Asleep in her half-empty bed, Jess rests her hands below the pillow beneath her head, face directed at Amy, who sleeps on an air mattress just a few feet away. Outside their room, John sits with his hands folded and feet crossed on a wooden bench, alone as the night sky begins to welcome new life into a new day. Continuing to replay the events of last night in his head on repeat, John soon becomes entrenched by the thought, playing each expression at nauseum.
“Rough night?” a feminine voice calls out, at first not noticed by John, who remains coldly staring forward. Asking the question once more, Salem finally catches the man’s attention, watching him immediately reach up to rub his eyes. “No sleep is definitely not a good look for you” Salem exclaims, holding out a fresh cup of coffee as the sun begins to finally rise over the horizon.
“It’s just tough sleeping after something like that” John replies, the woman he takes the coffee from knowing exactly what he feels. “Maybe I don’t pull the trigger, but I let you without a fight” Salem replies, “if you’re guilty for what happened to them, so am I.” Taking a seat beside the man, Salem places one leg over the other, resting her head back against the ciding of the motel walls.
“At least you didn’t have to pull the trigger” John replies, lifting the cup to his lips as Salem assures him that she may as well have. “We were all in agreement with you” Salem recalls, looking towards the man, watching his eyes fill with the weight of three more lives lost, “you pulled the trigger, but none of us would have stopped you anyway.”
His eyebrows lifting for a brief moment before falling back in place, John tells Salem that his job is meant to fall on the sword. “If a bullet needs to be fired, my job is to be the one pulling the trigger” John explains, “if I can’t do that, I have no claim to being the leader.” Her eyes lifting, Salem looks to the man and assures him that his claim to leadership stretches much farther than just being the assassin of the group.
“Even still, it doesn’t feel right to call myself a leader and then saddle all of you with the dirty work” John replies, downing the remainder of the coffee before pushing himself up. Looking on, Salem lets John begin to walk off with little fight, eventually growing a sudden intrigue deep down that quickly pushes its way to the top. “Hey, John?” Salem calls out, watching the man turn around, legs still facing forward as his head looks back to the woman.
“What was that horde they were talking about?” Salem asks, John’s eyes looking down for a moment before returning, telling Salem to gather the group in the courtyard at sunrise. “You can’t tell me now?” Salem calls out, her voice holding curiosity as John continues to walk away, hands tucked in his pockets as he directs himself towards the front gate. “I don’t know yet” John replies, disappearing around the corner, leaving Salem left to question the near future on her own.
= 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 =
“What’s going on?” Emilio asks mid-stretch as he emerges through the office door, noticing almost the entire group huddled around, awaiting John’s reasoning. After a few seconds, a groggy Heather enters the office, a lively “hi, Heather!” coming from Amy, who sits upon her mother’s lap with her hand flailing in the air. “Hello, little one” Heather replies, immediately setting her sights on the makeshift coffee maker.
“Alright, seriously big guy” Emilio begins, “can we please get to the point of all of this?” Leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets, John rubs his eyes and requests the entire group hear him from start to finish before asking any questions. His head hung, John begins to feel the dynamic of the room shift, all intrigue, suspense or potential excitement falling into pits of dread, worry, fear and concern.
“When Emilio and I were talking with the family yesterday, they told us something that I still don’t know how to perceive” John begins, Emilio’s head tilting up as his arms cross. “What it ultimately boils down to is simple” John continues, the group remaining nearly on the edge of their seats, “they were running away from a horde not too far out.” With the mention of a horde, most of the group begins to fear the worst, recalling the earliest days of the pandemic.
“I don’t want to take them too seriously or too lightly, so I’m going out there to see for myself” John admits, looking around the room for any volunteers. “You already know I’m coming with” Kate speaks up, Meghan quickly throwing her hat into the ring as well. Looking to his left, John stares at Emilio, his voice refusing to put the question into words, his gaze doing the talking for him, Emilio simply answering with a closed-eye nod of assurance.
“I guess that leaves us to go out looking for a boat again” Alicia jokes, looking back to Jack and Lauren, who slam their hands against the desk they sit atop in anticipation. “Let’s get this show moving!” Jack cheers, the energy of the group only rising as John looks on with a smirk, grateful for how stubborn the group remains in refusal to allow such news to break their spirits.
“Let’s not waste anymore daylight!” Kate exclaims, walking past John and giving him a pat on the shoulder. “Count me in, too” Salem exclaims, the rifle over her shoulder seemingly never left anywhere other than draped over her shoulder. From her seat, Jess walks over to her husband and pecks him on the cheek, telling him to come home safely. “Bye, Heather!” Amy exclaims with a wave, a confused, half-asleep Heather left with no other option than to silently wave back.
With a grunt, Franklin drives his hook hand directly through an undead’s head, allowing it to slump into the ground with a heap. “Where are we going anyway?” Jack asks as he adjusts the strap over his bag currently digging into his shoulder. “As far as we can make it without being left in the dark” Alicia replies, surveying the area for any impending threat. “Why are we even still looking for a boat?” Franklin asks, wiping the blood from his arm, “what’s the point?”
“Did you forget that we’re trying to get off this place?” Lauren mockingly asks, the man rephrasing his statement. “I meant that if there really is a horde coming after us, shouldn’t we be getting more supplies to help Heather get that lug of metal ready for the water?” Franklin asks, Jack left to shrug. “That would mean that boat would actually have to be salvageable” Alicia replies, Franklin looking back to the woman intrigued.
“The thing’s missing half its hull!” Alicia exclaims, “go ahead and fix a plane that’s missing a wing and the entire cockpit, and then tell me how that works out for you.” Continuing to kick dirt forward every few steps, Franklin finally accomplishes what he intended to, drawing another corpse out from the cover of the trees. Letting a whistle escape his lips, Franklin draws the corpse further out as the remainder of the group grows mostly quiet.
Watching Franklin’s next attempt at mercy-offering, Jack and Lauren remain oblivious to the sights Alicia sets in the opposite direction, believing herself to have seen something through the treeline. With another grunt, Franklin swings his hook through the air and pierces the side of the corpse’s head, watching it stumble to the ground. As Franklin digs his hook out of the skull once more, he kicks up more dirt, catching the attention of another corpse as Alicia leans closer.
Her sights still obstructed, Alicia notices a clearance just ahead, the fuzzy sights of stammering through the leaves enough to allow alarm bells to go off in her head. Preparing for a third consecutive kill, Franklin readies his hand and finds it remaining in mid-air as Alicia passes him, driving a knife in the corpse’s skull before hurrying further ahead. “Why you gotta ruin all the fun?” Franklin asks, the woman continuing forward without response, hurrying out from cover.
“Alicia, what’re you doing!?” Jack calls, his arms extended as the woman peers around the treeline before dashing back in a hurry. “What the fuck is going on with you?” Lauren asks, Alicia refusing to answer with words, instead waving her hands downwards. Taking this as their signal to do as instructed, Jack, Lauren and Franklin all kneel towards the ground, Alicia sliding on her knees up to them as the questions begin to find themselves asked.
“What is going on?” Lauren asks, Jack proposing the alternate query of, “what did you see?” Her finger pressed to her lips, Alicia slowly crawls off the trail, pushing away flora and fauna to provide a better view of the near coastline. Without verbal response once more, the group elects to follow after Alicia, crawling behind her until a favorable vantage point is finally stumbled upon.
Without words, the group stares through the clearance at the sights afforded to them, many mouths dropped at the sight of something so coveted. On the docks, four different ships have various supplies wheeled onto them via an assortment of dolly’s, a small army’s-worth of men loading the equipment, tools, foods and weapons in bunches.
“Have you ever seen this before?” Jack whispers, not a single member of the huddled-group replying in the affirmative, instead, simply stunned at the concept of such a large group. “This is all coordinated” Lauren whispers, “there’s no way this is just some small group trying to make it out on the water.”
“We can’t exactly clear out that whole group” Jack whispers, allowing anyone else to bring an alternative to the table if available. Nothing to add, the remainder of the group grows quiet, letting the sights speak for themselves, the realization of not being the only ones with the idea of an island excursion beginning to settle in. “We need to go back right now” Alicia mutters under her breath, watching the four boats float off into the sea, the docks appearing as though they were never there.
“I don’t wanna venture too far out in case we run into someone coming up” John directs, having the van pull off the road near a radio tower. “You can’t seriously be suggesting one of us climb up that thing, right?” Meghan asks, John replying in kind. “Of course not” the man responds with a smile, Meghan nodding in response until John continues, “I’m climbing it.”
With a chuckle from the driver’s seat, Emilio mutters under his breath, “of course he is” as the van slowly pulls onto the side of the road. Without hesitation, John places his handgun in the waistband of his pants and slides the van door open, emerging from the vehicle and immediately walking for the tower. “Please make sure we can get you home in one piece” Katie replies with humor, a smiling John looking back at her with his hands stretched, “always!”
Stretching his fingers out, John feels the tendons strain within his skin as he reaches out for the metal, the heat radiating off of it not as bad as other days would bring. One by one, each metal rod becomes just another rung on a very weirdly designed ladder, the sights of the small Long Island community around being put further into perspective the higher the ascent.
“I know I’ve already said it plenty before, but I’ll say it again” Emilio shouts, his arms crossed as he leans against the van, “please don’t die.” With a smirk, John calls back, “I assure you, that is the plan” as his ascent only grows greater. Looking out at the main road, Meghan calls for the group to be ready, a line of a few straggling undead turning the corner.
“Meghan, back up!” Emilio shouts, his arms uncrossed as he hurries up to the woman, pulling her back as he notices something unusual about the situation. “What’s going on down there?” John asks as he climbs further, his voice growing fainter even at the loudest yell. “Nothing!” Emilio shouts back, “just hurry it up over there!” Turning to Emilio, Meghan tells the man to let John know what he’s seeing.
“He takes one wrong step up there and he’s dead” Emilio replies, stubbornly refusing to add any more concern into John’s already flooded head, “let’s not add to his plate.” Her rifle drawn, Salem asks Emilio once more why he’s holding the group back, the man responding by lifting his finger towards the closest one. “They said the horde was covered in fallout from the bomb at Sheol” Emilio explains, “I don’t know about you, but that shit doesn’t look right.”
The corpse in question struggles more than usual in their stagger, their jaws opening slower and their bones more brittle than others. Adding onto the concern, dust falls from the skin of the corpse with each prominent step taken, immediately putting Emilio on high alert. “You’re saying it’s covered in fallout?” Katie questions, Emilio looking back to her as he pulls Meghan further back. “No” Emilio replies, “I’m saying it’s probably radioactive.”
Looking back, Emilio eyes Salem in a way that is taken as a non-verbal command, the woman climbing onto the roof of the van and staring down the scope. Nearly a quarter of the way atop the tower, John begins hearing the gunshots ring out below, pauses in between each as he shouts for information. “What’s going on down there?” John calls out, his voice too far away for the group to hear it in any feasible way, leaving him in the dark, no option other than to climb higher.
Continuing his ascent, the man begins to feel the tower creek in the wind, it’s structure more unstable the further up he climbs, deterioration caused by a combination of the elements and time. Each pull higher coming with not only another deep breath, but another shot fired off below, responded to by the structure itself with more unsteadiness. Looking out, John spots the flooded streets miles off being too covered for a fair view, prompting further ascent.
Handing Salem a second cartridge of ammunition, Emilio looks out at the remaining clip being emptied into one skull after another, the pavement below being sprayed in a harsh maroon. “Where do all these other fuckers keep coming from?” Salem mutters, another shot ringing through the air and taking out yet another undead, only for another to turn the corner in its place.
“Keep your eye on ‘em and don’t hit me” Emilio orders, leaving the side of the van and storming towards the line of undead, walking around them as one corpse drops after another. Continuing to maintain his distance, Emilio arrives on the street just beyond the undead attempting to swarm the group, his eyes widening upon the sights he finds. “Okay!” Emilio shouts, his hands waving towards the ground, “we’ve got some trouble!”
One after another, undead covered in radioactive fallout pour from corner shops and vacant apartment complexes, following each other into the street and towards the sound of gunfire. Returning to the group, Emilio orders Katie to assist Salem in providing cover fire, directing the woman towards a concrete barrier off to the side for positioning. Hoping to hold off the swarm for long enough, Emilio rests against the van again, staring up and watching John the rest of the way through.
Continuing to climb, John finds himself continuously met with a poor vantage point, not even bothering to retrieve the binoculars on his belt loop. Not one to fear heights, John glances down the countless stories below to keep an eye on the group, noticing the lines of undead marching into the streets. Knowing they’ll take care of business, John returns his glance towards the metal bars above, only to think to himself for a moment about what he had just seen.
Looking back down below, John notices a similarity between the look of the lines of undead just below and the covering of the streets miles away. Wrapping his legs around the divider, John reaches onto his belt and quickly pulls the binoculars to his face, his eyes widened upon this realization. Looking through the viewfinder, John’s jaw drops, his body beginning to tremble for reasons other than the uncertainty of the structure’s support below.
In the distance, miles off, John finds the streets leading into Long Island covered in an army of the undead the likes of which scale into empire-run proportions. As far as the eye can see, a sea of millions of undead roam aimlessly throughout the streets, their one direction taking them into an inevitable, head-on collision with their motel camp. In awe at the sight, John loses awareness of the situation he currently finds himself in, nearly forgetting the events unfolding below.
After a few moments, John returns to the now, his hands racing to return the binoculars to their place on his belt, the strap refusing to return to the hook before falling all together. Plummeting through the skies, the binoculars finally come to a rest thirty stories below, shattering on the ground and alerting the group. Looking up, the four survivors notice John beginning his descent, the speed of which being outmatched by the pace in which the radioactive swarm arrives.
Feeling the metal desire to warp beneath the abnormal body weight placed upon it, John quickens his pace, trying to keep his frame as light as possible to avoid devastating losses. Suddenly, the vibration becomes too much to ignore, the metal clambering with each move downwards, and the bolts and screws rattling in their places with each move. In one moment, John moves his feet from beneath the metal supports, intending to move further before the vibrations increase.
Every move forcing the metal to thrash and buckle worse, John begins moving as quickly as he can, nearly losing his grip on multiple occasions as each inch feels like a mile. The girls continuing to keep the horde at a distance, the fight remains against time, the group remaining calm until the subtle twists of metal begin to present themselves at ground-level. “Is that the tower?” Meghan calls out, staring towards the sky at the last possible second.
Ten stories above, the tower twists in an unsettling position, losing its support and falling forward, John riding the tower back to earth to the horror of those below. In a flurry of expletives, the group watches John descend with the tower, crashing through the roof of a nearby storefront and disappearing within. Without question, Emilio orders Salem into the driver’s seat of the van, leading the group down an alley as Salem outdrives the horde.
“How are we gonna get to him!?” Meghan clammers in a panic, a hurried Emilio gliding through cramped spaces with only one thought in mind. “I don’t know, we just will!” Emilio shouts, picking up a rock and smashing the backdoor open. After a few good shots, Emilio wears the hefty metal divider down enough to force it in with his boot. Without care, Emilio races into the building, followed closely by the rest of the group, who embrace the naturally-lit inners at once.
“You anymore busy than usual?” Jess calls out, Heather looking over the boat at the woman with Amy by her side. “Oh, y’know” Heather replies, “just making a boat, I suppose.” Running from her mother’s side, Amy climbs the stairs towards the boat, racing up to Heather as the woman watches her every step. “Amy really wanted to come see you” Jess says, watching her daughter quickly dash up the stairs, “she said she needed to help you fix the boat.”
“Ah!” Heather replies, watching Amy finally climb into the boat and look up at her with a wide smile, responding with less than a high amount of enthusiasm, “wonderful.”
“Just don’t let her do something that’ll mess her up” Jess requests, Heather suggesting that she’d do nothing of the sorts. “Can I help again?” Amy barks excitedly, Heather wiping the sweat from her brow with a towel, a defeated “sure” sparking a wave of joy through Amy’s tiny body. “Just don’t touch anything you’re not supposed to” Heather replies, climbing back into the hull before reaching out for her tool pile, finding Amy’s outstretched hand greeting her with a wrench.
With a smile, Heather takes the wrench, watching Amy turn and walk towards the back of the boat before picking up the right tool and disappearing beneath.
“This is what you do all day?” Angela asks, her seat atop the metal gate shared with Cameron, who simply enjoys the same view each day. “There’s something to be said for being able to just sit down and not worry about getting shot in the face” Cameron admits, rubbing his hands together as the summer slowly turns into the fall.
A view being one of the things she most took for granted once upon a time, Angela looks to Cameron and asks how likely he finds a horde coming towards camp to be. With a sigh, the man leans back in his chair and admits that he’s seen worse. “A few months after everything started, we were all at this one place a while away from Sheol” Cameron begins, a smile on his face as he recalls the earlier days of the pandemic, “big place, made before it all went down.”
“Why would you ever leave?” Angela asks, a curious smile on her face as Cameron’s eyebrows lift momentarily, admitting that there are more reasons to leave something good than one would think. “We had a process to pick which people could come in or not, meant a lot of people were left in the cold” Cameron replies, his smile beginning to fade, “most of them stayed outside the walls, just kinda waiting to either be accepted, or lose their patience and take matters into their own hands.”
Her face continuing to rest upon Cameron, Angela leans back in her own seat and watches the man as he relives the experiences, any idea of the pandemic outside of Sheol’s walls having been with this group. “We called ‘em scavengers” Cameron recalls, “but I’m pretty sure anyone here would tell you that they were the second biggest thing to worry about.”
Eyes narrowed, Angela asks how the dead could be any scarier than the living. “I get they’re cannibals, and we’re not really sure what’s wrong with them” Angela acknowledges, “but I’ll take dealing with a corpse over any of those people you’re talking about.” A smile, Cameron shakes his head, making it known to Angela that the dead were even farther down the list of concerns than the scavengers. “We dealth with something different” Cameron admits, “someone pretty bad.”
A grin, Angela pops the cap off a bottle of beer and smiles, “I’m listening.”
“John!” Emilio calls out, the groaning and shifting of the undead present the moment they step foot inside the building. “Everyone be ready!” Emilio shouts, removing his knife and directing everyone to stand together, back to back in anticipation of what’s to come. “Hold your breath, squint your eyes and keep as much distance as you can!” Emilio shouts, holding out hope that their worst fears come to be unrealized.
Within the dark, a dim green inches closer, climbing over the fragments of the building at the sight of Emilio and company. Taking it as his responsibility, Emilio marches forward first, quickly sticking the corpse with a blade and backing away from it within the same breath. “Anyone got eyes on him!?” Emilio calls out, marching forward and sticking a second corpse, high-tensions filling the air as the dead fall one after another, no sight of the man to be found.
“Keep your eyes peeled!” Emilio shouts, approaching the front entry and reaching for a large shelf with the anticipation of blocking off the dead in the street. A groan coming from behind her, Meghan turns around to find Emilio holding back one of the undead having caught him off guard, his back pinned against the uneasy wall as he holds onto what life he can.
In an instant, Meghan deviates from the course, running her shoulder into the dead and freeing the man from his predicament until things begin falling to pieces. Reaching behind the woman, Emilio jabs his blade at another one of the dead, tripping over Meghan and dropping to the floor. “What’s going on back there!?” Katie shouts, no longer able to keep her distance well enough, opting for the louder method of firing shots off whenever she can.
“We’ve got it!” Meghan calls out, reaching down to help Emilio up before being shoved forward the moment the dead grabs a hold of her. Hair pulled back, Meghan groans in pain as she squirms out of reach, allowing Emilio to fire a round off and stop the danger at once. “Hurry up!” Emilio shouts, climbing over the debris and toppling the shelf over with Meghan’s help, securing a small enough amount of time to sift through the crumbled stone and plaster.
“Search while you can!” Emilio shouts, knowing well enough that the shelf will only work for a short period of time. Ridding of the last of the undead, Katie hurries to the aid of Emilio and Meghan, kicking up every tattered remain before Katie catches the glimpse of a rubber boat in the corner of her eye. Swiping the ceiling tile away, Katie notices the leg begin to move before realizing whom the boot belonged to.
“I’ve got him over here!” Katie shouts, the dead finally toppling the shelf over enough to climb over, Emilio and Meghan working together to pull John free in the last moment. Arms draped over Emilio and Meghan’s neck, John pushes himself to his feet and begins making the run to safety, arms finally able enough to begin hacking away with his knife.
Rushing through the alleyway, the group watch Salem drag her tires along the ground upon first sight, motioning for them to make a break for it. Bolting for the finish line, the four outrun the dead failing to keep pace with them, collapsing into the van before Salem drives off, aware that the time remaining to locate a boat is slim at best, none at worst.
Checking himself for bites, John feels the relief of a clean check, the same coming from Emilio as he sprouts a smile, patting John’s extended knee before collapsing backwards in joy. “You saved my life there, man” John says, Emilio looking back towards the exhausted man with his head shaking in refusal. “Nah, I was just doing what you would have” Emilio replies, a wider smile being flashed, “no man left behind.”
A smile and a nod, John looks to an amused Katie and a distressed Meghan, patting the latter on the leg before tilting his head back for a much needed breather. Nearly a half an hour later, the van finally pulls into the sanctum of the front gates, John leading the group back onto familiar grounds. “I’m a little bit more glad to see this place today than yesterday, to be honest” John mutters, Emilio patting him on the back before taking the first steps towards the office.
Walking through the door, John wastes no time in explaining the days events, introducing the statement before he can even look inside. “So we’ve got some news to share” John begins, stopping himself as he turns around to look inside, the group returning with him in equal surprise. “We’ve got some news to share, too” Alicia responds, taking note of the silence to explain the sight, a man left restrained in a chair with his mouth gagged and eyes covered.
“What’s this?” John asks, his posture immediately becoming rigid, worried of what’s next to come. Her lips pressed together, Alicia takes in a deep breath, looking John in the eyes as the worry in his eyes becomes noticeable. In one moment, Alicia says enough to explain the sights and why the need to figure out where to go from here is an immediate conversation to have.
“We’re not alone.”