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Issue 10 - HopeEdit
By early morning, Julius and Alice were getting ready to leave, changing into their clothes and packing their necessary items up.
Alice packed up enough clothes to make extra room in her messenger bag. Julius kept the contents of his backpack, adding the supplies he could find in the house.
They laid silent the whole time they changed, until Alice pulls out a combat knife deep within her wall closet.
Julius was surprised to see it at first, but then gets used to it quickly.
"So that's your weapon of choice?" he comments, as Alice pondered both the blade, and the leather sheathe it hid on.
She nods. "You just never know. Plus, it was on a bargain online. I thought, 'how cool would it be to own a knife?' when I saw it."
She fidgets with her knife by pulling it back and forth from its sheathe.
"I mean... I felt more safe, knowing I could shiv the next burglar that tries to rob us. I mean, sure, it's not as deadly as a gun, especially if you know where to cut--"
She stops at the astonishment slowly growing in Julius's face.
"I-I mean... I think it's a weapon fit. For me." She tries to smile the awkwardness off.
He shakes his head to dismiss it, looking to put on his socks. "If you can keep yourself safe, and not turn into a psychopath with that thing, then I fully support it." Alice beams at him as Julius folds the socks over his bare feet.
After packing the rest of his clothes, Julius makes one final close on the zipper. He recalls that he dropped his metal bat on the living room, near the sofa.
As he straps his backpack, he notices that Alice was already gone. The door moved slightly, as if it was winded.
He walks to the living room, finding her standing near the coffee table, eyes on the TV. The only light in the room came from the bright blue colors of the screen.
"What's happening?" Julius asks, as he sits on the comforter. He could see the anchor talking, with video clips displaying well-equipped soldiers moving around streets, with different forms of concrete in the background.
"It's the military. They've been in the city since almost a week ago."
Now it seems clearer to Julius.
"Talking about all of the blockades and refuge centers."
Then a collection of clips showing people being aided by military personnel were shown. It was as if they were in one of the camps they may have set up. The scenes of turmoil then changed to soldiers walking the streets, and loaded military humvees driving in lines. It looked like a full-fledged war, just miles away from Julius.
"You... you think we'll get to them in one piece?" Julius asks to Alice, who seemed to be concentrating on the screen. She takes a few seconds to respond.
"I don't know. I guess it depends on if they're careless, and.. if they can tell us apart from the walkers."
The scenes were then changed to the soldiers engaging the walkers, clouded by thick smoke, probably from a sort of fire source. To Julius, an unintentional way of censorship.
Alice turns back to Julius. "Think they have an answer for all of this?"
Julius sees images of civilians being medically assisted. Most of what they showed were people with minor injuries.
He looks up to her. "An answer? Probably not. Not this early. I mean, they're still shooting at them..."
He thinks back to a few nights ago, when he was walking alone in the quiet streets, he made a promise to himself that he'd live on his own terms, as long as he could keep himself safe. Freedom comes with conflict, and if he's not careful, death.
It was starting to become a tough decision. How far will he be able to keep himself alive, where the dead roam and the people are harder to trust?
He looks to Alice, who was focused on the television. Was she willing to respect his choices?
"Alice," he calls. She turns to him.
"Think we should leave soon? Go to the refuge centers while we have a chance?"
She pauses for a answer, looking away from Julius. "No. Not just yet. I mean... we probably have time, right?"
Julius didn't know where she was going with this.
"Will you come with me to Wilco Plaza first?" She forms an anxious expression; at least, from what Julius could see.
He was somewhat relieved to hear this. "Um... sure."
The skies were dark, but a minor blue hue was starting to form. It was very early in the morning.
They didn't mind the darkness outside since the lights were out, as Julius and Alice stood in front of the front door, Alice taking time to lock it.
"I'm glad we went back," Julius tells her, as he watched her turn the knob counter-clockwise, seemingly for the final time.
"Y-yeah... me too," she replies, briefly looking at him. "I mean, we got to sleep, take a shower, wash our clothes... and I found my awesome knife, so I can finally get to use it."
A smile forms in her face, as she pulls back the screen door to its place. She turns around to face Julius. They pause, looking at each other for a bit, until he approaches her and tightly embraces her.
"I'll seriously miss this house. Our houses," he mutters.
"Y-yeah..." Her voice starts to shudder for a brief moment. "... no more property rights."
They tear away from each other's arms, and start walking past the trimmed shrubs that separated the front door from the lawn. They walk into the roofless outdoor garage, toward the painted front gate.
Alice fidgets with it, taking her keys back out from her pocket, and pulls it open.
They recall the inferno that consumed much of the front street a few hours prior. It was evident in the extremely dark ash spots on the cement ground, and the heavily damaged apartment building in the opposite side of the street. Embers of the fire remained; everything else were destroyed by the flames.
Julius looks up at the scorched windows, then heads to his right. Alice was just ahead of him. He jogs toward her side.
"Wilco Plaza, huh? When did this idea come up?" He looks beside him, waiting for Alice's response. The wind was blowing in front of them, forcing Julius to slightly squint his eyes and tightly place his hands on his jacket pockets. Alice's hair, which was now tied into a simple ponytail instead of a braid, was blowing behind her.
"I don't know. I always wanted to experience what it's like to... do whatever the hell you wanted inside a grocery."
She seemed like she was in the right mind, as Julius was. He wondered if he thought the same way as her, but it felt too soon for him to ask.
"Yeah, you don't know how long I've been wanting to do that..." Alice turns to him, as if she was glad to hear it.
"... grab something from the shelf, then eat it. Throw it away, grab a new one..."
Julius was exciting himself at the thought of it. He was glad that the plaza was only a few blocks. He was starting to become confident that he'll be this free for the next coming days, but the thought of walkers returned.
"But... but if there're are too many walkers, we don't---"
"--freak out, and kill them."
Julius looks puzzled over Alice's response. She reverts to a more disapproving expression.
"Most of them? Some of them? Alright, we leave if it gets too dangerous."
Though Julius didn't like the idea of being too risky, he still felt relieved that she thought this way.
"I appreciate your enthusiasm. But sometimes, you just don't know your limit."
Alice looks away, reverting to a blank look.
"I mean... we're new to this. I can barely stand up after a few swings. And... your knife? That thing'll force you to get up close."
She looked aloof for a second. "I have confidence on this thing." She pulls the blade out in a sudden manner, slightly surprising Julius. She soon sheathes it back.
"We'll think of a way to deal with them, alright?" The disapproval was gone from her eyes. "I don't want to die, now that I can... go on a shopping spree without anybody caring. I'll try hard to live."
She grabs Julius's hand, and tightly grips it.
"You promise too? That... you have to try hard?"
Julius didn't respond, as he was agreeing in his head. Alice shakes his hand to snap him out of it.
"Promise that I, Julius, even though I won't outlive my girlfriend, will try to anyway?"
He slowly grows a smirk. "Yeah, yeah, I promise," he responds. She looks satisfied.
"Very good. You just earned two more weeks."
Julius thought of why he got stuck with her, knowing that she'll act this way. But then again, he's able to look past her intentions, feeling as positive as she intends him to be.
They make a few more turns, as their surroundings start to change in the form of shorter building. They pass by a few more trees and buildings until they finally reach a cemented open space, with tall light posts, and some parked cars. The sign "Wilco Plaza" had flickering lights, unable to illuminate the lot like the light posts.
There were burn marks, scraps of garbage, and even corpses scattered around the cement grounds. Surprisingly, there were no walkers visible.
The walk to the entrance seemed like a journey to Julius, as he would constantly stop to look at the sight of a corpse on the ground. Alice maintained a steady pace, looking straight toward the entrance.
He wanted to stop and share this anxiety to Alice, but something told him that she was ignoring it better than him. And so, he just kept up with her, walking steadily and not getting sidetracked.
After a few minutes, they've finally reached the entrance of the grocery. Alice dashes to the entrance, as if she was waiting for this the whole time. Julius stops at the large sign near the door, obstructed by red graffiti.
The sign says "Take anything you need and go". It was their permission for them, and for everybody else, to take the grocery's merchandise. He doesn't hesitate and opens the entrance door, as the automatic function stopped working.
He was surprised, as the room's air conditioning welcomes his entrance. All of the lights were still open, like it was a normal day. Everything seemed fine in the ceiling, but once Julius looks down the bottom half, everything came back to normal.
Nearly most of the merchandise were either taken, or trashed on the floor. Foil trays of pastries, cartons of milk, canned goods; it was as if a hurricane passed by.
It was also hard to get used to the emptiness, as there were practically no people, except for two, inside the grocery. Its medium-sized span added to the abandonment.
Julius decided to walk past the register machines, just to continue the feeling. No cashier was present. No shopper was present. The cashier booths were nothing but cash registers, or racks of magazines. The racks of candy and other consumables were empty, as expected.
He stops at a particular register, which was third to the last near the second entrance. It had a few credit cards and even wads of cash resting on the check-out top. He had the impulse to take it at first, but then he realized; what use would money be now? He grabs the handful of cash, and feels it on his hands. For a second, he felt rich.
He snaps out of it as he hears the sound of cart wheels turning. He sees Alice, dashing past the registers with a half-full cart. She glances at him then turns back to the direction she was heading, which was to Julius's right. He thought of following her at first, but seeing that Alice was already enjoying it, he decides to check out the rest of the grocery. He drops the cash on the register, and walks past it, toward the "Stationary" section.
He wasn't surprised that the section wasn't as empty as the ones he saw when he came in, but they were still ransacked, nonetheless. To him, it was as if teachers and parents came and tried to grab what the could in a hurry. Pencils, rulers, pads of paper, and even greeting cards were heavily misplaced, either scattered on the ground, or on the shelves.
What use did people have for this? To keep education continuing? That they were feeling greedy? He grabbed a set of packed pens, its brand the most expensive in its section. He thought of how he always wanted a more-than-enough supply of it. He thinks of his backpack; there was just not enough room for pens. He places it back neatly on its ruined place.
He then passes a few more booths, periodically hearing Alice's cart. Almost every aisle was ransacked. People must've not cared of what they grabbed.
He stops at this thought, when Alice steps into view, jumping off from a cart carrying random food items.
She was wiping her knife with a familiar-looking shirt, ones he saw from an earlier aisle.
"There was a walker in the produce section. Two." The brightness Julius saw on her face was gone.
Julius and Alice sat right next to each other on the folding chairs they found on the "Camping" aisle. They were in front of the clear glass windows that spanned across the grocery, overlooking the parking lot. The skies, though cloudy, were starting to brighten, as the sun was setting.
Julius was eating an ice cream sandwich, while Alice clutched an opened bag of chips. They had baskets in each of their sides, containing even more snacks.
"This is life, isn't it?" he turns and asks Alice, who was focused on the view.
"I mean, I thought we'd be left picking up the scraps, but it turns out there's enough left for us."
Alice reaches into the bag, then stops. "Ever wondered why there aren't many walkers here?" she asks to him, as Julius takes the last bite of his ice cream sandwich.
He grabs a new one and tears it open. "Well, judging from their attraction to sound, they probably hear the military more than us." He takes a bite from the sandwich, and feels the cold stinging his teeth.
"Yeah... but, I bet those riot people have just as much guns."
Julius pauses, trying to recover from the pain. "True. But they don't have explosives and... tanks, and stuff."
Alice nods. "Right..." She reaches into her bag again and takes a bite into the chip in between her fingers.
The thought of being this free was all Julius could think about. Then, he thought about Alice. Visualizing that he could do this with her seemed to be a much better idea.
She turns to him, noticing his serious tone.
"You still want to go to the military?"
She briefly looks to his eyes, then turns back at the glass window. The skies were starting to brighten even more.
"I kind of... no." She pauses, looks down in her bag, then back at the view. "I want to go somewhere else.
It was the answer he wanted to hear.
"Where did you have in mind?"
She pauses, turns to him, and smiles. "Las Vegas."
They both chuckle at the idea, but Julius quickly considers it.
"We grab a good car, siphon lots of gas. We take turns driving... probably make a few pit stops, and..."
The thought of running free around the city warmed Julius a bit. Walkers didn't seem to exist in his mind.
"We grab a map first," Alice replies. "We can do so much stuff."
She was in terms with his idea. The idea that they can finally live freely. They laid silent for a while, eating, and marveling at all the things they can do.
But things quickly change, as they see a military truck stopping in the parking lot, soldiers sitting visibly in the back.