Staring at the ceiling above, John endures another restless night, his legs growing tense as the early morning progresses, his hand shaking as it’s always seemed to. Letting out a deep, drawn out sigh, John lifts himself out of bed, the covers once draped over him now tossed onto his wife’s side of the bed. “Don’t leave” Jess whispers, reaching out for her husband’s hand, her wishful grasp taking John by the wrist, “stay with me.”
Looking back, John finds the white’s of his wife’s eyes staring back at him, peering through the shadows that cover the rest of her face. Attempting to respond, John turns to the woman as her hand leaves his wrist, one finger placed upon his lips before he can have the chance to speak, encouraging him not to. “Stay with me” Jess repeats, the hopeful expression she wears proudly only fueling John’s desire to give into her demands.
Falling back into the indent his body had made in the bed, John rests his head atop his pillow once more, his head turning towards his wife as she places her arm over his chest. “Why do you want me to stay?” John whispers, his left hand sliding beneath her resting head, wrapping itself around her back. “Do you really have to ask?” Jess replies, cuddling up to her husband, her chin resting on his peck while her husband’s rests at the top of her head, “just stay.”
Silent for the next few minutes, the couple gets more comfortable, their eyes closing as they take the time to appreciate the moment. “I’m worried that we’re going to fall apart” Jess abruptly confesses, tears beginning to squeeze through her tightly-shut eyelids. “What?” John whispers, his eyelids now fully parted, “what do you mean by that?”
Choking on her words, Jess holds back the tears she has left to shed as she holds her husband closer, the fear of losing what she has right now weighing on her deeply. “You shut down. Everyone, no matter who it was, you just shut them out” Jess explains, kneading her husband’s chest, “I was just like everyone else. You were rigid, and cold. You shut me out like them, and I didn’t know what I did wrong.”
His lip quivering as much as his hand shakes, John pulls his wife closer, his chin pressing down on the woman’s head again. “It’s not you, Jess. I’m the only one that’s ever been in my own way” John replies, his hand running up and down his wife’s shoulder, “I can’t look in the mirror without seeing something I hate. I can’t sleep without playing every wrong move I’ve made like a slideshow in the back of my eyelids. I don’t know who I am without you, or without Amy. You’re my only identity.”
A puff of air leaving her lungs, Jess runs her hand down the length of her husband’s abdomen, her arm reaching over the opposite side of the man’s body. “What you see in the mirror isn’t the truth” Jess replies, pulling away from her husband’s chest, John’s eyes locking with her own, “I’ve only ever admired what you see in the mirror. I’ve never hated it, and I’ve never even thought to. While you see something you hate, I see something I wouldn’t want to live without.”
Biting his lip, a lone tear falls from the man’s eyes, running down the length of his face. Licking his dry lip, John chokes on his words, only able to ask one question before the tears he’d built up begin falling at their own will. “What if the thing you admire, and the thing that I hate, are one in the same?” John replies, finally giving into the buildup he’d allowed his emotions to become, leaving them to fester within the deepest chasms of his conscience.
Ripped from their conversation, the married couple leap out of surprise when a heavy fist begins repeatedly pushing their bedroom door in. “Wake up!” Emilio’s distant voice exclaims, forcing John to leave his wife’s side to answer the door. “What the hell is going on!?” John exclaims, stood in the doorway in only a blue pair of boxers, his hair a disheveled mess. “The dead!” Emilio proclaims, those two words striking fear within John’s heart, “they’ve gotten inside!”
His jaw dropped, John pulls himself from the speechless awe he’d noticed himself enter, reclaiming power over the New World Order. “Find Jerome, tell him to meet us in the dungeons, and tell him to bring his best men” John explains, picking up the white t-shirt he’d left on the ground late the night prior, “I know this is a big ask, but I need you and Bill to sneak out the back and go after Troy and Katie.”
“What? Why?” Emilio replies, John pulling a pair of pants over his legs whilst his naked wife grabs the first shirt and pair of sweatpants she finds in nearby drawers. “Because I’m pretty sure Janice’s tactic is going to be ‘fire at dead people from a tree’, Meghan will go around helping those that need it, and Jack’s circle will slaughter anything that moves” John replies, aggravatedly buttoning a pair of khakis, “if anyone nips this in the bud from the ground, it’s probably Troy and Katie.”
Struggling to respond, Emilio stands in the doorway with a blank expression, struggling to make sense of his orders. “John, I’ve never been outside the walls like that” Emilio replies, a fair amount of fear consuming his mind, something John notices instantly. “I don’t know how to li-” Emilio begins to say, his words fading into nothing once John takes him by the shoulders, explaining everything with unimpeded eye contact.
“Em, we can’t depend on this wall forever. At some point, we all need to figure out how to live beyond this compound for our own good” John explains, placing his pistol in Emilio’s hands, “Bill’s been out there, that’s why I’m sending the two of you.”
“But I don’t even know where they went!” Bill explains, his concerns answered directly once more. Reaching for a nearby, two-way radio, John calls for the resident doctor. “John, it’s three in the morning” Ringwald groans, the stirring from his slumber obvious in the tone of his voice. “Doc, I need to know where Troy and Katie were going before they left the camp” John explains, waiting patiently for the man’s response.
“They said they were following a hike trail to some rundown school, they’re probably northbound about ten klicks out, why?” Ringwald replies, bringing a shrug from John towards Emilio. “Listen, Doc. The dead got inside the compound some how, I need you to get somewhere safe and don’t leave until I tell you” John explains, hearing the shuffled confusion on the other end, “we’ve got one doctor in this camp, and I’m not interested in him getting served medium rare, understand?”
Tossing the radio to his wife, John returns his attention to the man before him. “Bill’s been training with the front line, so I’m sure you’ll see Jerome when you go looking for Bill” John explains, wrapping Emilio’s fingers around the firearm’s grip, “get him, get to Troy and Katie, get back, and let’s clean this mess up, alright?”
Anxiously frowning, Emilio forces himself to nod, accepting the path John has set him on as he walks off. “Why are we going to the dungeons?” Jess inquires, throwing a loose shirt over her bare chest while fitting her feet into a pair of combat boots. “When shit goes wrong, instincts take over. There’s a fair chance I angered someone last night that could use this as an opportunity to take us out” John explains, walking for a bookshelf at the back of the room.
“We need to get somewhere we can control the entry points of. Decide who gets in and who gets out” John explains, pulling the wooden shelving out to reveal a hidden compartment filled with weapons and ammunition. “Why are we meeting Jerome down there? Shouldn’t he be helping the front line?” Jess replies, watching her husband’s head fall, a look of defeat written across his face, “what’s wrong?”
“He should be helping the front line, but I’m pretty sure he won’t” John replies, retrieving two automatic rifles, multiple rounds of ammunition, two knapsacks, and two concealed blades. “You’re being vague, John. What are you trying to get at?” Jess replies, her husband’s head shaking. “The crops being burnt, the way Charlotte knew about the coup, how Lauren knew there was a rear entrance, maybe this invasion” John explains, loading one of the rifles, “it must be Jerome.”
“Wh-?” Jess replies, following the breadcrumb trail to the point John’s attempting to make. “It’s fine, Jess. You couldn’t have known without-” John begins, trying to calm the woman’s self-contempt at first, his efforts quashed immediately. “No, John. It’s not that, it’s-” Jess replies, cut off instantly by the distant sound of air raid sirens, their call breaking through the air for miles, “I gave him control of the front gates.”
Looking to his wife with widened eyes, John’s mouth hangs open, his heart having succumbed to the fear that the approaching dawn brings.
“Get ‘em open!” Jerome shouts, his face illuminated by the distant strobe lights fixed to the sirens, his smile peering through his lips as the massive doors part, revealing the inner sanctum to the outside world. “Cut it!” Jerome calls out below, watching his closest confidants fulfill his commands, taking bolt cutters to the pulley system, ensuring the doors remain open for as long as they stand.
“It’s time, boys!” Jerome shouts proudly, throwing the strap of his assault rifle over his chest, “this has been ours since we got here, and there’s no one to stop us from taking it for ourselves.” Cheering and clapping amongst themselves, Jerome’s militants stare to the peak of the wall, their leader raising his fist into the sky. “We fight for what’s right, tonight!” Jerome exclaims, another loud cheer leaving the lungs of those many feet below, “we take what’s ours, now.”
= 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 =
Her eyes crusted over, Alicia rolls off her stomach and grabs at her head, the headache that comes over her only just drowned out by the fast-approaching nausea that pulls her out of bed. Spitting the taste of sickness into the toilet she’d thrown up in, Alicia drags herself back to the bedroom, her hands taking the curtains and parting them slowly.
Turning away at the first sight of sunlight, Alicia returns to bed, throwing the covers over herself and preparing to drift off into sleep once more. Stretching her hand towards her alarm clock, Alicia’s knuckles push over a smooth glass bottle, causing it to shatter on the hardwood floor. “Fuck” Alicia groans to herself, rolling her eyes as she leaves her bed again, walking to her door to flip a lightswitch.
Her bed splashed with dark red wine, Alicia looks at the maroon puddle gathered beneath a pile of shattered, green glass. “What the fuck was I up to last night?” Alicia whispers to herself, walking to her kitchen to grab a roll of paper towels.
Collecting the glass into a dustpan, Alicia discards the broken bottle and hunches over the kitchen counter, her stomach still turning from the night prior, sweaty strands of loose hair uncomfortably falling over her face. Taking a tray of ice from her ice box, Alicia turns to return to her room, her bed only a few steps away by the time her leg stiffens, a hot, searing pain shooting upwards from her calf, still lingering up to her thigh.
The tray falling from her hand, Alicia collapses on the ground, both hands squeezing her leg as she shrieks beneath her breath, tears falling from her eyes as she crawls to the bathroom. Using the bathroom’s door frame to pull herself up, Alicia throws herself into the porcelain sink, immediately reaching for the medicine cabinet, one transparent, orange bottle with pills left waiting for her.
Twisting the child-proof top, Alicia looks at the cylindrical white tablets inside, reaching two fingers inside before pausing, putting aside the pain to consider her choices. Unable to keep herself from crying, Alicia places the bottle down and takes a seat on the lip of her bathtub, her leg stretched towards the door, unwilling to bend even the slightest amount. Biting her knuckles, Alicia’s eyes wander back towards the uncapped bottle, a desire to give in building deep within her.
Eventually capping the bottle, Alicia tucks the container in her pocket and leaves her bathroom, her intent being to return to her kitchen with the broken tray of ice until her mind wanders elsewhere. Stood in her room, Alicia looks back to her nightstand, her eyes resting on the top-most shelf. Sliding the wooden frame out, Alicia’s sights set on her hunting knife, it’s blade covered in dust from the lack of use, yet still clean enough to reflect Alicia’s image towards herself.
“Hey, Courtney” Alicia joyfully greets, a large overcoat fitted over her shoulders and a small bag carried at her side, “I’m heading out for the morning.” Off put by the woman’s presence, Courtney gives Alicia a smile and nod, hiding a desire to say more, one Alicia recognizes immediately. “Are you alright?” the resident wonders aloud, the struggle Courtney has to speak at first affording Alicia her answer.
“What’s wrong?” Alicia asks, turning her walk towards the front desk, a few steps taken forward until Courtney pleads for her to stop. “Don’t walk any closer! I don’t want to look like I’m talking to you” Courtney explains, her hands held out as if Alicia were coming after her with a weapon. “Courtney, what’s going on? This isn’t like you at all” Alicia explains, the nervous terror Courtney trembles with beginning to frighten the departing survivor.
“Are you going to see Franklin?” Courtney replies, repeating the question upon Alicia’s attempt to reset the conversation. “Are you seeing Franklin, yes or no!?” Courtney exclaims, dragging her answer from the tenant. “No, that wasn’t my intention” Alicia replies, taking a few short steps backwards. “Well, you should. You should see him right now” Courtney replies, backing into a small office plot, closing the door on her way in, “when you see him, blame Neville.”
Disappearing behind the door, Courtney leaves a dumbfounded Alicia standing in complete astonishment, unable to comprehend the oddity that she’d just watched.
“Where’d Tyler go?” Jack wonders aloud, carrying three pints of beer to a table Reggie and Shauna already occupy. “It’s Tyler, he’s off doing his own thing somewhere” Shauna replies, grabbing at the pint of lager and downing a quarter of it before Jack can even sit down. “I think he’s starting to settle in” Reggie states, watching the foam dissipate at the top of his mug, “it’s not a good sign.”
“Why not?” Jack replies, kicking one leg over the other, a swig taken from his glass. “Reggie doesn’t want to stay here anymore” Shauna replies, setting her glass upon a coaster, “I don’t either.” Surprised, Jack leans towards the table, his eyes fixated on the beer-chugging woman. “Where else do you think we’ll go?” Jack replies, breaking a smile at the thought he’s deemed to be ludicrous, “we spent months trying to get here, and a few months extra in prison. Why would we leave?”
“We don’t belong here, Jack” Reggie quickly replies, still staring at the froth now ducking below the rim of his glass, peering at Jack out of the corner of his eye, “we never have, and that’s not changing.” Recognizing himself as being outnumbered, Jack leans into his chair, digesting the situation before turning it onto its head. “We have food, we have water, we have a place to sleep” Jack explains, both hands placed atop the table he sits at, “we’re not finding any of that out there now.”
“We’ve got a better chance of making it out there than we do in here” Shauna replies, becoming Jack’s central focus. “How do you figure that?” Jack counters, shaking his head at the woman, “we barely survived last winter, and we’re just at the start of another one. Go ahead and tell me that what I’m suggesting is crazier than whatever you’ve got planned.”
“You haven’t suggested anything” Reggie replies, finally pulling his head up, looking Jack in the eyes, “you’re just trying to convince us not to leave.” Taking his hands to the air, Jack slams them back down, his eyes widened. “You’re damn right I’m trying to convince you not to” Jack replies, laughing at the man’s meager expression, “I’m trying to keep you two from committing the most drawn-out form of self-sabotage I’ve ever seen!”
Sharing glances between the couple on either side of himself, Jack begins to notice the unity they’ve taken in their decision, accepting the impossibility of trying to dissuade the two. “What happened to ‘we look out for each other’?” Jack changes course, the humor he took from the outlandish suggestions offered falling into utter despair, “where the hell did that go?”
“We never said you couldn’t come with us” Reggie replies, watching Jack’s face turn towards him, his friend’s eyebrows raised. “You don’t need to. I’m not going with the two of you” Jack replies, standing from his barstool, his beer taken in hand, “I’ve done my part, the two of you can make whatever decisions you want. If your wish is to self-immolate, I’m not striking the match, and I’m not dousing myself in gasoline.”
Stepping away from the table, Jack begins walking for the bar, a stipend in his hand. “Thanks for the drink” Jack offers as his departing words to the woman, reaching for his wallet as he notices a distraught woman at the end of the bar, a near-empty pitcher sat in front of her, “and here’s some extra for the refill that woman over there seems to be in need of.”
Taking himself around the lengthy tavern counter, Jack walks up to the woman’s side unnoticed, the red, puffy eyes she wears suggesting a rougher night than most. “You’re Lauren right?” Jack asks, the woman’s head resting against her folded arm as the bartender fills her second pint, “is this seat taken?” Pulling her head back, Lauren glances at the empty stool, the seat already pulled halfway out from the counter.
“It sure is” the woman replies, kicking her leg onto the seat and returning to her blank, aimless fixation. Rolling his eyes, Jack pushes Lauren’s leg from the seat, sitting beside the unamused bar dweller. “You look like you’ve had a rough night” Jack begins the conversation, his efforts changing little. “I have no idea what could’ve given that away” Lauren remarks in a monotone voice, unphased by the man’s apparent act of selflessness.
Wrapping his hands around the mug, Jack sits in silence, joining the woman in aimless gaze to the backdrop of eighties disco playing through a stereo system in the back of the building. “If you ever wanted to talk about-” Jack begins again, interjecting conversation into the moment again, much to Lauren’s displeasure. “I’ll see you around, dude” Lauren cuts Jack off, taking her glass as she leaves the bar, wandering elsewhere, “thanks for the drink.”
Alone once more, this time in a literal sense, Jack remains at the end of the counter, a deep sigh leaving his lungs as he looks back to his friends, Reggie and Shauna both staring back at him in the same moment. Leaving his glass where it lies, Jack makes for the front doors, his hand reaching towards the front doors as an unfamiliar siren begins to blare through the night sky, stroke lights intently flashing from a radio antenna just above an old control tower.
“What the hell’s going on!?” one frightened patron exclaims, hurrying with the rest of the buzzed, late-night drinkers, the petrified bar owner answering his question from afar. “It’s the breach alarm” the woman replies, her eyes widened, words emanating with little composure, “the dead have gotten inside.”
“Of course they left on the same night the camp gets infiltrated, why am I not surprised!?” Bill exclaims, his heavy combat boots pressing into thin dirt. “That’s beside the point at this rate, the focus is-” Emilio retorts, cutting himself off with a gasp, his quick feet kicking up dirt while he comes to a full stop. “What the hell!?” Bill shouts, watching an incredible horde of the undead haul themselves through the separated metal doors, roaming the compound with nothing to stop them.
“Where are the guards!?” Emilio wonders aloud, struggling to move from his rigid, fear-induced stall. “I can ask the same damn question!” Bill exclaims, pulling his rifle from his shoulder and firing into the rotting cannibals that walk his way. “Bill, you’re not gonna get them all!” Emilio exclaims, throwing his boyfriend’s aim off by tugging at his shoulder, “save yourself the trouble and the ammo. We’ve got to go!”
Backing away from the horde, Bill shakes his head in refusal, an apologetic look in his eye. “Em, something’s off about all of this!” Bill exclaims, refusing to follow Emilio towards the rear exit. “Bill, whatever’s going on, I’m sure Jerome’s got people working on things, so can we just-?” Emilio replies, pulling Bill’s arm once more to lead him away, the resistance his boyfriend responds to him with impeding his progress.
“Em, there’s no one on the wall!” Bill exclaims, his hand waving at the oncoming horde, “if Jerome knew about this, he’d be-” Pausing himself, Bill looks to his boyfriend with a widened-eye silence, the realization suddenly dawning upon him. “He knows about this” Bill mutters beneath his breath, too soft for Emilio to hear.
“The scavengers, Charlotte, the invasion, the crops, it was him!” Bill shouts, puzzling the man beside him. Acting on his instincts, Bill throws his rifle off his torso and shoves it into Emilio’s arms. “You need to go after them yourself, ‘Em” Bill explains, watching the man’s face turn sour, Emilio’s head shaking in refusal. “I can’t go out there alone, are you fucking crazy!?” Emilio shouts, unable to hold the assault rifle properly, “you’re the only one that’s gone out there, that’s why I-!”
“Emilio, if I don’t get to John, this entire camp’s gonna be overrun by sunrise” Bill explains, trying to speak through a calm, collected voice. “I can’t” Emilio whispers, dreading the thought of leaving the compound alone. “‘Em, you’re going to be fine” Bill replies, pulling his boyfriend into a kiss, his forehead resting upon his partner’s, “people are more dangerous than the dead, and we’ve already seen the worst of those.”
Pulling back slowly, Bill flashes Emilio a smile, his pearly-white teeth appearing through his chapped lips. “Go now, before it’s too late” Bill whispers, pulling the rest of the way from the man before charging back into the greater compound area, leaving Emilio to face departure alone.
“Who is it?” a feminine voice calls from the other side of a thin door, refusing to open the divider without an answer. “It’s Alicia” the guest calls back, waiting in the cold, heat-deprived hallway as the residents beyond her view debate whether or not to grant her entry. Noticing Heather’s face immediately upon the door’s opening, Alicia gives the pilot a wave, greeting her with the basic, friendly response any visitor would.
“How’s it going?” Alicia asks, her question left without a response as Heather moves aside, allowing her room to walk in. “Hey, Salem” Alicia greets, finding her friend in the far-off corner of the dainty apartment she’s entered, Salem’s shoulder left cold to Alicia’s greeting. “I was told to check up on Franklin by a rather paranoid receptionist” Alicia jokes, awkwardly rubbing her arms to offset the uncomfortability she can sense her presence causes.
“He’s up on the roof” Salem replies, taking the blade of a small strawberry knife across the edge of a green apple, licking the slides directly from the blade. “Okay” Alicia replies with less enthusiasm, bowing her head as she turns around, leaving as soon as she can manage to. “Do you still feel the way you did when I tried to leave you and Franklin last year?” Salem calls out, stopping Alicia from fully walking through the front door.
Her uncomfortable smile dissipating in favor of a narrow frown, her eyes dropping as she returns to the glorified shoe box apartment. “I’m sure they still are somewhere deep down” Alicia replies, a pleasant tone returned to the conflicted, apple-devouring secret-keeper. “Is that all?” Alicia asks aloud, her head falling to the side, looking at Salem with a half-smile.
“I guess so” Salem replies, shrugging her shoulders with a holier-than-thou attitude, “have fun.” Letting out a sigh, Alicia nods to Salem on her way through the door, a deep knot forming in the pit of her stomach, a pit that tempts her to return Salem’s curiosity. Thinking about her choices briefly, Alicia gives into her desire as the door slowly shuts behind her, turning back and placing her foot between the door and its frame, refusing to allow it to close.
Sensing the ease Heather’s grip on the door takes, Alicia pushes her way back into the studio apartment, her eyes set on Salem. “Which Salem is asking me, though?” Alicia challenges, the question she brings raising Salem’s eyebrow, “is it the person that chose to come back to Franklin and I? Or is it the one that lied about being a soft-ware engineer for god only knows why?”
With a grimace, Salem sets the apple on the counter, the knife rolling from her hand and into the unreasonably small sink beside her. “What else have you lied about, Salem?” Alicia inquires, her previous question not intended to receive an answer, her true intentions set on getting her story straight. “Was that story about your brother real? Or how you met the people you were with before us?” Alicia continues, poking the bear with little care for consequence, “who the fuck even are you?”
Folding her hands behind her back, Salem walks from her half-eaten apple, slowly stepping towards Alicia one foot at a time, her head hung low throughout. “You, as a person, do not line up” Alicia explains, allowing the woman to grow closer, aware of the ease it would take to subdue any outburst, “you don’t make sense, and I know nothing about you. Tell me what you haven’t told me before, and then tell me if it’s that Salem’s asking me about how I feel about her.”
Her forehead now inches away from Alicia’s, Salem’s eyes veer upwards, locking with Alicia’s out of respect, refusing to say anything without looking her in the eye whilst doing so.
“I’m an only child, my mother died giving birth to me, and when everything went to hell, I was a server at a local diner to pay off a chunk of my student loans” Salem replies, staring at the woman across from her with little more than an empty stare, “as for those people I rode with before you, I was sleeping on their couch when this all went down.”
Caught by surprise, Alicia looks at Salem with a profound look of puzzlement on her face, unsure of how to respond. “I didn’t tell you I was a pilot because I didn’t think it was an important piece of information to share” Salem explains, her point concluding with even more questions to be answered than before, “as for the rest of me, my motivations or anything else, I intend for you and everyone else to never find out about.”
Her content look twisting into a puckered-lip frown, Salem maintains the eye contact she holds with Alicia, another shrug given by her shoulders. “Now that we’ve cleared that up, do you have your answer?” Salem finishes, leaving the floor open to Alicia’s answer. “I- I don’t know, what-” Alicia stutters, the words she wishes to use evading her at every turn, leaving her to leave without a response.
“One more thing” Salem calls out, refusing to let Alicia leave as easily as she had entered, closing the space between them once more. “That Salem is not the one that wants to know if you still mean what you said, this one does” Salem explains, aware of how unsure Alicia is to say anything. “The Salem you’ve known since the world stood still is a different Salem to the one that bussed tables, and that’s how I’d like it to be” the woman explains, “that’s how it needs to be.”
“I’m not sure what you mean” Alicia replies, her response questioned immediately. “Yes, you do. Everyone still alive today does, because that’s how this works” Salem replies, a smile worn on her face, “Franklin’s not the politician that’ll say whatever he needs to in order to grab a vote. You’re not the person that answers pain by popping pills and zoning out. We can’t be those people anymore, it’s the weak that are. The same weak that fail to grow, and that’s what gets them killed.”
Stepping closer to Alicia, Salem’s voice falls quieter, their conversation becoming more intimate to fit the moment, their truth spilling out like paint running from an overturned bottle. “I used to hate company, I couldn’t stand anything that took breaths and had opinions” Salem explains, proudly sporting the smile the conversation pulls from her, “I was alone, and now I’m not. And the funniest thing about it, is that I’m okay with that. I like that, and I like who I am now.”
Her arms extended, Salem shakes her head with pride, the weight she’s allowed to fall from her chest making it easier to breathe with relief. “I ask because you asked me to choose you, and to choose Franklin. That night, the two of you weren’t my circumstance, you were my choice” Salem explains, wrapping her arms around Alicia and pulling her into a warm embrace, finishing her point with a whisper into Alicia’s ear, “now it’s your turn to choose us.”
Her arms at her side, Alicia remains unsure how to respond, her chin remaining gently rested on Salem’s shoulder. Reacting to what her heart asks of her, Alicia’s arms lift to Salem’s sides, reciprocating the hug from a genuine place of care.
Climbing the rooftop ladder, Alicia finds Franklin’s figure sitting atop the building’s highest point, his legs dangling over the edge. “Salem told me you were up here” Alicia calls out, climbing each rung with care, “I don’t know how you brace this cold-fuckin’-air, but good on ya’ for it!” Letting out a faint laugh, Franklin pushes over to make room for Alicia to sit beside him, his head fully covered by the heavy coat he wears.
“You’re the third person to know about this place. Apparently the landlord purposefully hid it behind a broken refrigerator and a few microwaves” Franklin jokes as Alicia settles in, brushing up beside him, “welcome to the club.”
“I can tell it’s pretty exclusive” Alicia replies, sharing in the laughter whilst looking out in amazement at the calm streets below, each narrow road leading to a peaceful looking city centre. “If you think hard enough, you can hear the cars honking and the planes flying above” Alicia says, strangely yearning for the days of unencumbered noise. “I’d like to keep my head empty then” Franklin jokes, his hands folded in his lap, head kept away from Alicia’s.
Her hands pressing against the cold, concrete lip of the building’s summit, Alicia admires the view she doesn’t often have the chance to experience. “Do you think things will ever go back to the way they were?” Alicia asks, letting a few silent minutes pass before raising the thought-provoking question, “a world where the dead die off, and we go back to working a nine-to-five for less-than-deserved pay?”
Sucking a whistle-making breath through his teeth, Franklin shakes his head from one side to another, his answer made clear. “Those days are gone, and they’re never coming back” Franklin replies rather than honestly, “those memories seem enviable in hindsight, but that’s all they are now. They’re just memories.”
Pressing her lips together, Alicia thinks about Franklin’s reply, letting what he said sink into her mind unapologetically. “Isn’t that what happens to everything that dies?” Alicia asks, turning her head to the man, staring at the side of his coat’s hood, “they just become memories?” Answering with a silent nod, Franklin remains looking to the town, secretly dreaming of days gone by until Alicia’s warm palm rests atop his folded hands, reality becoming more welcomed than the dreams.
“I don’t want us to become a memory” Alicia confesses, watching Franklin’s head lower towards their collective hands, a smile appearing on her face. “Neither do I” Franklin whispers back, his eyes still kept towards their coupled hands. Her smile fading ever-so slightly, Alicia reaches her free hand towards Franklin’s hood, pulling it from over his head and reaching to the other side of his chin, pulling her face towards her own before her smile fully disappears.
“What-?” Alicia mutters beneath her breath, horrified at the bruises that cover Franklin’s face, his left eye swollen just the same as his nose, his lips cut and two of his teeth broken. “It happened last night” Franklin whispers, his eyes finding anything else to look at other than Alicia. “It was Neville, wasn’t it?” Alicia suddenly remarks, the immediate glance Franklin takes in her direction giving her the answer she’d been looking for.
Holding her anger well, Alicia’s nose crinkles as she gets up to leave, her feet carrying her back to the ladder. “Wait, Alicia!” Franklin shouts, crawling away from the ledge, a nervous look on his face as the woman prepares to depart. “Charlotte, the one that took over that camp in New York we were going to escape to? She’s here in Concord, and very much not in charge of that camp anymore” Franklin explains, swallowing the spit in his mouth, “we’re flying out at sundown.”
Setting her anger aside, Alicia climbs back to the summit and walks into Franklin’s arms, kissing him on the cheek before turning back to the ladder. Smiling on her climb down, Alicia walks off without a word, climbing down the stairwell to the building’s ground floor. Left to his own, Franklin turns back to the ledge, retaking the seat he’d occupied before Alicia had joined him, and looking to the sun overhead with a hopeful look on his face.
“I don’t understand, why are you going below ground?” Meghan contests, taking her hammer to the side of a random corpse’s head as it approaches, “if Jerome, or the dead overwhelm us, there’s no way out.” Spearheading the march, John fires at the dead that walk his grounds, clearing a path to the tavern for his family to follow. “Like I told Jess, we need to control a choke point” John replies, firing another few rounds into the near distance, “they don’t get in without our permission.”
“John, that makes very little sense” Meghan replies, splattering another undead monster’s brains against the pavement before it can grab an unsuspecting woman nearby, “we can have that luxury from the control tower just as easily.” His frustrations peaking as they near their destination, John snaps back with vigor. “Meghan, stop questioning my plan” John exclaims, another few shots rattled off at the undead, “I’m in charge of this, we do as I say.”
Resigning to John’s will, Meghan continues to follow her sister and niece as the family turns a corner, finally arriving at the cellar doors. “Get inside and keep your eyes open!” John commands, following the three survivors into the cellar below, his boots dragging against blood-stained concrete. “There’s a stockpile of weapons in the very last cell” John begins to explain, leading his pack down the length of the middle age-esque cellar.
“Take what you need, and hide what you don’t” John orders, looking down at a ring of keys, only one standing out from the rest, grooved as if it were from another era. “What’s the plan after that?” Meghan replies, watching John’s eyes take to her from over his shoulder. “We wait” John responds, picking out the correct key just as he reaches the metal-framed door.
“After you” John beckons, stepping aside with the door in his hands, allowing himself to enter last. “They’re gone, John” Jess replies, carrying Amy in her arms as they enter the cell first, soon followed by her sister, “Jerome must have gotten to them before-”
“Son of a bitch” Meghan grunts before Jess can finish her thought, turning back just as John shuts the door behind her, locking it from the outside. “What the fuck are you doing, asshole!?” Meghan shouts, reaching through the gaps in the door, not even her outstretched fingers able to get close enough to touch John. “Keeping you safe” John replies, tucking the key ring back onto his belt, “the house isn’t safe, and I’ve already paved over the bar-side door. No one’s getting in here.”
“So you’re locking us in here?” Meghan replies, grasping intently at the metal rungs the cell door is lined with, “what happens if you die out there? You’re gonna keep us from being eaten, but leave us to starve in here?” Speechless, Jess looks to John with confusion, unaware to a point where Meghan snatches her rifle without resistance. “Unlock the door, John” Meghan orders, her raising of the rifle’s barrel in his direction doing little to change his mind.
“You know killing me would only open thousands of bigger problems than we already have” John replies, unphased by the woman’s display. “I’ve prepared for this day before, I haven’t left any stone unturned” John replies, paying no mind to his wife’s whispers of his name, “there’s a key hidden somewhere in your cell, and you clearly have the means to protect yourself from in there.”
Lowering her weapon, Meghan drops the rifle to the ground and takes Amy into her arms, Jess passing her daughter off in hopes of talking sense into her deathwish-harboring husband. “John, please re-think whatever it is you’re about to do” Jess pleads, her requests ignored by the man as he continues to explain his plans. “When I leave, I’ll lock the cellar door. The wood’s frail, it’ll be easy to break when you get free” John explains, finally acknowledging his wife’s pleas.
“Jess, the man I have to dispose of has his hooks buried deep in the one group that maintains order in this place” John explains, aware of the stakes, “if he wins, the last bit of civility in this compound will be permanently lost.” Shaking her head, Jess reaches her hand out, taking her husband’s hand once he offers it to her. “John, I barely made it through last time you left” Jess recalls, the tears running down her face without obstruction, “if you leave, you may not come back this time.”
Keeping the keys away from Jess’ reach, John squeezes his wife’s hand, a tear lingering on his eyelid. “I’ve whined about not wanting to be the leader enough. It’s time to start doing what I told Charlotte to let me do” John replies, the tear rolling down his cheek as he leans in to kiss his wife’s hand, “No more delegating responsibility, and no more excuses. These people are still worth saving, and if Jerome and his insiders are cancerous enough to kill that, I need to cut them out.”
Pulling his hand from his wife’s, John returns to the dungeon’s exit, ignoring his wife’s calls for his return, his eyes now set on the light at the end of the treasonous tunnel. Bolting the wooden door shut, John takes a can of silver spray paint from his coat pocket and sprays over the tavern’s back walls. “Jerome, prove yourself and lead by example” the graffiti reads, “the front wall. Come alone. Settle this like a man. - J.C.”
Walking the path she most frequents, Alicia’s eyes take to the massive wall just below the burning sun, the blue skies just beginning to turn a pale yellow. For the first time since she’d entered Concord, Alicia diverts her usual course, stepping through overgrown grass on her way to the wall.
Climbing out of a deep trench made beneath the wall, Alicia ventures beyond the boarder, her stomach turning at the sensational thrill of unknown perils. From her pocket, Alicia draws her hunting knife, ruffling fallen leaves with her feet and whistling into the silent air. “Show me what I’m missing, rot-bags!” Alicia exclaims, shaking small trees and whistling pleasant tunes to whomever may listen.
Captivated by remote hiss, Alicia’s sights set on her target, the rough outline of a corpse staggering through the woods earning her sole focus. Breaking out into a jog, Alicia dashes towards the zombie, desperate to prove to herself that she’s not gotten comfortable behind borders. “You’re-!” Alicia begins shouting, falling silent when her left leg completely shuts down, forcing her to fall face-first into the autumn leaves.
“No, no no. Not now” Alicia mutters to herself, glancing back at the corpse she’d intended to attack to find a posse of corpses following closely behind. “Shhiitt” Alicia whispers in aggravation, trying to soothe the pain that soars through her leg. Horribly outmatched, Alicia struggles to her feet as the dead close in, standing her ground on a single leg, the pain that courses through her side clearly visible in her face.
“Come on” Alicia grunts, strands of hair falling in her face as time expires, the dead having finally caught up. Jabbing her knife into the first corpse’s eye, Alicia gains separation, leading a lineup of the dead as she limps away. Picking her spots, Alicia crashes herself into a tree and spins behind it, letting the dead follow. Swinging from the side, Alicia takes down the next corpse, letting its body rest in the brown leaves.
Growling at the dead just as they do at her, Alicia hobbles away from the seven corpses that remain, calculating her next move mentally. Limping to a heavy stone in the middle of the ground, Alicia remains coaxing the dead her way. Falling over the stone, the dead make themselves easy work, piling on top of each other until only two remain, not falling for the same trap as the rest.
Glancing back at a steep hill, Alicia begins to roll the dice on her fate, depending on her balance to keep her from toppling over the edge. “Come on, that’s it” Alicia says to the corpses, speaking to them as if they were children, her mouth watering at the chance to prove herself wrong. Side-stepping the first, Alicia lets the corpse topple over in its fight with gravity, twirling and contorting all the way to the ground below.
Lunging at the last corpse, Alicia swings for the fences and comes up short, her blade grazing the zombie’s face as she falls into it, her arm coming down in it’s mouth. With a grunt, Alicia feels the teeth press down on her arm, jolting her from her brush with leg pain. Ripping herself from the corpse’s grasp, Alicia kneels over the body and drives her knife through its weathered, mushy scalp.
Earning her chance to breathe, Alicia stares at the corpse beneath her, refusing to register what had just happened. “Oh, no” Alicia quietly whispers to herself, slowly bringing her arm to her face, her eyes widening the moment she rolls her sleeve. “Nothing?” the woman remarks, unable to hold back a laugh, the corpse’s bite having failed to break through her oversized coat.
Taking a gun from the corpse’s belt loop in the midst of a laughing fit, Alicia checks the magazine as the prior corpse re-emerges from the bottom of the hill. Rolling onto her side, Alicia effortlessly fires a round through the returning undead’s skull, rendering her brush with the new primary inhabitants of this world a thing of her past.
“What the hell are you doing?” a scrawny teenager shouts at Lauren, watching her stare calmly at the setting sun with her pint, the open space around her infested with aimless, undead travelers. “Sight-seeing” Lauren replies, not a care in the world for the happenings around her, something that astonishes the paranoid survivor questioning her. “Are you crazy!? You’ve got to move!” the kid replies, wielding a loose table leg as if it were a baseball bat.
His words doing little to persuade the woman, the teenager takes matters into his own hands, walking up to the woman in hopes of assisting her. “Don’t touch me” Lauren aggravatedly orders, her free left hand removing the pistol from her waist, taking aim between the teenager’s eyes. “What the fuck are you doing!?” The teen shouts, leaping backwards with his hands held in surrender, the furniture leg falling from his hand.
“What I want to” Lauren replies, keeping her weapon aimed as the teen draws the dead near. “I was trying to help you!” The kid explains, a quiver in his legs as the situation rids the last strands of his composure. “I don’t want help” Lauren replies, waiting for the kid to notice the zombie trailing towards him, her gun lowering. “I don’t think you’d be able to survive outside these walls” Lauren muses, unphased by the many other undead catching wind of her presence.
“You’re fucking insane!” the kid shouts, throwing himself to the ground in an attempt to retrieve his weapon. Stepping aside, Lauren waits in the shadows, away from view to watch the kid’s next move, interested in seeing her theory unfold. “Oh god!” the kid shrieks, finally noticing the corpse Lauren had been spectating, backing away towards perceived safety, only to be wrapped within the waiting arms of a second corpse.
“Get off me!” the kid teen shouts with a surprised yelp, hitting the sack of bones in the head with a fragile weapon to little use, the zombie’s teeth sinking into his shoulder with no remorse. Screaming as he rips himself from the corpse’s grasp, the teen stumbles into a larger clump of corpses, unable to squirm his way from harm in this second instance.
Watching the kid disappear below the mass of rotting bodies, Lauren takes the muffled screaming as the answer to her question. “I was right” the woman mutters beneath her breath as she departs, turning her focus back towards her intended destination.
The stairwell she takes the leisure to climb lit in vibrant, colorful lights, Lauren emerges from her ascent into a largely cluttered room high in the air, two militants occupying the room. “Hey, you can’t be up here” one guard calmly remarks, noticing Lauren out of the corner of his eye. Without wasting a second, Lauren fires a round between the first soldier’s eyes, quickly turning to put an additional two in the other man’s stomach.
Tired of the blaring siren just overhead, Lauren fires a round into the light-covered box the first soldier had stood beside, instantly rendering the alarm above silent. The noise no longer able to drown out the misery of those below, Lauren takes in the faint screams from below, the New World Order collapsing beneath her very own feet. “You bitch” a second voice calls from afar, groaning in pain at the two slugs in his abdomen.
Still carrying her pint, Lauren takes another swig as she approaches the second man, stalking the turncoat with an intense stare, treating him like wounded prey. “You can’t stop us” the man groans, crawling to his rifle at a pathetic pace, his eyes taking to the beer-swigging woman. “That’s not my intention” Lauren replies, pressing the bottom of her shoe against the man’s throat, gradually increasing pressure until the man’s groans disappear with a crunch.
Detached from her killings, Lauren moves onto her goal without reaction, no care given for those she’s killed or let die. Downing the rest of her drink, Lauren lets the drink hit bottom before taking her eyes towards one of the many glass panels surrounding her. Glancing at her mug, Lauren takes a look before hurling it against the window, the glass shattering into thousands of pieces, exposing the tower to the hair-whipping winter wind.
Finally breaking a smile, Lauren steps to the tower’s wound, staring out at the miles of dark nothingness, the sun just touching the horizon. Climbing atop the old window’s base, Lauren stares below at the undead wave rolling over her home, the inexperienced civilians they chase never having learned how to defend themselves or what they believe in. Letting her arms fall to her sides, Lauren starts to balance herself on the ledge, any slight movement able to carry her overboard.
Holding her head towards the sky, Lauren takes in a heavy breath, holding it for a few seconds before letting it’s release bring her relief, her arms held out again as she leans forward. Her hands tapping the glass to either side, Lauren’s hands suddenly wrap around the window’s frames in the last second, holding her back from a fatal freefall. Her remaining breath coming out like a gust of wind, Lauren stares back into the lifeless null beyond the compound’s walls, shocked at what she finds.
“You’ve got to be fucking around with me” Lauren mutters, still dangling from the control tower, playing with the phantom of death’s patience, undecided on whether to let go. Fixed on the rolling hills in the near distance, Lauren’s eyes catch a million specs of light appearing at once, stretching from flat land and lifting up the length of the hillside, appearing just as a small town would. “Okay then” Lauren whispers to herself, still holding herself atop the ledge, amused with the sight.
“It looks like you need some help” Janice calls out to Bill, watching the man lead a handful of troops through the cluttered compound grounds. “Do you know where John or Jerome are?” Bill asks, sinking a four-inch blade through a softened zombie skull. “Not at all” Janice replies, smashing her rifle’s mount in the face of another corpse with a smile, “good luck, though.”
Watching Bill roll his eyes, Janice stays back as his group disembarks deeper within the compound, taking on the dead by her lonesome. Going about business as usual, Janice slaughters whatever walks her way, dragging their feet along the coarse dirt, leaving a trail behind. Swinging her weapon with reckless abandon, Janice does so with a smile, taking vehement glee in the mess she leaves behind, duplicating the undead’s trail with one of her own.
Readying for yet another swing, Janice stalls, holding her back swing before letting it fall, uncertain how to react to what she sees. Rather than the worn, ragged, filthy clothing the common, undead roamers wear, this figure stands in a large coat covered in blood and gore, hunched over as if to mimic the dead, but doing so particularly poorly. “What the fuck is that?” Janice asks herself aloud, seemingly catching the rotten sack’s attention, its face slowly revealing itself to her.
“What the-” Janice begins to whisper, locking eyes with the disgusting body that stands before her, its face as alive as her own, the growls that emit from its throat indistinguishable from those of the other dead. Without a second thought, the gore-covered imposter pulls a knife from within his sick-covered coat, charging at Janice the moment he realizes the jig is up.
Thrust into immediate action, Janice swings her rifle at the fraud as intended, watching the stock soar over the assailants head, the deceiver ducking her swing and lunging at her hip. Acting on instinct, Janice side-steps the man’s attempt to plunge his knife into her stomach, watching him dive at the ground having missed his mark. His eyes catching Janice as he springs to his feet, the pretender darts at Janice with his knife still in tow, leaping towards her as she aims her weapon.
Hearing the grifter bellow a shout as his feet leave the ground, Janice squeezes the trigger, firing a bullet through the man’s skull, a gargantuan hole splitting through the back of his head. Stepping back, Janice watches the dirt soil with the cloaked-man’s blood, the bright-pink chunks of brains littering the ground like debris. Before she can collect herself, Janice finds yet another muck-covered figure stumbling a few yards away from her, only now realizing her attention is set on him.
Aware of his exposure, the second man retrieves his own knife and begins darting for the profoundly lost woman. Knowing enough to ready her weapon for another shot, Janice takes aim and pulls the trigger, shocked to find the unresponsive reaction of her weapon, a jam within her rifle making her a sitting duck. The ground the man covers passing quickly, Janice thinks on her feet, remaining frozen until the final possible moment.
Letting her assailant draw close, Janice watches the man’s arm swing forward, ducking his swinging arm at the last second and diving towards the original body. Resetting their stances, Janice matches the second man’s artillery and prepares to play by his rules, stealing the knife from the man she’d killed and planting her feet in the ground. “Fine, I’ll play by your rules’ Janice remarks, blowing the loose hairs out of her face, “but you’re going to come to me.”
Unperturbed by the woman’s remarks, the second fiend slowly steps forward, surveying the woman’s posture, her stance and the way she aims her blade, recognizing her unfamiliarity with his preferred combat. Easing his tense response, the man begins to toy with Janice, loosening his walk and taking short jabs at the woman, never intending to make contact, but rather to treat Janice like the prey he views her to be.
“All yours, dear” the man remarks in a thick, Scottish accent, the knife he wields hanging loosely in his fingers, “either I’ll get ye’, or the dead will.” Aware of her surroundings, Janice finds little room for disagreement, the time she has to make her mark winding down. “Why are you here?” Janice asks, opening discourse with the man hell-bent on killing her, “you don’t look like you belong.”
“Now why would I tell yuh anything, dear?” the man replies, crouching close to the ground, giggling at the sturdy front Janice is forced to put forward, “that would defeat the purpose, yuh see?” Seething, Janice matches the man’s posture, lowering herself to the ground. “If you’re going to kill me, I’d like to know why” the woman remarks, tracing her hand through the dirt, rocking from one side to another.
“It’s nothing personal” the man replies, revealing his multiple broken teeth with a horrifying smile, “it’s just business, yuh hear?” Taking in a deep breath, Janice gives the man a nod, her free hand balling into a fist. “Yeah” Janice replies, letting deep breaths leave her nostrils, “I hear yuh.” Aggravating the man with her poor imitation of his native dialect, Janice uses his minor frustration to fuel his composure-offsetting fire.
Throwing her loose hand forward, Janice pelts the man in the eyes with a palm-full of dirt, blinding him enough to throw him off balance. Her opportunity never better than now, Janice charges forward, swinging her hand towards the man’s face to little use, the blade’s sharp edges running over his forehead and nothing more, her inexperience showing in the attempted head-shot.
Pained by the gash over his head, the man utilizes his window of opportunity, plunging his knife towards Janice’s throat. With a split-second to react, Janice throws her free hand out and catches the blade in her palm, watching the silver tip pierce through the back of her hand and stare her in the eyes. With a shriek, Janice loses her knife in the midst of chaos, now powerless to stop the man from pinning her against a wall, trying to force his knife the rest of the way.
“Word to the wise, dear” the man grunts, pushing the woman’s hand towards her own throat, finishing the fight he started, “you should have gone for the throat.” Feeling the blade’s point graze her skin, Janice lifts her head, the strength to fend her attacker depleting rapidly. Sucking in a final breath, Janice feels a wave of relief come over her as the man’s pressure dissipates, his body collapsing to the ground.
Gasping for air, Janice tears the knife out of her hand and drops to her knees, her hands wrapping around her throat. Thinking to glance up, Janice finds Jack standing above her, looking down at the second imposter, a bloody knife held firmly within his grasp. “It looked like you needed some help” Jack remarks, offering the woman his hand, helping her up.
“You couldn’t have come a second sooner?” Janice jokes, still trying to catch her breath. With a laugh, Jack kicks the body onto its front, exposing the stab wound in the back of the man’s head. “From what I could tell, that gash on his head was your doing” Jack remarks, stealing the second man’s knife and housing it within Janice’s hand, “Most blades are too weak for the skull. Spine, neck, eyes, and brain stem are the go-to’s, think of it as S.N.E.B.S for short.”
Taking off his shirt, Jack hands the top to Janice as she removes her own, ripping it into makeshift bandages to dress her hand with. “Where are your friends?” Janice asks, not caring for the answer, but interested as to why they’re not with him. “Tyler’s off on his own somewhere, and the ‘mister and misses’ are planning their escape, I’d imagine” Jack replies, jabbing a random zombie with his new, very sharp toy, “thank your lucky stars for that.”
Retrieving her rifle, Janice clears the jam and looks forward, finding yet another pale face hiding amongst the horde. “You’re seeing that too, right?” Jack questions, spotting the imposter just as Janice had. “I sure am” Janice replies, visibly nervous after her most recent brush with the living dead. “What the fuck is going on here?” Jack mutters beneath his breath, unsure of how to react to the revelation unfolding before his eyes.
Aided by the metal riot shield he wears on his arm, Jerome pushes through the large gathering of dead around him, tramping over their decayed skin on his way to his ultimate stand. His rifle worn over his shoulder, Jerome wields his knife well, digging it within the fragile skulls he’s visited by, each step covering a great distance, the undead sea he forces his way through slowly parting the further he’s consumed by it.
Finally shattering his way through the mass of bodies, Jerome throws his shield to the side and charges at the wall, only a few stragglers left to block his path. With a few swipes at the dead, Jerome makes a dash for the ladder, climbing it to the very top whilst the horde below follows closely behind. Rolling onto his back the moment he reaches the highest platform, Jerome regains his breath, locking eyes with the starry night sky above as if all were alright in the world.
“Now that you’re here, I hope you can see why I chose this platform” John quips from closeby, looking down into the horde below, their outstretched hands reaching out for him stories below. Startled by John’s presence, Jerome hurries to his feet and pulls his rifle into his grasp, the aim he takes at John affording him the power position.
“It was only when I heard the sirens go off that I realized what you were looking for” John explains, both of his hands folded behind his back. “What is that?” Jerome asks, watching John’s eyes take to him, distancing themselves from the starved arms of the horde below. “Power” John replies, the rest of his body turning to his once trusted soldier, “if you can save the people, however many survive, from this trouble and dispose of the guy they hate- Well, you’d be their savior.”
“You must have me all figured out then” Jerome sarcastically replies, the swivel of John’s head suggesting a belief otherwise. “Not necessarily” John replies, pacing the twenty-foot wide platform with a confused look on his face, “I still haven’t figured out why you thought this was the right thing.”
Laughing John’s question off, Jerome shakes his head and refuses to answer, opening the door for John to elaborate. “When I promoted you, I told you to ‘fight for what you believe is right’. That’s why you’re here right now, that’s why we’re in this predicament” John explains, standing his ground firmly, eyes staring into Jerome’s, “why was this the right thing?”
The compound’s leader showing no defense, not a gun or knife in his grasp, Jerome takes enough comfort to justify giving the man an answer. “We had a good thing going with Charlotte in charge, and you left it to die in a power grab” Jerome replies, snickering at the gall John has to ask such a question, “you got what you wanted, and instantly, everything around you turned to shit.”
“And you think this is the way to fix it? Match one power grab with another? Display your strength by ridding a horde you let in?” John asks, “at least my grab for power was founded on fair principles, you’re no more ready to lead than I am.” Pulling his weapon into the air, Jerome fires a few stray bullets into the sky, keeping John from speaking further.
“You’re no leader” Jerome replies, taking his aim back towards John, “you’re a broken, haunted, tormented, weak man with a family he can’t provide for. You claim leadership on the broken backs of these people. You’re not me.” His intrigued expression fading into a downcast glare, John remains silent, digesting the description Jerome’s granted him.
“You should have never been made leader. Ever since you took over, there hasn’t been much of a difference between here and what’s outside these walls” Jerome explains, deepening the wound, “everyone’s going hungry, everyone’s turning violent, and everyone’s dying.” Taking the verbal attacks, John’s hand begins tremoring, rattling at his side whilst Jerome continues, building the tension to immense levels.
“You had a vision for this camp, and you failed miserably” Jerome furthers, watching John’s eyes trail towards his own, “your vision isn’t malleable, and all you do is make things worse.” His tremor subsiding instantly upon those words, John watches Jerome take proper aim, concluding his piece before the time for discussion ends. “You asked me to do what I thought was right, so now I am” Jerome remarks, pressing his finger to the trigger.
In a split second, John’s steady hand reaches for his own gun and fires a round at Jerome’s weapon, watching the sparks fly as the brass casing is deflected from the rifle. “Son of a bitch!” Jerome exclaims, unable to keep his hold on the weapon, watching it fall from his hands and topple over the lip of the wall, his advantage falling with it. Left with a knife, Jerome looks to John and recognizes the reversal of roles, waiting for the war veteran to make the first move.
“Throw that knife over the edge” John orders, his weapon aimed at Jerome’s head, leaving Jerome very little choice. “If I don’t, what are you gonna do?” Jerome replies, watching the man take a few steps forward, John’s hand steadier than he’d ever known it to be. “I’m going to shoot you, and then I’m going to feed your body to your pets down there” John replies, an eye given to the accumulation of dead below.
“And if I do?” Jerome replies, a knot forming in his stomach upon seeing the emotionless stare John holds on him. Removing a pair of handcuffs from his back pocket, John tosses them to Jerome’s feet, leaving the decision up to him. “You’ll lock yourself in these, and you’ll be put under arrest” John replies, not taking a care to the laughter Jerome reacts to such an option with, “you’ll be put to a fair trial, and executed for your crimes if found guilty.”
Puckering his lips, Jerome nods to himself, dropping to a knee to retrieve the metal handcuffs. “So, you’re saying I either die or I die?” Jerome replies, taking his knife from a pouch on his side and staring at the blood-covered blade. “Well, I’m sure as hell not going to be your example-setter” Jerome replies, throwing the handcuffs in John’s face before lunging at him with the blade in tow.
Ducking the metal cuffs, John attempts to retake his aim, only for his feet to be swept from beneath him before his barrel can point towards anything worth firing. Wrapping his arms around John’s legs, Jerome rips John to the ground and wrestles the gun from his hands, hurling it over the edge of the wall just as his own had done. Now the sole man armed once more, Jerome kneels over John, pinning him down as he drives his knife forward.
Shifting at the last second, John lets the blade sink into the platform just beside his head, missing his eye by mere inches. An opportunity presenting itself, John swipes at his attacker with his elbow, freeing himself from Jerome’s weight as the man falls off of him. Ripping the knife from the ground, John takes over on offense, readying himself for whatever Jerome has to offer next.
“Is this what we’re doing now?” Jerome laughs, the simple fact that he’s still alive being a miracle in and of itself, “fighting for leadership over a bout of fisticuffs?” Spitting over the wall’s lip, John gives Jerome a shrug, letting him proceed as he cares. With a giggle, Jerome lunges at the knife in John’s hand, yet to realize his decision had just cost him the fight he’d undertaken.
Noticing Jerome’s intentions, John tosses the knife across his body, letting the handle leave the gasp of his right hand and fly into the hold of his left. Catching Jerome in his arm, John plunges the knife into Jerome’s back four times, a sharp groan coming from Jerome’s core with each puncture. His hands wrapping around the collar of Jerome’s shirt, John discards the knife into the pit of corpses below, leading Jerome to the edge he once stood at before.
“I gave you the chance” John explains, letting Jerome’s frail body lean over the multi-story drop, the collar he holds within his hands serving as a leash in this moment. Losing blood quickly, Jerome laughs at John’s remark, smiling at the blatant stupidity behind John’s comment. “No, you took it away” Jerome replies, swiping at John’s hand to allow himself to plummet into the undead ocean below, devoured in his final breaths by the same horde he had lead inside.
Stepping upon the governance house’ red brick walkway, Alicia greets the doorman she approaches with a smile. “Good evening, Alicia” the large man says with little emotion, the sun that begins to set in the distance marking the near-completion of his shift. “Good evening, Marcus” the woman replies, patting the man’s shoulder whilst knocking at the front door beside him.
“Enter” Neville replies from beyond the carved wooden frame, his voice muffled by the echo-inducing hallway that stands between his girlfriend and himself. Pushing the pale, professionally-carved door inwards, Alicia takes her first steps atop the black and white porcelain tiles, peering through the wide, marble corridor towards Neville on the other side.
“Oh, it’s you!” Neville says, pleased to find the woman waiting for him, a smile spread across her face. “Yeah, it’s me” Alicia replies, sarcastically rephrasing his greeting as he places his hands on both sides of her face, leaning in to kiss her. “So this is where you live?” Alicia begins the conversation, following the man into the larger home, “it’s a lot bigger than my shoe box.”
“Yeah, I mean- it’s more modest than others” Neville replies, still trying to appear as relatable as he can manage, “you should see Charlotte’s house, I’ve lost count of how many fountains she has outside.” With a laugh, Alicia continues to follow the man through his living room, the furniture lined with elegant stitching, colored either a pearly white or a brooding brown.
“Who’s this Charlotte I keep hearing about?” Alicia inquires, stepping into the granite-finished kitchen, clear of even the slightest smudge, “you talk about her, Salem talks about her. I swear, I know about the city of Charlotte than I do about this woman.” Answering the light-hearted question, Neville peers into his fridge, reaching for anything worth throwing into a pot and eating after a slow cook.
“She’s the one that delegates for lack of a better explanation” Neville replies, a tray of uncooked chicken carried from the refrigerator, laid atop the counter, “runs all the complexes from Nova Scotia.” Her eyebrows raised, Alicia takes a seat at the kitchen island, her elbows pressed to the table to support her head, which rests upon her knuckles. “How many are there?” Alicia proceeds to ask, throwing her coat over her shoulders, resting it on an empty seat.
“Five that I know are hers for sure, there’s another one I’m pretty sure is just a myth” Neville replies, removing a searing pan from one of his cabinets, “the Nova Scotia one, this one, the New York one, the Dover one, and the-” Before he can finish his thought, Alicia cuts his response off, inquiring further over one key element. “I thought she didn’t run the New York one anymore?” Alicia replies, unable to see the suspicious look of worry that consumes Neville’s face.
“Oh yeah? Where did you hear that?” Neville replies, his preparation having stopped, a response Alicia immediately notices. “Well, I know Salem told me she took over that compound a few months ago, and then I heard nothing about it” Alicia replies, phrasing her statement as if she were recalling a story, “but a couple of weeks ago, someone at the centre market told me New York was in pieces without her. I assumed that meant she wasn’t in charge anymore.”
Curling his lip, Neville shakes his head, returning to the fridge for a bell pepper. “Well, I don’t know where they got that information from” Neville replies, hearing the legs of Alicia’s seat drag across the ground as she leaves it, “she’s staying there this weekend from what I’ve heard, so you should probably correct whoever told you that before-”
Taking the peppers from Neville’s hand, Alicia pulls him in for a kiss, slowly returning the colorful vegetables to the fridge and closing the stainless steel door. “I’ll worry about correcting people later” Alicia replies, breaking the kiss with her hands wrapped around the man’s collar, “for right now, this ‘Charlotte’ woman is the furthest thing from my mind.”
Pulling Neville in for another kiss, Alicia uses the affectionate gesture as a way to lead the man towards his bedroom, pulling his shirt off whilst Neville tugs at her blouse. Slamming the door shut on their way inside, Alicia breaks the kiss by turning their positions, her hands pushing the man onto the bed before she begins crawling atop him, straddling his waist.
“I’m heading out sir!” Marcus calls from the front door, hearing no response from the other side. Not paid for any effort past this point, Marcus calls it a night and leaves the front door, strolling down the street to inform the next watchman in line.
“I want to be with you” Alicia whispers, taking Neville’s face in her hands, her blouse hanging by her wrist. “You do?” Neville replies, almost surprised at the woman’s response, the thought of smiling not one that even comes to mind. Silent, Alicia nods back to the man, leaning her face closer towards his. “That’s why I want this to be special” Alicia whispers again, her free hand trailing down his abdomen, wrapping her hands around the outline of his genitals.
“I don’t like boring sex” Alicia remarks, throwing her hair back as her left hand reaches for one of the many pillows atop their expensive-looking mattress. Removing the pillow case, Alicia tosses the cushion to the side, discarding the feather-stuffed cloth as she pulls the sack over the man’s head, letting it sit loosely at the base of his neck. “Is it wrong that I’m into this?” Neville jokes, his voice barely muffled by the cloth over his face.
“Not at all” Alicia seductively replies, undoing both her belt and Neville’s, using them to take the man’s hands to the bed frame, binding them to the wooden posts at the head of the bed. “As a matter of fact” Alicia replies, taking the blanket they’d once laid atop and wrapping it around his legs, rendering him completely immobile, “I think it’s hot.”
Retaking her position around his hips, Alicia undoes her bra and takes it to the man’s throat, the cups resting on either side of his face as the straps are tied around the back of his neck, pressing the case further upon his windpipe. “Can you loosen this thing a little bit?” Neville replies, squirming atop the bed as he begins to sweat, “it’s a bit hot in here, and I can’t breath that well.”
With a laugh straight from suggestive content, Alicia slides her hand behind her back, letting her breasts touch the man’s bare chest as she leans in, her fingers wrapping around Neville’s throat. “That’s the fun part” Alicia whispers, sliding her hand from her back pocket with the hunting knife in her palm, a quick swipe of her finger releasing the blade from it’s inner, metallic chambers, her whispers continuing behind a gleeful smile, “you’re not supposed to.”
Forcing her hand through the air, Alicia drives her dagger through the man’s chest, piercing the man’s flesh right above his heart, a muffled groan emerging from behind the knapsack as she squeezes on his throat. His lower body thrashing whilst his arms tug at the leather restraints, Alicia twists the blade to a bloody result, feeling the last breath leave his lungs as his body goes limp, the smile still worn over her face.
“She’ll be here” Salem calls to the pilots, sitting in the back of the helicopter beside Franklin, hoping for Alicia’s emergence. “I’m sorry, but it’s sunset” Heather replies, shaking her head at the passengers behind her, “I really am sorry, but she knew the departure time.” Looking to the cockpit with a defeated look, giving a nod to those ahead.
“Wait!” Franklin exclaims in a vigorous tone, his hand pointed towards the street nearby just as the aircraft begins to leave the pad. Her hands covered in blood, Alicia emerges from the shadows with a pillowcase swinging behind her back, carrying something unusually heavy. “Well I’ll be damned” Salem mutters to herself, watching their third stooge ascend the steps towards the aircraft and take the empty seat beside Franklin.
“Got room for one more, handsome?” Alicia asks, taking Franklin by the back of the head and pulling him in for a kiss. “I think we can manage” Salem replies, unable to hold her smile back. Closing the helicopter door, Alicia pulls Salem in for a hug from across Franklin’s lap, feeling the ground become lighter as the bird climbs into the sky, leaving Concord in its wake.
“What’s in the bag?” Franklin wonders, glancing inside once the woman unwraps her bra from around it’s opening. “Fuckin’ hell!” Salem shouts with enthusiasm, as pleased with the sight as Franklin appears to be, “way to prove me wrong, hot stuff.” Tying the sack once more, Alicia settles in for the ride, her head resting against Franklin’s shoulder as the group soars through the sky.
“New York, New York” Alicia hums, smiling as she digs her head into the nook of Franklin’s neck.
== Rise: Remastered ==