Walking steadily along a seemingly never-ending road, a lone undead begins directing its attention to a source of noise behind it. Growing closer within each passing second, the noise becomes apparent enough to begin drawing the attention of the undead backwards. As the noise grows louder, it becomes clear that it is the sax solo drenching the atmosphere through a set of well-endowed speakers, growing loud enough for the undead to stare it down like looking into the barrel of a gun. Hissing and groaning as its peers do, the undead reaches out towards the loud music before its head is split in two by the swift swing of a throwing axe making its way from the front of its head to the back.
Driving by as the monster collapses into a heap of death, John’s truck continues on its pathway towards the Stewart Air National Guard Base completely unsure of what resides there awaiting his group’s presence. “Any chance we get our hands on something that can get airborne?” Katie asks, seated beside John in the passenger seat.
With a smile and a shake of his head, John responds, “Let’s hope for Salem’s sake. I’m beginning to think she’s missing the sky” as he continues driving past the dirt road entrance of an abandoned farm house, nearly fully hidden by overgrown fauna.
“How you guys doing back there?” John shouts, asking through the narrow opening in the glass back window out to the engaged couple camping out in the truck bed. “Just peachy!” Bill shouts, watching as his fiance begins wiping off the undead ooze from the head of his axe. “Could use with some disinfectant wipes, but I’m willing to hold off on that grocery stop” Emilio jokes, smirking to himself as his husband shakes his head in disapproval, refusing to give an ounce of laughter to such a lazy attempt at humor.
“How about you?” Emilio shouts, waiting for John’s response, as the man at the wheel flips him off whilst keeping his eyes glued onto the road ahead of him. Chuckling to himself, Emilio returns to his current task whilst the group returns to silence, counting down the minutes before they finally arrive at the center of what could either become their potential nightmares, or their much-earned relief.
“Do you think life will ever go back to the way it was?” Katie asks towards John, who puckers his lips and tilts his head, wondering what his own belief in the matter is. “I… Don’t know. I haven’t really given it much thought” John replies, with Katie nodding to herself, looking forward partially disappointed. Turning his attention to the girl, John asks her what the problem is, only for Katie to be confused in the question herself.
“Honestly, I don’t know” Katie says, crossing one of her legs over the other. “I’ve asked almost everyone, and no one seems to think that it will. Or… At least, no one will explicitly say that they will.” John turns his attention back towards the girl once more, looking at her and asking her whether or not she believes that things will return to normal.
“I mean, not really. You can’t just live through this life and go back to what came before it. I get that… But, it’s kind of hard to think about never seeing the life that came before this one again. All the people… All the change. It’s weird” Katie says, with John’s expression turning into one of a frown.
“If you truly want to know what I think” John says, earning Katie’s attention as she turns to watch him. “I think we’ll eventually find somewhere that operates like our old world with additions that take this one into account. A city or a place with our old amenities, but new systems in place to make sure it doesn’t fall apart again. A comfortable middle ground that everyone can be fine with.”
“Do you really believe that?” Katie asks, with John turning towards her and smiling. “Yeah, I do. It’s going to take some time and effort to find it, without a doubt. But we’ve got to survive long enough for that place to find its footing and prove to be something stable.”
After a few more brief moments of silence ensure, Katie turns to John and asks, “What if we made that place a reality?” Nodding his head a few times and quickly weighing the most notable options, John smirks and turns towards the girl, now more enthusiastic about the future than before, responding, “When we find the right place. I don’t see why we can’t.”
Smiling at the driver, Katie nods and sinks into her seat, enjoying the remainder of the ride as the truck climbs a hill onto a long stretch of road leading into the exact direction of the air base, heading on a journey towards finally understanding the full picture.
= Rise 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 3 onwards =
Spitting dirt from beneath its back tires, John’s truck fights along the unkempt roads as the terrain gets slightly more bearable the further towards the base the group becomes. Eventually, the asphalt below the dirt becomes visible, and before long, John and his group are driving along clean, well kept roadway just a few thousand feet away from the front gates.
“There’s something about this I don’t like” John says to himself, catching the eye of the girl beside him as Emilio points out an easily missable flaw in the plan. “Why is this road so well treated?” Emilio asks, pointing out the switch from the dirt-covered roadway to the smooth-driving asphalt, gaining worry in the group.
“Listen up everyone” John shouts, pulling the truck off to the side of the road and parking beneath a bent and broken tree. “We’re going to park here and walk the rest of the way. No need to get caught and have our shit stolen this far in.”
Hopping from the front seat, John and Katie help both Bill and Emilio out of the bed of the truck and begin hauling their equipment the rest of the way to the camp. The further the group walks along, the more uneasy the air gets, and the worse the sinking feeling of this all being a trap further becomes.
After walking a few stadium’s worth of well-groomed road, the group finally comes across the back gates of the base’s tarmac, watching inside as the undead litter the area like fruit flies to a month-old piece of cantaloupe, hanging around with no direction other than their intention to satisfy their primal instinct.
Without hesitation, Bill retrieves the bolt cutters and begins taking apart the links of the well-painted chain link fencing before keeping it open with zip ties, allowing the group to begin invading the air base grounds one by one.
Pulling hammers free from Emilio’s bag, the group gets to work. “Head for hanger D!” Bill shouts, getting the group in the right direction before storming forward and burying the pull of his hammer into the side of one lone member of the undead horde, dropping it into a heap before continuing on. Next up is Katie, who ducks another member of the horde before grabbing it by whatever hair remains attached to its head and pulling back, scalping the decaying flesh from the corpse before raining down one meteoric shot directly atop its skull, allowing it to collapse forward in a satisfying face plant.
“Not bad” Bill jokes, walking towards another separated member of the horde before kicking its leg out and leveling it with a hammer-assisted uppercut, dropping it back without the blow having been fatal. Without further thinking, Bill stands over the prone body of the still fighting undead before dropping the sole of his boot over its face, crushing it’s deteriorated skull into a pool of maroon-like ooze and flesh.
“Watch and learn” Emilio says, marching forward towards two members of the undead and kicking the leg out from one, dropping it into the other before kicking the latter-most undead square in the mouth. As the first undead begins its noble attempt at climbing back into its feet, Emilio swings the pull of the hammer through its eye socket, keeping it in place as the second undead climbs back to its own feet, waiting the perfect amount of time before ripping the hammer free and bludgeoning the one monster left standing with a backhand shot for the ages.
“Got anything for us, John?” Katie jokes, with the defacto leader of the group smirking before calmly walking forward into a growing collection of the undead now taking notice of their own being slaughtered in cinematic fashion and lifting his hammer into the air. One by one, John strikes down undead corpses like he’s putting his signature to a pile of unimportant documents, dropping them like a bad habit on the cold surface of the tarmac. After getting through a good dozen, John spots one more member of the horde on its lonesome taking notice of his presence. With a smirk on his face, John pulls a knife free from his pocket and throws it forward with perfect accuracy, burying it into the heart of the undead before it slumps down against a light post as an undead pin cushion.
Continuing his calm, badass-like stroll, John rips his dagger free from the undead chest before turning to his group. Clearing his throat before taking another momentary glance at the horde left in the area, John smiles at his group before saying, “Let’s get this massacre over with” before he and his group rush forward into the horde like they’re signing a death warrant. Suddenly, the near-hundred corpses belonging to the undead begin dropping like flies at an ungodly rate, cementing the fact that John’s group is here to settle business.
Finally, Emilio takes his hammer and walks straight towards the final member of the undead horde remaining with a gleam in his eye. As the undead reaches out, Emilio buries the head of the hammer in its mouth, pushing it backwards as a way to gain distance further down the tarmac before finally reaching one of the many collapsed tunnels. Driving the undead into the top support bar of the still somewhat-intact boarding tunnel, Emilio drives force further and further before the head of the corpse in front of him detaches from the remainder of its body and crashes into the ground with a crack.
Turning around, Emilio walks back to his group swinging the hammer in his right hand like a kendo stick with a load of swagger. “Time to clear the air, huh?” Emilio jokes, with John unenthusiastically shaking his head as he heads for the door to the hanger in question. “Bill?” John asks, turning towards the man as he directs himself head-on with the door. After a few deep breaths, Bill lunges forward and lays one swift boot into the door, sending it flying open and crashing into the metal wall beside it with an unpleasing ring.
“Well done!” John jokes before further groaning and growling interrupts him, and from within the dark and well-hidden hanger entry, a flock of the undead begin pouring out of the new opening created. “You know what to do” John says as he and his group stand side by side, backing up slowly as the remaining undead pour out into the tarmac single file. “Showtime!” John shouts as he and his group rush forward to take on the next wave of undead.
Walking through the rundown entry into the hanger, John and his group turn on whatever light sources they have readily available to help illuminate their way. Around corners and through gaps in broken sections of the opening, John leads his group further and further into the unknown. As minutes pass, the group grows more uneasy knowing that each minute passing brings them closer and closer to not being able to get out once again.
However, after a hard battle fought on gutsy instincts most common in people with a deathwish, the group finally enters into the open and spacious hanger, pitch black from the lack of light accessible to it and returning their words to them in an echo. “This it?” Bill asks aloud, walking forward with the rest of the group as they make an attempt to familiarize themselves with the unknown engulfing them. “It’s supposed to be” Katie replies, shining her light around the area just as everyone in her group other than John.
“Watch your step” John says aloud, redirecting each of the group’s light across the ground, where corpse after corpse lay in their final resting place, positioned as if they were all sleeping. “What the fuck happened here?” Bill asks, putting his tongue to the side of his mouth as he and the remainder of his group begin smelling a potent, foul odor worse than that of the undead they encounter on a common basis.
“Oh f-uck, these are fresh” Emilio says, choking on his own heaves for fresh air before finally throwing up on the formerly sleek concrete floor. “Not fresh, but weren’t like this a month ago” Josh says, himself also choking on the stench as Katie kneels down to one, burying her face into her own sleeve. With a glove on her hand, Katie shoves one of the corpses from their side onto their back, where a single bullet to the middle of the forehead is the only thing that looks unusually out of place.
“Execution style” Katie remarks, with Emilio shoving another corpse over with his foot to reveal the same exact thing. One by one, many of the corpses are checked by the group stumbling their way through their burial ground to reveal the same exact thing on every corpse in the hanger. “Every single one of them. Shot in the head, placed on their side, and left to rot” Katie says, her words slightly muffled by the sleeve of her sweater. “This was intentional. They wanted this” John exclaims, looking around the room for a possible cause of this desire.
Walking towards a standalone room near the far side of the hanger, John stumbles around the maze of the dead below him on his way towards an open door. “This is how humanity fell” Katie says aloud, only for her statement to be challenged by Bill. “No. Humanity didn’t fall because of the undead, it fell from the panic that consumed it because of this” Bill says, afterwards waving his flashlight at the ground, bathing each of the undead in their first glimpse of light in weeks before continuing, “And this… This was the answer to knowing that everyone would keep things from going back to what it was now that panic won.”
Disappointed, Katie sinks her head towards the ground before overhearing a voice at the far side of the hanger. “Guys!” John shouts, with his call ringing throughout the hanger like a minor nuclear blast. Instantly, the group begins climbing over the bodies below before joining with John by a desk overseeing the remainder of the hanger. “Look at this” John says, turning to Katie and handing her a folder with a written letter in it.
Squinting her eyes to read it, Katie’s eyes shoot up following the second sentence before beginning to read it aloud.
“It’s not just the bite, it’s anything resulting in death. It’s an airborne plague that will bring anyone back to a fate worse than death that has now encompassed everything. Kill the heart if bit, kill the brain if not. It will only get more complicated. I don’t want to see this any further. I don’t want my daughter to see it either, but I think she’s already become it and I didn’t have the heart to give her mercy. Please forgive me.. Signed, Levi Walters.”
After a few seconds of silence, John hangs his head just before Bill anxiously asks. “Does that mean… we’re…” Bill gets out before getting cut off by John, who simply responds with, “Yes. We’re all gonna turn.”
After a few seconds of panic beginning to swallow the group, now drenching themselves in an understated fear, Emilio speaks up, angered by this. “Bullshit. That’s BULLSHIT! We don’t know that’s true!” Lifting his hand in the air, John allows the group to gain their composure before taking a deep breath and returning to the lead of the group. “Okay. If we don’t know, we have to find out. He said he couldn’t give his daughter mercy, so she must still be around. We’ll find her and check her for bites, and then we’ll know.”
“Where do we start looking?” Katie asks, watching John shrug his shoulders and reply “Find Levi. He’s probably out here somewhere.” Swallowing whatever spit they’ve got forming in their mouths, the group walks back out into the hanger once more, embracing the stench once more than makes it feel as if the air itself was rotting away before looking through bodies.
“Alright. If he’s got a daughter, he might have a wife. Look for a wedding ring, or some art-project jewelry” John shouts, kneeling beside body after body with his group in hopes of finding the original writer of the suicide note.
“Guys!” Bill shouts, kneeling behind a corpse with dog tags wrapped around his neck reading “Walters, Levi” and a wedding ring around the ball chain beside it. “I think we’ve got our guy” Bill shouts, with Emilio taking charge to rummage through his body for anything worth noting. “Ah hah!” Emilio shouts enthusiastically, handing John a card with Levi’s quarters being labeled as “Terminal F.”
“Alright, into the airport we go” John says mockingly, with the remainder of his group shamelessly waving their arms in sarcastic celebration. Tailing just slightly behind, John picks from Levi’s pocket a folded piece of paper, not bothering to open and read it on the spot, but instead opting to tuck it away in his pocket as he runs back to catch up with his people.
Stepping through into the lobby, Emilio leads the way into the airport’s most accessible entrance to the sound of glass cracking beneath the weight of their shoes and the metal supports for the chairs surrounding them to stand on being smacked with the aforementioned flying bits of glass. “This place couldn’t have been abandoned for long” Bill says, moving aside chairs and rubble ahead of the group as the eery silence begins sinking in, taking the place of a usually noisy and chaotic center of people.
“Let’s just hurry up and get this over with, this place is creeping me the hell out” John states to the group as softly as he can before his words are noticed by a member of the undead pinned beneath the front wheels of a cart. Reaching out to the remaining souls belonging to the living, the undead is helpless, watching on as Emilio walks up to it and brings down an axe over its neck, taking its head in an instant and returning the silence over the group once again.
“Down here” Katie exclaims, walking past the rest of the group and further into the airport as those behind her follow. Stopping ahead of a barricaded terminal, John and Emilio slowly remove the fortifications before the final thing remaining between themselves and the truth behind Levi’s warning is a lone door, still unlocked.
Raising his hammer, John begins tapping on the border of the door, waiting for a response until audible groaning begins coming from within. “Alright, Emilio will open the door and I’ll take whatever comes out down. Bill will keep us covered and Katie will check for bites. Got it?” John asks, watching the rest of his group nod as he stands back and awaits whatever comes his way.
Waving his hands with his fingers counting down, Emilio pulls down on the doorknob and pulls the door open, allowing what is kept within to be freed for the first time in however long. After a few moments, the dark entry to the terminal releases nothing, despite the hissing still spilling out into the airport. Confused, John maintains his position, waiting for whatever remains inside to come walking out, only to be met with the same anxious restraint as he was met with before.
“Katie!” John calls out, with the woman tossing him her flashlight before he begins slowly walking forward. From his pocket, John retrieves a knife and holds it to his chest, readied for anything that might make an attempt at surprising him as his other hand holds a flashlight. The hissing, still coming from within the dark room grows angrier, more annoyed the further John gets. After a few short moments, John turns on the flashlight just as he reaches the doorway, pointing it directly at a bed positioned square in the middle of the terminal. Atop the bed, a little girl lays down growling with John square in her sights, but is unable to move as both of her hands are restrained by leather ties on the side of the bed.
“Oh my god” Katie says in a mixture of disgust and horror, watching the small child, no older than eight years old, attempting to fight from her restraints to no success, remaining atop the bed, helpless. On the floor halfway between John and the little girl’s bed lays a glass bottle resting on its side. “John!” Bill whispers as the group’s leader begins slowly walking into the tunnel, being met with a wave as John motions for him to remain calm. Cautiously, John walks over to the bottle on the floor and picks it up, reading its label before dropping his head and wiping away the tears beginning to form in his eyes.
“John?” Katie asks concerningly, watching the man gasp for a breath of air to cover up the tears he is no longer able to hold back from falling from his eyes. “It’s morphine” the man says, still crouched in the center of the tunnel as the remainder of his group just outside expresses their own grief as they piece the events together themselves.
Standing to his feet, John aims the flashlight back at the girl atop the bed, still well restrained as he places his knife back into his pocket and uses his free hand to grab the undead child’s head and push it back to the pillow behind her. Along the girls arm, fainted track marks run up her arm and originate from the center of her inner-elbow, with the mark of a syringe residing right over what would have been her vein.
Taking in another deep breath, John walks to the end of the bed and wheels the girl out of the tunnel and into the light. “It was planned” John says, “They didn’t get overrun… They weren’t attacked… They wanted out and… they took it.”
Walking up to the man with her head still slumped down, Katie places her hand over John’s shoulder as he continues. “He didn’t want to leave her behind, so he took her along with them. But then he ran into an issue.”
Stopping momentarily, John watches Emilio and Bill walk around the other side of the bed before continuing on, wiping tears away from his eyes as he goes along. “She turned without being bit. Levi couldn’t bring himself to put her down, so he locked her in. Made sure no one could find her. After that… Their reasonings for taking themselves out became more justified than before.”
Hanging her head, Katie begins wiping away tears of her own whilst staring out into the distance, comprehending the news. “This is it” John says aloud, with the three people surrounding him turning their focus straight towards the man now slowly retrieving his knife from his pocket once more.
“We’re already dead” John says, finally pulling the blade free as Emilio pushes the little girl’s head back to the pillow once more, refusing to acknowledge the hissing and growling. “I’m sorry this happened to you” John whispers to the girl, lifting his head towards the sky to as not see his actions, holding the knife with both hands and slowly burying it into the little girls head, finally showing her the mercy her father could never afford her.
Pulling it free, John looks at the blade and discards it by throwing it off to the side, no longer wanting to have anything to do with it. Pacing around the room, the group battles with the internal dilemma of knowing their fates have already been sealed without any care for their story’s conclusion, bringing ahead a new understanding of life. Realizing the severity and distressing nature of this realization, Bill looks to change the conversation.
“We should bury her” the man states, only for John to silently shake his head in refusal. “No. We need to leave her for Charlotte” John says, bringing a look of confusion over everyone in the group. Without hesitation, John walks over to the bed and opens up the folded note before resting it over the little girl’s chest, free to anyone to read. “Why would Charlotte care?” Bill asks as John lays the note out.
Without any care, Katie walks over and picks up the note, reading it silently to herself. “What’s this girl mean to Charlotte?” Emilio asks, his confusion more present than Bill’s. “Because” John states, turning around to face the remainder of his crew once again. “The man from back at the New World Order was Charlotte’s brother. His tag read ‘Joseph Orville’ which means that ‘Walters’ is Charlotte’s marital name. That also means that Levi was Charlotte’s husband” John says, walking forward before returning to the bedside of the little girl.
“And this is Charlotte’s daughter.”
Once more, silence overcomes the group as everyone begins placing themselves into a state of disgust just before John says, “And Charlotte’s going to come back here first.”
“We’re letting her out?” Emilio asks with an aura of confusion, with John refusing to respond, simply taking the note gently from Katie and placing it over the little girl’s chest before walking out of the airport and back to the fencing.
Leaving the fencing tied open, John and his group return to their truck and head back towards their camp, disappearing over the hill as the sun begins setting as their truck’s wheels move from well-kept roadways to heavily dirty, almost invisible asphalt.
“Good night” John says, disappearing into the doorway and heading back into the living room of the camp’s house, walking slowly up to Charlotte, who is left curled up in the corner with her hands still tightly restrained. “Get what you were looking for, cowboy?” Charlotte asks, trying to keep some appearance of her former confidence intact. Despite expecting to be reamed once again, Charlotte takes concern inside as she watches John remain silent before taking a seat on the floor beside her.
“Gonna kill me now and get it over with or what?” Charlotte asks, gaining a sort of chuckle out of John, confusing her as his manner takes a massive turn from the night prior. After a few short moments of silence, John mutters, under his breath, “I get it now.”
With a brief chuckle, partially out of fear, but mostly out of humor, Charlotte turns towards the man and asks, “What is it you think you get?” Turning to the fire place,John pulls out a small pocket knife from a loose floor board and plays with it in his hands. “You’re not evil” John replies, tilting his head to face the woman, now fully confused as she and John lock eyes, keeping their focus glued to each other.
“What makes you say that?” Charlotte asks, watching as John responds, “Because we’re very much alike.”
“Explain” Charlotte says, fully invested in John’s explanation. “We’re just trying to survive. Make the most out of this world. Give our families the best lives they can ask for” John says, watching Charlotte’s eyes sink as he reaches the second portion of his statement. “What did you find there?” Charlotte asks, only to double down, “At the base, what did you find?”
Dropping his head to the ground, John remains silent before turning his body to face Charlotte completely. “John” Charlotte asks, watching the man lift his head into the air, “Please. Tell me what you saw” Charlotte pleads, her eyes weltering with tears as the anxiety begins overwhelming her. With her eyes locked onto the man ahead of her, she watches John begin tearing up himself and shaking his head from one side to the other.
“John. Please” Charlotte says once more, challenging the world to tear the only line of rope she has left to hold onto. “I’m sorry, Charlotte” John says, watching the woman shake her head in response to, now challenging herself to deny the truth from being as such.
“The undead. They were all over the tarmac. They… they shot themselves in the tarmac” John says, joining Charlotte in a moment of sorrow. Faintly, Charlotte says her husbands name, watching John nod his head silently, unable to respond with even one word. “And…” Charlotte says, her sadness unable to allow her to mutter anything further before John nods his head, this time whilst aiming it straight downward, the tears from his eyes falling to the floor from the tip of his nose.
“I’m so sorry” John says, with the woman, still slumped into the corner openly sobbing at the information presented to her. After a couple minutes of crying, the tears stop flowing and silence ensues once more. As both begin attempting to regain their composure, John hears Charlotte request one thing under her breath, her breathing difficult to come by due to the crying.
“Just kill me already” Charlotte requests, prompting John to raise his head up, noticing the woman resting against the wall, ready to welcome death to take her too. After a few moments of pandering his next approach, John seems to resort to acceptance, flicking the blade up from the knife in his hands as he slowly raises it to Charlotte.
Defeated and about as good as dead itself in her own eyes, Charlotte holds her head against the wall and takes what she welcomes as her final breath, only for her next breath to come after the sound of ripping and tearing. Her next breaths follow suit before the ripping and tearing come to ahead, and her hands drop freely into her lap, freed from the restraint of the ropes now dropped to the ground.
“Why?” Charlotte asks, almost disappointed in the outcome of being free, watching as John shakes his head and tucks the blade back into its compartment. “Because you’ve got to keep fighting” John replies, watching the look on puzzlement overcoming Charlotte’s face. “I was alone when this all started. My wife was too far away for me to realistically get to her and my little girl was nowhere to be found. I was lost, but I had to survive” John says, watching Charlotte shakes her head in refusal.
“I had something to hope for, I know that’s a big difference. But this world welcomes loss far more often than the old one did. It’s a challenge… A challenge issued by the world to test your will to survive. And that’s exactly what you need to do” John says, watching the woman turn her head back to the man ahead of her. “I don’t deserve to live” Charlotte replies, “I’ve done too many bad things to have any right.”
Leaning forward, John looks at Charlotte and hands her the pocket knife, looking her right in the eyes before responding, “We’ve all done bad.”