His long, wet hair turned to ice in the frigid air, Lou sits by a roaring campfire alone, seated upon a wooden stump with two folded pieces of paper on his lap. His foggy breath clouding the air, Lou just stares into the bright flames, sitting quietly whilst Lee takes notice from afar. “Don’t you usually wake up around this hour?” Lee inquires, walking over to occupy the seat to the right of his dishevelled acquaintance.
“I wake up at sunrise” Lou replies, sharing a passing glance at the man before looking back toward the fire, his arm laid atop his lap. “That’s a difference of a few hours. I was close enough” Lee responds, his hands bundled in the kangaroo pocket of his sweatshirt, “it still doesn’t explain why you’re still awake.”
His face pale, Lou quietly shakes his head as it begins to drop, unable to put what he feels into context. “That’s fine, you don’t have to tell me” Lee replies, observing the struggle hidden behind the man’s composed face, “but I can tell there’s something on your mind.” His eyes kept on the fire, Lou remains sat in silence, pondering to himself as Lee gets comfortable, seemingly not keen to leave at any point soon.
“Do you care about the people here?” Lou finally inquires, his head tilted as he looks toward the camp’s shot-caller. “They’re the only family I have” Lee responds, his voice low, calm and clear, “I care about them a lot, yes.” His response concluded, Lee remains sat quietly, waiting for whatever rests on Lou’s mind to present itself. “Did you ever start to miss everyone else?” Lou ponders, slightly hunched forward, “feel like you’d never find the rest of us again?”
This question more difficult to answer, Lee sits with his thoughts for a moment, feasting upon the question before returning what remains. “I know I’ll never see the rest of our group again” Lee replies, disheartened in admitting the fact, “don’t get me wrong- I’m glad our paths crossed. I didn’t expect to see you again, either- but seeing you again didn’t make me any more confident in finding the rest of our group than I already was.”
Squinting his eyes, Lou watches Lee cogitate in silence, slowly warming up to his continuation. “I wish the best for you, and Elsie, and everyone else. I hope you all live wonderful lives and do great things with your time. Please, know that I’m being honest when I say that” Lee explains, an apologetic hint burrowed within his voice, “but once I deboarded, and all of us made it to shore, I had new priorities.”
His head nodding, Lou pulls his eyes back to the flame before him, losing himself in its bright, violent glow. “What about Theo?” Lou responds, his eyes again drifting across the camp, “is he more like me, or more like you?” His laughter emerging with the sound of a hum, Lee sucks on his lip as his head shakes. “I’m not quite sure, honestly” Lee replies, rubbing his cold hands together, “when we got split up, I think we both had our assumptions of what your fate was.”
Curious, Lou remains silent, allowing his silent stare to usher Lee’s persistence. “I expected you’d all survived, or at least, most of you survived. I chose to believe you were all scattered along the coast, and our paths would never cross again” Lee explains, a more subdued, disheartened reflexion emerging, “but Theo- Theo assumed the worst.”
Bobbing his head, Lou looks back to the firepit while responding. “So, when I showed up-” Lou begins, his thought finished off by the man beside him, “-he went from hopeless, to hopeful.” His head still bobbing, Lou’s lips part to reveal his smirk. “So, showing up did more harm to you than it did good, didn’t it?” Lou responds, watching Lee’s face shamefully scrunch. “I really want to say no” Lee responds, visibly unpleased at the thought of having to answer.
“When enough stuff was set up around here, I tried to blend into the crowd. Be the silent leader, you know?” Lee explains, downcast, “Theo was the face that enforced the choices I made. He earned the disappointed looks and the backhanded remarks that should have been levied at me. It was working well when you showed up, but since you arrived, Theo hasn’t been the same as when we broke ground here.”
Glancing at the folded papers in his lap, Lou returns his sights to Lee, trying to ask another question before falling short. “Whatever it is, you can ask it” Lee reiterates, watching Lou’s eyes take back toward him, “go ahead.” The tension in his heat-brushed face easing, Lou swallows the build up of spit in his mouth, and allows the question to leave his lips.
“How did you know when these people became your family?” Lou queries, watching the smile arrive on Lee’s face, “when did you know you cared about them?” The cold air silent, Lee presses his elbows into his thighs as he hunches over, lowering himself closer to the heatsource.
“A woman who I deboarded with got bit a few days in” Lee explains, wiping a single tear from the corner of his eye, “She spent the ride back to land telling me the only thing she cared to do was get to see her daughter one last time.” His eyes squinting, Lou watches Lee’s head shake, the smile he wears remaining. “When you care about people enough, you’ll know it” Lee replies, glancing down at the papers in Lou’s lap, “but something tells me you already figured that out.”
Leaving his seat, Lee approaches Lou with his hand extended, shaking the survivor’s hand. “It’s been a pleasure knowing you, Lou” Lee murmurs, departing with an equally warm smile as the one he entered with, “I hope you find them.” Returning to his tent, Lee leaves Lou sat alone once more, the folded papers in his lap regaining the man’s attention.
His rifle thrown over his shoulder, Lou rests one note on his empty sleeping bag before sneaking toward the back of the tent. Gently guiding the second note beneath Marta’s pillow, Lou departs, sneaking through the vestibule before disappearing behind the treeline, vanishing into the cold, British Columbia night without a word.
= RISE and REVOLT is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series from Season 1 onwards belong to Zachary Serra and his entity of Pacer1 =
“Calm down, what do you mean he left?” Theo responds, dressed in only a t-shirt and a pair of boxers as he stands in front of his tent, confronted by the remaining members of Sebastian’s group. “He’s gone!” Sebastian shouts, his right hand extended toward the tent’s occupant with an unfolded note between his fingers. “To be fair, you did tell him to” Norman replies, stood nearby with a cup of coffee in hand.
“I was angry! I didn’t mean it!” Sebastian responds, his attention returning to Theo, “what do we do now?” His eyes rolling over the ink markings, Theo only grows more frustrated, his fingers pressing down on the page enough to crumble its side. “This wouldn’t have happened if you’d just shut your mouth!” Theo barks, pinning the blame solely on Sebastian’s shoulders before turning back toward his tent.
“Fine, I’ll admit that I fucked up!” Sebastian retorts, splitting from his group to follow after Theo, “that doesn’t change the fact that we have to find him!” A cup of coffee in his hand and dressed in soft, cotton pyjamas, Lee casually saunters toward the bickering pair. “Lou’s a grown man. If he chose to leave, he chose to leave” Lee explains, sipping his caffeinated beverage loudly, “what exactly are you to do? Send him a text? Ping his phone to the nearest cell tower?”
“We’ll follow his tracks!” Sebastian replies, reaching for whatever solution he can, but none of his suggestions fill Theo with much hope. “No, you’ve done enough” Theo responds, a look of contempt given to the rookie group’s presumptive leader. Feeling awful, Sebastian turns back to rejoin his group, resigning to the truth he’s left to face. Turning away in disgust, Theo prepares to re-enter his tent, only for a last-second glimpse at Lee to yank his mind elsewhere.
Looking at the man curiously, Theo grows suspicious at the man’s lack of emotion, no anger, nor glee presented in the man’s expression. His temper high, Theo pulls away from his vestibule to approach Lee, both Norman and Ned left to watch the confrontation unfold. “Did you know about this?” Theo wonders aloud, watching Lee lower the mug from his lips, quietly glancing back at Theo for a few seconds.
“Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to, Theo” Lee replies, turning his shoulder to walk away until Theo’s hand grabs it, preventing the leader’s departure. Their attention earned, Norman and Ned cautiously guide their hands toward the grip of their holstered firearms, prepared to open fire if necessary. Relenting to the man’s perseverance, Lee slowly turns back to look Theo in the eyes, his heavy breath fogging the air just as rain begins to trickle from the overhead clouds.
“Lee, if you knew about this and didn’t tell me-” Theo begins, quickly interrupted by the rise of Lee’s hand, the palm held before Theo’s eyes until the words he speaks trail off. “Theo, don’t point fingers if you’re not prepared for them to be chopped off” Lee warns, angrily pulling his shoulder from Theo’s reach before returning to his morning, watched through Theo’s anger-filled eyes.
“This isn’t your fault, Sebastian” Adrian explains, ducking through the vestibule on his way into the tent, “we’re all to blame.” Unable to hold his laughter back from the abhorrent claim, Rudy returns to his slumber bag. “Trade blame all you want, none of this would have happened if he’d never come into our lives to start with” Rudy responds, drawing the ire of everyone he shares the tent with, though the greatest choler is earned from his own daughter.
“Dad, shut the fuck up!” Sonya shouts, silencing the group instantly whilst earning an astonished look from the man. “If we hadn’t met Lou, these people would have either found us eventually, or we would have died in that avalanche!” Sonya exclaims, though Rudy remains too awestruck to do more than stare at his daughter in silence, “I despise everything about this situation as much as the next guy, but you’re fucking delusional if you think we’d have been better off without Lou.”
Remarkably hurt, Rudy quietly looks away, sitting on his bed without another word. “Like it or not, this is the world now. Adrian was right when he said there wasn’t any going back” Sonya explains, the group’s undivided attention left upon her, “we fight the dead, or we become the dead- no simpler, no more complex. Fight or die.”
His chin raised, Sebastian stares at Sonya in merciless silence whilst Adrian and Marta look on, their same belief spoken through a pair of lips they least expected to hear them originate from. “Vancouver” Sebastian quietly mumbles to himself, drawing the eyes of the tent toward him. “He had a map in his bag” Sebastian explains, pointing his finger toward their departed friend’s vacant sleeping bag, “it was marked to hell and back, but I remember he drew a circle around Vancouver.”
“Why Vancouver?” Sonya replies, hands finding refuge upon her hips. “I don’t know. He’s looking for his friends and he’s from America, that’s my guess” Sebastian responds, watching Marta march toward her bed, “go ahead and ask an American to name a city in this country. The first answer’s going to be ‘Toronto’, the second will be ‘Vancouver’.
“So, off the correct assumption of Americans being stupid, you’re gonna throw a dart at a map and run with that?” Sonya replies, unable to receive her answer before Marta begins strapping her feet into winter boots. “What are you doing?” Adrian inquires, watching his daughter eagerly prepare her for the frozen elements. “I’m going after him” Marta responds, sprinting through the routine as if she’d done it dozens of times before.
“Great job, Seb’ You’ve got the kid hell-bent on hiking to Vancouver” Sonya replies, her statement again left unanswered. “Marta, you can’t go out there” Sebastian explains, walking up to the woman’s side, his voice lowered to a gentle, understanding tone. “Lou may be afraid of getting attached, but I’m not” Marta responds, angrily pulling away from Sebastian’s touch, “I don’t mind admitting it. I got attached. Lou’s been more of a friend to me than any of you!”
“Marta, I-” Adrian attempts to interrupt, finding his voice inferior to that of his daughter’s own. “I’m not some little girl that needs to be protected, and Lou was the only one to see that!” Marta shouts, continuing to pull away from any of the tent’s residents, “he was there to teach me how to live- not live in denial, but actually live.”
Attempting to walk forward, Sebastian feels Adrian’s pull against his arm and learns from the prior night, giving into the restraint. “All of you fought to stay cooped up in that cabin because you weren’t ready to let go of what you had” Marta declares, throwing her coat on, pocketing her switchblade, tucking her firearm into her waistband, and reaching down for her bags, “I’m not ready to let go, and now it’s my turn to fight for that.”
Pushing through the men in front of her, Marta charges the tent’s vestibule, the only word that holds her back from leaving coming from her father’s mouth. “Wait!” Adrian exclaims, watching Marta turn back, stood on the rainstorm’s cusp in silence, waiting for the plea she expects.
“I’m coming with you” Adrian declares, throwing himself upon his bed as he reaches for his boots. “What!?” Rudy exclaims, sharing the bewilderment with Sonya and Sebastian equally. “Adrian, I’m gonna be honest- that wasn’t what I was expecting” Sebastian explains, dropping to his knee beside the eager father. “I’m not going to tell my daughter she’s wrong when I know damn well that she’s right” Adrian retorts, fastening his shoe’s laces, “if she’s going after Lou, so am I.”
Speechless, Sebastian spends a moment in silence, listening to the rain tap against their tent before abruptly following suit. “What are you doing?” Sonya ponders at Sebastian, watching the man’s hands fumble over his belongings. “I’m going with them” Sebastian replies, earning a dissatisfied groan from the opposite side of the tent. “What the hell is wrong with you people!?” Rudy shouts, waiting for answers while his daughter gives in, reaching for her shoes.
“Don’t tell me-” Rudy begins, watching his daughter shrug as her foot presses into a boot. “Why the fuck not, right?” Sonya grumbles, voluntarily throwing herself into the mix, “what good is standing around going to do?” Sat in disbelief, Rudy stares at Marta before his eyes take back to Sebastian, the obvious question leaving the man’s mouth. “You coming along, Rudy?” Sebastian wonders, what began as an easy question to answer now offered uncertainty.
“He doesn’t care about you people! I’ve failed to see him care about anything since he showed up!” Rudy shouts, “why risk your lives for him!?” Looking Rudy in the eyes, Sebastian’s answer comes easily. “He doesn’t have to care about us in order for us to care about him” Sebastian responds, fastening the laces on his second boot, “like Marta said- he didn’t get attached, but we did.”
“Come on, dad” Sonya urges, her hopeful voice drawing his eyes back to her, “watch my back out there, won’t you?” His resentment subsiding, Rudy finds himself defeated by persuasion as his hands reach for the shoes beside his pillow, the older man taking no pleasure in his acceptance.
Emerging from the forest just as the evening appears, Lou swipes the rain-wetted hair away from his eyes as he steps upon snow-cleared asphalt. His gore-ridden cloak cleansed of its rot, Lou begins to walk the road alone, his eye kept out for whatever signs occupy the roadside. As metres turn into kilometres, Lou discovers more of the same, abandoned cars littering the roadways whilst horrifying weather overturn one road sign after another.
“Aarrgghh!” a groan startles Lou, its genesis trapped within the old frame of a bright red pickup truck, tormented by the necrosis that leaves it stripped of power, forever destined to wither behind the rolled up windows of its boldly-coloured cab. Moving forward, Lou’s eyes take to a strip of buildings in the near distance, their existence a warranted reprieval from the meandering status quo.
A bell ringing as he enters, Lou surveys the insides of a ransacked liquor store, its floor covered in broken glass, its shelves stripped bare of even the weakest brands. “I’m just passing through” Lou warns, the glass he shatters beneath every step beginning to unsettle him. “It seems pretty obvious that you’re closed, so forgive me for intruding” Lou exclaims, his eyes glancing down each aisle.
“If you’re in here, I mean no harm” Lou continues to speak, the loneliness he’d once grown accustomed to now feeling alien, perhaps more unsettling than the glass crunching beneath his weight. “I’m not from around here, so if there’s any brands you could suggest, that’d be a big help” Lou quips, unable to find an unharmed bottle in his excursion.
Though distant, Lou’s ears harken toward a groan in the building’s depths, his halted movement bringing an eerie hush over the room, which only intensifies the undead gargling. His flashlight-rebar combination in tow, Lou continues his inspection, inevitably reaching the point where scattered bits of glass grow infrequently, replaced with bloody smears, handprints, and splatters.
The hairs on his neck rising, Lou steadies his breaths, preparing for whatever looms around unchecked corners, lying in wait for the perfect moment to strike. The sizable pit in his stomach ignored, Lou endures the hunt, following the blood smears toward the distant wailing, each step bringing the dead closer. His breath held, Lou refuses to hesitate in turning the corner, aiming his makeshift spear toward a set of refrigeration units with the intent to strike.
His back to the wall, Lou finds himself surrounded by devastation, the horrifying scenes that surround him caked in dry blood and smelling of urine. Locked away in one of the fridges, a corpse presses against the glass, more decayed than most Lou had seen to this point. His tension relenting, Lou covers his face into his sleeve to mask the overpowering stench, unable to look away from the decrepit corpse fixated upon him.
“You poor bastard” Lou mutters from within his sleeve, shattering the glass display as he drives his spear through the corpse’s skull. Unable to leave the room fast enough, Lou vomits his dinner into a random corner of the room, hurrying to return the way he came.
Climbing behind the front counter, Lou wraps his hands around the closest bottle he can find, taking it on his travels as he departs.
His handgun left taken apart atop his table, Lee slowly recites the instructions he’s memorised as Theo quietly enters his tent. “I’m getting better at this every day” Lee remarks, aware of who’d entered his home. “My fingers are prepared for their chopping” Theo replies, keeping his mind set on the intentions he entered with. “You say that now, but you’d be singing a different tune if I had the machete ready” Lee responds, letting out a chuckle that Theo presents a dislike toward.
“Why is this funny to you?” Theo asks, allowing himself further entry as Lee continues to struggle. “I don’t find it funny- I don’t even find it amusing” Lee replies, continuing to stare at the weapon’s individual pieces. Adding no further comment, Lee continues to prepare the firearm as Theo stands over him, his impatience only growing.
“Gimme that” Theo orders, ripping the weapon from Lee’s hand and finishing its reconstruction flawlessly, setting it back upon the table in one, fully-operational piece. “I was getting to that part, y’know” Lee mutters, taking his humorous tone once more. “Why did you let Lou leave!?” Theo barks, his palms slamming against the table in frustration, refusing to allow the topic to change.
“Because I’m not Lou’s father. He’ll make whatever decision he wishes to as long as it doesn’t involve my people” Lee responds, reclaiming his weapon as he stands from his seat. “Lou is your people!” Theo shouts, which Lee immediately argues. “No, he’s your people” Lee replies, his commanding tone still carried with the volume of any other statement, “and that has been very clear since the moment he stepped out from those trees.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Theo responds, his eyebrows furrowed. “It means exactly what you think it means” Lee replies, refusing to show concern as Theo’s anger mounts, “the moment you found him, alive and unharmed, everyone in this camp took a backseat.” His head shaking, Theo voices his disagreement. “The people in this camp are my people too” Theo responds, a statement Lee finds urgency to differ from.
“No, they are my people. They have to be my people, just as they have to be to anyone in charge of protecting this camp” Lee replies, standing firm in his assertion, “they can’t be one of many priorities, they must be the only priority.” Removing the rifle from over his shoulder, Theo slams the large firearm upon Lee’s desk, his eyes taken back to his friend. “Are you saying I don’t have what it takes to protect this camp anymore, Lee?” Theo wonders, a question that momentarily goes unanswered.
Staring Theo in the eyes, Lee considers his choices, aware of the intentional significance of Theo’s hand remaining on the weapon, waiting for the answer. “I don’t know right now, Theo” Lee responds, satisfied with the honesty in his reply, “I can only begin to guess what your priorities are. I can’t know for certain, therefore, I can’t know right now.”
His nostrils flaring, Theo stares at Lee silently for another second before removing his hand from the weapon, allowing it to remain in Lee’s possession. In silence, Theo departs the tent, wandering into the camp, disarmed and disheartened. Left to stew in the dark confines of his tent, Lee’s attention begins to hover toward the greater campsite, where collective wonder begins to make itself heard.
Emerging from his isolated home, Lee joins his people in gathering at the site’s centre, collective amazement shared amongst the community. Parting the crowd, Lee descends upon the camp’s square, where Courtney stands before a sled stocked with wooden crates. “What is all of this?” Lee inquires, unsure how to respond to the woman’s assumed gesture.
“This is just fifty kilos of salt-preserved ground beef” Courtney replies, earning a flurry of smiles from the collection of souls surrounding her. “And, if your leader would be kind enough to share a few words with me, there’s even more to expect” Courtney proclaims, seeing the pleased expression worn on Lee’s face, “and, when I say ‘more to expect’, I’m talking about three-hundred and fifty kilos of ground beef, steak, briskets and ribs ‘more to expect’.”
Gawking at Courtney, the community’s eyes slowly turn in Lee’s direction, silently begging for him to respond with kindness. Hanging his head to hide the smile that appears on his face, Lee gives into the pressure and reveals his grin to the woman, nodding his head. “Someone get the cooks to start preparing dinner” Lee calls out, his eyes kept upon the woman nearing ‘religious-icon’ status, “Courtney and I are gonna have a little chat.”
His chin pointed to the air as he gulps down one swig after another of straight whiskey, Lou proceeds through the small, abandoned town, incurring a slight buzz from his reckless drinking. Running his hand over his alcohol-dampened lips, Lou begins humming to himself, yet to find a reason to settle in for the night as twilight arrives.
As the barren road leads to what seems to him like nowhere, lined with little more than minimal vegetation, Lou abruptly ends his journey in the middle of the road, unable to look away from the dark turn that awaits him a few hundred metres ahead. “Why am I doing this?” Lou whispers to himself, using his teeth to screw the cap upon his whiskey bottle.
Lost for words, Lou launches his drink through the air, watching it disappear into bramble before its glass shatters away from Lou’s sight. Conquered, Lou throws his bags onto the ground and takes a seat beside them, allowing the rain to pour over him. The road assaulted by an onslaught of rain, Lou remains centred within it, staring off at the long, yet destinationless path he’s yet to endure, silently questioning whether the effort is worth the result.
His lips parted barely, Lou stares ahead with no expression, his eyes empty, indistinguishable from the dead in all ways other than the colourful drops in their centre. Barely able to discern the sound of bramble-surrounded shuffling through nature’s tear-shedding, Lou turns toward his whiskey’s final resting place, where a solitary corpse drags itself upon the road, its sights immediately set upon Lou.
Unresponsive, Lou wraps his fingers around the rebar as the dead struggles to approach, its bones brittled by the winter chill. Each step proving to be a hassle, the dead fights its physical limitations valiantly, dragging itself slowly toward its literal sitting prey. Remaining unmoved, Lou’s lost stare keeps upon the fragile corpse, his breath continuing to fog the air in front of him.
Allowing the corpse to walk closer, Lou chooses to watch its struggle, knees frozen into one, permanently-bent place, it’s back hunched and it’s arms struggling to move. The water running down his nose, Lou remains fixated on the incoming body, almost able to relate to it in a physical sense.
Gunshots fired in the distance, Lou’s eyes widen, his head immediately turning to the deep, dark forest beside him where the bullets originated. Reinvigorated, Lou leaps to his feet and slashes the undead relic across the head, its brains spilled over the soaked asphalt while Lou reclaims his bags, rushing off into the thick, dense woodland with a new destination in mind.
Leaping over downed branches, slamming his foot into water-filled pockets of sunken dirt, and squeezing through large tree trunks, Lou hurries toward the gunshots, his long, damp locks bouncing on his shoulders. His clothes drenched and his face soaked, Lou runs toward the sound of danger with a thrill, smiling as he sprints closer toward chaos, just pleased to discover what lies ahead.
“Come on! You’re all dead!” a woman shrieks, firing another two rounds into the air as she stands in open space, an army of hungry, perturbed groans setting their sights upon her. “This way, you fucks!” the woman screams in tears, gasping for her breath as she steps forward, prepared to face the dead she stands before, commanding with the pull of a trigger.
Climbing concrete steps, the woman reaches for the entrance to an abandoned timber mill, readying herself to release the horde contained within. Her fingers grazing the doorknob, the woman catches an orb flashing through the trees, immediately growing angry at the disruption. Leaping over dead grass, Lou spills through the trees and tumbles along the ground, his clothes soaking up rainwater and dirt while the woman takes notice of his arrival.
“I’ve got a gun, and I’ll use it!” the woman shouts, taking aim at the bearded young man, whose laughter unnerves her more than the horde at her fingertips do. Stumbling to his feet, Lou extends his arm outward with a smile, “be my guest!”
Gasping for his breath, Lou falls to his knees as the woman parts from her undead audience, unable to see much through night’s lightless dreary. “What the fuck are you laughing at, weirdo?” the woman shouts, making up for her lack of sight by following the sound of breathy giggles. “What’s not to laugh at” Lou responds, his shortness of breath still unable to rid him of his smile.
“Answer me or I’ll put a bullet through your head, you hear me!?” the woman shouts, beginning to make out the man’s face, “what the fuck are you-!?” His hand hung in his lap, Lou stares at the ground, waiting for the woman to lay the foundation she chooses to prepare. The anticlimactic pause his fate’s owner proceeds with beginning to dissatisfy him, Lou takes his eyes to the woman’s face, his expression quickly falling from disappointed to stupefied.
“Lou?” the woman mutters, watching the man’s eyes begin to widen, his careless tailspin shelved as his mind settles back where it belongs. “Jenn!?” Lou replies, recognizing the woman’s face the moment his eyes came upon it, the gun in the woman’s hand falling to her side. Stood before him, drenched from the rain, her eyes as red and puffy as her nose, and her knuckles bloody and bruised, Jenn stares into Lou’s eyes silently, reunited at a cost.
== RISE and REVOLT ==