/ 697 days after the start of the outbreak - 268 days after the New World Order’s Invasion /
Coffee in his hand, John strolls past his bedroom on his way to the office, a light pair of sweatpants worn to accompany his ‘U.S Army’ sweatshirt. Pushing the door open, John finds his wife already occupying his chair, the temples to a pair of reading glasses sitting comfortably over her ears. “You have no idea how good it was to see you asleep by the time I got out of bed” Jess remarks with a smile, holding her chin up as John leans in for a kiss, joining her on the work-side of the desk.
“When people don’t call for your head and can stuff their faces with food freely, there’s little reason to lose sleep” John replies, lovingly rubbing the woman’s shoulder as their daughter enters the room. “Can I have coffee?” Amy asks, her question not only coming from nowhere, but leaving her mother without a response. “John, answer for me” Jess says, looking to her husband, who visibly wishes to remain distant from the conversation.
“Not a problem” the man sarcastically responds, holding his mug-holding hand towards his daughter, not making an effort to restrict access, “here you go, Ames.” John’s hand pulling back the moment Jess’ smacks his chest, the compound’s leader backs away from the desk, leaving the conflict of opinion to his wife once more. “No, Amy. You cannot have coffee” Jess replies, pulling her daughter onto her lap, no intention of leaving the chair she’s claimed for the morning.
“Are those the inventory reports?” John looks to the desk, half-heartedly making an attempt at changing the conversation. “It is” Jess replies, taking the stapled set of papers from the desk and resting them in John’s hand, “our crop yield was less kind than we had been anticipating.” Rolling his eyes, John hides his disapproving head shake. “I just got everyone in line again, too” John mutters to himself, lowering the papers to his side, “at least they won’t be starving.”
“Do those black clouds mean it’s gonna rain?” Amy interposes, drawing her parent’s attention to the curtain-drawn window. “It looks like it” John replies, peering through the window and to the dirt trails below, sparse raindrops pelting the ground. “Go get your rain boots on, Amy” John says with a smile, his daughter eagerly rushing back to her room to the joy of her parents.
“You’re gonna track mud all over the house again” Jess groans in a joking manner, her head falling into her hand. “We’re some of the lucky few that get to have a life” John replies, his lips pressing against his wife’s forehead, “muddy floors or no muddy floors, we’re gonna live our lives.” Pulling away, John walks for the door to leave, carrying himself halfway across the room before another man enters, approaching the couple with an odd look on his face.
Cloaked beneath a larger green jacket and gray jeans, standing in a pair of heavy military boots and sprouting a thick, slightly-grayed beard, Emilio places his rifle against the wall and takes a seat without a word. Knowing his wife, much like himself, has very little clue on what to say, John returns to the desk and occupies the seat beside Emilio, staring at the man in hopes he’ll speak first.
“We’ve got trouble” Emilio remarks, immediately concerning the people he’s surrounded by. “I know it’s ironic to ask in the middle of an apocalypse, but I’ll do so anyway” John replies, leaning his arms upon the wooden restings to his side, “why are we in trouble?” Shaking his head, Emilio corrects him. “We’re not in trouble, we have trouble” Emilio replies, unfolding a recreation of the map Troy and Katie had found, “this isn’t a stock-post:
His finger placed on a ring forty miles from their compound, Emilio continues his point. “Every other location has been stocked with something. Weapons, food, medicine- something of use” Emilio explains, finally reaching the point of concern, “this location has people.” Their eyes tracing back to Emilio, the couple only grow increasingly confused.
“Which people? Survivors or New World Order-people?” Jess breaks the silence to ask, Emilio’s face turning towards her. “It’s New World Order people. Not ours, theirs” Emilio replies, silencing doubt immediately, “they’ve got fleets of town cars and black vans, a ton of supplies, and plenty of guns.”
His head falling into his hands, John struggles to make peace with the information he’s been given whilst his wife’s mind floats elsewhere. “Do they look like they’re preparing for another-?” Jess begins, the answer to her question not one that John wishes to hear. “Where are you going?” Jess wonders aloud, watching her husband take a light coat from a nearby set of hooks, preparing to leave.
“They wouldn’t be here, however many miles away from their closest compound, if they weren’t looking to take it back” John replies, forcing his arms through the jacket’s sleeves, “if this is the last day I have without blood needing to be shed, I’m going to enjoy it.” Walking through the door, Jess calls back out for her husband. “Where do you plan on going?” Jess questions, John’s answer coming with a pure smile.
“As I said, this day will be enjoyed” John replies, fixing his collar, “our daughter doesn’t get to have the life she deserves. So if she wants to jump in some puddles, I’ll see to it that she gets to jump in some motherfucking puddles.” Without another word, John shuts the door behind himself, leaving Emilio and Jess to consider the immediate future amongst themselves.
= 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 =
“A pint of hops, please” Jack remarks, taking up a seat at the barside as bland, soulless blues rock pipes through the loudspeaker. Sliding a voucher across the counter, Jack accepts his drink, keeping his appreciative face on as he nods to the bartender, watching her walk off before his face returns to its dissatisfied state. “You look like you’re exactly who this bar caters to” a woman quips, walking from a table near the back of the building, a half-empty pint in her own hand.
Glancing back, Jack watches the woman approach, her face seeming familiar, though her name escapes him. “I’m sorry, do I know you?” Jack replies, watching her pull the wooden stool beside him from the counter, setting herself atop it as she answers. “Probably not” the woman replies, setting her drink on the counter and extending her hand, “I’m Salem.”
Accepting the woman’s handshake, Jack says not another word, intending to let the woman say her peace and leave undisturbed. Coupling his hands together, Jack stares forward, keeping his eyes on the collection of bottles behind the counter while he waits for Salem to speak, taking a few sips from his glass in complete silence, minutes passing without a word from the company that joined him.
“Is there anything I can do for you, Salem?” Jack finally caves, starting the conversation after nearly ten minutes of silence. “By the looks of you, probably not” Salem jokes, earning a chuckle from the man at the counter, another swig taken from her foamy glass. “Okay, why did you go out of your way to sit next to me?” Jack replies, challenging Salem’s motives out of his own genuine curiosity.
“Because, under different circumstances, I probably wouldn’t” Salem replies, turning to Jack with a downcast expression, “I would have sat alone for the entire day.” Confused, Jack takes another sip from his glass, the foam effortlessly sticking to his upper lip. “What is that supposed to mean?” Jack replies, now pursuing the conversation out of honest interest.
“I used to hate being around people. I never wanted friends, and I was always afraid of having to care about someone other than myself” Salem explains, both of her hands wrapped around her pint. “And then, I met people. People that I didn’t want to care about, but ended up caring about anyway” Salem explains, still wearing her smile proudly, “it still scares the shit out of me, but I don’t like being alone as much as I used to.”
With a nod, Jack considers Salem’s words, piecing them together to make sense. “So, you sitting next to me isn’t about me looking like a lonely drunk” Jack concludes, “it’s about you coping with, well, you?” Raising her glass from the counter, Salem sprouts a smirk at the man, answering him sarcastically. “Why can’t it be both?” Salem replies, drawing another laugh from the man beside her, Jack’s glass once more rising to his foam-covered lips.
Climbing from his seat, Jack pats Salem on the shoulder as he carries his drink to the bar’s exit. “I’ve got somewhere I need to be, but I appreciate your gesture” Jack replies, walking off without another word. Not putting up a fight, Salem turns back to her drink and stares at herself in the bar’s reflection, the rest of the tavern remaining empty while she sits front and center, alone in the vacant tavern.
“Storm clouds are getting closer” Katie calls out, a dark gray hoodie covering her head, her hands wrapped around the straps to a knapsack over her shoulders, “we should find cover.” Trailing closely behind, Troy leads Janice and Tyler through thick overgrowth and bramble, snapping overhanging branches on his way through fallen leaves. “We should find something sturdy” Troy replies, one hand grasping at the straps on his chest, “I don’t like the look of those clouds.”
Trekking through the woods, a large structure covered in greenery eventually catches the eye of the young pack-leaders. “I think that should hold up nicely” Troy proclaims, standing a few yards away from the base of an abandoned, wood-built hotel left to rot in the elements. Stretching near fifty yards, the hotel dominates the tree-covered grounds, moss attacking its exterior whilst father time devours its insides slowly.
“Hello!?” Troy calls into the fragile building, waiting in the doorway for an answer, only being met with the whipping sounds of winds breaking through already shattered windows. Taking the first steps inside, Troy senses the weakened floorboards struggling beneath his steps, though not enough to cause concern. “Keep it slow on the stained parts” Troy warns, stepping further into the building, avoiding the patches of mold growing throughout the rooms.
“Are you sure there isn’t another abandoned building in the woods we can camp out at instead?” Tyler wonders from the back, the sheer size of the building combined with its weakened state worrying him. “I don’t think that question really requires an answer, Ty” Troy replies, shining his flashlight down rows of hallways, all stained from water damage, all lined with rooms either sealed behind closed doors, left to the elements through open doors, or boarded off completely.
“As cliche as it may sound, we should split up. We’ll cover more ground” Troy explains, noticing the disinterested look on Tyler’s face, “the place isn’t too big to lose ourselves in. Shout if you need someone, we should be able to hear you.” Beginning to walk down her own corridor without a word, Katie ventures off into the depths of the building, her light falling further from the eyes of her group just as she does.
Holding a pistol to her side, Katie proceeds down the stuffy corridor, her shoes pressing down on the soaked floorboards with enough pressure to create a squishing sound. “If you’re in here, for whatever reason you’ve chosen to do that, I don’t mean you any harm” Katie warns those that perhaps lurk in the shadows, hoping to draw out any stragglers from undead hordes in the process, “but if you try to fuck with me, I’ll kill you. It’s as simple as that.”
The only response coming from the moist boards beneath her feet, Katie proceeds forward, tapping her flashlight against closed doors, whilst pressing her foot to the slightly-opened door of others. Covering decent ground, Katie’s eyes suddenly catch sight of a bloody handprint on a random door frame, its accompanying door closed entirely, its doorknob covered in equally dry blood.
Tapping her light against the door, Katie waits for a response. “Hello?” Katie calls out, waving her flashlight at the bottom of the door, “are you hurt in there?” Again responded to with silence, Katie moves to open the door, the little pressure she applies to the door enough to break the doorframe, it’s rusted locks snapping through the rotting wood. With a gentle push, Katie pushes the door in, shining her light on two dead bodies, each by the other’s side.
Stepping forward, Katie looks closer, their bodies largely having rotten away, presenting their skeleton for those to see. “This is an execution” Katie whispers, her light catching the very top of the bodies’ skulls, one woman and one man, both dressed in style from the nineties, both with a bullet hole in their heads.
Holstering her weapon, Katie kicks the bodies onto their stomachs before reaching into the man’s back pocket, his wallet finding its way into Katie’s possession. “Bob Holton” Katie reads the name on the man’s identification card aloud, searching the room for a brief moment, ultimately finding the woman’s purse discarded beneath rubble. “Suzanne Holton” Katie reads the woman’s name from her own identification, a somber tone in her voice.
“Organ donors, both born in 1961, both from New York” Katie says aloud, comparing the cards with a saddened look. “Neither of you deserved this” Katie remarks, tucking their cards into her own back pocket before returning to the hallway, her eye placed back onto the bloody handprint. Though faded and barely noticeable, Katie watches the blood smear lead away from the handprint, leading further down the corridor, into the dark, cramped walkway.
Commencing her routine once more, Katie continues to venture through the hallway, her light suddenly catching something that reflects it back into her eyes. Gathering herself, Katie shines the light back towards the reflectant, stepping closer to the end of the hallway. “Why go up there?” Katie whispers to herself, following bloody handprints up the length of a ladder, its silver rungs leading multiple stories high to the rooftop above.
“Time to get myself killed” Katie jokes, putting her flashlight between her teeth as she climbs the first few rungs, ascending the impressively sturdy ladder. Opening a hatch at the peak of her ascent, Katie peers out at the rooftop, her eyes latching onto one figure in particular, a groggy corpse slumped over on the ground. The metal door squealing as she opens it, Katie steps onto the building’s slates, bracing for the heavy rain that begins falling over her.
“Aaarrgghh” the corpse begins to groan, locking his eyes onto the woman that joins him. “Come on, buddy” Katie mocks, closing the hatch behind herself. Taking to the woman’s request, the zombie climbs to its feet and begins stumbling forward, a tape recorder falling from its lap as its arms reach out towards Katie, its mouth open to present its teeth, which it hopes to dig into the young woman’s flesh.
Backing herself up to the edge of the roof, Katie lets the walker continue to approach, returning her flashlight to her pocket and leaving her gun in its holster. Waiting for the perfect moment, Katie forces her cast-covered forearm into the corpse’s mouth, keeping her distance from its hands as she removes the firearm from its boot. Shoving the corpse back to the ground, Katie removes the weapon’s magazine and spills the bullets onto the water-covered roof.
“You’re two bullets short, amigo” Katie says to the stumbling corpse, her head shaking as she looks to him, having counted the brass casings on the ground, “not what I was hoping for.” Removing her own weapon, Katie sinks her cast into the corpse’s mouth again, this time raising the barrel of her firearm to the undead’s rotting skull, her trigger finger relenting at the last moment.
“On second thought, you don’t deserve mercy” Katie whispers to the sack of bones, switching positions with the corpse and pushing him over the edge, her weapon holstered once more. Reaching for the hatch, Katie pulls on the metal panel to re-enter the building, exposing the ladder to the elements once more before catching a glimpse of something the corpse had left behind.
Reaching to the flat, water-accumulating rooftop, Katie retrieves a bloody voice recorded from where the undead body last occupied. Nodding to herself, Katie returns the way she came, sinking back into the building as the hatch closes back up.
Answering the knocking at his door, Franklin laughs in surprise at his friend’s appearance. “‘Em, I say this from a place of love and care” Franklin warns Emilio, laughing before he can even start his following point, “you look like total garbage.” Removing the hood from his head, Emilio flashes Franklin a smile before letting himself in. “Hey, Emilio” Alicia greets, her body covered by nothing more than a towel as she strides into the living room, dabbing at her hair with another towel.
“Hello, naked woman” Emilio jokes, throwing himself into one of the couple’s chairs and sinking into its cushiony embrace. “I’m definitely no expert, but it looks like something’s on your mind” Franklin remarks, taking a seat on the couch nearby. “I’m no expert either, but it seems like you’re conflicted” Alicia interjects, leaning her shoulder against the wall separating her bedroom from the larger living space, “almost like there’s something you don’t want to ask us.”
His hands folded in his lap, Emilio’s head hangs freely, his eyes tracing the patterns on the rug below his coupled hands. “I know the two of you don’t like talking about Concord, but I have to bring it up” Emilio replies, ripping the bandage from the harsh cut he’d inflicted the conversation with. “If you’re gonna bring it up, it better be for a good reason” Franklin replies, taking the iron cap from his amputation.
“I think you’ll find it is” Emilio replies, looking at the couple positioned before him, looking at him with a great disinterest in the route the conversation has taken. “When you were in Concord, did they ever talk about checkpoints, or stock homes?” Emilio asks, elaborating upon the confused look the couple returns to him, “y’know, places they’d hide a surplus of guns and ammo that they’d stock up at if they were too far away from their home compound?”
Sharing a glance at each other, the couple silently delivers Emilio his answer, raising his hopes briefly before forcing them back to ground level. “It’s not one of Charlotte’s, if that’s what you’re asking” Alicia replies, watching Emilio’s face fall again, “but we only know of one, and it’s nowhere near here.” The knot in his stomach beginning to twist onto itself, Emilio’s head falls into his hands, his palms wiping at the fatigue that’s set in over his face.
“What’s going on?” Franklin cuts into the discussion, aware of how distressing the expression of defeat on Emilio’s face is made out to be. “I think Charlotte’s planning another attack” Emilio replies, having taken a few seconds to consider what information he’s willing to offer, “I don’t know when, and I don’t know how. But I’m absolutely sure I found an unmapped bunker, and I’m convinced the militants of another compound are stocking up for war there.”
Now sharing the man’s defeated expression, Franklin and Alicia look to each other for a response, one neither survivor can come up with in the moment. “I’m holding out hope that they’re just setting up camp there temporarily, but somewhere in my gut, I know this is going to happen” Emilio explains, disappointedly shaking his head at himself, “no matter what, we have to start training the militia we’ve got for war now.”
Getting up to leave without another word, Emilio is called back by his one-armed running mate. “Was that it?” Franklin exclaims, surprised at how sudden his friend gets up to leave. “Is there something else to tell me?” Emilio replies, his hands placing themselves upon his hips as he stands in the doorway, uncharacteristically famished for optimism. Leaving his seat, Franklin steps up to his friend, resting his hand on Emilio’s shoulder.
“You have every right to be, so please don’t take this as me telling you to be happier or anything” Franklin warns, “but you seem irritated, like you’re holding something back.” Taking in a deep breath through his nose, Emilio shakes his head in refusal, putting on the most feigned smile Franklin had ever seen. “Just mad, that’s all” Emilio replies, patting Franklin on the shoulder as he turns to leave, disappearing behind the closed door.
“What the hell do we do now?” Alicia replies, crossing her bare arms across her chest as her wet hair falls over her shoulders. “I’m not sure” Franklin replies, the thought of war doing little to sway him. “You’re not so sure?” Alicia replies, almost mocking the response for how pointless it is, “I killed the man that Charlotte left in charge of Concord. If you think she’s mad at John for reassuming control of New York, how the fuck do you think she views us?”
Strolling into the kitchen without concern, Franklin reaches into an ice box and removes a chilled bottle of wine, taking two glasses from a nearby cabinet before setting them atop the counter. “What are you doing?” Alicia asks, her previous question having been left unanswered this entire time, watching her boyfriend pour red wine into small cups with a smile on his face, “we’re possibly on the verge of being executed by a lunatic, and you’re having a wine night?”
Screwing the top back onto the bottle, Franklin returns the vintage drink to its cold storage box, his fingers placed at the base of the second glass. “We left Concord with a power vacuum, made it through Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and most of New York, and still might be gunned down by a lunatic” Franklin replies, his fingers pushing the second glass towards his near-nude girlfriend, “if that bitch is gonna come at us scorned, it doesn’t matter what we do.”
Looking to the wine, then to her boyfriend, then back to the wine again, Alicia’s mind reaches for a litany of different conclusions, only one managing to peak her interest. “Fuck it” Alicia remarks, throwing her towel across the room and taking her place at the counter, nakedly drinking a cold glass of wine bringing a strange comfort to an otherwise miserable circumstance.
The wind continuing to violently thrash around the abandoned hotel building through the gaping wounds that broken windows have turned once-viewfinders into, Troy embarks upon his journey down the dismal conditions the soggy walkway provides. “Word to the wise, if you try to scare me, it will end with your death” Troy calls into the darkness, his foot kicking every closed door with brunt force, exposing its withered interior to the damp walkway beyond its front.
Continuing down the long, seemingly endless corridor, Troy exposes each room to his view, clearing everything his feet can bring entry to. “I’m not kidding you when I say this, if you’re hiding because you wish not to die, just say so” Troy exclaims, putting his foot to yet another door, meeting the same baron emptiness he’d grown accustomed to, “my friend and I have seen plenty of you. She sticks to her word just as I do, if you wish for safety, say so and you’ll have it.”
Shattering an already-splintered door with his heel, Troy pushes his way into another suite, this one more empty than the rest, exposed wiring having been stripped clean. “If you’re ransacking the place, you can say so too” Troy calls out, squeezing through the shattered door to return to the walkway, “we’re only in here to ride out the storm. We have no intention of staying past then.”
Preparing to force his boot through another door, Troy’s flashlight reflects off a small nailhead closeby, its jagged point driven through a wooden board, one of many quartering off an entire room. Glancing down the remaining unchecked stretch of corridor, Troy peers back at the room sectioned-off from undesired eyes, no less than intrigued. “Are these wooden boards your doing?” Troy calls out, hoping for an answer deep down, “I won’t go in if you don’t want me to.”
Stepping back to prepare himself for another kick, Troy has a change of heart, his mind still wandering to the potential life hiding within the shadows, begging not to be discovered. “I know I sound like I’m trying to lure you out. Believe me, I get that” Troy exclaims, easing his prepared kick, “I’m serious about what I said, though. If whatever is behind this door is something you don’t wish for me to say, tell me now. This is the last chance I’m going to give you.”
Waiting for a response, all Troy hears are the violent rips beating the side of the building with relentless intent. “Alright, then” Troy finally exclaims, letting a gust of wind leave his lungs as he steps forward, his foot lifting just off the ground before a growl from within catches his ear. Lowering his foot back to the slushy ground, Troy places his ear against the relatively fresh wooden planks, the haunting growls from within sounding terribly odd for an undead corpse.
Backing from the quartered-off room, Troy lays in a heavy kick, splintering four of the near-dozen planks sealing off the room. Pushing the fragmented boards from their place, Troy peers into the room with the aid of his flashlight, its ceiling having caved in, crushing a reanimated corpse beneath the weight of its decrepit, steel beams.
Confused, Troy pulls himself back, shining his light to the bottom boards, affording himself the chance to notice the inverted screws used closer to the ground, insinuating they’d been boarded up from the inside. “Well that was smart” Troy whispers to himself, a gentle kick at the fresh planks cutting off his thought, “hammer these boards into place, crawl through an opening you leave yourself at the bottom, then hammer those off, too.”
With a nod, Troy shines his light through the broken wood once more, the corpse’s lower jaw having been completely shattered beneath the beam, bringing its groans to the haunting bellows they now emanate as. Forcing his boot through the remaining boards, Troy pulls himself into the devastated room, his eye kept on the once young-looking man beneath the collapsed infrastructure.
Running his flashlight over the length of the downed beam, Troy pieces together the scene with fair ease, a disappointed laugh leaving his lungs to cope with the irony the scene leads him to believe. “I’m gonna guess you stripped the wires from the other room, came here, boarded yourself in, and tried to hang yourself” Troy says to the undead body, the tied wiring still wrapped around the beam, “it seems that, even in your time of need, you still thought not to hurt others.”
Letting out a sigh, Troy drops to a knee beside the man, reaching into his back pocket to remove his wallet, the identification card placed in the transparent pouch. “Elvin Webb, born 15th of August, 1995” Troy reads aloud, quickly unholstering his fixed-blade knife, a frown worn on his face, “you deserve mercy, you honorable soul.” Burying his blade in the body’s eye socket, Troy slowly pulls his blade free and closes the corpse’s eyelids.
“Rest easily” Troy whispers, leaving his knee as he backs out of the room, returning to his duty with a brief, yet respectful set of departing words, “I’m sorry you had to die alone. I’m glad I could be here to bid you adieu.” Tucking the identification card into his back pocket, Troy returns to his sweep, leaving the lonesome straggler to rest.
Her father’s hand wrapped around her own, Amy leaps from the ground as far into the air as she can, her feet pressing together as she crashes into a large puddle below her, splashing her father. “That was a good one, Ames” John laughs, letting the little girl’s hand fall from his grasp as she runs off in search of another small body of water. “Do you remember when I used to take Amy to the park every afternoon?” Meghan wonders aloud, following John unbeknownst to him.
“Yeah, I do” John replies, putting his curiosity aside for the moment, not wishing to leave Meghan without an answer to her question, “is stalking a habit of yours, now?” Her hands tucked into her pockets, Meghan fights the growing winds to stand beside John, walking with the man as he continues to spectate his daughter’s puddle-dwelling activities.
“Jess can’t shut up about how happy you’ve made her recently” Meghan replies, taking the conversation where she wishes it to go, “I can’t remember the last time that was the case.” Taking his daughter’s hand, John offers Amy stability as she leaps into the air again, her feet colliding with the water below. “That’s another good one, Amy!” John proclaims, offering words of approval just as the sky above begins to flash with lightning, roaring thunder emerging from behind the dark clouds.
“The most recent time I can remember her feeling that happy was after I came home from Afghanistan” John replies, tucking a hand into his pocket, “as long as I was alive, there was a smile on her face.” Again interrupted by the howling winds and shattering thunder, John and Meghan look towards Amy with silence, the young girl paying no mind to the disruptions, instead remaining steadfast in her efforts to put every puddle in its place.
“Have you ever wondered what your life would have been if you didn’t meet Jess?” Meghan asks, the question bringing a smile over John’s face for different reasons than assumed. “Where are all these questions coming from, Meg?” John replies, unable to hold his curiosity back, “it’s like you forgot to ask these questions before I married your sister, and they’ve all suddenly come back to you in this one conversation.”
Humored, Meghan waits for the thunder to pass before explaining herself. “Back when you were bed-ridden, I hadn’t ever seen Jess that distraught in my life” Meghan explains, her voice dropping a few decibels, “I was worried she’ll never find something to take happiness in again, let alone pass the days with a persistent smile.”
Hanging his head, John glides his hand over the scarring in his jaw, nodding to both himself and his sister in law. “Yeah, I know” John replies, a disheartened look on his rested face, his eyes taking to the woman beside him. “I’m really, really glad she’s got something to be happy about again. Something that, especially in this world, makes the day seem less miserable” Meghan replies, stopping her walk by turning to John, speaking just as the storm worsens, “it brings me great relief.”
Falling with a heavier force than before, the rain drops begin to pelt the three survivors below, the trees that surround them now being pushed by the powerful gusts of wind. His hand covering the hat on his head, John stares at his immediate surroundings, watching shop-front signs sway violently, panels over the windows of small homes slamming into the cider-built sides.
“Amy, come on. We should get back to the house” John calls out, the sour look on his daughter’s face bringing a physical pain over him once he sees it staring back at him. “But- the puddles!” Amy replies, bringing a frown over Meghan’s face. “I’m sorry, honey. This storm is just getting to be a bit much” John replies, taking his offspring into his arms, “when the storm is over, we’ll come back out and jump in even bigger puddles, okay?”
Nodding in silence, Amy rests her head on her father’s shoulder, watching the rain fall harder with each passing minute, her father and aunt hurrying their return to the home.
His jacket zipped up, his hands in his pockets and his head covered by the hood, Jack walks through open roads, bracing against the heavy winds crashing into his front. Turning to his right purely on instinct, a modest, out-of-the-way diner peaks Jack’s interest, its exterior as unimposing as any other building he’s crossed thus far. Seeking shelter away from the middle of the street, Jack averts course, his stroll leading him up the steps of the distant restaurant.
Immediately upon entering the diner, the rubber soles of Jack’s shoes begin to squeak on the tiled ground, the air filled with the sound of water running from the man’s jacket. As he gathers his thoughts, and the water that runs off his body hits the floor with less frequency, the air begins to grow still, and the faint tremble of another soul he shares the building with begins to catch his ear.
Slowly turning to look across the room, Jack finds an old man, likely well into his sixties, holding a knife in his quivering hand, a worry having consumed him the moment Jack entered the building. “Are you scared?” Jack asks calmly, pulling the hood off to show his face to the man, both hands then lifting to each side of his head, “you don’t have to be.”
Shaking, the old man rubs at his throat, his tongue licking at his dry lips, “do you have any water?” he asks Jack, his voice raspy and frail. Reaching into his jacket pocket, Jack removes a bottle of water and rests it upon the floor, gently pushing it forward to let it roll across the room, eventually finding its way to the old man’s feet. Seemingly putting his worries aside, the man places his knife in one of the booths nearby, scrambling to unscrew the lid and drink every last drop.
The old man’s shoulder specifically catching his eye, Jack takes one glance at the retro-era theme lining the walls and every other inch of the building, feeling strangely at peace. “How long have you been bitten?” Jack asks aloud, his eyes still traveling the decor-laiden walls as the heavy question is left as unpacked as a simple ‘how was your day?’ would be. Pulling his lips from the bottle, the old man glances at his bite, a worried look on his face.
“Why do you ask?” the man replies, paying no mind to the snapping winds just beyond the dusty windows. “Well, we’re both clearly in here hoping to ride out the storm. I’m not so sure how long it’ll last” Jack replies, sliding into a seat the diners-length away from his roommate, “I’d like to know whether or not I should be expected to serve as your dinner before the night’s end.”
Screwing the cap back onto the bottle, the man just stands where Jack had found him, staring at the man beneath the soaked cloak. “Last evening” the old man replies, disheartened by his admittance as he turns his focus to the window, “I don’t want to bore you. It’s a long story.” Looking back to the old man, Jack holds his hand towards the unoccupied booth across from him, “I’ve got plenty of time.”
Pleasantly surprised by Jack’s good-hearted nature, the older man chooses to trust his new, and likely final visitor, left with little other choice. “I’m Jack. Jack O’Rourke” the young survivor introduces himself, extending his hand. “Harold” the older gentleman replies, shaking Jack’s hand with a subtle grace as he slides into the booth, returning the water bottle to the tabletop, “Harold Lee.”
As lightning darts from the gloomy sky, John and his family reside in their living room, waiting for the storm to pass as Emilio and Bill enter through the front door. “Is it any worse than it was an hour ago?” John asks first, both Emilio and Bill walking into the foyer with not an inch of dry skin on their bodies. “Not at all” Emilio replies, shuffling his hands through his hair, shedding water like a wet dog shaking itself dry, “I think it’s only going to get worse.”
“We may have to entertain the thought that this is a hurricane” Meghan says from afar, her elbow pressed against the couch’s armrest, “these aren’t normal winds, this isn’t normal rain. There’s no reason to think this is a normal storm.” With a well-veiled groan, John folds his arms as he peers through a window, coming to accept the growing intensity the weather has taken.
“I think we should start planning for anything that could come after the storm” Bill suddenly proclaims, sinking into a chair, wet clothes and all, “something Charlotte-related.” Catching John’s attention, Bill watches the compound’s leader sit in another chair across the room, his arms resting at his sides. “I’m sorry, what’s going on with Charlotte?” Meghan interrupts, leaving the conversation once Jess leans in, offering a brief rundown with a whisper.
“If this storm starts getting out of hand, there’s a chance Charlotte’s troops will pay us a little visit” Bill explains, a sour look on his face, “assume we’ve taken a decent enough hit to jump on us while we’re weak.” Letting out a sigh, John wipes at his brow, considering the choices he believes the compound has left. “The walls have stayed up for two years now, we should be fine as far as those are concerned” John explains, his mind taken elsewhere, “but the clean-up could take forever.”
Biting his lip, John suddenly pulls himself out of the chair and begins climbing the staircase, venturing down the hall towards his office. “John, what are you doing?” Emilio calls out, his husband following closely behind. “If Charlotte’s going to choose now to attack, we have to be ready to defend ourselves” John replies, intending to finish his explanation before Bill cuts him off.
“Wait up!” Bill exclaims, both John and Emilio stopping mid-walk to turn back, looking at the confidence in Bill’s expression, “I think I have an idea.” Both confused, Emilio resorts to staring at his husband with the same uncertain expression, whilst John looks on with innate fascination.
“If we get rid of Charlotte, we might be able to create just enough of a power vacuum that her entire militia falls apart” Bill explains, instinctively noticing the pleased look on John’s face, “then, we pick their bones.” His tense posture relenting, John presses his hands against the walls on each side of himself, looking at the motivated drive Bill has to pursue this plan.
“We’ve literally shot that woman in the chest and she lived” John explains, struggling to consider another attempt as anything other than futile, “if bullets haven’t worked, how the hell do we kill her this time?” Shaking his head, Bill matches John’s stance, his hands pressing to either wall beside him, his face conforming to the same look as John’s own. “When did I say we killed her?” Bill replies, the momentary confusion John holds quickly turning to a smile, “I simply said we get rid of her.”
Jolted with confidence, John bursts into his office and takes the seat behind the desk, reaching into one of the many drawers to retrieve a hand-drawn map. “So she’s here, we’re here, and the distance between us is seven miles” John mutters to himself, lightly tracing over the paper with pencil, “at your normal speed, through this terrain, with the weapons you’ll need to get this done- you’re looking at an hour-and-a-half long walk, during what’s probably a hurricane.”
“I understand” Bill explains, meeting no resistance from his husband, who carries full faith within the man he’d ushered his vows to. “I’ll take three men, we’ll start walking now, get back before sundown” Bill explains, his arms crossing once John’s head begins to hang, already aware of the answer he’s bound to receive, “let her soldiers fall to shambles, keep her subdued in here, then take measures from there.”
“Alright” John replies, wasting little time to extend his hand outwards, “get back safely.”
“How’d the two of you meet?” Tyler wonders aloud to Troy, the tarps they’d placed over the windows continuing to flap under the pressure of the winds. “We were foster siblings” Troy replies, taking over a preoccupied Katie, who stares obsessively at the tape recorder in her lap, “our foster mother wanted teens. I got in the system in 2014, Katie was the same in 2015.”
“So you became friends” Janice assumes, quickly corrected. “Not really. We lived across a hallway from each other, and we kind of kept to ourselves” Troy explains, one hand draped over his bent knee, his back resting against a clean panel of wood, “we did jobs the system had us sign up for. When it came to working in groups, we teamed up. We didn’t know anyone else, so we just stuck with the most familiar face.”
A small fire burning atop the concrete floor, Troy’s face lights with a deep orange, the heat hitting him in the face enough to comfort him. “I used to have a pet snake. Yeah, I named him ‘Laurie’. He was my best friend for a while. He brought me comfort” Troy explains, shaking his head as another twig leaves his hand, stoking the fire, “he died in my sleep one night, and a part of me just felt really empty.”
“So, the two of you talked about it and became actual friends?” Janice attempts to assume once more, again corrected. “No. I stole a two-four and stayed in my room all day” Troy replies, a smirk spreading from one ear to the other, “we became friends when we missed our bus, walked down to the peer, and I saved her from accidentally falling in.”
Suddenly chucking from afar, hidden within the darker confines of the building, Katie continues to configure her recorder, the night beginning to come over as the storm slowly settles. “That is the least-honest story I’ve ever heard told” Katie replies with little to no emotion, “we were walking on the pier when I mentioned taking swimming classes in middle school, so Troy said ‘oh yeah?’ and threw me off the peer.”
Overcome with laughter, Troy nearly hunches over as the breath escapes him, every survivor, including Katie herself, laughing at the tale of misfortune. “Okay, maybe I fabricated a little bit” Troy confesses, finishing his thought as Katie gets up to return to the campfire, “but from there, we’d hang out on the weekends, shoot guns and stab beer cans with other friends, and just live our lives while we could.”
Her hand smacking Troy over the back of the head, Katie takes a seat in the small circle, the shorts she wears allowing her bare legs to be grazed by the warmth of the flame. “I think I’ve-” Katie begins to say, interrupting herself with the push of a button, a voice briefly emerging through the radio in her hands. “Okay, I should correct myself” Katie begins again, peering up to those around her with a happy look, “I definitely got it to work.”
The group quieting, Janice and Tyler lean in to listen to the voice through the small speakers, their intent focus dulling out the dying winds beyond their tarp coverings.
/ 268 days prior /
“Is this thing-? Yup- Okay, it’s recording” the voice on the speaker mutters, learning how to operate the machine he now depends on to tell his story. “I- I killed someone- I killed two someones” the man confesses, taking a brief pause to wet his chapped lips, “I came up to the roof to get a breath of fresh air, but now I’m locked out up here. I can’t jump four stories without breaking my legs, and I haven’t seen anyone in weeks.”
Weak, Shawn crawls into the rooftops corner and leans against the concrete lip, the dawn of night having come over yet again. “I’ve been out of water for over twenty four hours, and I can feel myself getting slower” Shawn explains, a faint siren blaring in the distance, “if you hear those loud noises, I’m pretty sure they’re coming from that compound Tony was curious about. I don’t know what they mean, but I know they’d be quieter from here if they were coming from Sheol.”
Struggling to breath, the man’s eyes are surrounded by dark circles, even more prevalent now worn over his pale face. “I made it so close. I’m so sorry I couldn't get back home” the man begins to whimper, forcing his emotions to remain at bay, “I got to see the city light up from here, just one more time. I wish I could say goodbye in person, but I’ll take what I can get.”
Letting out a sigh, the man begins to lose consciousness, letting out bleak whimpers before the recording cuts off, seemingly stopped in the man’s final moments of life.
/ 268 days later /
“That is depressingly haunting” Janice mutters beneath her breath, latching onto the least interesting factor of the audio. “I’m sorry, did he say a city lit up?” Tyler interjects, at a strong loss for words, “I mean, who is Tony? What the fuck is Sheol? How do they-?” Not having stopped the audio, Katie’s recorder interrupts Tyler mid-sentence, the wailing sounds of undead groaning persevering through the metal box.
Pausing again, the groaning stops, only returning after another few seconds before stopping again. Repeating for another eleven times, the tape continues before inevitably running out of space, leaving the group in a confused silence. “Was that a zombie?” Troy asks in complete shock, his finger raised towards the small, square container in Katie’s hand.
“Well, I don’t think the guy came back to life just to groan into his microphone” Janice snarky replies, her feet stretched towards the open flame. “No, I get that, but that was a zombie” Troy replies, pushing himself into a state of shock, “the zombie unpaused the recording?” Without an answer, the rest of the group falls silent, unable to say anything without sounding mentally disturbed.
Beneath the cloudy night, Troy and his group disembark the rundown building, still starved for more clarity deep within their unspoken core. “Hold up” Troy calls out, joining Katie in removing the identifications from their pockets, the tip of their shoes carving out a dent in the ground, one they fill in with dirt after laying the ID’s to rest. “What’s that for?” Janice inquires, twirling the rifle in her hands as if it were a staff.
“When we find bodies, we try to figure out how they died” Troy explains, covering the laminated cars with the dirt they’d kicked up, “if they’ve reanimated, we put them down and give them mercy. Then we bury their ID’s, or something personal to them, and leave them to rest.” Nodding, Janice points out an approaching corpse nearby, “what about them?” the woman asks, both Troy and Katie turning back to Shawn’s reanimated body, multiple broken bones piercing the flesh.
“He doesn’t deserve mercy” Katie replies, removing the gun from her holster and stepping towards Shawn, “but I think he’s suffered his punishment already.” Pulling the trigger, Katie lets Shawn’s body crumble to the ground, folding up in a mangled ball as she walks away. “Let him live in his purgatory” Katie replies, throwing a bag over her shoulder as she walks ahead of the group, “our job here is done.”
“I don’t understand, why come all this way from Florida?” Jack inquires, the storm just beginning to die down as the sun disappears behind the horizon, consuming the world in growing darkness. “Because I made a promise to my wife” Harold replies, reaching into his wallet for a photograph of the married couple, a happy duo in their wedding attire plastered in a vintage, grainy scheme.
“When everything went down, people started trying to flee. Now, we did too, but we didn’t have the speed a lot of these people have” Harold explains, his smile fading, “she must have gotten scratched while we were scrambling for our car. She didn’t last much longer after that.” His voice starting to lose its pitch, Harold sits back in his booth, his eyes depressingly staring at the window, the rain still too-heavy for him to walk through.
“Our phone was disconnected from the main line not long before people started going crazy” Harold explains, his wife’s wedding ring held in his hand, “we couldn’t reach our daughter.” Folding his hands atop the table, Jack allows Harold to continue speaking uninterrupted. “While she was going, she asked me to go up to New York” Harold explains, a tear leaving his eye as he pulls the wedding ring close to his heart, “so, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last two years.”
Feeling the sensation leave his fingers, Harold glances back to the window, watching the rain continue to beat upon the ground with great force, the thunder continuing to roar. “I got so close” Harold whispers in defeat, allowing a sigh to part ways with his lungs, “if it weren’t for this storm, I’d be at her home right now. I’d get to die surrounded by family, one way or another.”
Taking his own eyes to the storm, Jack watches the rain ripple across the asphalt just beyond the storefront, a switch flipping in his head. “How far out is that house you’re looking for?” Jack wonders aloud, keeping his eyes on the window as Harold answers. “About a twenty minute walk, I suppose” the old man replies, Jack’s weight shifting out of the booth immediately upon this answer.
“We don’t need to abide by the laws of mother nature anymore” Jack replies, extending his hand out to the elderly gentleman, “let’s cover those last twenty minutes.” Looking at Jack in astonishment, Harold takes a moment before he can accept the man’s offer, the years since civility was common making Jack’s gesture unrecognizably obscure.
“Come on, almost there” Jack grunts, leading Harold through the rain just as it begins to let up, carrying the man up an incline. Finally arriving at the sought-after home, Harold and Jack find the interior completely dark, an unfinished fence left to the elements in the front yard, its foundation set just a few yards away from a four-way stop.
Gently opening the screen door, Jack forces his foot through the locked inner base, exposing the interior to the world outside for the first time in ages. Coughing as he leads Harold through the door, Jack swipes his hand over an abandoned couch, cleaning it of dust before setting Harold atop it, finally allowing him relief. Catching his breath, Jack cleans off an end table and sits atop it, looking at the dying old man across from him with a somber look on his face.
“You’re home” Jack whispers, earning a childish laugh from the man, who tries to hold a coughing fit back unsuccessfully. “I am, and that’s thanks to you” Harold replies, earning his own laugh from Jack. Falling silent, Harold gazes around the room, everything left exactly as he once remembered it, the only difference being the gathered dust that clouds every picture frame left standing.
“I’m sorry we didn’t find your family” Jack cuts through the thick sorrow, Harold’s shaking head suggesting no such blame. “I never honestly expected her to be here by the time I made it. She’s far too smart for that” Harold replies, holding back the tears of the mystery remaining over her fate, “still, it was worth taking the chance.” Coupling his hands together, Jack’s head begins to hang, his own disappointment recognized immediately.
“I’ve seen a lot of bad over the last few years. It’s frightening to know how quickly people are willing to turn back to what they evolved from” Harold explains, his head shaking, “I was worried the good was lost, or had died out.” Shedding a single tear, Jack slowly looks back towards Harold, the man’s breaths growing harder to come by. “I’m going to die tonight, but I’ll do so knowing my worries were for nothing” Harold explains, proud to do so, “there’s still good left after all.”
Holding his hand out, Harold rests his palm on Jack’s knee, his wife’s wedding ring tucked warmly between the two. “If this world, and its people are to get better- if they are to heal, people like yourself wont be a rarity, you’ll be a necessity” Harold remarks, the fight to push on finally leaving his ill body, “make this world a good one, won’t you?”
Sniffling, Jack places his hand over Harold’s, looking the man in the eyes as he answers. “I will” Jack replies, watching the final ounce of life leave them, the last breath escaping the old man’s lungs as he comes to his permanent rest, “I will.”
Shoveling dirt upon Harold’s grave, Jack scoops the last pile of mud into the hole and rests the decrepit shovel against the back patio where he’d found it. Two twigs tied together to form a cross, Jack fits both Harold’s wedding ring, as well as his wife’s, over each end of the makeshift crucifix, letting it sit at the head of the grave.
The rain having stopped, Jack ventures through the house once more, this time on his way back home. A gust of air leaving his nose, Jack stops in the middle of the living room, his flashlight shining down a small hall, where an open bedroom door resides. His muddy boots stepping over the blue carpet, Jack enters the master bedroom, his eyes taking a quick scan before stumbling upon a shelf at the back of the room.
With ease, Jack gathers the largest photobook from one of the middle platforms and begins flipping through the plastic-covered pages. Before long, Jack’s eyes are taken to a line of writing, one that brings a smile over his face. “Lilith “Lily” Lee-Martie” Jack reads aloud, removing the woman’s wedding photo from he binder and tucking it within his back pocket, pleased with his findings.
Stepping out of the woodworks, Jack returns to the road of the New World Order, his hands placed into the air before he turns the corner. “Jack O’Rourke, residence is 23 Maple-” Jack exclaims, turning towards the front gates expecting guards to hold him at gunpoint requesting his identification. “Wha-?” Jack whispers to himself, the permanently-parted front gates left without any oversight, a curious emptiness to the sky felt within his bones.
Dashing from within the greater compound, John scurries away from rising flames with a flashlight in his hand, brushing the concerned calls from Jack aside as he bolts towards a maintenance shed. “Where are the guards, John!?” Jack exclaims, following the man into the shack and up to the circuit breaker, killing power to the entire compound.
“That’s not the most important problem right now, Jack” John shouts in a frenzy, pushing past the man to rush back to the increasingly high flames. Following John back into the larger compound area, Jack’s eyes are taken by the sights above, or otherwise lack thereof. The control tower that once pierced the heavens above now lay on its side, collapsed to the west, its destructive fall having crushed a large chunk of the towering, near-unbelievable walls.
“The storm must have caused a mudslide, the entire thing fell off its foundation” Jess calls out to Jack, throwing buckets of water over the lifting flames, “now quit asking questions and help someone!” Before Jess can return to the aid herself, another set of voices call out from afar, rushing into the compound with a captive man over their shoulders.
Rushing off to aid Emilio, Bill and two other soldiers, John and Jess vanish into the night, leaving Jack to stare at the wreckage in a trance. Every sound, scream and plea for help drowned beneath the sound of dull buzzing, Jack’s eyes finally return him to reality, his sights leading him around the skewed shrapnel, fragmented concrete and shattered glass.
“Reggie!” Jack shouts, climbing over debris to reach the man, his sights falling upon a much more grim sight once he grows closer. “Reg-” Jack shouts himself again, falling silent upon seeing Shauna’s body crushed beneath rubble, her lifeless eyes staring towards the sky, her hands tucked in Reggie’s own. “She was right” Reggie remarks, muttering in a disturbed tone as his head glides up towards Jack, his stare cold, and hostile, “we’ll all get killed here.”
== Rise: Remastered ==