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Issue 11 - The BlockadeEdit
Julius and Alice were frozen in their seats, their eyes focused on the soldiers emerging from the back of the truck. A few of them turned their heads toward their direction. Julius felt his eyes meeting with theirs.
What will he do? Run away from the military? He stands up, confused in his thoughts. He looks to Alice, who had an uneasy look about her.
"C'mon," he tells her, as he walks toward the entrance, encouraging her to follow him.
They walked side by side, with Alice anxious and Julius quiet. She starts to reaching behind her waist, tapping the leather.
"We'll be safer with them," he tells her, as false reassurance in his part. It was too difficult for him right now to choose between living in his own terms, or being safe in the hands of the army.
He wanted to turn around, exit behind the grocery, and run as fast, and as far as he can.
But what will the military do? Chase them? He figured that if he ran fast enough, they'd be discouraged not to come after him.
Only halfway until he reaches the door. He can run to his side now, and never see them again. All he has to do is grab Alice's hand, and run...
No. He continued to walk steadily, passing by the racks of what was once oven-ready dinners. It was too late to turn back now. Too late to live a carefree life in a dangerous world. He has to live in the supervision of these soldiers. The army. He breathes loudly, as if to shake off any of his former plans.
Before they could reach the entrance, three soldiers stroll in casually through the exit, their eyes pointed somewhere else. They were well-equipped, wearing vests, helmets, and straps of gear.
The two soldiers in the front continue to walk forward, eying the merchandise in front of them. The third soldier, who was last to come in, quickly turns left to see Julius and Alice. She tightens her posture and points her rifle at them.
"Don't move!" a female voice exclaimed, catching the other two soldiers' attentions. They turn around and jog toward the side of the female soldier.
"Jeez... scared me there for a sec," a young male voice responds, making the female soldier turn to him. "What? They're civs." The young soldier turns to the other male soldier. "Go escort 'em with Jen to the truck."
The other male soldier, who seemed to be taller than him, pauses for a second. "But... c'mon, I wanna have a look around too!" He throws his arms around, disappointed. The young soldier's look seemed to convince him otherwise.
"Le's go you two..." He walks toward them, not bothering to hold his gun up. He motions his left hand to call them.
"The hell you doing, Gomez?!" the female soldier, Jen, exclaims. She was still in the same stance as earlier.
"What? What? Look at 'em. They aren't gonna hurt anybody."
Julius somewhat takes it as an insult, but then realizes that he did indeed look afraid. Weary eyes, tightly clutching the barrel of his bat with one hand, holding Alice's arm on the other.
Jen slightly relaxes her stance, approaching them slowly. She was looking at Alice, who still had her arm behind her waist.
"Give me that," she asks, laying her hand out. "Whatever you're holding."
Alice maintained a menacing expression in her eyes. Julius, who was waiting for her to respond, recalled this look. She would look calm at first, but will retaliate in an unexpected way. He was urging her to comply in his mind, since he clearly couldn't do it out loud. "Not the time to attack them," he kept saying in his mind, almost close to muttering it.
After a few tense seconds to Julius, Alice's look slowly dissolves, handing the combat knife she was tightly grasping behind her. The woman takes it, and pockets it behind her.
"See?" The soldier named Gomez has an "I told you so" expression in his face. "C'mon you two."
The four of them walk toward the exit, with Gomez muttering something in his radio, too quiet for Julius to hear. He walks with them to the entrance, but then halts when he hears the soldier from earlier screaming something.
"WORMS!" he shouted, from far away. Gomez and Julius turn behind them, halting for a second.
"FUCKIN' GUMMY WORMS! GET O'ER HERE GOMEZ!"
He looks to Julius, smiling, then quickly sprints away. Julius was astounded for a second, then snaps out of it and follows Alice and Jen, who started walking to the truck. He jogs toward them to catch up.
He overhears them conversing, Alice seemingly calmer this time. Jen notices Julius coming into view, standing next to Alice.
"H-hey. Sorry for the scare back there. It's just.... you never know.
"It's... it's fine," Julius responds, his voice slightly hoarse. She nods her head.
"You guys are safe. Don't worry." She looks to him, then to Alice, who still hasn't uttered a word.
"You alright?" Jen asks. Alice seizes to respond, and instead exchanges glances in between her and the truck.
Another soldier was standing above the open seated area, quickly walking toward the edge to open it for the three. Jen climbs up first, then assists both Julius and Alice up. She then jumps back down and walks to the driver side.
Alice and Julius sat on the left-hand side of the seats as Jen returns, climbing up the tailgate platform and sitting next to Julius.
The truck then drives toward the entrance, and honks a loud horn twice, waiting for a response. Instead, the next few seconds had nothing to offer.
It horns again twice, even louder this time. Everybody was looking at the entrance, waiting for somebody to emerge
It took a few more minutes until Gomez and the young soldier storm out, clutching plastic bags of groceries in both hands. They were loudly cheering as they approached the edge of the truck, throwing the plastic bags over it and quickly leaping up.
Gomez jumps in first, tightly holding a smaller bag with his right hand. The young soldier follows next, chewing on a bag of gummy worms. Once he had both feet on the top, the pair both sit down on the opposite sides of Julius.
"Gummy?" asked the young soldier, pointing his opened bag at the people opposite to him. He kept saying "No?" to each consecutive person after that.
After pointing to Jen, he takes back the bag for himself, grabbing two gummy worms from it. "Call me Dean," he says to Julius, while chewing.
Everybody stood quiet for a while, the only noise being the ruffling of a plastic bag. "Doritos," Gomez whispers to Dean, as his hand comes out of the bag.
"Cheer up you guys," he says to Julius and Alice, ripping the package open. "Y'all are the first we've found since last night!" Jen then starts to look at him, a bit bothered.
"You mean this morning?" Dean responds, and together, they chortle. Jen now spreads her look to both of them.
"Leave 'em alone, will you? I'm sure they've gone through enough." The two stop chortling, smiling at Jen. They continue to eat their snacks, retreating to their own world.
"I apologize for these two. Really," Jen follows.
"W-where are we headed, anyway?" Julius responds, somewhat catching the attention of the two, but not for long.
"We're headed to the Blockade," Jen replies. "Plenty of people there, like you guys.
Aside for the crackling of plastic, the ride remained silent. Alice looked at the floor of the truck the whole time. Jen looked at the view around her. Dean and Gomez continued to eat and socialize among themselves.
Julius, like Jen, looked at the constantly changing view around him. The feeling of the cold air and the sun's rays relaxed him somewhat. He was more fixated on the view than in the truck he sat, which reminded him of going to an internment camp.
The truck sped by the buildings and trees, having no regard for the once significant speed limit. Julius couldn't tell how fast it was going, as the balance of wind and sun pre-occupied him. The skies reminded him of an ideal Saturday morning, where he would do next to nothing but bask in the outside, and take a stroll. "Is it Saturday today?" he asked himself, since the weather was so perfect. He couldn't answer it, since he lost track of the date some nights ago.
As time passed by, the surroundings started to lose buildings, making way for empty green landscapes. The landscapes gave off a country feeling Julius was familiar of, which didn't last long, as the truck made different detours that led to more concrete highways and bridges.
They seemed to be nearing the city, as taller buildings came into view. It felt like ten minutes since Julius left the downtown. Perhaps it was the speed of the truck.
The buildings were starting to cover the skies more, as shadows cast the roads, not making any room for the sun to shine. The sight of empty cars, trash, and embers of fire started to fill the streets. No blood yet.
The truck made numerous turns. Aside for the maze-like nature of the city, the truck had to avoid a few street blocks, which were luckily just cars or other debris. Julius was starting to become anxious for any walkers that might come about.
After a few more turns, and a quick pass of the city hall, they finally appeared. They were idle in the side of the streets, still having common courtesy to stay out of the way. The ones in the middle of the road made the truck slightly skid. They were rare, though.
Just as more walkers were becoming more visible, a handful of feedback sounds started to buzz on the radios of the soldiers. Julius saw Gomez and Dean suddenly speaking on them, looking different from the gleeful pair he saw from earlier.
It was hard to make out what they said, as they were muttering. Jen started to look at them sternly, as if she was expecting a reply from them.
Gomez looks to her with a serious expression. "Just keep on a lookout. We might need to join in the fight later."
Jen maintains her expression, then looks away, her eased look vanishing from her face. She keeps an eye on the walkers in the streets as the truck continues on, the periodical feedback sounding off from their radios.
Scattered corpses and ash marks started to add to the litter in the streets, as the truck continued to roll. Julius was now anxious for the truck to stop, as they were driving around walkers. He nearly jumps out of surprise when the truck bumps up and down, as it ran over its first walker. "Sorry!" a muffled voice coming from the front seat says.
There were more walkers standing in the streets, forcing the truck to make shaky turns. Julius and the rest of the passengers were forced to hold on to the sides of the truck.
The walkers continued to multiply as the truck went deeper into the city. What used to be three walkers in one block turned into ten. The truck had to run over a few of them, making the ride constantly bumpy.
Julius found it hard to get used to the sudden change of surroundings at first, but after a few more rattles, he started to get used to it. Alice remained silent, but as alert as him, holding on to the rails.
It seemed like a reward when the truck makes a turn to a nearly empty street. Only two walkers were there, idle on the sides of the road. As the truck reached the middle of the street, the feedback from the soldiers' radios started to grow louder.
"This is Dugall, Squad 34!! We need reinforcements at 15th and Lambard, over!!" The message was clear to nearly everyone in the truck, since the voice was nearly shouting.
"15th and Lambard!! Whole fuckin' wall of them, over!!"
Gomez looks at the nearest street sign. "Rake and Lambard, over there," he told Dean, who was looking with him. Gomez turns to Jen, who was catching on to the sudden urgency.
"You guys look after the civs. Me and Dean'll be responding to Dug's team." Jen nods, and together, Gomez and Dean leap off the rails on their side of the truck. Dean shrieks loudly to start building morale. "See you on the other side!" Gomez shouts to the truck. The two run with the truck's direction for a while, until they reach the end of the street and make a left turn.
The truck makes a right, into a street with the usual amount of walkers. Jen clutches the handle of her rifle with one hand, holding onto the truck's railing with the other. She exchanges glances with Julius and Alice, then looks to the road.
The walkers were more daring this time, trying to reach for the semi-tall railings of the truck. Julius swore he felt some cold fingers touch his back.
"Hey... um, you," Jen calls, looking at Alice. She turns to her after looking at the walkers below them. "Alice," she responds. It was the first word she uttered in the truck.
"Um... uh, right, Alice. Here." Jen reaches behind her and hands Alice her combat knife. "When things get too risky."
Alice gives her a more trusting look, and clutches the knife closely. This reminds Julius of his bat, which was resting right behind him. He reaches for it and turns around, preparing himself to use it.
The truck was starting to slow down, as it was forced to run through numerous walkers. At this point, Julius was used to the shaking.
"We... shit," Jen exclaims, as the truck loses noticeable speed. "We might need to jump off!" Without warning, she fires her rifle at the walkers below them, stinging Julius's ears. He recalls the time he first heard gunfire, which was at least a night ago.
He gets accustomed to it quickly, as Jen continues to fire. The other soldier to Alice's side, whom they've least paid attention to, did the same. Alice covered her ears for a while.
The truck was practically on neutral at this point. The driver struggles to go forward, evident in the loud engine noise and smoke rising from below the truck. "You guys ready to leap?" Jen asks. It felt like short notice to Julius.
He looks down the rail. There was a small open spot of dead walkers below them. He turns to Alice, who puts the message forward through his glance. He then turns to Jen, then nods.
"Three, two..." Jen jumps first, providing cover fire for the rest of them. Julius jumps in second, landing on some of the corpses and leaping off to the cement, followed by Alice, then the silent soldier.
"You gonna be alright?" he asks the driver, who nods in response. He turns to Alice. "I'm stayin' with him!" he tells her. Alice shoots down a few more walkers, then gives him an affirming look.
She runs ahead of Julius and Alice, who were bewildered by the amount of walkers around them. "Stay behind me!" she exclaims to them, and together they sprint in unison.
The walkers in the street were starting to thin down, since they were able to keep their running pace. More gunshots were ringing from behind them as they reached the end of the street.
Jen makes a sharp left, maintaining her stance. Alice and Julius follow, their weapons ready in hand. There were lesser walkers in this street than the one before, but still too much to ignore.
Jen shoots down a few walkers, with accuracy poorer than before; as such, she is forced to slow down, struggling to reload her clip with lightning speed. Eventually, she finishes up, disposing another walker with accuracy familiar from earlier.
"Keep up!" she shouts behind her. Julius and Alice didn't need to worry much, since Jen found her momentum. One by one, the walkers were taken down, with the occasional miss in the target.
She realizes that her efforts were futile, when walkers accumulated on a single side started to come into view, after being blocked by parked cars. She puts away her gun and starts to spring, briefly looking behind for Julius and Alice to see if they're keeping up. Together, they reach the end of the street and make a sharp right.
This street had only a few walkers. Jen reverts to a jog, turning to Julius and Alice. "Blockade's at the end of this street. We should be clear by then." She glances at them then turns to the end of the street, which felt like half a mile away.
They don't bother engaging the three walkers scattered around the road. Now less pre-occupied with running, Julius notices the corpses, blood, and abandoned cars that were messily littered in the street.
Nearly all of the corpses had normal clothing; none of them were soldiers of any kind. It was at this time that Julius started to realize that corpses didn't bother him anymore. He was formerly engaged in too many other distractions, after all.
They continue on the street until half-way, when the blockade was coming into view. Fences and trucks obstructed the view of the toll gate, which was barely visible. There were no walkers present in the perimeter, probably because of the soldiers that patrolled just outside of it. They were blurry because of the distance, but there is no mistaking normal human movement.
They decide to jog the remaining distance, with Jen taking the lead. They eventually reach it as she waves the soldiers off, indicating that she has civilians with her.
The soldiers patrolling near the fences nod off Julius and Alice, as they closely follow Jen through the single opening of the fence.
The remorse left in Julius was nearly vanishing. He was finally behind safe walls, in the hands of the army. The army, often advertised and praised of their efforts in the media. The army, one of Julius's career considerations in the past.
He grabs Alice's hand, hoping that she felt the same way. Instead, Alice was nothing but bemused, not noticing her hand being grabbed.