Basket in hand, a man with shaggy hair and an unkempt beard shatters branches and other feeble materials beneath his feet whilst scrounging for food. Dirty, baggy drapings dangling over his body as clothing, the man goes about his business, picking up berries and other leaves without a care to be had. Wrapping his hand over a piece of long grass waving in the breeze, the man notices a toppled planter just a few feet off, dirt spilled amongst the ground.
Head shaking, the man stands up and glances at the planter further, wondering to himself how much wind could have toppled such a heavy object. His shoulders jerking forward, the man approaches the potting and takes it by the rim until he notices an unfamiliar sight out of the corner of his eye. Taking the moment to glance back, the pair of shoes the man had seen are soon accompanied by the sight of Salem, her rifle held directly at his head.
Instinctively throwing his hands into the air as a signal of surrender, the man soon discovers others lurking behind the cover of nature until his fate is inevitably sealed. From behind, an arm wraps around the man’s hip, burying a blade in his gut and placing a hand over his mouth. “Your people hurt mine, and now I’m gonna hurt you” John whispers, his voice carrying the faint tickle similar to that of a serial killer, watching the man collapse with his pressed hands trying to stop the bleeding.
His head jolting in different directions to differentiate between silent commands, John helps Salem as she takes the body by the ankles, dragging him into cover. A rope tied around his neck, the man finally bleeds out, the red running down the pile of leaves atop him only matched by that of a number of other survivors having met the same fate. “What now?” Emilio asks, John losing himself at the sight of the bodies for a moment.
“Now we wait until they come back” John replies, pulling the hood of his jacket over his head and venturing back out into the middle of the overgrowth. “Where are you going!?” Emilio calls out, his moderate shout covered safely by the thick layer of trees and other assortments of untended weeds. “For a walk” John replies, his hands wrapping around the straps of his backpack as he disappears into the forest.
A displeased look on his face, Emilio watches the man walk until he no longer remains in sight, every impulsive departure threatening their safety as a unit. Upon nightfall, the final of seven undead bodies return to form, hissing and growling at the sight of their murderers, which have now become just the same as food. Leading the undead by the necks, John’s group closes into a small settlement, the warm glow of a small campfire suggesting an unaware, easy slate of victims.
Leaving the leash in the possession of Emilio, John nods towards Salem and Katie, the girls venturing off into different directions with their rifles drawn and ready to fire. Turning back towards the rest of the group, John leaves Emilio in control, a concept which is quickly lost when the rope to one corpse snaps, freeing the beast before the final directions can be given out.
In a sudden need to respond, Emilio lunges forward for the rope, not having told his brain to keep the grip on the remaining six leashes in time. In one error, all seven bodies are left to stumble forward ahead of time, John left furious at the sight, scrambling to get everyone into position. After the first few screams, John keeps his composure and holds the fire off until the homes can be safely vacated in time for their opportunity to capitalize.
After a few seconds, John finally gives the order, the group laying gunfire into anything that walks, screams of terror at the sight of their undead loved ones turn into yelps of panic, worry that cover will not be found in time. Their focus having been left on dealing with the undead, the campsite’s survivors stand little chance, hit from behind by enemy gunfire and left to bleed out amongst the deep ground of overgrowth.
Refusing to waste a second, John leaps towards the settlement before any campers have the chance to escape, kicking doors in and scanning the area for remaining survivors. Whilst Katie and Salem round the undead together, Jess, Jack and Alicia go around putting the final nail in the survivor’s above-ground coffin.
Finally done with the final measures, John looks back to the undead, all regathered, ropes held back by Franklin. His breathing becoming heavier, the man looks back at Emilio and takes his moment to lose his composure, blowing up on Emilio for having let go of the ropes. “What the fuck did you do that for!?” John shouts, Emilio caught by surprise at the deal of anger originating from the man.
“Do you think I did that on purpose?” Emilio asks, John answering by getting in the man’s face, warning him that there are no accidents in war. “You slip up, people die… That’s the rule” John replies, his voice dehumanizing Emilio, who watches the man walk off with a face full of anger. “Get the fuck back here, John!” Emilio shouts, the man refusing to turn back, continuing to walk off as Emilio gives out the order to his remaining group to clear out the settlement.
The remaining survivors doing as instructed, Emilio is left with his hands on his hips, watching John disappear through the overgrowth again, the distance intended to be kept between himself and the rest of the group starting to signify something more than the need to clear his head.
= 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 =
Beckoned for by the knocking at her door, Heather cautiously approaches the eyeslot, Ameil having informed her of it being a custom in the city to look away from the view finder to afford residents with comfort. Opening the door a smidge, Heather greets Ameil, who promises not to take up too much of her time. Allowing the man into her home, Heather takes a seat to begin conversation, Amy running up to the man with a warm welcome, eager to meet new people.
“She’s got a little cabin fever” Heather informs, “she’d been inside the motel gates for most of the last year, so a new place tends to mean new pockets to explore.” Taking a seat beside Heather, Amy smiles at Ameil, who is left with little response other than to smile back, the young girl essentially welcoming him to have a seat himself.
Accepting the invitation, Ameil glances at the kitchen, the countertop remaining nearly as bare as it was when he introduced the pair to the home a few days prior. Brushing this off, Ameil pulls out a chair and opens the line of dialogue with an update regarding her group’s current fight. “John radioed in almost an hour ago to let us known they made their first stand” Ameil proclaims, “no casualties on our side just yet, and we’re hoping to keep it that way.”
“That’s good” Heather replies, “I was hoping we’d escape with a minor injury, so that’s even better than I was hoping for.” With a smile, Ameil admits that he was joyous at the news, though remained skeptical about their remaining encounter. “The settlements from that point on get bigger the further in they trail” Ameil explains, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the middle of the island had been turned into an outright city by this point… So it’s not going to be easy.”
With a smile, Heather admits that she’s just glad to have gotten through the first fight as they had. “Is that all you came for?” Heather proceeds, Ameil shaking his head with his hat scrunched up in his hands. “No, I also wanted to check in with you” Ameil replies, “make sure you’re getting acclimated to everything well.” With a nod, Heather assures the man that they are, noticing his reluctance to take her on her word almost immediately.
“I may not have been out in the field when I was serving in private military, but I know when someone isn’t buying what I’m selling” Heather continues, Ameil knowing he’d been found out. “Well I didn’t want to point out the barron counter first thing, but here we are” Ameil replies, “are you afraid to go out into town?”
Her lips puckered, Heather shakes her head at first, the rapidity of the shaking slowing gradually over a few seconds, knowing Ameil to have not believed her fairly quickly. “It’s new and you’re caring after a young one” Ameil replies, a cheerful Amy interjecting to say ‘hi!” and wave. “I get it, it’s safer to be together away from a bunch of strangers than in the middle of a crowd of them” Ameil explains, “I understand completely.”
Nodding, Heather accepts that the man is genuine in his reassurance, but remains disappointed within herself, the dangers of the world on the mainland being greatly worse than Sun City. “I should, no… I really should” Heather admits, her anxiety levels starting to rise slightly until Ameil holds his hand out, the woman’s arms crossed atop the table allowing the hairs to stand on end at the touch of the man’s hand.
“I know the world moves faster now than it did before, but that’s no excuse to rush into things” Ameil explains, the woman giving him her full attention. “You’ve been here for such little time and you have no reason to rush into things” Ameil explains, wanting to follow his statement before ultimately thinking better of it. With a smile, the man removes a notepad and pen from his coat pocket, telling Heather to write down a grocery list.
“I’m not going to make you go shopping for me” Heather replies with a generous smile, the man doubling down on his offer, assuring her that it is no waste of his time. “I’m immune-from-infection mayor’s brother” Ameil explains, “unless there’s a rare fleet of ships hitting the mainland, I’m here in the city doing nothing… It is no waste of my time.”
Still refusing, Heather thanks the man for his offer, genuinely flattered when he doubles down for a second time. “Again, I don’t mind” Ameil replies, “in fact… the two of you are pretty likeable, so that only helps more.” Beginning to blush, Heather drops her head once Ameil smiles, the wounds on his lip from her group’s actions days prior healing quickly.
“If I’m going to make you go shopping for me, the least I can do is face my fears and go with you” Heather replies, the man’s smile only growing further. “It’s a deal then!” Ameil exclaims with anticipation, a cheer coming from Amy as she realizes she’ll finally be able to get out of the house.
Surrounding the whimpering fire, John and his group remain seated in silence, helping themselves to the fresh kill the original settlers would have had in much the same fashion. “What’s for tomorrow?” Katie asks, Emilio looking towards John, who ignores the stare and continues taking in the much-needed calories. Shunned, Emilio smiles back at Katie, suggesting the golf course to be close enough to return to camp safely in the coming days.
“Wrong move” John mutters, Emilio having opened his mouth to take another bite from the rack of ribs in his hand freezing in time, lowering the food from his mouth and looking back to the man. “What is your problem?” Emilio asks, John looking towards him with wide eyes, a poor attempt at looking surprised.
“Who says I have a problem?” John asks, his shoulders shrugging as Emilio explains that it seems a lot like John himself does. “I don’t know what it is that you’ve got a problem with, but I feel like I should remind you that you asked me to be the man in charge on this” Emilio explains, John hanging his head in disappointment, allowing Emilio to continue for a few moments before cutting him off.
“It’s got nothing to do with you, Emilio!” John shouts back, refusing to speak any further unless actively questioned, returning to his food. “Then why the fuck does it seem like you volunteered to have Jess’ period for her this month?” Emilio cuts back, the group’s original leader throwing his meal to the ground and leaping to his feet, both he and Emilio getting in each other’s faces.
“Just because I know that we have to kill innocent people in order to get to the bad ones does not mean I have to be proud of it” John replies, “when you’re in the military, you swear on everything to protect life, I don’t have to like the fact that I have to do anything but now.”
Pulling away from the man, John returns to his seat beside his wife, wiping the bramble away from the deer leg and returning to his meal. Biting his lip, Emilio lays down the gauntlet, making it known to the group that none of this will be flying anymore. With a chuckle, John symbols his amusement in Emilio’s attempt to look commanding, the smirk on his face wiped off when Emilio lays the man back with a straight punch to the face.
Explaining that they will all coexist with each other, Emilio keeps his eyes on John, who lays on the ground with his legs still propped up on the log. Knowing what happened, the man climbs to his feet and approaches Emilio, who rolls up his sleeves until Katie gets between the two, stopping any further conflict from escalating. “If you don’t think I’m making the right decisions, maybe you should thank the man from three days ago that put me in this spot!” Emilio shouts.
Before he can reply, John is interrupted by the woman standing between them, Jess finally taking his arm and pulling him back as the rest of the group remains seated, almost unsurprised this happened. “You know he’s right” Katie explains, genuine surprise this time coming across John’s face, his intellect finally kicking in. “You knew you’d disagree with his choices which is why you didn’t want the authority to make them” Katie replies, John calming himself down enough to agree.
Turning back towards Emilio, Katie tells the man that he needs to stop trying to be something that he’s not. “You’re not ‘the man’ around here, you’re not a bad ass, you’re not a fucking leader… At least not yet” Katie explains, Emilio taking a deep breath and hanging his head upon the admission, “you’re a place holder until John can get out of army mode and then you’re just like the rest of us.”
Not afraid to tell the truth, Katie warns both men that she’ll shoot either of them without a care in the world if they break out into conflict again. “Both of you quit acting like children and man the fuck up” Katie declares, both Emilio and John returning to their seperate seats. “And stop making me have to get up and take a stand while you’re at it” Katie mutters under her breath, only few hearing her honest disgust for having to take on leadership amongst two already designated leaders.
Returning to her seat, Katie continues to eat until Emilio speaks up, directing a question towards John. “What’s your problem with going towards the golf course?” Emilio asks, John caught by surprise at the quick turnaround. Clearing his throat and wiping his mouth, John responds with a shocking answer. “It’s the wrong way” John replies, a curious Emilio sharing an equal amount of confusion with the rest of the group.
“The golf course is east, John” Salem replies, the man her correction is directed at knowing well where the golf course is located. “We shouldn’t be going east, we should be going west” John replies, the remainder of the camp both curious and intrigued. The group attempting to dissuade him from steering off course, John cuts through all the responses and gets to the thick of things.
“All of the populated camps are located east, the west is full of a bunch of tiny settlements and pirate camps according to Dawson and Ameil” John replies, “it’s also the direction we need to go to the island.” Eyes narrow, Emilio reminds John that Dawson gave them specific direction to go east, only for John to use that statement to admit that he’s got a slight problem with Emilio’s decision making.
“You trust their directions too much” John explains, “this isn’t a decision I make out of not wanting to kill, it’s a decision I make knowing which option gives us a better chance at survival.” Intending to brush it off as just the ramblings of a man refusing to trust any form of government, Alicia attempts to continue the group’s attempts at dissuading John, only for Emilio to hold his hand out, wanting John to continue.
“We’re a small group, we have a better chance at taking on small settlements scattered across a portion of land than we do against big communities” John replies, “this gives us a fighting chance.” Hands folded, Emilio presses his knuckles to his jaw and points with both fingers towards John, asking him about what that plan has to do with the island.
“Disagree with whatever decisions you wanted me to make, but I’m not deaf” Emilio explains, “you mentioned the island for a reason, and so far that reason hasn’t shown up.” With a deep breath, John explains that he doesn’t want the group in the war zone for much longer. “If we can board one of the pirates boats, we’ll cut across the water safe enough to reach the island” John explains, Emilio reminding him that such a move would only be seen as betrayal from Sun City.
“We’re not all going to the island” John replies, the entire group quieting down more than the hush they had embraced moments prior. Having taken a moment to understand what John as saying, Emilio suddenly cocks his head back, telling John that he refuses to go along with the man’s plan. “I put you in charge for more than just keeping me in check, Emilio” John explains, the man continuing to refuse his change of path.
“We’re not leaving you behind, John… It’s not happening!” Emilio shouts, John making it known that he’s only doing what groups in their position need to. “There’s a chance plenty of us don’t make it to the island, but I’m making sure that there’s a chain of command in case one of those people happen to be me” John explains, Emilio continuing to refuse the notion that they’d leave John to fight with Sun City.
“You don’t have a choice, you’re the only one fit to lead now” John explains, Emilio continuing to refuse. “I’m not following what’s going on” Lauren explains, “there’s too much yelling and screaming for me to understand half of what you guys are saying.”
With a deep breath, Emilio turns towards Lauren and breaks it down for her as simply as he can. “John put me in charge because he planned on taking us west instead of east and made an excuse for it” Emilio replies, “he wants to load us on a boat and have us set sail for the island, while he stays back and gets himself killed so his redirection doesn’t count as treason to Sun City, knowing that I’ll now be able to take over as leader in his place.”
“JOHN!” Lauren shouts, immediately backtalking the man as he continues to plead his case. The shouting returning to incoherent rumbles of nonsense, John finally snaps, shooting to his feet and raising his voice louder than the rest. “If we go east, we’re all fucking dead!” John shouts, huffing for his breath as the rest of the group quiets down, his wife’s head tucked in her hands.
“Maybe I have more than just that as a motive, but the truth remains!” John shouts, “if we go west, you’ll all get to leave AND stand a chance!” With a deep breath, John captures the attention of the entire ring, the destructive contempt he has for the world he finds himself living in showing through his clenched jaw.
“I murdered a kid’s family in front of him, and then shot that same kid after he pissed himself in fear” John explains, “and somehow… That’s not even the worst thing I’ve seen since it all started.” On the verge of tears, John fails to notice the entire group beginning to notice something in the man’s stature, the normally calm and decisive leader of the group no longer holding the same confidence he once had.
“I’ve become jealous of that kid” John admits, his confession breaking a lot of the confidence much of the group has intact, “we don’t live in a good world, and we’re not good people.” The expression on the man’s face slowly changing, shifting gradually over time into the look of a man having finally met his match. “We’re all gonna go to the island and try to settle down, but we’ll have our hands forced and flee again to survive” John continues, “find a new place, rinse, wash, repeat.”
“This doesn’t end, we meet new people and we lose the ones we’ve known since this all started” John explains, slowly breaking over time, the tears finally collecting enough to begin falling down his cheeks. “There’s no point to surviving when all we do is lose more every day” John admits, Jess getting up and wrapping her arm around the man’s neck.
“I never thought I’d take some war zone in the middle east over anything back home… But here we are” John concludes, “the same villains we used to root for the downfall of… Same result, too.” Head hung, John explains that the only reason to keep fighting left is to remain alive when all of it settles. “When no one is left, and we’re the last men standing” John mutters, “this whole thing… The whole time… One big, fucked up game of last man standing.”
Pulling away from his wife, John walks into the depths of the woods, Jess’ calls for him to come back stopped when Emilio takes her by the hand and nods. “Katie, make sure everyone stays safe… I’ll be back in a few” Emilio calls out, following John into the night, the remainder of the camp watching the pair walk off, their faces half orange in the glow of the fire, the other the cold black like the night sky above.
Walking with Ameil into town, Heather and Amy slowly march through the rows of the Chinatown-inspired storefronts, old buildings renovated into bustling service centers. “I heard you guys mention Sheol a few nights ago… We were slightly familiar with their set up” Ameil explains, “how does this fair in comparison.”
Giving it some thought, Heather admits that she never joined the group at Sheol, but can only come to the conclusion that Sun City’s set up isn’t nearly as large as theirs was. With a smile, Ameil nods, giving Heather the impression of being insulted. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-” Heather replies, the man immediately correcting his reaction. “I’m unhealthily addicted to making Sun City look like a beacon of light” Ameil explains, “so I hope for things to look better here than anywhere else.”
“In comparison to what I’ve seen since all of this began, I like this the most” Heather replies, a proud smirk being contained by the man beside her. “Thank you for doing this” Heather adds, not wanting the man to go without thinking she’s anything less than grateful, even despite his assurance that he’s more than happy to do so. “Above all else, I want people to feel welcomed here” Ameil replies, “none of them get this level of welcome, but it serves the same purpose.”
Another smile on her face, Heather quickly has her mind ripped from the gutters when Amy points out a stand with candy they almost unknowingly walked past. “What’s that?” the young girls points out, a confused Heather responding with “that’s candy!” Confused at first, the woman soon realizes just how long the world has been left in a state of disrepair.
“What’s candy?” the young girl asks, Heather’s mouth wide for the moment that it takes her to realize that Amy had never grown up in a world without the product. “It’s… Uh” Heather begins, struggling to find the words until Ameil completes the sentence for her. “It’s on the house” the man replies, his hand held out to a pleased woman, who hands him a small box of sour sweets.
“It’s gonna taste sour at first” Ameil warns, Amy responding in much the way Ameil assumed, her eyes puckered and lips smacking together at the tart sensation. “I don’t think her tastebuds are familiar with that concept yet” Heather replies, taking Amy by the hand and thanking Ameil, who shrugs it off as nothing more than a nice gesture.
“Got enough time to clear your head?” Emilio asks, catching John by surprise despite the man not giving much of a reaction. “It’s as good a place as any out here” John replies, the high-tide carrying a few pleasing waves crashing onto the shoreline, ending just a few inches away from John’s feet. “I guess it is if you’re really trying to clear your head” Emilio replies, pausing for a moment before making another suggestion, “or if you’re just trying to distance yourself from the group.”
Taking a seat beside John, Emilio looks out at the waters, putting the conversation on hold for the moment to enjoy the scenic views they’ve been afforded. “This place used to be a beach” John quips, “the whole island was like their own little community, so most of them would gather around the beach during the holidays.”
“I didn’t know that” Emilio replies, his face turning towards the man whilst John remains looking out at the waters. “I don’t think this was how any of us expected to be living five years ago” Emilio admits, John shaking his head in outright agreement. “What were you doing when all of this started?” Emilio asks, the distraught John having finally composed himself well enough to recall the days before the outbreak with anything other than contempt for how good everyone had it.
“Probably getting ready to vote for you” John replies, both men laughing at the response. “Yeah, I guess the gay hispanic card had a few perks in regards to voter turnout” Emilio jokes, the laughter continuing until it eventually begins to die out. “I never thought I’d actually trust a politician with my life until I met you” John says, acknowledging his hatred for government to have rooted in wounds far greater and deeper than before he left the military.
“You see how little it gets so many other people that it becomes difficult to really trust anyone with that amount of power” John continues, “like you have less control over your own safety than they do.”
With a shrug, Emilio tells John that he and his family were lucky he was no average politician. “I viewed it as public service… The way it should be” Emilio replies, thinking over his statement for a moment before correcting himself, “well, I guess the way it should have been.”
After a few more seconds of silence continue, Emilio tells John that he’s correct about everything he said back at camp, whether the group would like to admit it or not. “We. not you… But we shot and killed a boy and his family” Emilio responds, “if that doesn’t drain all the humanity we were fighting to ensure the survival of… I honestly don’t know what could.”
With a sigh, John drops his head, admitting that he still fights regardless of what the end result may be, he just hates that the fighting is no longer worth anything. “I made the decision to leave the military once I found out Jess was pregnant with Amy whilst I was on leave for a few weeks before getting restationed” John recalls, “I thought going back out into war now would remind me of how great things were when they eventually became normal again.”
Disappointed in having to admit it, John comes to grips with the fact that it was never war that he was going into, it was simply more of the same. “Every time we said ‘no chances’... We were making a justification for the wrongs we knew, deep down, that we were doing” John explains, “and when you need to make justifications for something, that something tears away every ounce of moral decency you have left.”
“You’re right” Emilio replies, John admitting that his greatest fear of all would be that they’d continue to do the actions that they had, only without feeling the need to make justifications any longer. Taking another few seconds to appreciate the sights before them, Emilio and John watch the water finally reach the tips of their feet, a weird sense of calmness coming with the rising tides.
“I believe there’s a Sheol out there… A good Sheol… One with moral values AND a decent chance to live” Emilio explains, “and I believe there’s no reason we can’t try to make another one here.” His head hung, John admits that he knows Emilio’s right, but his concerns lay in what happens after this new Sheol is established. “What happens when we get comfortable living the lives as closely as to what we had before?” John asks, “what happens when someone else wants it for themselves?”
Nothing reassuring to offer, Emilio states that they pick up the fight to defend what they have rather than take it that time around. “We fight for survival right now as it is” Emilio explains, John looking up to the man before he can finish his statement, “when that day comes, in that dream of a new Sheol, we’ll fight that dream instead.”
With a nod, John looks back out at the water, the tide finally reaching the full front of his boot, a smile finally appearing on the man’s face. “We have to fight to get there first” John responds, a smile spreading on Emilio’s face as John finally stands up, offering his hand to help Emilio to his feet as he concludes his statement.
“Let’s fight for it.”