“And how does that make you feel, Jaime?”
A room small in stature, but comfortable enough for the sunlight to peer through the narrow windows along the walls hosts a therapist, sat behind a desk peering at a cross-legged Jaime in front of her.
“Are we really gonna resort to therapy cliches now, Kate? I’ve been coming here for two years and you’re really trying to bail on me now?”
Extending her arms outwards in a sarcastic manner, Kate lets out a slight chuckle before elaborating.
“Knowing the truth about something that everyone keeps lying to you about can have various effects on a person” Kate says, pausing for a moment to sit back into her chair as her hands cup together. “You know exactly what’s happening, but either no one else realizes that you know or no one cares, so they just lie to you about it and you’re fully aware that they’re lying. Different kinds of people react to that sort of response in different ways, so my question remains… How does that make you feel?”
Planting her elevated foot back onto the ground from atop her leg, Jaime begins leaning forward in her chair towards Kate’s desk, opening her mouth to initiate a response but unable to speak as her thoughts begin forming sentences.
“Like garbage. Like I’ve got an all-capable stick of unlimited resources and still no way to help.” Leaning even further forward, Jaime’s eyes begin motioning back and forth to each side of her eyes as she begins thinking of what to say.
“I- I mean, I know she knows, that I know, what she knows. But I know, that she knows, I can’t do anything about it.” Extending her arm out for the plastic cup of water in front of her, Jaime takes a sip to stop the dryness in her throat as she continues.
“But that just makes it even worse” Jaime finishes, now fully slouched over forward as Kate begins folding her arms, before taking a breath and responding.
“You were the popular girl in high school. The girl that everyone wanted to be around, and yet you never wanted to be around them. You never shied away from speaking your mind and standing by your statements with logic and wit, and everyone took notice of that in the best way. You were in a situation where you had all the power.”
Jaime’s eyes go from focusing on the desk in front of her to the white-bloused woman in front of her as Kate continues. “But now you’re stuck in a similar situation with the opposite scenario, and the biggest difference is that you have none of the power. You’re stranded in a world with no voice, and no way for your words to carry weight. So from my view of the playing field, you have two choices in play.”
Leaning forward to come within a foot of Jaime’s face, Kate makes her point simple and clear.
“Either find another way to make your voice heard, or let others figure it out for themselves.”
In comparison to the freeway they travel right now, that office room in the back of the therapy clinic feels like paradise. Car horns blaring at nauseum and families abandoning their vehicles in hopes of getting further on foot surround the makeshift group of five on their search for the nearest offramp.
“Should be about another two miles ahead” says Chevy from the back, grabbing the attention of Kennedy like a plane crashing into a pillow factory. “Oh hey guys! The biker dude actually talks!” Kennedy shouts from the middle of the group, earning Jaime’s response of a simple turn of the head and raised eyebrow. “What? He had the chance three miles ago!”
Jaime stands by her expression, forcing Kennedy to continue walking with the group after a sigh of displeasure. Turning to his girlfriend, Chevy swats the blonde-haired woman on the arm before pointing towards Kennedy and saying, “She is the exact proof of why I hate kids.” Kennedy, not too pleased at this remark, turns to the man like a fish out of water without his motorcycle and asks, “Why? Because they make you feel like less of a man than she already does?” pointing towards Kayla.
“Precisely” Kayla says, extending her fist out as Kennedy takes her up on the offer, giving her a fist bump before turning back to the front of the group.
“Traitor” Chevy says under his breath, being met with the response of “Guilty” by his better half as the five continue their way forward.
Now finding themselves being entrenched within a crowd of people now all taking after the first group of people to do it, and abandoning their cars in hopes of making it further on foot, the group begins huddling together as they walk past people trying desperately to find their way to the nearest point of safety.
“Y’know, I never thought of a parking garage as a place to wanna find yourself in” Jordan says, pointing towards a parking garage off the side of the road before continuing, “But can we please at least try to pretend like we know where we’re going?” Continuing onward, Jaime at the front of the group leading them forward says aloud, “We know where we’re going, we just don’t exactly know how to get there.”
“Jaime, your parents house is five miles away and your dad doesn’t take too kindly to anyone being there, let alone two strangers and a dude he doesn’t even like.” Scoffing at the notion, Jaime jokingly responds, “My father loves you, he just thinks you’re… A little…” Jaime says, but is unable to finish when Jordan interrupts. “What… Faggy?” Jordan says, forcing Jaime to stop and turn towards him with an expression of surprise. “Not at all the word I was going to use!” Jaime says, only for Jordan to respond, “Not the word you chose, but definitely the word he chose the last time I was there!”
“My father… He’s just-” Jaime says, only to be interrupted by Kennedy this time. “A fucking dirtbag?” Kennedy says, stopping Chevy and Kayla in their tracks before Jaime subtly nods her head in agreement before turning around and attempting to continue moving the group forward.
“Jaime, we have to be honest with ourselves” Jordan says, tugging at her arm to get her to stop moving as she turns around to face him. “There are people weltering like spoiled milk on a hot day and dying from a seizure fit after choking on their own blood everywhere you look. We can’t just pretend like the second we get back to the house that everything is going to be okay. Something is wrong and we can’t just stand around and hope whatever it is doesn’t happen to us!”
Before Jaime can respond, a voice is heard from behind the group coming from Kayla, asking one simple question to anyone that can hear her.
“What the hell is he talking about?”
Jaime, Jordan and Kennedy all turn to face the gorgeous blonde with her hands dropped to her sides and her long-haired boyfriend with his hands tucked into his pockets and his shoulders extended further out than his neck as the two begin the process of understanding why everything is going to shit.
“You- You don’t know?” asks Jordan, squinting one eye as Jaime drops her head to the ground.
“What are we supposed to be knowing, exactly?” Chevy asks, still stuffing his hands into his pockets as he awaits an explanation.
“People are poison” Kennedy says, only for Jordan to quickly cut off Kennedy by elaborating. “Whatever’s going on, it’s causing people to start getting this rash-like blisters all over their body” Jordan says, with Chevy tucking his head down and Kayla on the verge of either tears or panic before Jordan continues. “Their skin starts burning up like cotton in a fire. They start scratching at their skin until they just… Until they just drop.”
“Jesus fuck” Chevy says under his breath before Kayla begins tearing up and looking around the sky for nothing in particular. “We thought you guys already knew” Jaime says, only for Chevy to begin raising his voice into a shout directed right towards the three individuals in front of him.
“WE KNEW PEOPLE WERE GOING BATSHIT! WE KNEW THEY WERE RUNNING FROM SOMETHING! WE DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THEY WERE RUNNING FROM!” Chevy screams, causing Kennedy to begin slowly stepping back before being cradled in Jaime’s arms.
“Neither do we! Look- Look. All we know is that something is causing this and it’s something common. If it were something rare, it wouldn’t be this bad” Jordan says, only for Jaime to cut him off and continue, still holding Kennedy, “One way or another, people are dying and everyone else is scared. So until we figure out wha-” Jaime continues before being interrupted by a notification on her phone, which everyone other than Chevy and Kayla get as well.
“What’s that? What’s going on?” Chevy asks, with Kayla rushing over to view Jordan’s screen, which reads in bold text.
“STATE OF EMERGENCY. TO ALL RESIDENTS IN THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY.
PLEASE SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY AND DO NOT COME IN CONTACT WITH ANYONE SICKLY.
FAILURE TO COMPLY COULD RESULT IN INFECTION.
DO NOT DRINK WATER.
FAILURE TO COMPLY WILL RESULT IN DEATH.”
“Holy fuck” Jaime says through bated breaths, with Kayla hurrying back to Chevy and diving into his arms and she whispers to him what the message reads. “Damnit” Jordan says, turning towards the barrier along the sides of the freeway before leaning over it and watching out at the people below rushing towards any shelter they can find. The screams from the surrounding crowd grows louder with each person that reads the warning, but the group of five on the freeway stay mostly silent whilst stuck in place, mulling over the new information afforded to them.
As everyone begins trying to get their breathing back on track, Chevy swallows the spit in his mouth before asking aloud to the group one question without hesitation.
“Okay” Chevy says, “Where do we go from here?”
Sirens ring throughout the neighborhood, echoing through the trenches of the small suburban roads as police vehicles screech past turns and dead-ends, stopping at every few yards of the street as officers begin charging up the front lawns of each home.
Every house looks abandoned, with zero light originating from within the homes and zero sign of life to be found. But one home is noticeably occupied, and it’s easy to notice passing by. Alex stands on her front patio with both of her hands raised at both sides of her head. Awaiting the inevitable, three police officers begin storming towards her with a very noticeable hurry to their actions before storming directly past her and into her home, almost as if they didn’t even see her standing in front of them.
Suddenly, a fourth officer comes running up to her with a stethoscope, thermometer and flashlight in his hands before immediately holding the latter up into her eyes, forcing her to close her eyes tightly out of instinct as muffled sounds fill the void-like silence around her.
Those muffled sounds are directions being uttered, directions by the officer directly in front of Alex, trying to calmly persuade her to open her eyes and place the thermometer under her tongue. Finally getting the hint, though still somewhat unable to clearly follow the directions, Alex does as she is asked and the officer begins hushing down in order to read the tools in front of him.
Flashing the light in both of her eyes, gathering the reading from the thermometer and listening to her pulse from the side of her neck, the officer begins quickly packing everything up and hurrying back to his patrol car, exiting it only after spray painting a symbolic yellow “x” at the front of the Morris family home walkway.. Just as he closes the door to his vehicle, three officers exit Alex’s home and storm down her front lawn to their respective vehicles as the officers join the swarm of other emergency vehicles exiting the neighborhood.
Suddenly, her front lawn is vacant again. The silence is back, and there is nothing breaking it this time. The wind is beginning to pick up every so slightly as the air begins feeling crisp and chilly. The occasional breaks of silence from officers kicking in doors to homes around her come around every now and then, but her home in void of all life other than her own again. Whilst still chilly, the air is calm once more, and Alex is left looking out into the road and the yellow “x” spray painted on the front of her walkway.
Looking around her immediate vicinity, Alex watches as officers begin dragging bodies out from the homes surrounding her own, with family friends and casual acquaintances alike being pulled out just the same as the others. With each home that a body is taken out of, an officer is right on the scene to spray paint a large yellow “x” much the same as the previous officer had done to hers. However; these yellow symbols are spray painted across the doorways of those same homes, with the doors to them being shut and jammed before the job was considered done.
Once jamming the doors, the officers would just simply dump the bodies in a pile next to any others found in the homes before driving off as if nothing had happened.
That was it. No further examination and no questions asked. They simply find a body, dump it in the front yard, mark the homes accordingly and leave.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something is not right.
Now the chilly air only adds to the cold sweat Alex begins feeling, with each drop of perspiration gliding down her smooth skin before dropping to the equally-cold cement patio beneath her feet. Jaime is with her boyfriend and Kennedy is far past done by school at this point, and the sun has already set on the day in which she brutally near-beheaded her husband in their own bed. To Alex, this is a nightmare far removed from anything close to reality. But it’s also closer to reality anything in her reality could ever be, so she’s left standing there wondering whether or not this is all real or fake.
One way or another, real or fake, her children are her top priority now. If they haven’t already come home by now, it’s because they’re in trouble or hiding away somewhere. So as the moon begins to grow brighter with each minute the sky grows darker, Alex storms back into her home as the motion censors turn on the lights to the living room. She bursts into the kitchen before noticing the light already turned on, and the sink at the end of her countertop having it’s handles removed from it, as well as a rubber-like lock placed over it’s faucet.
Brushing it off as worth less of her time than the situation at hand, Alex pulls out her cellphone to begin texting Jaime, only for it to die just as she goes to send the text. Slapping her phone a few times before throwing it across the room in a fit of anger, Alex takes a seat at the kitchen table before flipping open her laptop. Opening up her browser, she begins trying to get into her email account before noticing an emergency alert at the top of her inbox.
“STATE OF EMERGENCY. TO ALL RESIDENTS IN THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY.
PLEASE SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY AND DO NOT COME IN CONTACT WITH ANYONE SICKLY.
FAILURE TO COMPLY COULD RESULT IN INFECTION.
DO NOT DRINK WATER.
FAILURE TO COMPLY WILL RESULT IN DEATH.”
Looking over to her sink, remaining in the state that she found it in, Alex lets out a few deep breaths of concern, with each breath becoming more rapid than the one before it. Regardless, she still needed to get in touch with her daughters, at the very least ensuring that they’re safe.
Alex scrolls through her contact list, finally finding both of her daughters and adding them into the email. She then begins slaving away over her keyboard, making sure she hits on the most crucial points for her daughters to take away from the information.
Don’t drink the water, don’t worry about their mother of their father, and most importantly… Don’t come home, Alex was going to find them and get to them.
As she presses send, she notices a prior tab at the top of her browser with an unusual amount of notifications visible. Noticing it as a weather service website, Alex clicks on it and refreshes the page. After waiting a few seconds for the internet to catch up, the page finally refreshes to a headline plastered at the top of the very front page.
ACID RAIN INCOMING ON THE WESTERN COAST OF THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES, ALASKA AND HAWAII. SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY!
Acid rain will be falling over the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming close to 2am PST. Please seek shelter immediately, as the rain could begin falling anytime before then.
As Alex goes to click on a link to a further detailed article on the matter, the page and remainder of her browser disconnects from the internet as Alex looks to the corner of her computer to notice the internet connection icon showing that the computer has been disconnected from the internet. Giving up hope on getting any connection to the internet back, Alex shuts the top of her laptop before heading upstairs to her bedroom. Opening the door, she flips on the light to reveal the full extent of her actions, causing her sickened expression of worry turn into a wicked look of evil and pleasure in her work.
Turning the corner, Alex grabs a moderately-sized backpack and begins filling it with essential supplies. Medical aid, perishable foods and safety equipment are stuffed into the bag before Alex heads for her front door. However; she stops moving forward after placing her hand on the handle and looks over towards her liquor cabinet, walking over to it and grabbing two bottles of rum. Placing one in her bag, Alex takes the other and hurls it at the glass shelving and mirror ahead, shattering everything as bottles break and her reflection is no more.
Finally moving back to her front door, Alex places her hand on the knob before swinging it open and walking out, slamming it emphatically behind her as the automatic lights turn off and allow the darkness to fill the room.
Helicopters begin flying out over the busy Los Angeles streets, with lines of light illuminating from the vehicles still stranded in dead-stop traffic filling the freeways from bumper to bumper. Suddenly, the lights in every building downtown go off at once, with street lights and electronic signs following soon after. The city is dark and cold, and all life stranded within its bounds are left in the dark as people begin hurrying from their vehicles and safety in hopes of either finding answers or people that have them.
In front of a large rundown shed in the mountains, sitting on a plastic lawn chair, a man overlooks the scenes unfolding… with a smile. Beside him, a beer that he occasionally takes a swig or two out of. And as each passing moment brings yet another scream of terror from the people below the hill in which he sits atop of, spectating the chaos from afar, his smile grows a little further towards each ear.
Taking off his sunglasses, the eyes stare coldly at the sight before him. His breathing is calm, but his gaze towards the city screams of cruel intentions. Suddenly, he takes a final swig of his beer before throwing it down the hill in front of him and standing to his feet. Using his hands to dust off his pants, the man turns towards a motorcycle with a trailer attached behind it and loads three coolers into it to add to the already massive group on board. He then turns back towards the top off the hill and takes a hold of the lawn chair with one hand before throwing it down the hill as well. Finally, he steps forward a few more steps to a telescope, standing sturdy overlooking the town. Without any hesitation, the man takes one foot and kicks the telescope down to the bottom of the hill with the remainder of his discarded supplies.
Trekking back over to his vehicle of choice, the man hops onto his motorcycle and begins driving down the dirt road opposite of his campsite. Bits of dirt and rocks are spat out from beneath the vehicle’s back wheel, being sent over the lip of the hill and crashing below, falling over the newly-trashed telescope. The telescope, cracked lens and all, has a singular piece of tape over the side of it with a name written in bold black marker.
With the sky continuing to grow dark, and streets beginning to grow desolate of any vehicles, Jaime, Jordan, Kennedy, Kayla, and Chevy find themselves on a quiet back road heading back into town. Stopping for a brief moment as they continue their hike towards safety, the group watch as two helicopters overhead fly directly past each other, coming within inches of clipping each other as questions continue to loom. Kayla is the first to raise one of those questions.
“What happens if there is no safe haven? What happens if the city is just as empty as these stupid fucking roads?”
Kennedy turns back, staring down Kayla through squinted eyes, drawing yet another question from the blonde-haired beauty.
“Is… Is there something I can help you with?” Kayla asks, with the educationally-liberated teenager turning her head subtly to the right as Jaime and Jordan stop ahead of the group and turn back. “Did you finish the second grade?” Kennedy asks, causing Kayla to turn towards her boyfriend with an eyebrow raised, only to be met with a speechless shrug before turning around and nodding her head.
“So you know how to fucking put two and two together, great! I’m sure we’re not the only ones!” Kennedy says, only to be interrupted at the end as her name is called out in a stern voice by her older sister ahead.
“What? Do you seriously think we’re the ONLY ONES that think there will be some kinda help in the city?” Kennedy asks, with Jordan interrupting to remind everyone that anything is possible now. However; this response isn’t exactly met with optimism from the aggravated teen.
“Then you’re a fucking idiot” Kennedy says, with her name beng called in a louder voice from her sister as Jordan begins hanging his head towards the ground. “Ken, I know you’re pissed. Guess what? So is literally everyone around you, but you don’t see us bitching about every little thing. Cool your fucking jets!” Jaime demands, only to be met with an equally loud voice berating her and her demands. “Go to hell, Jaime. Who the fuck put you in charge of me?” Kennedy says, “Are you my boss? Are you my mother? No, so quit acting like you are!”
As Jaime goes to respond, Chevy’s voice calls out from behind and interrupts the sibling rivalry unfolding in front of everyone. “Both of you, knock it the fuck off!” the aggravated biker shouts. “You need to quit acting like a five year old and grow up. You’re speaking with the vocabulary of a twenty year-old, so quit crying like a damn baby and grow into your lexicon” Chevy says, looking at Kennedy, and bringing the girl to silence for the first time since the start of their journey. “And you!” He begins once more, this time looking towards Jaime. “I’ve got no problem following your lead, but it’s getting dark out and if you haven’t noticed yet, we’re stopped on another car-accessible road, and that wasn’t working out too well for us last time. This isn’t just you and your buddies walking through town, this is a group of people looking to you to be a leader.” Chevy then steps forward, walking past Kennedy and Jordan without any hesitation before stepping face to face with Jaime, looking her in the eyes before finishing.
“So either take this opportunity to step up and be a leader, or step back and let us lead ourselves instead of slowing us down.”
Upon conclusion, Chevy and Jaime continue to stare at each other without speaking, whilst the rest of the group stands in their original place and watches the two in front of them. Finally, the silence is broken as Jaime swallows the wad of spit in her mouth and looks to speak, but before a word can leave her lips, the lights in buildings all around the group suddenly die out, and street lights all around them follow suit directly afterwards. Suddenly, the sky seems a little bit darker, and the air feels a little more tense as the group surveys the area for any sign of life to no avail.
“Jaime” says Jordan, causing Jordan and Chevy to both turn and face him. “We’ve got to get somewhere quick.”
Jaime then turns her head towards nothing in particular for a few moments before turning back to face the group, with Chevy looking her right in the eyes as she breaks her silence.
“Let’s get moving” Jaime says, turning around and heading down the street, with Jordan, Kennedy, Chevy and Kayla following suit.
It’s dark, it’s getting cold, and no one has the ability to just take a breath and come down from the adrenaline rush of knowing our certain demise looms over each of us, like a dark cloud anxiously awaiting the chance to flood out any positive hopes.
Without water, we die. It’s as simple as that. So where’s the hope? Where’s the drive to push forward? Why is there a desire to regroup with family just to spend your last moments sharing each other’s final breaths? Why is there a desire to b around your loved ones knowing that they’re suffering just as much as you are?
For Alex, it doesn’t matter if her daughters are bound for the same impending fate as her own… It just matters that she be with them as they all await the same thing, and cope with it in the process.
That’s why she finds herself in the driver’s seat of her car winding through turns and backroads in hopes of finding some place safe to bring her children back to. However; there’s a snarl in that effort to the same degree as everyone else. Dead stop traffic as far as the eye can see.
Alex slows down from cruising speed as she entrenches herself on bumper-to-bumper traffic on the main road into the city, placing her car in park with the confirmation that there is no budging to this roadblock in hopes of getting a better view of the situation at hand. Placing her hand on the handle, she pushes her car door open enough to slip out and begin walking forward. With each step, Alex can feel the cool, brisk air grazing her skin as her breath is seen as clear as day breezing past her. Squinting her eyes, she can see the red lights of cars for what seems like miles, all leading back into downtown. Suddenly, she notices the near-center of the city surrounding itself with lights, forming a barricade-like structure in a circle-like fashion. No cars are entering, and no cars are exiting. It’s just one big pit.
But for a city as live with all forms of entertainment such as Los Angeles, this seems like one popular fucking pit.
With this apocalypse-like thing going on right now, the kind of crowd this pit is drawing would make clubs specializing in the L.A Nightlife quiver in jealousy. So… There must be SOMETHING drawing this crowd… Right?
And if it’s known enough for every person within a one-hundred mile radius to take notice… Surely her daughters know it exists. Surely they know it’s here. They have to… Right?
Alex may not have confirmation, but she notes that it’s worth checking out. In a time as desperate as this, it’s surely something promising safe haven. And her daughters have ben raised correctly, they know what to do when the going gets tough. If there’s any place she’s got a better chance of finding her children than not, it must be this utopia.
So screw the comfort of a heated-vehicle and the safety of an enclosed space, if this traffic isn’t going to move with her, she’s going to move in spite of it. Let the cold weather be damned… Alex is on a mission and a stalemate between vehicles and the concept of moving forward is not going to deter her from setting out on this mission. If she can’t do it on wheels, she’ll do it on foot.
As the cold continues to blanket the light-absent, dread-filled city of Los Angeles, Alex moves forward with a few groups of family and friends alike moving around her in the same direction. The trees rustle with more force after each passing minute, and the wind causing it grows more chilling along with it, but Alex continues moving.
The light of the sun is all but gone, and the moon is almost the only thing illuminating the city. It’s hard for Alex to notice any cars without their lights on, and every skyscraper just seems like one big shape as no window is noticeable from a distance. So it’s not surprising when Alex continuously fails to notice the man walking at an almost mirrored-pace with from just behind the treeline.
Keeping up pace with Alex, adjusting his glasses every now and then with little care of the rest of his disheveled look, the man simply walks forward with his eyes latching onto the woman and no care for whatever stands in front of him. As the man kept pace with Alex, his steps became a little more sporadic. He’d meet the same pace, but his steps were growing closer to those of Alex’s. His steps would continue to grow closer and closer before they’d eventually begin matching Alex’s, mirroring her every step perfectly as they continued on and continued moving.
The twin-like movements would come to a screeching halt as a voice would call out from behind the two. “Hey, sir!” yells a man with a brown bag in his hand, causing Alex to stop and thereby the man as well. Both Alex and the man would both turn back to peer down the road until the two noticed the man calling for the individual in the woods. Swallowing a ball of spit in his throat, the man would walk out from behind his treeline-defense and into the open road towards the man, with Alex now continuing forward and returning to her intended direction.
“Hey man, you’ve got a name, right?” The bag-carrying man asks. Before answering, the individual in question adjusts his glasses, fixing them to an even point before saying, “Eli.”
“Eli… Sweet. Uh. Okay, so… I know everyone’s, like, crazy and shit. But like, you stopped and shit. So thanks. You, uh. You’ve got any money on you?” Shutting his eyes and letting out a muffled sigh of frustration, Eli simply nods as his lips pucker and tilts his head back slightly, quietly suggesting the man follow him. Doing so, Eli and the man walk back off of the road and into the forest. Not much for words, Eli just leads the man forward to the sound of the desperate drunk’s incoherent ramblings in the background. Suddenly Eli’s forward progress is halted when he lunges forward and falls onto the ground.
“Oh dude, you ‘right?” The drunk asks, with a now dirt-covered Eli nodding and repeating “Yep, yep, yep” over and over again. As Eli stands to his feet, the man asks “You need me to getcha some help?” only to be answered with a cracking blow to the side of his head, dropping him onto the ground.
“AH, SHIT MAN!” the drunk says, clutching at his head and looking above to see Eli gripping onto a rock in his right hand. Removing his hand from his head, the drunk looks on at his blood-covered palm before looking back to Eli.
“WAIT!” shouts the man once before his vision cuts to black and Eli rains down five more shots on the man, grunting with each shot louder and louder before shooting back to his feet. Admiring his work for a moment, Eli throws the rock over his head and kneels down to the brown paper bag, revealing the still open-eyed drunk and the slightly-fractured skull, just barely allowing enough of a view of his blood-covered brain as Eli returns to his feet with the glass bottle in hand.
Walking away from the scene of his crime, Eli walks back out into the road. Looking forward at the sanctuary-like circle in the middle of downtown, a smirk engulfs his face before he throws the glass bottle with all of his might down the road in the direction of the sanctuary. Waiting for a few moments, Eli listens closely for the sound of shattering glass and a car alarm before moving forward down the middle of the road.
With car lights flashing and the sound of a screeching banshee littering the streets, a well-built man carrying a flashlight runs down the road and up to a now windshield-less convertible and begins checking it’s interior, with no one around and no end to the noise in sight. Rushing over to the other side of the car, the man extends his arm around the edge of the windshield and unlocks the driver’s side door. Before entering the vehicle, he overhears a woman call out to him as she rushes forward.
“Do you need help?” the woman asks, causing the man to stop in his tracks and look forward. He notices Alex rushing up to the front of the car and stop in her tracks, awaiting his response. “Um, yeah. Yeah, do you have a pair of scissors or something?” the man asks, watching as Alex pulls a pocket knife out of her pocket and extends her hand. “Even better! Thanks!” The man says, ripping open the fabric beneath the steering wheel and cutting at a bright-green wire for a few seconds until the noise stops and the two wait for a few seconds for their hearing to come back down to earth.
After a breath of relief, the man exits the vehicle and closes the pocket knife back up before returning it to its original owner. “Thank you” the man says, with Alex shaking her head and stating that it was no problem.
“Well, best of luck” the man says before beginning to walk forward, only for Alex to stop the man with a question.
“What was that?” The man asks, causing Alex to repeat the question. “I helped you really quickly, so would you mind helping me really quickly?”
Turning back to face the woman with a resistful grin on his face, the man plants his hands on his hips and asks what services of his she is requesting.
“What do you know about that light-filled mosh pit thing down there in town?”
Looking towards the city skyline, the man responds, “The army camp?” After placing her hands halfway into her pockets, Alex stands her ground. “Yeah, what’s going on down there?”
Shaking his head and grasping at straws, the man responds begins explaining. “Well there are millions of people who were told that they can no longer use one of the necessities for human life for whatever reason and that’s not really going over well with everyone.” After a rief moment, Alex cuts him off. “Really? That wasn’t evident at all. I would have never assumed people were taking the idea of dying soon in a BAD way. Thank you, Socrates!”
“Well, no. My grandfather was Socrates and my father was always the Aristotle of the group. So technically I’d be the Aristotle…” The man says before noticing Alex beginning to fain a yawn.
“Nevermind. Long story short, there are two types of people. The people that need to get back to their loved ones and spend the rest of their time with them and the people that are heading for the army camp to find safety for themselves. That center down there is filled with the latter.”
Looking off at the city and nodding, Alex responds. “Well, Ari-Who Cares, you might want to open your eyes to the third kind of people.”
“And what kind of people does that third category apply to?” the man asks.
Alex turns back to face him with her hands remaining in her pockets, “The people looking for both.”
Stepping up and patting the man on the arm, Alex thanks him for his help and begins walking forward before she too is stopped by a question.
“Mind if I tag along?” The man asks, forcing Alex to turn around before adding, “If we’re going the same way, I wouldn’t mind someone to make the road trip a little less lonely.”
Biting her bottom lip in a sign of consideration, Alex answers. “I don’t even know you’re name, and that’s not a good sign that I’ll be able to trust you.”
Cracking a smirk for a moment, the man responds. “David. I’m assuming you’re Alex since you took the time to carve it into the handle of that knife you can use on me if I try to pull anything.”
Now cracking a smile herself and pairing it with a subtle laugh, Alex responds. “If at any point, and I mean at any fucking point, you start singing Tom Petty… I’ll spare no exception to straight up gut you where you stand.”
Smiling, David raises his hand to his face and swipes the hair out of his eyes as he and Alex begin marching forward towards the city, only to leave behind an individual standing behind a car a few paces back without knowing.
Slowly walking out from behind his vehicular cover, Eli watches as the two walk before slowly following in their direction, stepping over the shattered glass beneath his feet on the way forward.
Though muffled, words can be heard the farther into the city everyone goes shouting louder than the screams surrounding it. Demands that everyone remain calm and gathered in an orderly fashion reign over a crowd of thousands clambering to get within the walls of sanctuary in downtown Los Angeles.
Though on edge, Jaime doesn’t let the sounds of pleading and begging from men, women, and children alike stop her from leading her people forward. Her boyfriend being the closest to her in proximity, Jordan trails behind Jaime with his left hand in his pocket and his right hand swinging with his body’s motion. Kennedy trails just behind him, checking her phone after every few minutes in hopes of something to end the shitshow around them just popping up on her phone’s interface.
Just behind Kennedy, Chevy walks with his arm wrapped around Kayla’s back, holding her into his side as, for the first time since they met, the group is silent, solely focused on getting to sanctuary.
Looking down at his girlfriend, and noticing her grip on his right arm, Chevy whispers to Kayla, asking if she’s okay.
“What happened back in that alley? With the cops?” Kayla asks, “I didn’t see it. Well- I saw some of it. Once the guy stood up he walked off and I couldn’t see him until I heard the shot.”
Taking a brief breath, Chevy uses his free hand to scratch his head. “He charged at the cops. They did what they needed to do.”
Swallowing the saliva gathering in her mouth, Kayla tightens her grip on Chevy’s hand just slightly before digging her head further up to Chevy’s chest. “We’re going to die, aren’t we?”
Looking down to Kayla, only seeing the top of her head, Chevy squints quickly as if Kayla was stating something extraordinary, only to ease his eyes after a brief moment and begin thinking silently to himself. After a few moments, Kayla whispers Chevy’s name, bringing her boyfriend to completely shut his eyes before opening them back up and shaking his head.
“No. We’ll find something downtown.” Chevy says, drawing Kayla’s ire. “You don’t think that, Chevy. I know you” Kayla says, “You’re hoping that’ll happen. But- but you don’t think it’s gonna.”
“Well why did you ask me, then?” Chevy asks, prompting Kayla to raise her head up to face Chevy. “If you thought there was no way out of this, too… At least, we’d focus on spending our last few days together instead of finding some non-existent solution.”
Suddenly, Chevy’s face turns sturdy, sticking by his earlier assessment. Looking back into Kayla’s eyes, he places his free hand to her cheek and glides his thumb over her smooth skin before stating as plain as day to his girlfriend, looking her in the eye through every second, “We’re going to live.”
Despite not bringing awareness to it, Kennedy, Jordan, and Jaime all overhear the conversation, and Chevy assuring his girlfriend of their ultimate survival brings a momentary smile to their faces collectively, almost as if those four simple words breathed new life into the group entirely. Kayla lowers her head back into Chevy’s chest as the group continues marching forward with a purpose.
As the march towards safety continues, the group is forced to a halt as gunfire begins ringing through the streets, and the sound of gunshots bounces from building to building, echoing throughout the city like a pin dropping in a tight hallway. Suddenly, a rapid burst of automatic gunfire begins ringing through the streets as the screaming of desperate civilians looking for safety grows louder.
“Jaime!” Jordan calls from behind her, rushing up and placing a hand on her shoulder. “We have to get out of here!” Jordan orders, only for the calls of a woman to force the group to turn their direction opposite of the way they were heading. The calls from the woman turn into orders, as each member of Jaime’s group raises their hands into the air at the sight of the barrel of a gun pointed directly at them. “Put everything you have on the ground, NOW!” The woman demands, the gun still shaking in her grasp as she coddles a young child by her side.
One by one, each member of Jaime’s group begins lowering their belongings onto the ground in front of them. A few dollars, a cell phone every now and then and a pocket knife are placed onto the ground by the time it becomes Jaime’s turn. She and her boyfriend are the final members of the group to have not ridden themselves of their belongings. Jordan begins preparing to empty his pockets until he sees the woman raise the barrel of her gun in Jaime’s direction, ordering her to keep her hands where the woman can see them.
“Ma’am, all of my things are on the pack on my back” Jaime says, but the woman won’t have any of her explanation. “No! Someone else will take the bag off for you!” The woman screams, causing Jaime’s hands, still raised into the air to grow steady, almost frozen in place as Jordan looks on and tells the woman that he’ll take the bag off for his girlfriend.
“Hurry up and do it then! I- I don’t have time to waste!” the woman shouts, allowing Jordan to slowly walk up behind Jaime. “It’s harnessed it, I have to unclasp it!” Jordan slowly explains, with the woman telling him to hurry up, only for her shaky hands to accidentally pull the trigger, sending a bullet twenty feet above the group, causing them to duck as the window of a downtown office building shatters to the ground below just behind the five survivors.
“Hey! What the he-” Jordan goes to say, only for the woman to become more erratic, waving the gun around in their direction whilst ordering them to stay where they are. “Okay! I’m unclasping the backpack!” Jordan says to the woman, only to be cut off when a young man, no older than his early twenties rounds the corner, only to be forced to a stop as the gun begins being aimed in his direction. “You! Give me what you have!” The woman orders, staring down the man, who finds himself unable to move or respond.
Jordan watches the scene in front of him from behind his girlfriend, watching on as the woman’s sole focus is placed on the new individual introduced into the situation. Suddenly, the child beneath his mothers feet drops to his knees, vomiting a pool of blood as he clutches to his throat. Noticing this, the mother becomes more incensed than before, ordering both the new man and Jaime’s group to give to her what they have.
Eventually, the woman collapses to her knees to cradle her young son, now screaming in agony as blisters begin overwhelming his skin, turning him beat red as his slithering begins to slow down until his body becomes motionless, laying with his hands over the top of his chest in his mothers lap as she begins lamenting over the fresh cut of her son’s inhumane end.
“Jordan” Jaime whispers, “She’s not gonna let us go.” Jordan looks to the ground, noticing the pocket knife below Kennedy’s feet, with the youngest of Alex’s daughters staring down the woman with a cold and calculated stare before looking back up at the woman. Slowly, Jordan begins stepping out from behind his girlfriend before his attention is grabbed by the random man beginning to take a few steps backwards to run back in the direction from which he came. Jordan takes a mental note of this and begins kneeling down and reaching out for the pocket knife, which he unfolds quickly and quietly as he subtly hides it behind his thigh.
Jordan’s eyes then grow as cold as Kennedy’s stare, complimenting the chill in the air nicely as he takes a final look at the man, now turning around and bolting for the alley he originated from, prompting the woman to raise her gun towards him and take two shots, hitting the brick of a post office building with the first shot, and the man straight in the back with the second, bringing him to the ground.
As the man dropped, everything became muffled for Jordan. His eyebrows clenched as the sound of the man’s thud against the ground became resounding. Suddenly, he notices the woman’s view turn to himself. Taking the opportunity, Jordan begins rushing towards the woman, who struggles to free herself beneath the weight of her son, offering Jordan enough time to close the distance. Each step feels like an explosion to Jordan, who raises his arm and lunges forward as the woman stands to her feet and faces in his direction, plunging the blade of the knife directly into the neck of the heavy-hearted, yet dangerously unpredictable woman, forcing her hand to tighten its grip on the trigger, sending a bullet straight downwards into the chest of her son’s corpse as Jordan takes her to the ground.
Freeing the blade from her neck, Jordan repeats the process. Plunging and freeing, plunging and freeing, plunging and freeing as the woman’s mouth pool with blood and the gun in her hand falling further and further from her grasp with each new gash. Finally, the gun drops fully onto the ground beside her as Jordan frees the blade from her jugular for the final time. The final signs of life drain from the woman’s eyes as he blood drips from the blade in Jordan’s blood-stained hands like water from a gutter in a rainstorm.
Finally, as Jordan’s surroundings begin returning to their normally perceived state, his eyes begin finding warmth returned to them, as his expression goes from that of a man on a mission to one of a man realizing the actions he has just committed.
Behind him, Chevy and Kayla watch on as the latter’s lip quivers from a mixture of the cold air and the sights she bare witness to. Meanwhile, she is held firmly within the grasp of her lover, who finds himself clutching to Kayla with every ounce of strength he has. Kennedy watches on, trying to bring her body to step back in response, but simply remains standing in place, unable to do anything.
As Jordan looks around at the aftermath surrounding him from all angles, a singular tear falls from his eye as he slowly turns to face his girlfriend. With her hand over her mouth and her eyes emboldened by the sight in front of her, her eyes grow even wider as she sees her boyfriends face once again. Blood staining his own neck and the shirt he wears on both the neck and cuffs, Jaime steps forward slowly before kneeling down beside him.
Watching as he struggles to speak, trying to lift his hands close enough to his face to wipe away the tears, Jordan whispers to her through the sorrow in his soul.
“S- She- She- She w… She was gonna- Was gonna hurt you.”
Jaime’s eyes now fill with tears as she reaches for Jordan’s head and pulls into her chest, assuring Jordan that everything is okay.
“You…” Jaime says, pausing for a moment to lower her face to the top of Jordan’s head before beginning to whisper. “You did the right thing.”