“I’m glad you called” Neville remarks, his hands buried deep into his pockets, his shy head hung towards the ground, “I thought your friends might have scared you off.” Keeping pace with the man’s charming pace, a curious Alicia wonders of the intentions behind the man’s worries. “Why would you be worried about that?” the woman asks, reversing roles with the man as she jumps ahead of him, amusing the man as she holds the door for him, “is there any truth to what they’re saying?”
“That would depend on the language they used” Neville playfully responds, ducking through the door first. “Would you care to elaborate?” the man wonders aloud, folding his hands by his lap, waiting to be seated in the fancy restaurant they’ve seeked an evening in. “Salem said you’d threatened her, about a month after we first got here” Alicia replies, her question answered by the man’s shamed frown, his head taking to the ground and nodding, “so it’s true?”
Looking back towards Alicia, Neville puckers his lips and continues nodding. “If I’ve learned anything during my time in charge, it’s that people who don’t work well with others are always the first to screw something up” Neville explains, not shying away from a blunt response, “I’ve seen it before, I don’t want to see it happen again. There isn’t any room for error like that anymore.”
Slightly disconcerted by the man’s confession, Alicia glances away, her eyes wandering off to the wider spaces of the building as a waiter arrives to seat them. Lead to their table, the pair sink into soft cushioned booths, their hardwood table reflective enough to return the couple’s reflection to them. “Listen, there are ugly sides to my job, and having to judge people by only what I can see of them is one of those sides” Neville explains, “it’s better you know that now than later.”
“Okay” Alicia quickly replies, her hands having yet to leave the table in reach of their menus, which sit at the end of the table, waiting for their touch, “what are they, then?” Attempting to speak, the man falls silent, letting his glossy menu return to the table.
“I make calls that cost people their lives, and I make calls that earn people their safety” Neville explains, not a shred of remorse in his explanation, “I was selected to lead this camp, to be god for the people inside. That’s the ugly side.” Her palms pressed against the table, leaving her handprint in the reflective sheen, Alicia looks deep into Neville’s eyes, unable to find any lack of sincerity behind what he says.
“If you can’t handle that, I understand. Being associated with me, even loosely, weighs heavy on a conscience” Neville explains, worried over Alicia’s response, “but if you can accept me for who I am, and for what I do, take a menu and find something you like.” Sitting back in her seat, Alicia continues to look into Neville’s eyes, her head tilting as a smile breaks through her lips. “I already have” Alicia replies before reaching for a menu, her choice made.
“I’m glad” Neville replies, unable to hold back a smile of his own as his eyes take to the menu. “Can I start the two of you with drinks?” a waitress asks, obviously enthused to be serving the guests sat in her booth. “I’ll have a Sangria” Alicia replies first, the menu gently lowering to the table as Neville’s pager begins to sound. “And I’ll have the finest bottle of wine you’ve got in the cellar” Neville orders, removing the pager from his waistband.
“-Or, she’ll have the finest bottle of wine you’ve got in the back” Neville disappointsly groans, wiping his brow with his hand, “I’ve got urgent company at the gates.” Let down, Alicia’s eyes fall, graciously accepting Neville’s apology. “I’m so sorry, when they say ‘urgent’, it’s not something I can argue with” Neville explains, throwing a set of meal vouchers the waitress’ way.
“Whatever she’ll have is on me” Neville explains to the waitress, climbing from the booth. “Meet me at my place later, okay?” Alicia requests, her plea bringing a smile over Neville’s face. “I will” Neville replies, placing a kiss on the woman’s cheek as he makes for the exit. “So, the Sangria and the bottle of wine?” the waitress asks Alicia, the tip of her pen pressed against her notepad.
“Actually, is there any way I can get your best bottle of tequila, instead?” Alicia replies, tacking on an additional request before the waitress departs, “and make that an order to go, please?” Sinking back into her booth, Alicia lets out a sigh, her disappointment clear. Exiting the restaurant, Neville pulls his gloves over his hands, stepping over a mound of snow at the bottom of the stairs.
Turning to return the way he came, a familiar face stands out across the street, their figure leaning against a stop sign with their hands in their pockets. Finding Neville’s sights having fallen on her, Salem removes her hand from her pocket and waves at the departing leader, his attention desperately needed elsewhere. Looking at Alicia as Neville walks off, Salem stares at the woman in disappointment, her head hung as she walks the opposite direction of Neville, leaving Alicia to her night.
= Rise: Remastered is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“How’s he holding up?” Emilio asks, startling Jess while she emerges from her bedroom, closing the door up until the man’s surprise appearance. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you” Emilio mutters, following the woman through the quiet, dimly-lit hallway. “He got shot in the face, how do you think he’s holding up?” Jess replies, entering her husband’s office to the faint tune of an aggravated crowd, all calling for John’s resignation.
“He got shot in the face four months ago” Emilio replies, only helping to fuel Jess’ frustration further. “Is that supposed to change the fact that he took a bullet to the face, or was there a deadline I missed somewhere along the way?” Jess replies, silencing Emilio as Troy and Katie near close. “He knows there’s a lot of shit going on, but there’s not much he can do about it without the ability to speak” Jess explains, slamming a pile of folders atop the desk, “now, if you’ll excuse me.”
Welcomed into the room upon their knock, Troy and Katie enter the secluded confines, the young woman holding a folded piece of paper between her fingers. “Can I help you two with something?” Jess wonders aloud, watching the creased note leave Katie’s hands, finding land before Jess’ hands. “One of the kids that came in with Tori found this lying in the dirt” Katie explains as the folds are undone, revealing their contents to Jessica’s eyes, “look at the signature.”
“Charlotte Walters” Jess reads aloud, the signature nearly the only thing she can comfortably understand, “what’s the rest of this?” Letting Troy take over the conversation, Katie takes a seat in the corner, throwing an oversized coat over her shoulders. “We’re pretty sure it’s an over-simplified map of the area” Troy explains, the familiarly-named roadways and recognizable landmarks lending his assumption credibility, “it’s filled with markings. I can only imagine they point out something.”
Quickly losing herself in trying to decipher the markings, Jess returns her attention to the young pair standing patiently before her. “What is it that you want me to do?” Jess inquires, watching the duo nervously glance back at each other. “We want your permission to leave the compound” Troy explains, quickly explaining his request, “Charlotte may be dead, but we don’t know anything about her goons’ motivations. If these places can leave us vulnerable, it’s best if we check them out.”
“I’m sorry, but we’ve got those scavengers living inside the walls with us, and the two of you are some of the best hands we’ve got-” Jess replies, noticing the disappointment build, “-I can’t justify that. I’m sorry.” His head hung, Troy gives into the woman’s request, taking the paper back while Katie tries to argue her own point. “The last thing you need with the scavengers is to have a second crew to look out for” Katie explains, unable to get Jess to budge, “we need to-”
“Charlotte is dead, and the rest of her community is weakened without her” Jess sharply rebukes, returning the note to Troy’s possession, “I’m sorry, but again, my answer is ‘no’.” Closing her eyes, Katie swallows her pride and leaves the room without another word just as Troy does, following Katie’s lead, not wanting to turn an already tense-situation sour.
“They have a good point, Jess” Emilio remarks, his presence having fallen from the woman’s mind, his response prompting Jess to roll her eyes. “I’m well aware of that, Emilio” Jess is quick to respond, her attention turned back to the man she’d left abruptly, “but as I said, everything in this camp is on thin ice and they’re two of my best hands. I can’t afford to let them go, not right now.”
“Okay, I see your point. Send someone else, then” Emilio replies, listening to Jess sigh as she tends to the headache coming on, “their point is still valid. The last thing we need right now is for Charlotte’s people to attack.”
“No” Jess replies, her answer again coming right at the end of Emilio’s statement, not even considering his suggestion, “Charlotte’s dead, and there’s a reason her people haven’t shown up in four months.” Losing patience, Emilio sinks lower in his seat, his fingers squeezing atop the carved armrests to each of his sides. “What if they have something of value there?” Emilio wonders aloud, not even earning a physical response from the woman this time.
“Something of value like what?” Jess replies with her head down, face planted in her inner elbow. “Food, or weapons, or supplies” Emilio responds, earning Jess’ attention back, “there’s a reason those places are mapped, and if they’re not bunkers to lay low in, they’re places with something important enough to map out.”
“I agree, and in a better situation, I wouldn’t hesitate at saying ‘yes’” Jess explains, her finger pressing into the hardwood table, “but I can’t afford to send anyone with two working hands outside of the walls. I just can’t.” Relenting, Emilio lets out his own sigh as his eyes wander across the room, finding the window John often frequented, its transparency now offering the unimpeded view of a disgruntled public, fed up with the leadership of a community they call home.
“I know you can hear them from here” Jess remarks, noticing where Emilio's eyes had taken towards, the same window having captured her attention many nights before, “do you really think I can afford to lose anyone with that outside my window?” His lips puckered, Emilio listens to the cries of a populous so scorned by their governing body, their calls for death and vengeance striking deep within the caverns of his heart.
“Send me” Emilio suddenly remarks, a confused glare given back by the desk-seated woman. With a laugh, Jess shakes her head in definitive refusal. “Either you haven’t been listening to me, or you are just uniquely disturbed” Jess replies, removing a bag of tea from a nearby cup of boiled water, “as I just said, I’m not sending anyone outside of these walls. And considering you’re the closest ally John and I have, the ‘no’ goes double for you.”
“Come on, Jess. The only fight I’ve ever been in left me plummeting to earth on top of a patio, and even in that fight, John had more of a hand in it than I did” Emilio explains, “you have other confidants, and you’ve got plenty more experienced men than me.” Beguiled, Jess leans back in her chair, still shaking her head in refusal.
“For a start, you getting your man-loving ass kicked does not inspire confidence” Jess jokes, clearer points still to come, “but even with that, you literally have not been outside these walls in over a year. The world outside is nothing like what it was in the first days.” His head hung, Emilio begins to question whether or not anything he could say would change the woman’s mind, an internal dilemma Jessica notices instantly.
“Look, I’m gonna level with you. I don’t think we want to know what that map truly points to, but since the three of you believe it’s worth checking out, I’m biting the bullet and trusting you” Jess explains, the truth still unable to change the answer, “but everything’s a mess right now. Even though I trust you, I can’t justify letting any of you walk, even temporarily.”
Accepting the woman’s stance, Emilio looks deeper into Jess’ eyes, their attention given only to each other, allowing Emilio to point out an interesting observation. “There’s something you’re not telling me” Emilio remarks, a feigned look of confusion appearing on Jess face briefly, her eyes falling soon after. “You’re worried about something” Emilio specifies, Jess’ defeated look only strengthening the longer he speaks, “something other than the mob, or Lauren’s group.”
Biting her lip, Jess folds her arms atop her husband’s desk, leaning in as her eyes remain steadily aimed towards Emilio’s own. “I don’t think Charlotte’s dead” Jess suddenly confesses, surprising the man on the opposite end of the hand-crafted, elegantly-designed desk, “I have no proof, and no reason to believe that if I’m being honest with myself. But I have a hunch, and throughout my life, when I have a hunch, it usually tends to be for a reason.”
Sinking further into his seat, Emilio covers his mouth with his hand, his fingers pressing into his cheek as he pulls his lips away, his face having become tense. “She got shot in the chest” Emilio replies, first attempting to change Jess’ mind before recognizing how little such a use it, no amount of reasoning capable of changing the woman’s better instincts.
“So, as you can see, there’s a really good reason behind my wanting to give the three of you the benefit of the doubt” Jess explains, speaking to Emilio’s hung head, “but, hopefully this is the last time I’ll have to say it. I can’t justify putting you, or the two of them, or anyone else out there.”
Licking his lip, Emilio’s hands fall back to the armrests, propping himself out of the seat before he walks for the door, gently closing it behind himself on his way out. Alone once more, Jess slams her fist against the hardwood, her eyes traveling back to the crowd-observing window, letting the chants for answers, resignations and revenge linger in the back of her mind, suppressing any optimism in favor of defeat.
“Mom! This old man stole my apple!” a girl calls out to her parent, finger raised at a disheveled man a few feet away. “What?” the man replies, mystified by the claims as the juices run down his chin, “this is my apple!” Angrily rushing to her daughter’s side, the mother begins to scold the man, her voice purposefully raised with the intent of earning the guards’ attention. “Give my daughter her apple back!” the enraged mother barks, escalating the scene until Lauren and Jerome approach.
“Ma’am, this is my apple. I bought it, I own it, it’s mine” the man replies, his beard grayed and hair knotted. “Sir, give the kid her apple back” Lauren orders, the demand only serving to bewilder the man accused. “I didn’t take the fuckin’ apple!” the man shouts, his arms outstretched in response, a defense Lauren refuses to buy. “Sir, I don’t want to have to tell you again” Lauren replies, removing the firearm from her hip, “give the kid her apple.”
Wide-eyed, the man stares harshly at the well-armed woman, his face bunching with anger. “Fine” the older man replies, defiantly tossing the apple to the kid, his sour face maintained. “Nice job, hun” the mother whispers to her child as they depart the scene, taking turns biting into the sparse piece of fruit. “Will that be all?” the old man begrudgingly quips towards Lauren, who shakes her head. “Dirty fuckin’ bitch” the man mutters, leaving a dissatisfied face on Lauren as he leaves.
“You handled that well” Jerome sarcastically remarks, strolling up to the woman’s side as he watches the two parties depart. “Is there a point you’re trying to get at?” Lauren asks, turning to face the militant, who stands before her in awkward silence. “Not that I know of, why?” Jerome replies, answered by a set of rolling eyes, watching Lauren turn around and walk away.
“You really seem to think you’ve got things under control” Jerome exclaims, pulling Lauren back into the conversation, her departing stroll slowing to a halt before she turns around. “I’m not in charge, there’s not much I can keep ‘under control’” Lauren replies, her hands resting comfortably at her sides, “but if we’re talking about ‘maintaining order’ then yeah, I think I’m doing well enough.”
Smiling, Jerome begins shaking his head, refusing to buy into the composed picture Lauren attempts to paint into his head. “But the thing is, I sort of have to keep order myself, don’t I?” Lauren explains, matching Jerome’s sarcastic disrespect with her own, “someone’s gotta pick up where other people slack off.”
A hurt chuckle leaving beneath his breath, Jerome looks away with a nod, his thumbs wrapped around his belt loops. “Is that what you think I’m doing?” Jerome wonders aloud, a confident smirk worn on his face, “slacking off?” Looking down, Lauren allows Jerome to go on the tangent she expects of him, only a few seconds having to pass before said tangent is beckoned.
“You should be grateful for what I did. Had it not been for me, you’d still be out there sleeping in leaves and eating dead squirrels” Jerome explains, his smile returning, “you should thank the big, tough military man for saving your ass. Got that?”
Slowly turning to leave, Lauren offers her departing words. “You were chosen to give your life for this camp, and instead turned on it for something that benefitted you more” Lauren explains, Jerome’s face now souring, “so you say ‘big, tough military man’, and I say ‘where?’ Got that?” Walking off, a few seconds pass before Lauren is called back towards Jerome, the man offering his own last-minute advice.
“Tori misses you” Jerome remarks, the woman’s back turned towards him, her head easily able to be seen hanging, “you should talk to her soon.” Licking her lips, Lauren continues to walk on, a passing “thanks for the tip” given back to the man on her way out.
“I see they never truly got the stains out” Tyler remarks, pointing out the ever-present blood stains in the corner of Dr. Ringwald’s office. “Wh-? Oh! No, they never got to it in time” Ringwald replies, confused by the man’s presence, “why are you here, Tyler? We don’t need to tend to your wounds anymore.”
“No, no. I know that” Tyler replies, lifting a clear, plastic jar filled with dental instruments, “I was wondering if you had anything you needed help with?” His head tilted to one side, Ringwald looks to Tyler with a curious expression, “I’m afraid I don’t follow.” Setting the jar down, Tyler takes a seat near the back of the man’s workspace, occupying a chair squeezed between tables near the corner.
“I want to work for you” Tyler replies, cutting to the point with little more hesitation than he’d approached with. “Why would you want to do that?” Ringwald wonders aloud, leaning his hip against the small desk most of his records lay upon, scattered with little care. “I always wanted to do more in life than maintain a warehouse” Tyler replies, a quick glance taken at the window beside him, an empty lot all that greets him, “I figured you wouldn’t require a degree or anything of the sort.”
Still lost for a reason, Ringwald replies. “Sure, I can understand that, but why a doctor?” Ringwald wonders aloud, crossing his arms at his chest, “why not a guard? Or a farmer?” Thinking to himself for a moment, Tyler comes up with nothing suitable for the question. “I don’t know” Tyler replies, his eyes finally returning to the doctor he seeks employment from, “it was the first thing that came to mind.”
Before getting a chance to reply, Ringwald is greeted by further company, both Troy and Katie entering his work. “Hey Ringo, we need our arms cast-over” Troy exclaims with enthusiasm as his thrill-seeking friend leaps atop the examination table. “That’s funny, It doesn’t seem like either of you have two broken arms” Ringwald replies, a suspicious look on his face.
“If we had two broken arms, we wouldn’t be sneaking out of the camp, would we?” Katie answers, finding no reason to lie. “You’re what?” Ringwald replies in the tone of a disappointed parent. “We found something important, we asked Jess for permission to check it out, and she refused” Troy replies, climbing atop one of the tables beside Tyler, “but we’re not letting Jess get in the way of her own best interests. So, there you have it.”
“I’m sure she had a good reason” Ringwald replies, defying the uselessness of trying to convince the pair to think twice. “It doesn’t matter, her decision was the wrong one” Katie replies, holding both of her arms out in preparation for the casting, “we asked for permission, and that led nowhere. Now, we’ll ask for forgiveness instead.”
Letting out a sigh, Ringwald caves to the valiant survivors’ request, retrieving a tray of hot water and a box of plaster wraps. “Why do you need casts to leave?” Tyler wonders to the pair, the dots not connecting. “We don’t need casts to leave, but we’re better off with them than we are without” Katie replies, her point finished by Troy, “if you’ve got casts on your arms, the dead can’t get their teeth through. It’s like wearing a suit of armor, the dead have to get through it to get to you.”
Letting the conversation end there, Tyler goes quiet, watching Ringwald prepare the water, studying the man’s habits as each strip of plaster is applied.
Tapping her knuckles against an apartment door in a rhythm, Salem waits for an answer from within, only a few seconds passing before Franklin’s face meets her own. “Welcome back to the land of the living” Franklin remarks, pulling the door further open, allowing Salem to enter the cold, dimly-lit room. “We need to find better torches” Salem comments, her heavy coat, gloves, and winter boots kept on while she makes herself at home.
“We’re not here to live permanently” Heather replies, sitting atop two moving boxes fashioned like a chair, “we hide out here until we have our escape plan.” Hidden in the corner, Cameron strikes a match and takes it to a dry cigarette, the flame catching the attention of those he shares the apartment with. “Can’t you do that outside?” Heather wonders aloud, exhaustion carried with her words. “We live in a shoebox” Cameron replies, spewing smoke towards the nearest window, “this is nothing.”
Rolling her eyes, Heather accepts the man’s position, her mind already resting upon greater concerns. “How was your walk, Salem?” Heather asks, a sneaking suspicion hidden within her question, one easily noticed by the coat-adorned woman. “It was fine, why?” Salem replies, noticing the hint of distrust behind the woman’s curiosity. Shaking her head, Heather looks to her hands, rubbing them together for warmth whilst refusing to answer Salem.
“Why do you ask?” Salem wonders for a second time, earning an answer from the other woman this second time around. “Because I’m sure you didn’t go on as much of a walk as much as you were sightseeing” Heather replies, one leg crossing over the other as she sinks further back in her makeshift chair. “If you’re trying to call me out for spying on Alicia, don’t be vague about it” Salem replies, looking down at Heather with her arms crossed.
A smug look on her face, Heather considers the offer Salem has given her, thinking it over for a brief moment. “Cameron” Heather calls out, extending her hand towards the man, who rests his cigarette between the woman’s fingers. A drag taken from the tobacco stick, Heather allows the smoke to sit within her lungs, a relieving exhale letting a cloud slowly stretch towards Salem, wrapping around her body once it advances across the room.
“Alright Salem, I won't’ be vague” Heather replies, returning the stick to Cameron as she walks towards the other woman, a confident look on her face, “What’d you get from this walk that you didn’t get last night?” Her irritation only growing, Salem hangs her head, unable to hold eye contact with the woman across from her. “Come on, you wanted me to be less vague, so here I am” Heather replies, tensions quickly rising, “answer the damn question.”
Biting her lip, Salem’s eyes glance towards Franklin, who stands in the corner of the room, just watching the interaction take place. With a sigh, Salem wipes the hair from her face and returns her glare to the other woman, Heather’s patience obvious. “Nothing worth talking about” Salem replies, turning away to leave the room, a quick glance shared with Franklin in the midst of her spin, “that’s all you need to know.”
Attempting to leave, Salem reaches for the doorknob, unlocking the deadbolt before squeezing the brass peg, her intention to leave dropping the moment Heather speaks up once more. “When will you learn how people work?” Heather wonders aloud, stopping Salem in her tracks, the question allowing a harbored resentment to permeate through the room, “no matter what the situation is, now matter how dire, people grow apart. That’s just how life works.”
Five fingers soon turning to four, Salem’s hand gradually falls from the doorknob, the woman turning back to the room the moment her final finger falls away. “When will I learn how people work?” Salem replies, a disgusted look on her face, “do you know how long I pushed people away?”
“I shouldn’t have said that” Heather replies, falling silent once Salem snaps back at her, allowing the woman to vent. “Do you know what I felt the moment everything went to shit? The moment everyone figured out what I’d known for weeks by that point?” Salem wonders aloud, continuing to inch closer towards Heather, closing the gap between them, “I felt euphoric. Not because we finally saw eye-to-eye, but because they were screwed, and I was the only one with answers.”
Allowing Salem to continue unopposed, Heather rests her hands by her side, looking into Salem’s eyes even after she’d nearly come forehead-to-forehead with the woman. “Had it not been for Alicia stepping in the way, I would’ve put a bullet in this man’s head the moment everything kicked off” Salem explains, pointing her finger towards Franklin’s tall frame, “so just as he owes her for saving his life, I owe her for helping me understand mine.”
Looking on, Cameron and Franklin watch the interaction come to a head, one question from Salem’s lips bringing the entire conversation close. “So, should I try and help a friend, or would you rather I voluntarily let her spend the rest of her life with the same man we’re plotting a grand escape from?” Salem questions, the ball left in Heather’s court. :Yeah, of course” Heather says with an apologetic inflection, retaking her seat atop the cardboard chair, “do what you’ve got to do.”
With a nod, Salem pulls away, returning to the door and twisting the knob, a sudden thought popping into her head as she does so. “Frank, can I talk to you for a second?” Salem wonders aloud, surprising the man that’d made great efforts to stay away from the previous conversation. “Sure” Franklin replies, leaving his corner and following Salem through the door.
“What’s going on?” Franklin finally asks, following Salem up a ladder to the highest part of the roof. “Alicia, who else?” Salem replies, her legs dangling over the ledge she sits atop. “Is something wrong?” Franklin replies, sharing the seat beside his friend, looking out at the quiet, cozy town locked away from the harsh reality of the outside world. “Other than the fact that she’s dating a sociopath? Not really” Salem answers, earning a frown.
“So, she’s still seeing him?” Franklin wonders, the disappointment in his voice already obvious. Answering with a nod, Salem continues to look outwards, a feeling of peace having taken her completely. “I brought you up here to see this” Salem explains, the conversation turning back to lighter subjects, this one being the overhead view of the town, “it’s pretty, isn’t it?”
“It’s a sight to behold, that’s for sure” Franklin replies, a calm wave rolling over him, allowing the tension in his shoulders to disappear, his breaths coming lighter than before. “When we first crammed into that oversized pig pen downstairs, I’d find myself coming up here more after every day” Salem explains, unable to hold back a partial smile from her face, “I never said anything because I liked how pure it felt. Like it was the one place in the world I knew about, and no one else did.”
A hushed laugh coming from within his lungs, Franklin shakes his head with a smile, humored by the woman’s reasoning. “I know” Salem replies without a response to answer, already aware of what’s brought such laughter out of Franklin, “I’ve still got a long way to go.” Patting the woman on the shoulder, Franklin continues to take appreciation over the aerial view, his mind finding itself wrapped around one lingering question.
“So, is that why you brought me up here?” Franklin replies, a brief chuckle interrupting his question, “to help yourself start playing nicely with others?” Her glove-covered hands rubbing her legs, Salem shakes her head. “No, not really” the woman replies, a less eager tint in her voice. “Alicia’s at that nice restaurant downtown. She’s on a date- or, was on a date with Neville” Salem explains, this information only bringing Franklin down to her unhappy level.
“Well, thank you for looking out for me” Franklin replies, taking Salem’s silence as the end of her point, something confusing that prompts the woman to look towards him. “I wasn’t finished, you dope” the woman explains, keeping Franklin from continuing to voice his unnecessary appreciation. “When I left, Neville had just walked out in a rush, and Alicia was left sitting in a booth. She looked disappointed” Salem explains, patting Franklin on the thigh, “go check on her. Make sure she’s okay.”
“Why me?” Franklin replies, his oversight bringing a smirk on Salem’s face. “Well, for one, I’m not the one with an insatiable crush on the girl” Salem replies in a sarcastic tone, easing back into her usual, melancholy cadence, “besides, I think she’d rather see you than me.” Looking Salem in the face, Franklin returns the woman’s approval, patting Salem on the shoulder before walking away, leaving the woman to enjoy her scenic view amidst the cool fall air.
Hunched over at her husband’s desk, Jess struggles to maintain a positive attitude whilst looking over inventory sheets, the diminishing supply of food only accelerated by the addition of Tori’s people. Grimacing, Jess glances at the window, the curtain she’s closed on the mob doing nothing to drown their shouts for justice, each yell only pushing her closer to her limits.
“Answer us now! Answer us now!” the crowd begins to shout, prompting Jess to drop the loose-paper documents to the desk, her attention fully set on the sounds emanating below. Anxiety growing, Jess focuses on the sounds her foot makes tapping rapidly upon the old, worn-down hardwood floors. Her hand caressing her head, Jess spends minutes reading over reports three times over, not paying enough attention the first two times to recall what she’d read.
“We want freedom! We want freedom!” the people begin shouting, the chant’s change immediately pulling Jess’ attention back towards the window, her eyes widening as they find the silk, blue curtains. Her tapping only increasing in its speed, Jess pays her attention to her breathing, again failing to understand the documents she’d begun investing her time into, her mind continuing to pull itself back towards the depraved audience gathered at her front step.
“Feed us! Feed us! Feed us!” the crowd continues to chant, the change instantly pulling Jess’ attention back, her hand slamming against the desk in anger. Forcing her breaths back into line, Jess lets the papers fall from her grasp, both hands now wrapping themselves around the woman’s forehead as she begins to sweat, her wrath drowning out everything other than the chants.
“Die, Callis, Die! Die, Callis, Die!” the crowd starts chanting, their words now the only thing that Jess can hear, each chant dragging itself through Jess’ mind like a set of nails upon a chalkboard. Trembling with rage, Jess’ boiling point reaches its climax, any hope of her composure returning now lost. Retrieving a grenade from one of the drawers, Jess leaves her seat and charges at the window, throwing the curtain to the side and forcing the aperture open.
As if she were in a dream, the world goes numb, her nauseating fury consuming every last action she takes. Removing the pin, Jess pulls her arm back, eyes kept upon the gathered sea of unknowing protesters until the moment her wrist finds itself within a tight, firm grasp. Glancing back, Jess looks at her husband, the side of his face heavily scarred from the bullet’s exit wound and his jaw held in place with two factory-grade screws.
Finally able to hear her own breath, Jess stares at her husband in surprise, his hand trapping her grenade-wielding hand in place. “Put, the pin, back” John grunts, his remaining teeth unable to separate, forcing him to speak through unimaginable pain. Jarred from her enraged, near-criminal act, Jess returns the pin to her explosive and places it into John’s hand, the man walking off to return it to where it belongs, hidden far within his desk.
“Those are the first words you’ve said to me in months” Jess mutters in disbelief, watching the man stand over his desk, looking at it in silence for a brief few seconds before leaving. Chased after by his wife, John walks for his bedroom, hand reaching for the doorknob before stopping mere inches away from it. “John, please talk to me” Jess pleads, stopping with the man as his eyes take towards something else, gliding across the hallway towards a set of splintered, wooden stairs.
“John, please say something” Jess begs, teary up at her husband’s empty expression, no joy or sadness in his face, only a look towards the nearest stairwell. “John, I’m-” Jess begins to plead, interrupted by her husband’s departure, his feet carrying him towards the creak-abundant staircase. Remaining silent for the rest of the walk, Jess follows her husband up the winding stairwell, ascending to the highest point of the home, and pausing to watch her husband walk on.
Hidden behind two-way glass, John looks out at the massive crowd of spectators, disappointed at the sheer number of people cheering for his resignation. “Emilio thinks there’s about half the compound out there” Jess says from afar, unable to see John’s eyes pressing together, the sight only worsened as far as he’s concerned. “In fairness, they’re not mad at you” Jess continues, stepping up to her husband’s side, “they’re mad at the food situation, and at the outsider situation. My doings.”
A tear rolling down the side of his face, John continues to stare blankly at the crowd below, his lips parting to speak briefly. “You did what I would have done” John grunts, turning to find the relieved expression on his wife’s face, “they’re mad at me if they’re mad at you.” Looking back at the concentrated mass of humanity below, the married couple look on in silence, allowing minutes to pass before John finally speaks again, chills sent down his own spine.
“I can’t help them, can I?” John grunts, his chest expanding with every breath. “I-” Jess replies, looking down at the crowd below, an instant doubt creeping in the moment her eyes fall upon them, her instincts answering on her behalf. “I don’t think so” Jess answers, comforted in the knowledge of her honesty. The air, silent once again, grows calm, remaining so as John pulls away from the bell tower, returning to the spiral steps at the back of the room.
“Wait, what is that?” Jess calls out, curious to the ease in which her husband accepted his short-comings, taking it as a display of forfeiture, “you’re just giving up?” Looking back, John takes the first step downwards, his hand latching onto the bannister as he turns to his wife. “No” John grunts, a disheartened look on his once expressionless face, “I’m just trying something new.”
His departing statement made, John descends below floor level, returning to his office as Jess stays behind, watching her husband depart whilst listening to the furious crowd chant for her husband’s dismissal.
“I was told you wanted to talk to me” Lauren remarks, catching her girlfriend by surprise. “I’m glad Jerome got you the message” Tori replies, a relieved tone in her voice, “I wanted to-”
“Did you kill Kelsey?” Lauren asks immediately, not taking interest in what Tori has to say otherwise, interrupting the woman to bring her only question to the forefront. “Lauren, why does-?” Tori replies, refusing to answer the question until Lauren forces her, drawing her gun and taking aim at Tori’s head, silencing the woman instantly.
“I don’t want bullshit, I don’t want you dancing around the truth either. I want the truth for once” Lauren explains, the gun bringing Tori to a complete hush. “The distance between here and the apartments was too much to carry me, and our stuff, all this way” Lauren explains, sobbing as she builds her case, “she didn’t just disappear, Victoria. Now tell me the truth.”
Licking her bottom lip, Tori looks away from Lauren, a guilty look given as her eyes trail away. “Lauren, I-” Tori softly begins to reply, interrupted once again by Lauren’s enraged shouts. “Answer the fucking question, Tori!” Lauren challenges, pulling the hammer back and resting her finger on the trigger, locking eyes with Tori. With a defeated sigh, Tori tilts her head and looks away, her mind wandering elsewhere before she finally opens her mouth to speak.
“She was bit” Tori replies, her head hanging before she can ever lock eyes with Lauren again, a pit quickly forming in her stomach. “Wh- what?” Lauren replies with a whimper, her jaw trembling as tears begin to roll from the lids of her eyes. “No, I don’t believe you” Lauren decides, shaking her head as she makes up her mind. “Why? You said it yourself, I couldn’t have carried you this whole way” Tori replies, slowly leaving her chair, her hand held towards Lauren, “I didn’t know then.”
“You’re lying” Lauren replies, less confident in her beliefs than she was before, her trigger-finger shaky. “I’m not. I was trying to protect you from the truth. I still am, as a matter of fact” Tori replies, continuing her cautious approach, “I didn’t think you’d be able to handle it.” Biting her lip, Lauren takes three steps back, taking back the distance she’d allowed Tori to close within. “Why would you think that?” Lauren replies, bringing a worried smile over Tori’s face.
“You’re holding a gun to my head, Lore” Tori replies, her shoulders shrugging, “do I really need further explanation?” Biting her bottom lip, Lauren shakes her head without words, steadying her hand. “Don’t come any closer” Lauren suddenly gasps, watching Tori’s foot lift to take another step, paranoia setting into Lauren’s deepest instincts. “Lower the gun and I won’t have to” Tori retorts, her foot lowered back to its initial place.
“I- I can’t” Lauren responds, keeping the weapon exactly level, her eyes locking with Tori’s. “If you don’t lower the gun, I’m going to have to take another step” Tori replies, presenting every shred of patience she has to offer. “Like I said, I’ll shoot you” Lauren replies, keeping her weapon aimed at Tori’s head, her whimpers turning into open weeping, “I don’t want to shoot you.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Tori replies, her tone raised from her previous whisper, taking on a more charming expression, “you wanted to shoot me a minute ago, so this is a step up.” Her eyes kept locked onto Lauren’s, Tori challenges her girlfriend’s willingness to shoot, gambling with her life in hopes of hitting big. Lifting her foot from the floor, Tori takes another step forward, her foot touching the ground to relief.
“Please, stop” Lauren replies, already having failed to live up to her previous threats, the leverage she once had quickly subsiding. “I’m not going to hurt you, I’m not going to stab you, I’m not going to threaten you” Tori explains, taking another step forward to the same life-preserving result, “I’m going to hug you.”
With another slow set of steps, Tori gently rests her hand atop Lauren’s gun, pushing it back to Lauren’s hip with prudence. “Tori-” Lauren sobs, falling into her girlfriend’s arms the moment her gun begins resting upon her side once more. “Don’t talk, it’s alright” Tori whispers, her arms wrapping around the distraught woman as Lauren’s chin tucks into the small of her neck.
Enough hours having passed for the sky to turn dark, Tori lays upon a poorly-stuffed mattress with Lauren at her side, well-indoctrinated into her deepest sleep. A tear rolling down her eye, Tori gently pulls away from her girlfriend, only her head and one arm not tucked beneath the comforter. Holding her sobs back, Tori walks to the entrance of their tent and buttons the folds shut, enclosing the couple within the warm confines of their cloth-covered heaven.
Letting a loud gust of air leave her lungs, Tori wipes the tears from her face and puts on a blank expression, trying to force herself towards a clear headspace. Turning back towards her girlfriend, Tori shakes off the nerves building up within her and begins returning to bed, removing a hand from her pocket, fingers clenched around the handle of a carving knife.
Climbing atop the mattress, Tori positions herself over Lauren, knees pressing into the mattress on each side of the woman. Struggling to follow through with her plan, Tori looks up, whispering to herself words of encouragement. “It’s for your own good” Tori whispers repeatedly, raising her hand to the sky, the blade she caresses pointed towards Lauren’s neck. “She’ll never have to see it coming” Tori whispers, unable to bring her own hand down, “it’s mercy more than murder.”
Her teeth sinking into her lip, Tori hands tremble above her head, unable to bring themselves forward. “Ffuucckk” Tori whispers, her hands dropping limply to her sides, the knife still carried within her grasp. “I can’t do it” Tori whispers to herself, tears rolling down her face once more, acknowledging the weakness she’s been forced to accept, “I can’t-”
Startled into silence, Tori braces for cover the moment a single gunshot rings out, her arms covering the sides of her head as she leans forward. “Lauren!” Tori shouts, her eyes having closed on instinct, “wake u-” Stopping short of her demands, Tori opens her eyes to find Lauren staring back at her, eyes wide open with tears building in her eyes. In disbelief, Tori lets her arms fall from her head, another look given to the woman below her.
“What are you-?” Tori attempts to continue her earlier question, her eyes lowering further from the woman, a small hole, blackened around the edges, having ripped through the comforter. “I- I don’t- What the f-?” Tori stutters, confused over the woman’s hesitance to respond until the white comforter starts to stain red. Looking further down from the burnt hole, Tori follows the blood trail up to herself, finally catching a glimpse at her white tank top, now covered in crimson.
“Lauren...” Tori mutters, wrapping her hands over the bullet wound in her stomach, the knife she once carried falling off the bed and onto the floor. The pain setting in, Tori desperately clings to every breath as she topples to the side, coming to rest beside her murderer. Throwing the cover off of herself, Lauren kneels before her dying girlfriend, holding the side of Tori’s face in her hands.
“I didn’t want this to happen” Lauren tearfully remarks as Tori chokes on the blood pooling in her mouth, “I didn’t want to shoot you.” Hoping to buy herself time, Tori tries to turn onto her side unsuccessfully, her girlfriend’s hands pressing her shoulders back to the mattress, refusing to allow Tori to leave the tent alive. “I’m not going to let you hurt the people I love...” Lauren remarks, watching the life leave Tori’s eyes, “...not again.”
Her breaths diminishing, Tori struggles to break free, convulsing beneath Lauren’s weight as she slips away. “Goodbye” Lauren whispers, pushing Tori’s eyelids shut until her thrashing ceases, her body all that remains of what she once was, her life called to annals of history. Her life secured for the moment, Lauren backs away from her girlfriend’s body, undoing the buttons on the tent and vanishing into the larger compound, the tent’s entrance, much like her girlfriend’s body, left to the open.
“You must really love walking this path” Franklin calls out, his hands folded in his lap while he watches Alicia drunkenly fall into a park bench. “Are you stalking me or something?” Alicia rambles, placing a near-empty bottle of wine on the ground, unable to sit upright. “Not as much as Salem is, apparently” Franklin replies, gently taking the seat beside his inebriated friend, “but she’s told me you walk this path a lot, so when you weren’t at the restaurant, I took a gamble.”
Nodding, Alicia begins laughing to herself, no joke having been said, nothing funny having left Franklin’s mouth, just the incessant laughter of a woman mid-stupor. “You’re funny, Frank” Alicia quips, her comment pulling a chuckle from her well-intentioned friend, “hey, wait! How’d you know I was at a restaurant?”
Aware of how little the woman can comprehend what he says, Franklin cuts his responses into smaller words, talking to the woman as if she were a child too humored by anything serious. “Salem saw you with Neville” Franklin replies, the woman nodding slowly, as if she’d only just understood what was happening, “she told me to check on you.”
Patting the man on the leg, Alicia flashes Franklin a smile, “Well, I’m all good, Frankie” Alicia stutters, failing to pull herself up. “Careful there, ‘Miss Hannigan’” Franklin jokes, catching Alicia before she has the chance to fall on her face, his hands wrapping around her hips. “Wait, why did Salem send you?” Alicia probes, turning to face the man who still holds her by the waist, the pair now facing each other.
“Why wouldn’t she?” Franklin replies, using the woman’s intoxication as an easy way of avoiding the conversation. “I may be drunk, but I’m no stupid person” Alicia replies, her finger raised towards Franklin’s face, aware enough to provoke an answer, “she could have gotten me herself. Why did she choose you?”
With a laugh, Franklin shakes his head, the smile that emerges from behind his lips impossible to ignore. “It’s nothing, it’s honestly nothing” Franklin consistently replies, interrupted each time by the woman within his reach, begging the man for an answer. “Why did she send you?” Alicia continues to ask until Franklin falls silent, his smile having disappeared as his head bows.
“It’s-” Franklin begins to reply, swallowing his pride and offering an answer as his chin is pushed upwards, Alicia’s hand bringing the man’s eyes closer to her own. Losing himself in Alicia’s eyes, Franklin eases his grip on the woman’s waist as her hands rest upon his chest, the cold, winter air silent. “It’s because of you” Franklin replies, finally giving the woman her answer, “it’s because of how I feel about-”
Leaning in, Alicia interjects the man’s answer with a kiss, her lips locking together with Franklin’s for a short, few seconds. “I can’t” Franklin suddenly replies, pulling away from the woman, who in the midst of her intemperance, understands the man’s reasoning. “If this is something you want tomorrow, when all the booze is out of your system, I won’t pull away” Franklin explains, earning a heartfelt smile from the woman cradled in his arms, “but until then, I don’t-”
“It’s fine” Alicia replies, cutting Franklin’s unwarranted explanation short, “when tomorrow comes, it’s whatever will be.” With a nod, Franklin pecks Alicia on the cheek before reaching for the bottle of wine, one cold hand wrapped around the rim whilst the other pulls Alicia close to his side.
“Thanks for letting me in, Courtney” Franklin greets the receptionist, climbing down the last step in his return from Alicia’s apartment, “she should be alright for tonight.” Walking through the vestibule, Franklin returns the building’s copy of Alicia’s key to the young blonde woman behind the front desk, a gracious smile on his face. “Thanks for bringing her back, Franklin” Courtney replies, tucking the key back into a wall-mounted compartment behind her, “you’re one of the good ones.”
“I appreciate that-” Franklin begins to reply, already halfway through the front door before a pair of brass knuckles batters the right side of his face. Toppling over to the sound of ruckus laughter, Franklin tries to regain himself, fighting through his daze to understand what’s just happened. “How’s it been, Franklin?” a familiar voice inquires, standing over the man’s body to watch his eyes dart from one side of the road to another, only noticing the figure above him after a few seconds.
“I see you’re finally without your backup, big guy” Neville remarks, brass knuckles covering four of the five fingers on his right hand, “that was the wrong move, if you ask me.” Trying to climb back to his feet, Franklin’s side takes another brass-weighted strike, a groan piercing through Franklin’s lips. “You don’t question leadership around here, Frankie!” Neville shouts, punching Franklin in the face again, this time inflicting a deep gash over the man’s right eye.
“I’ve done nothing to you!” Franklin shouts after a few moments, seething in pain, his hands wrapped around his ribs. “I can see what you mean, Neville” a feminine voice calls from afar, two men following closely behind her, “he’s certainly a brick-fucking-building.” Gazing over at the woman, Franklin tries to identify the blonde hair and slim frame to no avail, his pain only worsening.
“That’s what I’ve been telling you!” Neville replies, still standing over Franklin’s battered frame, “Mr. New York is nothing compared to this clown.” Still wincing, Franklin crawls to a seat, his eyes continuing to study the woman he’s unreasonably familiar with. “Mr. New York?” Franklin wonders aloud, the humorous banter between his assailants pausing upon his inquiry, “who are you talking about?”
“It doesn’t matter” Neville replies, stepping forward to deliver another strike, his efforts thwarted upon the woman’s command. “Stand down, Neville” the woman orders, waiting for seconds to pass before the man musters up the will to do as told, stepping back to rejoin her fleet of militants. “Why do you care?” the woman wonders, kneeling beside the man’s seated figure, her eyes staring directly into Franklin’s own, “do you know someone named Mr. New York?”
Sitting upright, Franklin continues to grab at his ribs, looking the woman in the face as he shakes his head. “No, but I’ve heard of a compound in New York. I heard it was taken over recently” Franklin replies, maintaining the eye contact this woman has silently insisted upon, “and I’ve also heard about this collection of camps. They all seem to be led by a blonde woman, who all the camp leaders answer to from what I know.”
Looking back to Neville, Franklin musters a smile in the corner of his mouth, a chuckle leaving him. “As far as superiors go, there aren’t many I can imagine Neville here, having to answer to” Franklin explains through struggling-breaths, a smile emerging from behind his lips as he looks back to the woman beside him, “but he sure seemed to listen to you pretty well.”
Turning his head, Franklin spits a wad of blood out of his mouth, extending his free hand to the woman. “I’m Franklin Carter” the man introduces himself, the amused woman reaching up to lock her hands with Franklin’s own, “Charlotte Walters. The pleasure’s all mine.” Stepping away from the man, Charlotte once more barks orders to Neville, orders the compound’s leader doesn’t view favorably.
“You are not to touch this man again, do you understand?” Charlotte explains, using the proceeding silence to voice her observation, “brawn and brains is too good of a combination to be beating like a school bully.” Gritting his teeth, Neville looks to Charlotte and quietly nods in her direction, glaring intently at his pleased victim. “Yeah, Neville” Franklin replies, giving the man a wink, “don’t touch me again.”
Amused, Charlotte chuckles as she walks away, leading Neville and her bodyguards back to where they came. Bursting through the front doors, Courtney helps pull Franklin to his feet, flabbergasted at the sights she’d just witnessed. “What the hell was that!?” Courtney wonders aloud, her question bringing a smile over Franklin’s face. “That!?” Franklin asks with a pain-inducing laugh, “that was our ticket out of here.”
Loathing the reflection he finds staring at him through the bathroom mirror, John’s lip curls in disgust, his eyes fixating on the two horrid screws at each side of his mouth. Carrying a pair of pliers, John’s trembling hand begins to excessively tap the metal head against the underbelly of his porcelain sink, allowing his hostility to fester. Lifting the pliers, John fits the open tongs over one screw head, his ears catching onto the faint chants from afar, the residents stoking their hatred.
Taking the tool’s handle into both hands, John lets a gust of air rush from his lungs before pulling back, the screw’s ridged, winding body ripping through his flesh with immense pain. Concealing his screams as best as he can, John tugs at the stumpy insert until it falls from his face, staining his perfectly white stink a horrifying shade of red.
Wasting no time, John lifts the pliers to the other side of his face, grabbing the second screw with the tongs. “Damnit” John mutters to himself, noticing his shake-happy hand in the last possible moment, his muscles still as a statue, not a move out of place. Pushing his cares aside, John rips at the second screw as he had the first, letting it dance around the porcelain bowl beneath him as the first had, clattering against the blood-stained walls before coming to a rest.
Taking in one heavy breath at a time, John hunches over the sink to watch his blood drip from his chin, his wife’s disappointed shout from afar catching his ear. “Goddamnit! I explicitly told them not to!” Jess proclaims, her voice muffled behind John’s locked bathroom door. Slowly looking back to the mirror, John looks to his reflection with less vigor, watching two, long lines of blood run from each side of his face, trailing down his neck and staining the collar of his grey shirt.
His mind racing, John leaves the bathroom and enters his bedroom, his eyes set on one drawer in particular. Reaching into the compartment, John takes a pistol into his hands, fingers squeezing the grip while he inspects the weapon, mustering the will to take ownership of it again. Biting into his lip, John turns back to the hallway, his feet carrying him through the narrow corridors and down the stairs, a sight both Jess and Dr. Ringwald watch in surprise at the bottom.
“Oh my god, what happened to your face!?” Ringwald wonders instinctively, taking poorly to the blood running down John’s chin. Pulling Ringwald’s hand out, John places his bloody screws into the man’s palm, gorily returning them to their rightful owner. “John, why did you-?” Ringwald begins to ask, the blood-soaked palm John stretches towards the doctor’s face bringing the man to a silence.
“If I don’t have a mouth, I can’t scream” John responds, his statement brief. “What were you groaning over a minute ago?” John turns to ask his wife, Jess’ concern somewhat blinding her reaction. “Wh-? Oh! Dr. Ringwald told me Katie and Troy found a map Charlotte left behind and decided to go inspect some places on it despite the fact that I explicitly told them not to” Jess replies, her husband’s eyes trailing off towards the front door.
“Why’d you tell them not to?” John replies, still in visible pain each time he needs to speak. “Can’t you hear the people on the other side of this door?” Jess retorts, a despair-ridden chuckle interrupting her response, “we need all the hands we can get inside these walls.” A breath leaving his nostrils, John lets out a smile, the toothless side of his face presenting itself to his wife and his doctor.
“Not after this, we won’t” John remarks, stepping forward to open the front door, exposing the inside of his home to the midnight sky for the first time in months. “Die, Callis, Die!” the crowd chants at first, their depleting chants quickly falling silent upon the man’s appearance, the radio silence they had received for months only encouraging a total silence.
Two lines of free-flowing blood progressively staining his shirt, John looks out at the mass gathering, intensely staring at the front line with a menacing posture. “Can I borrow that?” John turns to ask a nearby guard, noticing the bullhorn carried in the militant’s hand. Giving John a nod, the militant places the loudspeaker into John’s possession, the crowd now silent enough to hear a whisper from miles away.
“You may not believe me, but I’ve heard you” John declares, speaking to the captive audience, their ears in his sole possession. “You have no idea how much I’ve wanted to speak to you, how much I’ve wanted to address everything you’ve asked” John explains, eyes glazing over the many before him, “how much I’ve wanted to finish the job I started, and do right by this community in ways Charlotte never could.”
Taking his left hand, John swipes at the cavity left in the side of his face, staining the tip of his fingers with blood before holding it towards the audience. “For the last four months, my jaw has been held together by screws. I had no mouth, and I was desperate to scream” John continues, his head hanging upon further recollection, “but somewhere along the way, I stopped caring. I couldn’t think for you, but only for what I’d failed to do. My care depleted, and hate consumed me.”
Falling silent, John thinks to himself in silence, not a soul daring to interrupt him whilst the bullhorn remains within his reach. “I fought Charlotte to save this compound from her influence” John explains, looking back to the sea, “she gave you a wall, and in return, she took your civility.” Looking at him with confusion, the crowd begins to fall from John’s train of thought, looking up at the man, just as they imagine themselves to be viewed through his lens.
“I’ve welcomed those from the outside within our walls, and instantly, you banished them to tents in the barest corner of the community” John explains, his words showing a scathing hatred for those beneath him, “you viewed yourselves, not as equals, but as superiors. You want privilege, not promises.”
Growing disheartened, a few members of the crowd begin to boo, the jeers only provoking further disapproving sounds to emerge, middle fingers and vulgar shouts prevailing. Hiding a smile, John recognizes the response to only act as validity to his statement, welcoming the collective jeers before brandishing his firearm. “You will be silent!” John screams through the bullhorn, firing a round into the heavens to a collective scream, the mob falling silent instantly.
Basking in the reaction, John lowers his weapon, holding it gracefully by his side as he returns the bullhorn to his lips. “This. This is the feverish degree that you will all go to get what you want, to take what you crave” John explains, allowing the bullhorn to bob within his still-steady hand, “you don’t hate me because I’ve stolen what you are, you hate me because I don’t bend to your every will. You hate me because I hate what you are, and you can’t bear to be anything but right.”
The anxious disgust that pervades through the crowd left without a funnel, John continues his declaration uninterrupted. “Wanting me gone is not noble, you’re not changing the world for the better, you’re trying to mold it into your image. A selfish, greedy, vile illustration of humanity at its worst, humanity at its most evil” the man confesses, allowing the smile hidden behind his lips to present itself to the world, “I won’t have it.”
Expressing his command over those at his feet, John seats himself at the very top step, his gun resting on his thigh whilst his bullhorn-wielding arm plants its elbow at his hip. “One thing you’ve failed to realize is how feeble you all are, how incapable you are of understanding how the world works” John continues, pointing his finger towards the distance, “you haven’t lived beyond these walls. You are just as you were before everything feels like a ton of bricks.”
Laughing into the bullhorn, John shakes his head in disapproval, illustrating his superiority over the rest of the compound. “You think like someone who believes they have a voice. You get together, call for answers from me, and fail to see how weak you truly are” John continues, only allowing the hatred he’s looked at with to fester, “your protests change nothing, your protests do nothing. In the old world, leaders had to pretend to care about you. But now? I don’t give a fuck about you.”
Raising his weapon, John aims blindly into the crowd, watching people stumble over each other in hopes of finding cover, unsure whether or not the man would pull the trigger. “This is a new world now, and threatening my family, threatening my loved ones, or trying to strong-arm your way into selfish demands will not be tolerated” John concludes, lowering the gun back to his lap.
“If nothing else is, let me make this abundantly clear” John finishes, standing to his feet, keeping the gun to his lap, and looking down at those collected before him, “I don’t answer to you, you answer to me.” Returning the bullhorn to its rightful owner, John turns away from the awestruck crowd and returns to his home, slamming the door shut behind him. “New plan” John callously remarks to his wife and his doctor, “it’s time to catch these people up to speed.”
“Back to your homes, people!” the bullhorn-wielding militant commands, separating the crowd with an ease they’d not had in months. “I’m pleased with this result” Jerome remarks from afar, sneaking his way back to the outsiders’ tents, his dark clothing helping him find cover from the dark sky above. After a few minutes, the tents remain quiet, the grounds surrounding them remaining peaceful and undisturbed.
“GrrAaarrggghhh” a growl soon emerges from within the quiet night, gusts of wind causing the cloths from various tents to flap in the breeze, only making the growling wails more distinct. Parting the beige-colored curtains, a glassy-eyed Tori emerges from her tent, her skin pale and her blood dried. Hearing the faint call of a woman in the distance, the zombified figure stumbles through the cold, grassless dirt, dragging herself back into town, wandering to where life can be found.
== Rise: Remastered ==