that she doesn’t know what it means, only saying that the best way to describe the pain is like a fire-burning sensation constantly.
“Let us take you to the hospital then” Chevy says, only for Marcy to respond by telling the pair that she can’t leave her job before the end of her shift, as she desperately needs the money for school. “School’s going to wait, your health isn’t” Chevy responds, only for Marcy to continue shaking her head, denying the help as she stands from her chair through grunts of pain before walking back to the front desk.
“So, what did you guys need?” Marcy asks, bending down to retrieve a carry bag filled to the brim with containers and baggies. “Just the weed” Kayla answers, with Marcy asking for the usual amount. “Here it is” Chevy says, forking over the cash as Marcy extends her hand to hand the pair six baggies, all of which filled with as much marijuana as they could hold, only for the bags to fall to the surface of the desk as Marcy swings her opposite hand back to her arm, holding it through silent screams of pain. Kayla begins trying to comfort her friend as Chevy looks back to her arm, noticing the red-patch of inflamed skin spreading down towards the middle of her forearm. Noticing this, Chevy taps his girlfriend on the shoulder before pointing at the wound, causing Kayla to become scared.
“Marcy, we’ve got to get you to the hospital!” Kayla begins saying louder with each plea to help Marcy, only for her worry to be retaliated to as Marcy throws the baggies of weed to her clients, shouting at them to leave the store. Briefly trying to continue pleading to help Marcy, Kayla is forced to resign to the fact that Marcy will not be helped, with Chevy and herself beginning back towards the front door of the store. Thinking it over once more, Kayla turns around to walk back into the store to try to help her friend one last time, only to be met with Marcy slamming the door shut in her face and locking it from the inside.
Turning to her boyfriend, Kayla notices Chevy already on the phone awaiting for an answer, only to get an unresponsive tone from the machine trying to process his call. Noticing the confusion in Chevy’s face, Kayla asks who he was trying to call, with Chevy responding that he was dialing 9-1-1. Chevy tries once more to place a call into emergency services, once again to no response. “9-1-1 is supposed to run no matter what” Kayla exclaims, with Chevy nodding in agreement, though continuing to show confusion in his face.
“Let’s start heading home, we’ll try again there” Kayla says, walking towards the bike and beginning to take her seat, only for accidentally kick over her cup of coffee resting on the back-most cup holders, forcing Chevy to quickly reach for napkins and begin padding off the bike. “Shit, sorry about that” Kayla says, with Chevy shrugging his shoulders mid-pat down and telling his girlfriend that it’s no big deal. “Let’s head back to the cafe and I’ll buy you a new one” Kayla offers, with Chevy reminding her that she doesn’t have to buy him a new cup of coffee,
“I know, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to” Kayla responds, forcing Chevy to turn his head towards her and smile as she begins giving him the puppy dog look. Chevy sighs before placing his arm on the console of his bike, resting up against it before responding, “Fine” to his girlfriend, who immediately returns to her smile before hopping back onto the bike as the two make a u-turn and head back up the road and towards the cafe.
As an empty middle school parking lot, void of any sign of life or joy, sucks the youth away from the children previously dropped off at it at the start of a bright and sunny day, an SUV barrels over a speed bump before coming to a screeching halt directly outside of the life-stripping center of pseudo-education. Being thrusted into their seats by the force of the sudden stop, Jaime adjusts her hair in the driver’s seat mirror as Kennedy turns her head to face her sister with a look of pure confusion as she wonders how the two made it to their destination alive and in one piece.
“What… Was that?” Kennedy asks as her sister simply places her thumb in the air and begins waving goodbye without uttering a single word. Turning her look of confusion into one of tiredness, Kennedy opens the door and begins to exit the vehicle before turning around and facing her sister once again.
“Drive safely, please?” Kennedy asks her sister, who turns back to face her younger sister before sticking her tongue out in the most childish way imaginable. Kennedy proceeds to let out a small, yet noticeable laugh, causing Jaime to begin exploding into laughter herself, causing Kennedy to do the same. The two girls smile to each other as Kennedy’s feet remain hanging out of her sister’s car door whilst a woman in a full suit and high heels begins walking out of the building and straight for the car.
Placing her hands on her hips with a stern, fun-emptying look on her face, the woman simply stands a few yards away from the vehicle awaiting Kennedy’s arrival into the physical building itself. Turning back to her sister, Kennedy forces a smile as Jaime extends her fist, which Kennedy answers by returning the fist for a fist bump before exiting the vehicle and closing the door behind her. Watching her sister walk into the building, Jaime turns the radio onto full blast before texting her boyfriend that she was on her way. Repeating her earlier action of carelessly refusing to acknowledge the existence of speed bumps, Jaime drives her way out of the school drop-off area before beginning her way to see her boyfriend.
Back in the school, Kennedy is given a slip for detention for being late by the principal, who then stands from his seat to make his way to the loud speaker.
Walking through the hallways, Kennedy continues walking to her locker and past school room after school room of children screwing around and throwing wads of crumbled-up loose-leaf paper at each other as information about the upcoming school dance and fundraising campaigns are read off.
Eventually reaching her locker, Kennedy puts in her combination and begins placing her things away. Looking through her locker, decorated in with three purple frog stickers, Kennedy finds a book with the name “Simpson” on it before looking into the room behind her where her classmate should be seated. Only today, he isn’t seated in the room, and furthermore, each seat directly opposite of his usual seat is also abandoned by the children in the class room.
Taking a few short steps forward to look further into the class room, Kennedy notices all of the children swatting at each other and itching, unusual in comparison to each of the other class room’s Kennedy had encountered on her post-detention walk of shame. Continuing to assess the class room, Kennedy notices the teacher, Mrs. Warren, looking oddly concerned as she lightly scratches her wrist beneath the top of her desk, as if she was trying to hide herself doing it. Thinking of this as more than just an odd departure from the usual morning activities, Kennedy begins walking past her home room and down the hallway towards her guidance counselors office. Walking through the door to the cut-off guidance counselors area, Kennedy turns the corner towards her counselor’s office door, only to notice it unusually closed with a note written on the whiteboard attached to the door’s outer side reading,
“Out sick, any concerns are to be brought to Vice Principal Isaac.”
Noting how unusual this turn of events were, Kennedy turns another corner towards the second guidance counselor’s office, only to see the same result and a note directing any concerns to Vice Principal Isaac. As Kennedy continues looking around the small, yet unmissable guidance area, she hears a roll of tape being used from outside of the room. Returning to her original entry point, she notices the custodian being accompanied by Vice Principal Isaac, taping off the door with bright and unmistakable red tape.
“HEY!” Kennedy shouts from inside, causing the custodian and her designated guidance counselor-by-default to stop their efforts to sanction off the room from the remainder of the school as both people quickly peel away the tape and open the door, entering into the room and grabbing Kennedy by the wrist, pulling her out into the hallway before quickly closing the door once again and beginning with the tape again.
“WHAT WERE YOU DOING IN THERE, YOUNG LADY?” Vice Principal Isaac shouts from the top of his lungs in the middle of the echo-inducing hallway at the terrified and confused thirteen year old girl, causing a stand-still for the rest of the school and hallway, which grows quiet as students approach their individual doorways to look on at the events unfolding. “I… I… Just wan… Just wanted to tell Ms. Nara that I have Simpson’s book” the girl says, forcing Vice Principal Isaac to close his eyes and take in a breath of relief before continuing with a much softer tone.
“I’m sorry, it’s just a little scary almost trapping one of our students in a room as scar… As alone as this one.” Catching onto the Vice Principal’s break in his words, Kennedy begins trying to question Vice Principal Isaac’s original wording, only to be cut off before she could truly begin saying anything by Vice Principal Isaac asking to see the book.
“Why do you wan…” Kennedy begins asking, only to be cut off once more by the principal returning to his echoed shouts as he demands once more with conviction to be handed the book. Without Kennedy even reacting, the sheer shock from the principal’s bipolar-like conversation with her causes Kennedy to drop the book in the spot she stood, with the vice principal desperately throwing himself to the ground to take possession of the book before beginning to quickly walk off in the opposite direction of Kennedy. Rounding the corner, the vice principal disappears behind a brick wall as Kennedy remains standing there, with only the whispers of gossip of the children immediately to the right and left of her filling the room. The custodian proceeds to also walk away after patting Kennedy on the head, leaving the young girl alone and frozen in place in the middle of the hallway.
“Are you coming or not?”, “Hello?”, “Where the hell are you?” light up Jaime’s phone screen in white-text bubbles under the contact name “Jordan” as the eldest of Alex’s daughters sits in the driver’s seat of her car overlooking the Los Angeles skyline, but with an expression of frustration overwhelming her as she continues to look around the outer area of her car in hopes that a vehicle, or truly anything will show up. With one last effort to contact her boyfriend, Jaime texts one final “Respond now or I’m coming to your house to check up on you” before adding on “You’re never this silent” after the fact.
After another minute of waiting, raising her attention to the skyline for the first time in ages, Jaime’s attention is caught by a fleet of five helicopters flying in formation over the downtown Los Angeles area, which Jaime clearly notices as nothing but suspicious. Continuing to watch their flight pattern, Jaime watches them continue to fly in their formation before flying behind a skyscraper, obstructing Jaime’s view as the helicopters never appear on the opposite side.
Completely filled with confusion, and some well-justified worry and concern, Jaime glances back down, only to be met with no answer from her lover once again. Frustrated, Jaime tosses her phone into the fold of her passenger seat and takes her car out of park, reversing it onto the dirt hill and coming to a stop when she is face to face with the dirt road she took to enter the area. Jaime then proceeds to throw her car into drive, only to keep her foot planted on the brake pedal as she watches a man carrying a cantina of water and a telescope walk over the edge of the road and into her view. Squinting to make sure she truly didn’t recognize the man walking in her direction, Jaime keeps her foot planted on the brake pedal whilst rolling down her window just slightly to allow a conversation with the man to become a possibility.
Walking further up to Jaime’s vehicle, the man waves in her direction before jogging up to her driver side window and introducing himself.
“Eli, nice to meet you!”
Caught slightly off guard by the man’s kind demeanor, Jaime introduces herself in return before apologizing for her worried expression, explaining to the man that she didn’t know what to expect when he arrived over the lip of the road in front of her.
“It’s no worry” says the doomsday-preparation looking man, “This place is rather remote, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking I was a serial killer or any sort of that jazz.” Noticing the man consistently breaking his view from the business-to-take-care-of Jaime, the girl asks whether or not the man is looking for or out for something. Itching his neck, glistening from the sunlight reflecting off of his sweat, the man simply explains that he’s trying to get away from the city life for a little while, as whilst the place is remote, it is the perfect cite to get away from civilization for a few days. “Well, I wish you the best of luck in your travels” Jaime says as the man begins to show a slight smile, thanking her in return for her best wishes and wishing her luck on checking up on the person she is concerned for.
“What? What do you mean by concerned?” Jaime asks, which the man begins waving his hand to, explaining that her rushed mannerisms when talking to him gave away that she was worried about something other than the identity of the man she was communicating with, and he knew she was trying to leave as soon as possible. “I won’t keep you any longer, you’ve clearly got someone or something you need to get to, so I’ll let you get back to your business. Thank you for the wishes, however. It’s nice to see someone remembering how human everyone around them is” the man says before beginning to walk off further down the trail he originally set out to travel.
Turning her head away from the window and further into the car at a much slower pace than before, Jaime begins remembering her original intentions before rolling up the car window and beginning to proceed down the dirt road she began for minutes prior. Picking her phone back up from her passenger seat, Jaime texts her boyfriend one final time, with a quick “omw” popping up from her side of the conversation before Jaime tosses her phone back into its originally-thrown place once more and begins heading for her boyfriends home.
As the sunlight beams in through a closed window with its curtain raised to its highest point, Alex scrubs away with a soap pad on the floor of her husband’s bedroom, trying desperately to rid of the beer stains that overwhelm the hardwood of the floor. Every corner is covered in balls of dust, and every edge of the wall is hidden behind build up of dirt and muck. Continuing to scrub as strands of hair fall in front of her face, Alex stops moving completely as her husband walks through the doorway with a beer in his hand, causing the hair on Alex’s skin to stand.
“You should have gotten to this sooner” Robert says, raising his foot to shove Alex over and onto her side before continuing forward and hopping into bed, his feet flying into the air as he sinks into the comfortable mattress, whilst his wife places her elbows and knees onto the cold surface of the hardwood floor to pick herself back up.
Continuing to scrub away, Alex stares off at the soles of her husbands feet hanging off of the edge of the bed whilst reminiscing of their memories from the start of the marriage, only for each happy memory to be clouded with an overlapping loop of each slap, kick, push, punch and headbutt that her husband delivered to render out any positive recollections. Breaking back into reality, Alex finds herself scrubbing a small puddle of soapy water before swallowing the buildup of saliva in her mouth and grabbing a rag to wipe away the water in front of her.
Dropping her rag to the ground, Alex stares off around her room before picturing it in two different ways. One on side of the spectrum, the room is bright and lively, filled with the memories of the couple happily married and playing with their children on the mattress her husband currently rests atop of. And on the other side of the spectrum, the dark and eery bedroom she currently finds herself scrubbing the filth away from, full of each memory of the lights going off behind her eyelids as her husbands hand whips through the air after finishing its contact with her cheek.
Continuing to remain there, on her knees and staring off into nothing, she imagines herself being cradled by her husband after he was elected to the California Senate, only for that thought to be hidden away behind the reminder of being wrestled to the ground by that same man after being framed for corruption and being forced to resign from his office, and become black-balled by every political medium existing.
She imagines her husband and herself buying the home they had always talked about owning as nothing more than a dream, only to remember that they now find themselves in financial turmoil as the house is constantly on the verge of being foreclosed. Alex remembers the joy of going out to dinner with the love of her life and sharing a bottle of wine on their first date night in what felt like forever at the time, only for her husband to be forced to tell the children that they couldn’t go to dinner because their mother felt sick, hiding the truth that she was too bruised to appear in public after he wailed away at her with an empty bottle of Jack Daniels.
Now, she finds herself kneeling in front of the bed her husband currently sleeps on, having passed out from a mid-day drinking binge that she can not only do nothing to stop, but is also constricted so heavily that she is forced to sleep in her youngest daughters room, because her husband likes the elbow room too much to afford her any amount of comfort, consciously or unconsciously. For years, she has suffered the abuse and pain because it comes from the man she still loves, but finds herself hating just as much as she finds herself feeling bad for, no matter how much he hates the latter due to how emasculated in makes him feel. No matter how much she may hate her own life because of his, she stands with him through it all because she just cannot afford to let go of the memories that they once shared with each other, no matter how much he has ruined them since they occurred.
As sunlight brightens and darkens the room, and Alex remains on the floor revisiting new highs and lows with each passing minute, the flipbook-like story of her life unfolding like crumbled paper in front of her is brought to a grinding halt as her ears and eyes become focused on the feet of her husband, the only things visible from her position on the ground, as each of his snoors become louder than the ones prior.
With her eyes twitching, and lonely tears stream down Alex’s face as her frown turns into a blank stare of unadulterated rage, the mother of two and wife to half of a man places her hands on the ground and pushes herself onto her feet as her eyes fixate on a paint scraper lying on the top of the bedroom dresser.
With her range of sight now capable of seeing her daytime-drunk husband passed out with a half-empty bottle of beer dribbling out of the glass and seeping into the mattress, Alex feels the rush of emotions irradiating from the anger building within her, overwhelming her as she can feel herself loosing sight of what is right in front of her. Every second she is awake is a second that she spends in a house dominated by a stranger, a stranger that cares for themselves and themselves only, and Alex is resided to living a life revolving around nothing but accepting that as the truth.
This could be where it ends, this could be where she puts a stop to the existence that she is living. Maybe a jury would sympathize with her, and perhaps a judge would see through the surface to understand just what kind of life Alex is living, after all, is prison truly any worse than what she goes through right now? It may seem harsh, but it is a question that needs to be asked at some point.
That point is now, and Alex is aware of exactly what her answers are.
Stammering back into the now, with the previous seconds wiped clean from her memory, Alex stands at her husband’s bedside with that paint scraper gripped tightly into her hand. On one side, all she needs to do is drop the piece of sharpened metal to the ground and continue to fight for her children’s sake, but on the other side, freedom is just a few gashes away.
“What am I doing? What am I thinking? Has it really come to this?” Alex thinks to herself, gripping the paint scraper harder than she would the edge of a cliff if she were dangling off the side of it. Whether she spends the rest of her life rotting inside of a prison cell or rotting inside of this broken home is all decided by just how broken she is in this very moment, and just how splintered her composure has become.
Seeing the person someone swears to love until death tears them apart, through sickness and health, cradle a bottle of liquor with more care and compassion than their own children is strong enough to break anyone. Why should Alex be any exception? Why should anyone be immune from that level of mental gymnastics? What makes Alex so special? Why does Alex get a pass?
Those questions could repeat themselves inside of the now paint-scraper wielding time bomb until the day Alexandra Morris dies, but as with everyone else that this truth applies to, Alex will never receive the answers to those questions that she desires.
So now the inner dilemma unfolds in current time, and the paint scraper that Alex holds in the air, crushed beneath the weight of both hands can either come crashing down into the throat of the abusive deadbeat beneath her, or be dropped to the ground in an effort to accept the crushing reality that there is no escape from this awful truth without mustering up the courage to elicit the change desired.
Though the decision is tough, rough, rigid and unfair, the cool breeze blowing through the crack in the window above the head rest of the booze-soaked bed gives Alex the confidence to make the decision she feels is best.
So… Alex makes her decision.
Always busy is the traffic in Los Angeles, but it’s rarely ever as busy and congested as it currently is today. Cars driven by people already hours late to work are stuck in barely one mile-per-hour traffic, cooking under the harsh summer sun of California’s most noteworthy city. Despite this, Chevy and Kayla use the advantage of controlling a two-wheeled vehicle in their favor, dicing through halted midways between cars before finding themselves travelling off an exit route and back towards the coffee shop they had departed a few minutes earlier.
As the blaring sound of horns from individual cars grows quieter with each passing foot, Chevy and Kayla find themselves back to the front of the cafe in almost no time at all, and this time with a cell signal.
Shifting his foot around to extend the kickstand of his slick and pristine motorcycle, Chevy looks forward down an unusually barron Los Angeles main road to see helicopters flying behind tall skyscrapers in what appears to be a conscious effort to remain as hidden as possible to any misinformed interpreter. Taking a precise interest in the events unfolding in front of him, Chevy begins taking a few short and brief steps forward in hopes of getting a better look. With almost every sound around him being dulled by the allure of the mysterious circumstance surrounding this helicopter appearance, Chevy completely forgets his immediate surroundings walking forward as the muffled cries of his name grow slightly louder after each attempt, continuing to unknowingly walk further into traffic.
Finally, as the sound of his name being called returns to its regular volume, Chevy is ripped from the road he was subconsciously walking further out into by Kayla, who throws the two of them back onto the sidewalk meer moments after Chevy would have been taken out by a bright red pickup truck barreling down the road amidst a sudden rush of traffic.
As the two stammer back to their feet from their brief stay on top of the shade-covered, almost frozen-cold concrete sidewalk, Kayla shouts at the top of her lungs, demanding to know what had Chevy’s attention so closely locked that it was almost worth dying over. “The, the fucking… The fucking helicopters, dude. They’re just doing that whole, military formation, thing. It was fuckin’ weird!”
Dusting herself off from the small bits of rock now stuck to her arms, Kayla cautions Chevy to prove to have passed the second grade and keep an eye out for oncoming traffic, terms of which Chevy agrees to comply to. “So are they going to help her?” Chevy asks, bringing about a brief moment of confusion to Kayla, only for the blonde-haired coffee spiller to suddenly recall the conversation of calling the police moments prior.
“They’re not picking up. I tried twice, but I just got dead air” Kayla says, shoving her phone back into her jean pockets. “I thought you said we had service here?” Chevy reminds Kayla, only for Kayla to respond by telling Chevy that the bars didn’t matter, as the line was still unreachable regardless.
“What the fuck is going on here?” Kayla asks aloud as Chevy looks back over to the Los Angeles skyline, only to turn back around in confusion as to what Kayla was referring to. “The fucking helicopters? The surprise traffic that almost, y’know, fucking killed you? That weird smell in the air? I mean, what the fuck is that smell?” Trying to think of an answer for his girlfriend, Chevy’s thought process is interrupted after catching a wiff of the same smell Kayla was referring to moments prior, causing him to cover his nose before briefly chocking on his own desire not to throw up.
“I mean, it is Los Angeles… This place always reeks of something… It’s probably just some sewage problem again” Chevy says, trying to persuade Kayla to not acknowledge it and just try to avoid breathing through her nose as much as she can.
“Let’s just get the coffee like we came here to do, get back to the house and chill out. At least home won’t smell like a mass grave.”
After a nod from Kayla, the duo begin making their way towards the entry point of the cafe, with Chevy holding the door open for his motorcycle partner to enter first. Facing away from the inside of the cafe, Kayla lets out a scream of horror the second she enters the building, triggering Chevy to rush into the building immediately afterwards to stumble across the same exact sight his girlfriend had just screamed all of the air her lungs could contain over, standing frozen in shock as the terminology he had used moments prior to describe the stench of the smell came to life in its literal form.
A mass grave of every day, hard working Californian citizens littered the cafe’s tables and floors covered from head to toe in the same rash-like blisters Marcy had been covered in when they visited her minutes earlier. As Chevy stands there frozen without budge, Kayla places her hands from her nose to her mouth, trying to the best of her abilities to not scream once more in fear of whatever caused this scene being able to come back for a second round.
“Wha… t… fu…” Kayla tries to fill the absence of sound with words in any order available, but is unable to finish any thought she begins to say aloud as her eyes shift around the room at each and every corpse laid out and strewn around the building. Finally shifting his head an inch to the left, Chevy breaks his frozen place to begin walking further into the cafe, stepping over bodies, spilled drinks and coffee-stained books before finding himself in the middle of the room, in the center of the one sight no individual ever wishes of being in the center of.
But this is the extent of their current situation, surrounded by the bodies of those who died under mysterious circumstances in what appears to be the same exact time as those around them. This mass pile of those who used to live a normal, every day life, is the one that Chevy and Kayla currently find themselves trying to process the legitimacy of.
“You… You see this… R-r-r-right?” Chevy asks over to his girlfriend, sickened to the core before keeling forward and throwing up on the ground before her. Not even caring about getting a response from his girlfriend, Chevy walks over to her, stepping over the bodies of those no longer with them before wrapping his arms around her and placing his nose up to the top of her head. Welcoming the embrace, Kayla buries her head as far into her boyfriend’s chest as she can manage, but remains locked on the sight of the dead before them.
“Al-Alright” Chevy says, slowly letting go of his grip on a still-horrified Kayla before continuing. “We- we have to get- to get out of here” Chevy says before turning Kayla towards the front door and keeping an arm stationed over her shoulders. Once finally on the outside, Chevy looks around the road they currently find themselves facing rush hour-like traffic with no regard for Californian traffic laws. “Where’s… our bike?” Kayla says from beneath her boyfriend’s arm, causing Chevy to notice that their motorcycle is no longer stationed in the spot it was left in.
“Alright, we’ll have to walk” Chevy says, directing his girlfriend and himself down the sidewalk of the road, shifting to the right as a dark blue SUV comes barreling down half of the sidewalk behind them, forcing the pair to duck into a very tight alleyway for their own safety. “Okay, if we follow this to the otherside, we’ll be able to get into the old rubber factory parking lot. That’s gated off, so we’ll be able to regroup there” Chevy says, laying out the plan accordingly.
The duo continue walking, with Kayla eventually picking up the pace and returning to her regular self as she and her boyfriend continue forward, only for the faint sounds of a police siren to grow louder with each step the couple takes. Continuing forward, Kayla’s eyes lock onto another helicopter flying almost directly above them, this one differing from the helicopters that Chevy saw a few minutes prior as the doors are noticeably open, with an armed guard taking in the view from his vantage point.
“Just around this corner, Kay” Chevy says, only for the two to stop in their tracks at the loud sound of coughing coming from their intended destination. Ducking behind an emptied dumpster, the couple notices the coughing turn into gasps for breath, with Chevy peering over the side of the metal cover the couple currently finding themselves hiding behind to better understand the source of the noise.
Peering out far enough for everything above his chest to be exposed, Chevy notices a sickly homeless man in the midst of a horrendously-sounding coughing fit on top of a pile of garbage bags. “Why me, you fuck?” The homeless man screams towards the sky through pockets of saliva and mucus in his throat. “Why not these privileged rich cunts all over the place you FUCK!” the man continues, stopping briefly afterwards to scratch away at a red patch of blisters on the back of his neck before continuing his quest for answers from the higher power he intends to speak to.
“He’s got the same blisters!” Chevy whispers to Kayla, continuing to point out the bottle of vodka the man has grasped in his hands. “It’s from booze?” Kayla asks, only for Chevy to squint in the direction of the homeless man before shaking his head at a small, yet increasing rate. “No, I don’t think everyone in that cafe was spiking their coffee” Chevy says, continuing to look forward before noticing the flashing lights from two police cars reflecting off of a brick wall in the same spot directly in front of the only entryway to the alley.
“Those cop cars just stopped at the top of the alley” Chevy points out to his girlfriend, who begins peering through the crack behind the dumpster to her right, with only the homeless man in her view.
As the couple’s breathing begins to pick up and slow down at random, two police officers with their guns drawn begin entering the alley, walking at a steady pace towards the greater parking lot area. Turning the corner, the officers lock their sight onto the unpleased homeless man now spouting bible verses at the same rate a child cries from loud noises. “Sir, could you please stand to your feet?” One of the officers asks, allowing the man to respond with the rather rude request of, “How’s it about you cup my balls and blow me!”
As Chevy and Kayla continue to look on, the officer’s tone shifts into one of command, repeating to the homeless holy spirit-whisperer that the original request was more of a demand. “Go fuck yourselves with a stick pigs!” the homeless man responds, causing the officer to climb onto the elevated platform currently inhabited by the unruly homeless man in order to confront him, only to find himself dodging a punch thrown from his intended opposition, leaving the homeless man to miss and stumble off of the loading platform.
“Drop the gun and fight like a man you fags!” the homeless man demands, staggering to his feet before charging towards the second officer, who ducks that punch in a similar fashion to the way his partner had moments prior, sending the homeless man crashing into the brick wall instead. With the first officer remaining on the loading dock, he takes quick aim at the homeless man after watching him stagger back to his feet for a third time before putting a bullet into the back of his head.
Watching the events unfold, Chevy watches the homeless man drop to the ground as blood begins trickling out of his head before ducking back behind the dumpster and wrapping Kayla back into his arms. “What the fuck is going on?” Kayla asks, only for Chevy to begin shaking his head, telling her to remain quiet and calm whilst the officers spoke amongst themselves.
“The neck, look at his neck” one of the officers would order his partner to do, only before telling him to watch out for the people with the rashes. Taking in this information, both Chevy and Kayla remain sitting silently behind the dumpster as the first order instructs his partner to always shoot to kill as long as they have those rashes. As the two officers continue to talk amongst themselves of how much this perceived mercy killing puts a damper on their day, a distant scream from a few streets away draws the officer’s attention in the opposite direction to that of Chevy and Kayla, forcing them back out of the alleyway, into their cars, and out of the area.
Still coming down from the events that have unfolded over the past half hour, Chevy and Kayla sit silently holding each other’s hands with more of a grip than they have ever held anything before, catching their breaths and regaining their composure. With nothing more than the sounds of cars speeding by and screams in the distance, Kayla is the first to break the couple’s silence by reminding Chevy that they need to get out of the area.
“Yeah… Yeah let’s go” Chevy says, with the two climbing to their feet before heading in the direction they originally came from in hopes of finding a secondary exit from the cramped passageways.
Sitting at her desk and staring out at the window directly to her left, Kennedy peels off small bits of an eraser on her mechanical pencil as the teacher of her class is amid an effort of diligently typing away on her computer whilst her social studies students socialize with each other in celebration of class being lecture-free for the day.
Kennedy has always been more mature than those in her age group, and whilst it was nice to have a day in which she wasn’t forced to learn about the history of a country she’d never go to for eighty minutes at nauseum, she knew that there was more to it than a disinterest in the physical geography of the Maldives.
Something was wrong, or at the very least, something was out of the ordinary. She had been reprimanded by her vice principal for an honest mistake, and whilst most of the teachers were present for the days schooling, most of the interchangeable staff were not.
“Look at Kennedy!” a says from the middle of the classroom, gaining no sort of response from the girl admiring the beauty of the landscape outside. “She’s probably gonna cry now that she got yelled at by Isaac!” the barely-teenage twerp says before chuckling to himself, only for the teacher at her desk to break her stream of consciousness away from her laptop to call out the boys name, quashing any further insults the tucked-testicles boy could have offered.
Despite the teacher ending any efforts the boy may have had towards insulting Kennedy, Kennedy was not satisfied in how lackluster the conversation concluded. Seeing as the school was in shambles today and there was no bright spot over the horizon for the day to pick up in spirit, Kennedy acted accordingly as if it were her last day to be alive. Standing to her feet and sliding out of the confines of her miniature jail-like desk, Kennedy walks around the front of her desk and towards the middle of the classroom, shoving her way past a small crowd of similarly squeaky-voiced pre-teens before coming face to face with the obnoxious waste of his parents hard earned money before laying into the kid.
“Y’know, I would cry about being yelled at by my principal, but it makes me happy to know that your parents cry knowing they gave birth to you more than I ever could.” With the disruption creating a silence from any student other than Kennedy much in the way an atomic bomb creates a cloud of dust after being dropped, the teacher would take full notice by calling out Kennedy’s name with twice the amount of effort as that of Kennedy’s current verbal barbecue.
“Also, you’re not cool or funny, just gross and too sweaty for anyone to come within two feet of you.” As Kennedy continues to lay into the brat in front of her, the teacher interrupts each break in Kennedy’s flurry of onslaught with a call of her name, each louder than the ones proceeding it.
“Your ego is about as thin as the mustache you’re trying to sprout to compensate for the lack of hair on your balls”
“KENNEDY!” the teacher calls…
“Your voice sounds like a boy cheerleader got kicked in the balls by a drummer with a metal boot on”
“KENNEDY, STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!” the teacher tries once more, but to no avail as the finishing touch was just over the horizon…
“And I know you think your dick is gonna grow, but it’s called a micropenis for a reason… There’s no hope, kiddo.”
“RETURN TO YOUR SEAT RIGHT NOW, KENNEDY! YOU’VE GOT YOURSELF ONE MONTH OF DETENTION, DON’T PRESS YOUR LUCK!”
Turning around to her new target, Kennedy begins walking back towards the front of the classroom in the direction of her teacher, only to shift her direction to the right as she heads for the door of the classroom.
“KENNEDY, RETURN TO YOUR SEAT RIGHT NOW OR I WILL CALL YOUR MOTHER!” the teacher tries one final time to restore order with what would most likely be the death-blow to any middle school reign of terror, only for Kennedy to place her hand on the knob to the classroom door and turn it to the right before turning back to her teacher in order to assure herself that she’d have the final word in this argument.
“Go ahead, maybe it’ll be important enough for my father to stop beating her…” Kennedy says before exiting the room, slamming the door on her way out before making her way down the school’s hallway.
As California mysteriously burns itself to the ground in the greater downtown area, the quiet and somewhat serene Los Angeles suburbs act as a sort of retreat from the chaos of the city life, void of all hectic traffic, noisy bypassers and foul smell. Driving through the spacious and desolate streets of this random neighborhood, Jaime stares on straight out at the road in front of her before pulling into the narrow driveway of a three story home overshadowing that of her own.
Turning off her car and exiting her vehicle, Jaime could feel the isolation in the air in a way that she couldn’t whilst driving through the neighborhood. The air was warm and the breeze was not only noticed by being felt, but by being heard. Despite being a weekday at the start of the school year, it was unusually quiet around the neighborhood in a way that felt more ominous than peaceful.
Whilst walking up to the front door of the monolith in front of her, Jaime took another second to stop in her place, looking around the neighborhood in an effort to find any sign of life, the likes of which appeared heavily lacking with each step taken to the front door. Associating this with a mere slow point in the day, Jaime sets aside her worries and continues to the front door of the home. Stepping up to the welcome mat, straightened out all nice and neat, Jaime takes another quick moment to brush her hair behind her ear before ringing the doorbell and waiting for a response.
After a few moments, Jaime would continue to be left waiting for a response. The air was quiet aside from the occasional breeze, and there was not a single child playing around in any front yard, so the fact that Jaime was hearing nothing coming from within the house slightly concerned her. It was one thing for her boyfriend to be gone or out with his family, but for the same thing to be the case for virtually everyone in the neighborhood was not even bordering coincidental, and to Jaime, it seemed more along the lines of foreboding.
However; after another minute or so, the sound of something within her boyfriends home falling to the ground in a thud brought Jaime’s attention square on a second-floor window slid halfway open with nothing but a screen separating the outdoors from the inside. With complete attention devoted to this second story window, Jaime’s concern drew into worry as whatever was inside that house was trying its undoubted best to keep her from knowing its presence.
If this was Jordan’s parents trying to keep a low profile, that would be one thing. Whilst they like Jaime and Kennedy, they hate Alex’s husband Robert, who was always the rudest figure at any gathering he so obviously was not wanting to attend. Perhaps if this truly was Jordan’s parents trying to keep a low profile, they knew something about a visitor that they did not want to confront at their front door. But if this was Jordan, the bigger question would be the reasoning behind trying to keep hidden. Was there a problem that Jaime didn’t know about? Jordan always keeps his phone on him, so no answer after over an hour like this is completely uncharacteristic of him. If that was the first sign that something unusual was going on, then whomever it was inside of his home trying to keep hidden from the girl at the front door was the second.
As the expression on her face turns from worry to dissatisfaction, Jaime takes another approach upon her second attempt at ringing the doorbell, this time knocking on the door with authority. “I know you’re inside, open the door now” Jaime says aloud, not pausing for a moment before she hears someone call her name from the other side of the door.
The voice belonged to Jordan, who sounded very much like himself, only with extreme duress in his voice the likes of which Jaime had never heard from him. “Jordan? What’s going on?” Jaime asks, with Jordan slowly opening the front door to meet Jaime. “Why didn’t you show up at the hilltop? And why aren’t you answering your phone?” Jaime asks, with Jordan apologizing in between bated breaths of trying to figure out what to say to his girlfriend, who is currently fuming with both anger and concern at this point.
Trying to get inside, Jaime is met with Jordan trying to cut off her entry into the home. Trying to shift herself to the left, Jordan meets her in the same way and begins trying to keep her from getting into the house. “Jordan, what the fuck is going on? Tell me right now or I swear to god I’m gonna-” Jaime begins demanding, only for Jordan to stop her before she could finish her thought by telling her to quiet down. Jordan takes a few second to take in a few deep breaths before telling Jaime that while he is going to let her in, he needs to make sure that she understands what she is seeing once she steps inside is not his fault.
“What do you mean it’s not your fault? What the fuck did you do?” Jaime asks, with Jordan trying to explain that she isn’t going to like what she sees inside, only to give up and simply move out of the way to allow Jaime to enter for herself.
Stepping into the home, Jaime looks around to find nothing more than the living room and kitchen area of the home in the way she had seen them countless times prior. Before she could take more than five steps into the house, Jaime would be caught off guard by Jordan taking her hand and slowly leading her through the dining room area and up to the stairway towards the second floor. Once at the top of the stairs, Jordan leads Jaime down a darkened hallway before telling her to brace herself for what she is about to see.
Turning the corner of the hallway, Jaime looks into the room belonging to Jordan’s parents, both of whom lie dead on the ground beside their beds covered from head to toe in rash-like blisters that Jaime had never seen before. Stepping backwards and out into the hallway, Jordan places his arm behind his girlfriends back before pulling her into his chest, shielding her eyes by moving her head towards his face.
“Wha- What happened?” Jaime asks, with Jordan stating that he simply woke up and did his morning routine, but by the time he went to tell his parents that he was heading out for the morning, they were writhing in pain on their bed. “I tried calling the cops… I really did… But they just wouldn’t answer” Jordan says, with Jaime noticing the tears beginning to stream down her lovers face after each reminder of the day’s tragic events, only for Jordan to admit that by the time he had given up trying to call law enforcement, they had already passed out and stopped breathing.
“The entire mo- mor- morning I just tri- tried to figure out what hap- what happened. I just don- don’t kn- know.” As Jordan continues to try and bring himself to remember what happened, Jaime spares him the painful details by placing her hand on his cheek and giving him a light peck, telling him to look on the bright side, which Jaime says is that his parents aren’t hurting anymore like they were.
“If I had jus- ju- just figured out wh- what t- t- to do, I co- could ha- have helped them” Jordan says, struggling to keep his eyes away from the scene of his parents laid out on their bedroom floor. Sniffling and gasping for breaths whilst trying with his heart to not look back into the room, Jaime places her hand on his ear before pulling his eyes down to her face, telling Jordan to breath and know that she is with him through whatever happens next.
“Whatever we do next, we do together. Yo- you and I until the end, and this is not the end. We will get through this, okay? I just need you to trust me, okay?” Jaime says before laying another kiss onto Jordan, breaking apart before telling her boyfriend exactly what the plan is going forward. Before any plans could be made on what to do next, Jaime’s phone begins ringing, causing the moment to end. Noticing Jordan struggling to not look back into the room, Jaime leads Jordan down the hall and away from his parents room before picking up the phone.
“Hello?” Jaime responds first on the phone call before hearing a man claiming to be Kennedy’s Vice Principal Damon Isaac. “Is this Alexandra Morris?” Isaac asks, with Jaime responding, “No, this is her daughter Jaime. I assume you’re calling about Kennedy? I’m the immediate line of contact due to my mothers… Constantly changing schedule. How might I assist you, Principal Isaac?”
“Well, Ms Morris, I was calling in hopes that you or someone in your family could pick up Kennedy early from school if that is, at all, possible?”
Looking up at her boyfriend with confusion in her eyes to complement the tears streaming down her face, Jaime responds by asking Isaac whether or not Kennedy is in trouble.
“No ma’am, it’s just that a number of students in the school have contracted a sort of rash from each other, and we believe it would be in both Kennedy and the rest of the student’s best interest to cancel classes for today.”
“Okay, yeah sure. I’ll be there as soon as I can” Jaime says before hanging up the phone and telling Jordan that the new plan is simple. “We go get Kennedy, take her back home and head for the police station, got it?” Jordan nods his head in agreement, following Jaime down the stairs and out of the front door, hopping into the bright red pickup truck with his girlfriend and leaving his family home in hopes of finding the help he needs to make this nightmare of a day a thing of the past.
“Kennedy Morris to Vice Principal Isaac’s office. Kennedy Morris, please meet Vice Principal Isaac.”
Despite the loudspeaker requesting one thing, Kennedy has little interest in pleasing the school’s wishes, instead opting to walk through the hallways between brief moments of peering through long glass windows of classrooms closed from the empty and silent hallway. Each step that Kennedy takes is a step that brings her closer to corner after corner abandoned in favor of being sheltered by large wooden doors.
Finally, Kennedy rounds the corner towards the main foyer of the school building, walking past shelves of sport trophies and awards the school had collected over it’s sixty plus years of existence. But the display cases are the last thing on Kennedy’s mind, as the only thing she carries alongside her in her journey is a book with the name “Simpson” written on it in dark black sharpie marker.
Eventually, Kennedy finds her way to the door of the school’s nurses office, which she originally intended to walk into in order to deliver the Simpson child his book back, only to find that the door is already completely opened and surrounded by emergency responders, emergency responders that no one in the school other than Vice Principal Isaac and the school nurse were aware were in the building.
Overwhelmed by confusion, Kennedy slowly sneaks her way along the wall opposite of the nurses office to get a clearer picture of what the emergency responders were tending to. However; what Kennedy sees is less of an effort to help a sick or ailing child, and rather an effort to remove the body of a recently-deceased one. Just as the medical workers begin zipping up the body bag containing the young student, Kennedy is able to catch a glimpse of the boy minutes away from being carried out of the school for the final time.
There, on the stretcher, lies Heath Simpson, one of Kennedy’s only friends in the school. Heath, with a face completely unrecognizable from a time before it was covered in blisters, is finally sealed into the body bag right before the medical workers begin making their way towards the front doors of the school. In an effort to avoid being caught as an onlooker, Kennedy quickly dashes to the opposite side of one of the brick walls, heading down the hallway between gasps for air trying to understand what exactly was happening, and whether or not what she had just seen was truly real or just a figment of her own imagination.
Suddenly, Kennedy’s attempts to regain her composure by breathing are thwarted as she begins having trouble getting air in. If the shady secrets currently unfolding in the school are the biggest problem that she is facing, then this current asthma attack comes in at a real close second. Realizing that her inhaler is still in her locker on the opposite side of the school building, Kennedy begins trying to figure out exactly what to do now. She has two main choices, the first being that she could try to make a run for it and retrieve her inhaler on the opposite side of the school. The second option, this being a little more dire, would be to fight through the attack and hope that at some point she can find a way to catch her breath.
There is little time to waste, and knowing how crucial making this decision now is, Kennedy begins running on instinct. Hurrying back to the end of the wall and peering over the edge, Kennedy takes note of Vice Principal Isaac and the school nurse talking over precautions to ensure that the students do not find out about Heath’s death. Selecting her moment, Kennedy walks into the main foyer before beginning to walk towards her locker, unsurprisingly catching the eye of Isaac.
Within moments of Isaac calling for Kennedy to stop, Kennedy hits the jets and begins hurrying in the direction of her locker, with Isaac taking chase after her soon after. Hurrying down one hallway after another, Isaac comes within inches of Kennedy before collapsing to the ground from exhaustion, luckily tackling Kennedy to the ground in the process. After fighting her way out of Vice Principal Isaac’s reach, Kennedy rushes around the corner to her locker before putting in the combination. However; just after she swings the metal door open, Isaac slaps her hand away from the inhaler she was inches away from reaching and throws her to the ground.
As Kennedy tries lifting herself back to her feet, Isaac simply stands in place overlooking the girl he has taken to the floor twice realizing the exact extent of the concern he has for the still unknown situation he is facing. Whilst Isaac stands as still as a statue, Kennedy desperately tries climbing to her feet, only to find herself without the strength to get the job done. As Isaac comes to grips with the truth he has involved himself with, Kennedy begins entering survival mode, looking to somehow find a way to get back to her locker.
“This whole school is falling apart, stop making matters worse!” Vice Principal Isaac shouts towards Kennedy, hoping his demand will help quell the situation as he walks towards the fear-stricken girl, only to lean down in an attempt to grab onto her, which Kennedy takes as an opening, pushing the sole of her shoe into the face of her insane-seeming vice principal, allowing her to crawl to her locker through abnormal breaths and retrieve her inhaler, finally ending the suffocating battle she had just taken part in.
“You little brat!” Vice Principal Isaac shouts before walking back towards Kennedy, only to have his leg kicked out from beneath him, taking him off of his balance before he crashes head first into the locker, laying him out in his place.
As Kennedy climbs back to her feet, she begins catching her breath whilst Isaac tries to stop the bleeding from the open wound on his head until one of the many classroom doors swings open with a resounding thud as a young blonde teacher rushes into the hallway begging for help from anyone. Rushing up to the entry to the classroom, Kennedy watches as young students collapse to the floor, one after another, writhing in agony as their skin is buried beneath bright red blisters. Watching one child fall after another, scratching until they bleed in hopes to relieve the pain, forces the young teacher to collapse to the ground in sheer awe as Kennedy continues to watch on.
Eventually, rushing up to the doorway, Isaac watches on in horror as his students burn to death from the inside before crashing to the classroom floor in a bloodied heap, finally ending the miserable final minutes of existence for the poor, young souls. With Isaac frozen in terror, Kennedy takes it amongst herself to rush to the end of the hallway and pull the fire alarm, sending shockwaves through the school in hopes that the classroom doors would swing open, allowing students to evacuate to perceived safety.
But none of the doors open.
Standing in place for what seems like an eternity at the end of the hallway, Kennedy watches on at every single door in the hallway, but none of them open. Just as Kennedy’s face begins to read dread, Vice Principal Isaac turns to face the rest of the hallway, realizing the same thing that Kennedy just has.
Turning to face the classroom door on the opposite side of the hallway, Isaac charges forward and rips open the heavy wooden entry point before realizing that the same fate had occurred for all students and teachers in that room as well.
Still standing in the same place she was before the horrifying truth was truly realized, Kennedy makes her first move further into the hallway before coming to a sudden stop as Vice Principal Isaac begins walking to the same location as his teenage counterpart. Opening the door to the classroom she had just left less than twenty minutes prior, Kennedy and Isaac enter to see a sea of humanity as each child as well as their teacher lays dead on the floor covered in the same red blisters.
“K- Kennedy?” Vice Principal Isaac asks, turning towards the girl he had just tackled to the ground twice, only for the girl to as in response, “What about the others?”
As the fire alarm siren continues to blare, the vice principal and the youngest Morris daughter begin somberly walking down the hallway, peering into the vivid scenes of each classroom, all having suffered the same fate as the last. “Let’s get you out of here!” Vice Principal Isaac says in a hurry, accepting the fate of each student in his school other than the lone survivor beside him as the pairing begin making a break for the front of the school.
Rounding corners, heading down one hallway after another, the duo finally find their way to the front of the school, making a desperate break for the front doors before crashing through to the sweet taste of freedom in the air as the cool breeze dances on their skin.
Looking towards the sky, Kennedy covers her eyes to look towards the sun, which stays in its place the way it does every day at this time, only to lower her head to the same sight that Vice Principal Isaac currently sees, a crowd of worried and concerned parents awaiting their child’s exit from the building. Slowly walking forward, Isaac and Kennedy begin walking towards the parking lot with some parents asking for the location of their children, but the majority remaining silent in hopes that others will come out after the two in front of them.
“Kennedy!” comes a loud and remarkable shout from the crowd, drawing the attention of the girl still wielding her inhaler. Suddenly, Jaime and Jordan rush through the crowd and up to the two before being rushed into by a joyful Kennedy, just happy to see them again. “Are you okay? Why did they let class out early?” Jaime asks, with Jordan looking around at the sea of still-concerned parents.
“They’re all dead.”
Kennedy states plain and simple, no follow up and no additional information, just the barren fact that every student in the building is dead.
“What the hell did she just say?” Asks one of the parents overhearing the conversation, with another shouting aloud what Kennedy had just said. As the word travels at close to light speed around the sea of parents, their contained worry turns into one of unbridled worry as questions begin being thrown in the direction of Vice Principal Isaac.
Jaime, Jordan and Kennedy all look at each other, holding each other in their arms as the sea of parents continue to shout before the cries for answers turn into shrieks of confusion and horror. Breaking their huddle, the three reunited individuals turn their attention back to Vice Principal Isaac, who begins gasping for breath before beginning to dig into his chest.
Desperately ripping at his button-up shirt, Isaac finally musters the strength to rip it open, only for a quickly-growing path of blisters to begin climbing their way from his stomach and all the way up his body, causing him to scream out in pain as he tries with all of his might to dig his finger nails further below the surface of his skin. The crowd of parents look on, stunned and shocked beyond response as they watch their newly-deceased children’s Vice Principal collapse to his knees as the blisters grow up his neck and begin overwhelming his face, causing Isaac to begin digging at his eyes, neck, and anything he could get his hands to between nightmare-inducing, frequency-like scrams of pain. Finally, after a few torturous seconds, Isaac collapses to the ground in a heap, with blood pouring out of the wounds he had created and opened himself, thus forcing members of the crowd of parents to throw up in the places they stood whilst others began rushing towards the front of the school, where they will have to come to grips with their own horrified truth.
“Come on, we don’t want to be here when they find what they’re gonna find” Jordan says, helping both Jaime and Kennedy to their feet as the trio climb into their truck and begin heading for the exit of the school lot, where more parents and guardians begin driving into to face much the same truth as the parents already there.
“Jaime, look out!” Jordan shouts from his seat beside Jaime as his girlfriend barely misses a man in the middle of the road, forcing his girlfriend to rip him back onto the curb below their feet as the trio in the car continue their way at the top of the army of vehicles desperately trying to make their way downtown. With sparks coming from the bottom of their car with every impact against the concrete, and rubber burning from the tires as the asphalt tries to keep up, the group continue aiming for home until they are stopped by a herd of crashed vehicles, forming a maze in the middle of the famously-cluttered street, ensuring that any car crossing has to earn their path across first.
“Just pull off onto this road up ahead” Jordan says, pointing towards a one way street and directing the trio into unfamiliar territory. Jutting out into the desolate back road, Jaime begins taking note of the buildings surrounding the streets, all with their backdoors facing the narrow-gapped road.
“It’s an alleyway” Jaime says aloud, realizing that it was only a matter of time before they came to a dead end. Sure enough, one right turn and a few feet forward confirmed Jaime’s claim, forcing the trio to begin backing out. Switching gears into reverse, Jaime props herself out over the console of her truck to begin navigating through the alleyway, only to come to a sudden stop as a dumpster crashes over the lip of the road beside the alley directly behind the truck, stopping the vehicle in its place.
“What was that?” Kennedy asks aloud, prompting Jordan to pull down his window and peer out from the vehicle to notice a drunken homeless man fist punching the air in pride for his work. “Hey asshat!” Jordan shouts in the man’s direction, forcing him to begin running off into the distance as Jordan rushes to the back of the car in hopes of clearing the path.
“Jordan! Stop!” Jaime says, slamming her car door shut and walking towards her boyfriend. “We’re not getting that thing out of the way, we’ve got to do this ourselves from here!” Jordan, still shaken from the sight of his parents and the events at the school, scoffs at the notion of walking and continues trying to clear the way.
“Do this ourselves, Jaime? We just drove with enough cars to look like the running of the damn bulls on a six lane road going one direction! No one is following the law and the second we step out of line, we’re getting mowed the hell down! We’re not going on foot!”
Noticing the debacle outside, Kennedy unbuckles her seatbelt and climbs out of the backseat, walking over to assist Jordan in moving the dumpster, still to no avail. “Jordan, we don’t have a choice. Unless we find something along the way, we’re doing this. And if we want to start getting on the move before it gets worse than this, we need to move now!” Jaime demands, foring both Kennedy and Jordan to stop in their place gasping for breath as they begin giving up on getting the dumpster out of the way.
“Which way are we going?” Jordan asks, only for the answer to be locked away within Jaime as the sound of gunfire begins originating over the lip beside the three. Racing over to her sisters arms, Kennedy tucks herself away next to Jaime as Jordan begins scouting the area, unable to find the source of the shots. “We need to get moving now!” Jordan shouts, following Jaime and Kennedy as they begin racing back to where they entered the alley.
Rounding corners through the alleyway, the three finally rush up to the end of the alleyway just in time for two cars to crash head-first into each other directly in front of them, forcing some cars just quickly maneuver past them, and others to ultimately find themselves as another obstacle in the already-plentiful vehicular maze ahead. Stopping in their tracks; Jaime, Jordan and Kennedy are forced to leap off to the side and up against the cold concrete wall on the side of the alley as three cars turn into the alley in hopes of avoiding the oncoming mess, forcing the group out into the street.
Dashing down the main road, the three finally reach an overpass in hopes of crossing to the other side, only to be forced to throw themselves backwards as an oncoming car misses them by a few inches, crashing through the guard rails and falling to the earth forty feet below. “That’s it, we need to find someplace else!” Jaime shouts, directing the three back to their original starting place, only to find the entry to the alleyway blocked off by two wrecked cars crammed into the already-unrelenting entry.
“What do we do now?” Jaime asks, with Kennedy pointing out an off-ramp blocked off by a capsized eighteen wheeler, blocking off all possible traffic. The group then begins the rush towards their pathway to safety, only for Jordan to deviate from the group and rush into the middle of the road into oncoming traffic and tackle two people out of the way of a truck mowing into the graveyard of vehicles, saving their lives with inches to spare. Quickly returning to his feet, Jordan helps the man and the woman to their feet before directing them back to his group, where the five individuals make a mad dash over to the off-ramp, climbing over debris and wreckage before emerging onto the other side of the road, safe for the meantime of any possible vehicular-demise.
“Thank you, I… Just… Thank you!” The woman says, only for Jaime to cut the pleasantries off prematurely as she directs the five further down the off-ramp and into dead-stop traffic. “What’s your name?” Kennedy shouts backwards to the two new faces of their band of traffic-survivors. “I’m Kayla, and that’s Chevy” the woman says in response hurriedly before asking for the desired location she and her boyfriend were blindingly rushing to.
“Residential area over in the hills, behind the trees and shit” Jaime commands before asking, “You coming along or deviating somewhere?” Looking over to each other as they hurriedly walk beside the group, Chevy and Kayla nod to each other in understanding before Kayla responds, “I guess we’ll stick around for a little bit if you don’t mind.”
“Good, I hear misery loves company” Jordan says in a sarcastic manner, prompting Kayla to respond, “Well I’m fucking miserable… Glad to tag along” as the group continues forward, walking off down the highway to the blaring sounds of car horns and anger-filled swearing as the sun begins setting.
When the sun sets, the moon allows for the night sky to show it’s beauty for a few minutes in the form of a light-blue landscape capped off with clouds too far removed from the sun to be their usual pearly-white selves. Whilst this light blue landscape is usually present to signal the end of a long and grueling day, Alex opts for a more somber tone and feel.
Taking her few minutes beneath the beautiful blue as one to relax, she decides to take out a Radiohead album pressed onto vinyl and allow it to spin before throwing something off into her bathroom sink.
Allowing the music to fill the air usually greeted with screaming and the sobering sounds of agony, Alex takes a seat at her home’s minibar before pouring herself a glass of aged rum and kicking it back. As the music begins to climb to it’s crescendo, Alex notices the red and blue flashing lights directly outside of her home through her living room window. As opposed to confusion, Alex greets the lights with a pain-filled smile before returning the glass to it’s countertop space before letting out a breath of acceptance and raising the record player to its highest volume.
Slowly walking towards her front door, Alex unlocks the deadbolt before opening the one barrier between her home and the outside world as police cars are stationed outside of her home, and others drive in and out of the neighborhood’s small and quaint street. Stepping out onto her front porch, Alex closes her eyes at the sound of the music escaping the boundaries of her home before raising her hands in the air as officers begin swarming the home to her front door.
Whilst being swarmed by police, the home manages to remain quiet and peaceful, with each room and hallway void of any light and noise beside the music. The bathrooms have no running water aside from the one in Alex and Robert’s bedroom, which runs continuously with no end in sight. The bedroom remains quiet, but to anything or anyone that walks into it, there’s an unsteady feeling that reeks of uncomfortability. The light of the bathroom spills out onto the walls of the homes master bedroom through the crack in the mostly-closed bathroom door. Despite not being much, the light allows for a single sock-covered foot dangling off the end of the bed to be visible to anyone, which is even more noticeable when you take into account the rest of the room being almost pitch black.
Whilst the light coating select portions of the room makes anything covered in the darkness that much darker, it also ensures that the sock-covered foot stands out more than anything else in the room. The rest of the body is covered in the emptiness that is the light-devoid room, but still seems normal. Like it belongs.
The two feet are covered by white socks, the legs are covered by their stained, yet still office-like slacks, and the white T-Shirt is ruffled from the stomach down.
But there’s blood on the chest and collar, as well as the rest of the bed around it. Further up, Robert’s head rests almost removed from the rest of his body as most of his neck is cut through down to the bedsheets below it, and his still open-eyed head shows a still-open mouth with blood pooling up and over his lips. In the bathroom, the blood-stained sink runs water down onto a blood-covered paint scraper, turning the water red on it’s way down the drain.