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Issue 12 - The Blockade, Part 2Edit
Julius and Alice come in, hands held together, as they get shaded by the large sheet of tanned nylon that roofed the entrance.
He was pulled away by a soldier, forcing him to let go of Alice's hand. Two soldiers suddenly crowd up on him, with one folding up his right sleeve. They obstructed him from Alice's view, who seemed to be receiving an identical treatment.
"What is this?" Jen asks, who was standing at Julius's far left. She was talking to another soldier who was missing the helmet and vest. "What're you guys doing to them?"
"Just some new procedures we have to do," responded the soldier on Julius's left. "Doc's orders." He had a syringe ready in hand. Julius hadn't noticed the other soldier wiping the top side of his right arm with a wet cotton ball. No wonder he smelled something antiseptic.
Jen looked powerless. "They're people, y'know," she tells them, impatiently. "Normal, uninfected people."
The soldiers didn't budge. The one to Julius's left inserted the needle to Julius's arm, injects the substance there for a second, then pulls it out. Julius felt the liquid flow inside his arm. Other than feeling the small traces of numbness, he felt the same. The two soldiers, who were closely observing him, expected something else.
"He looks fine," the soldier who injected the needle says, looking away after staring at Julius's eyes for a while. They turn to Alice, who had the same thing done to her.
"This one too," another soldier follows. Jen mixes in with the crowd of soldiers and glances both Alice and Julius.
"You guys fine?" she asks them. Julius hears someone mutter "They're alright, Jen" among the group of soldiers. They now seem to be fixated on something else.
Jen brings the pair with her, walking toward another soldier who was talking to someone else. As she was approaching, he dismisses the other soldier.
"Found them on the Wilco Grocer downtown, sir," Jen says to the man. He looks to her, then to the pair.
"More survivors, eh?" he replies, exchanging glances between Julius and Alice. "We're holding off on rescue missions, private. We're running out of room." He nods off Jen and walks to meet the pair.
"Lieutenant Arroyo, at your service. You guys are safe now." He salutes them. "To your left, there's a soldier handing out some food." He glances to his left, as if he can see through the sheet.
"And to your right is the medical ward. Up ahead, you'll find the sleeping quarters. There's probably some room left, but I'm not entirely sure about that." He pauses glancing at both of them, then nods. "If you have any other questions, ask Private Hardtjen or another soldier. They'll direct you to me."
He turns to Jen, then walks out of view. She then approaches the two. "C'mon, guys." Together, they walk out of the entrance area, finally feeling the bright and warmth of the sun.
They walked straight ahead, to the sleeping quarters. Once there, Jen approaches a soldier holding a clipboard, and talks to him. In the middle of their conversation, Jen makes several hand gestures.
She returns to the pair, looking somewhat disappointed. "They... ran out of tents. Apparently some families needed extra."
"It's fine," Julius replies, trying to reassure her. "We'll manage." Jen pauses, sensing Julius's modesty. "Look... you've--you've done enough. You getting us something to sleep on is the least of our worries."
Her expression slightly vanished, as she eventually accepts it. "Alright. Well, if you need me, I'll be handing food out." She walks away, walking back as she faced them. "I better see you guys there. Soon."
Julius and Alice wave her off. They look to each other for a while, wordless.
"How are you?" he asks Alice. "You've been quiet since we were at the grocer." He knew he was the only one that could make her talk. For a time, though, she resisted, as she started to look somewhat uncomfortable.
"Fine," she finally says, her voice slightly hoarse. She clears her throat. "I'm okay. No, I'm good."
"Of course you should feel good. Look around us." They both observe the tent areas, which was comparable to a family outdoor camp; children playing around, grown-ups there to watch them. "This place more decent than I expected. Alice just looks at him, blankly.
"How long will we last out there? I think we've been lucky the past few days. I'm pretty sure we'd be eventually on the run from the walkers, or... people, for that matter."
"Yeah.... yeah. I understand," she replies, looking away. Julius is still trying to opt for the right choice, which was safety; he was still trying to battle his urges for freely exploring the world, now that order has crumbled. He knew Alice wanted the same.
"Hey... what if we... stay here for a while? Then, eventually, we'll be able to go to Vegas. When things clear up." He waits for Alice to smile. Instead, she looks at him, her anguish slightly wiped away from her face.
"Then... then, we can go to Great America, or something. Or... we can even..." A smile in her face started to form.
"... go to Portland. See the hipster zombies for ourselves." He wanted to take back what he said because of poor taste, but goes along with it anyway, as he sees Alice finally smiling.
"Alright, alright. You made your point. By the way, uh..." She was looking behind Julius. He turns around and sees a man walking toward them, middle-aged and wearing glasses.
"H-hey," he greets, his voice slightly hushed. "Hey. Y-you guys new?"
Julius and Alice look to each other. "Yeah, we are," Julius tells him.
The man fixes his glasses. "Did anybody else come with you?" He keeps exchanging glances between them.
"No. Just us," Alice replies.
The man's curious expression drops into a more distressed one. "R-really? Err.." He sighs, as if to let it go. "I--I haven't seen my wife for days. I've been here for a whole day, a-and... well, they haven't found her."
Julius wanted to tell him that they're the last, but he didn't want to further disappoint him. Instead, he stands silently.
A small running boy suddenly bumps the man's left leg. The man bends down, and rubs the boy's head. He smiles at the boy, then returns to look at them. "S-sorry to bother you. It's just that my son's been bugging me about her, too." He turns around, leading his son with him.
"What should we do?" Alice mutters to Julius. "What can we do?" he replies.
Julius and Alice started to notice the decline in the camp's spirit when they ariive in the mess hall. The monotone colors of the tables added to the dejected expressions the people wore. The grown-ups, from earlier, now have time to grieve, since their children were away.
It was mostly quiet, aside for the noise of movement and small conversation. Jen was at a far distance from the tables, nearly covered by crowds of people.
She was accompanied by another male soldier, who was focused on distributing the food. Jen glances Julius and Alice from a distance, then quickly returns to her job.
"I'll grab us something. You get us a seat," Julius tells Alice.
"Not hungry," she replies. Julius looks at her, slightly bothered. He separates and melds into the crowd of people, while Alice goes the other direction and searches for a seat.
She finds a table with a single person sitting on the corner of it, after passing by three crowded rows. She sits, nervously, on the opposite end of the stranger.
It was an elderly woman, the mood of the mess hall clearly taking its toll on her. She sat there, blankly staring at her food. Alice maintains her silence, not wanting to interact with anyone. Her heartbeat slightly raised when she notices, in the corner of her eye, the woman turning to her direction.
The woman stares at her for a while, then returns to her food, as if nothing happened. Alice responds by nervously staying quiet, just one step closer to looking awkward.
"You alone?" the woman asks. Alice loses her awkwardness, somewhat feeling calmer. She turns toward her direction and looks at her for a second, lacking a response.
"Uh... um, no. My uh... I'm waiting for him to get food." She turns behind her, partly to check if Julius was near, and partly to clear some of the awkwardness.
"Oh, oh. Right." She smiles, and looks back to her food. "I swear.... I still... I still think I'm going to the post office today and drop off mail."
She looks back down to her tray. "Keep forgetting this... this..." She shakes her head, like she's made a mistake. She seizes her words for a few moments, and looks back to Alice.
"I--I'm sorry. I'm just a mess." She smirks, as if to mask her true feelings. Alice stayed quiet, not knowing what to say.
She looks at the woman for a while, who was focused on her tray. Then, she turns around behind her.
Nearly everybody had a similar expression in their faces. Keeping quiet, seizing smiles. The yellow sun rays above them seemed to grow grey.
Julius suddenly appears walking fast from her side, quickly sitting down, two brown packages in both hands.
"Ever had an MRE? Me neither, but Jen says they're yummier than they look." He throws her a bag, then starts opening his own.
Alice was afraid of infection. Afraid that she'll dwell on the images from nights before that tormented her. She was so close to choosing the outside world over this camp.
"You certain about what you said? Earlier?" she asks. Julius, focused on his food, turns to look at her, a bit surprised. "We're really gonna wait this out? We're not staying here, permanently?"
He chews normally at first, but then slows down gradually. "Yeah. I'm certain about that." He turns back to his food and continues eating.
"I asked Jen about our current situation. She said this place'll be as good as it gets. As in, no ... transfers or anything, unless it's extremely necessary."
Alice could picture it; her sitting on the same seat, everyday, for months on end. The greyness of the place slowly consuming her.
She shakes her head. "The hell am I thinking? I'm safe. If I had to sacrifice something, it'd be..." She sighs. "... an escape."
She looks to Julius, who seemed to not have a hard time getting used to the place. That, or probably because he enjoyed the food so much. She hears a quiet "this is good" from him, as she was too deep into her thoughts.
Maybe she was just overreacting. Maybe, eventually, volunteers will be needed for certain jobs. Jobs like going outside of the camp's walls, and going on supply runs. "Yeah," she tells herself. "Won't pass that up."
She breathes loudly, looks to Julius, then her bag of MRE. She remembers that she wasn't hungry. She turns to her left, hearing a quiet conversation.
There was a balding middle-aged man, wearing glasses, talking to the woman from the corner. The stethoscope wrapped around his neck tells her that he's from the ward.
"... good, good to hear," he says to the woman, a relaxed expression in his face. He glances Alice and Julius once, then looks back at the woman. "I'll check back on you again, Mrs. Dolores." He smiles, and walks away.
Alice's heart increases its pumps as the man eyes Julius, and walks toward them. Julius notices Alice's eyes following the man. "What?" he whispers to her.
The man places himself to their side of the table, placing a hand on Julius's back. "Lasagna... they don't serve that often. It's the only good meal out of the rest."
Julius, slightly surprised, looks up to the man, and tries to look friendly.
"I--I'm sorry." The man exchanges glances between Julius and Alice once. "Doc Whedon. I'm one of the people in charge of the medical ward."
He expected responses, but Julius and Alice didn't budge. Instead, they started to look bashful. Whedon shakes his head.
"S-sorry. I know you guys are busy eating. It's just that... I've never seen you both around here." Alice suddenly recalls the syringe that was injected to her from earlier. Was he involved in that decision? Was he the "Doc" the soldier referred to?
She wanted to ask him, but they were too deep into the quietness. "If you guys have any questions or health concerns, don't hesitate to visit the ward." He pauses, waiting for a response. Julius and Alice nod, not choosing to talk.
"Great. See you guys around." He smiles, and walks out of view.
Alice and Julius look at each other, the awkwardness still lingering.
"I'm scared of him too," the woman from the corner suddenly says to them. They both turn to her. "Rumor has it that he'll take a restrained walker over an injured patient."
Alice just noticed the paleness of the woman's face. "To be honest, he hasn't saved much people. They've... either died or turned depressed. The ward's as powerless as most hospitals." The dreariness of the woman seemed to vanish, gradually.
"Just... look at me. The pills aren't working. At all."
Alice and Julius look to each other, confused. There was so much to think about this "Doc Whedon." There must have been something hiding in that friendly exterior.
The woman, Dolores, was looking behind them. "Oh, there he goes again," she mutters, almost inaudibly. Alice turns behind her to see.
Whedon was conversing with a man, possibly in his early thirties, looking dejected. They both pause for a while, as the man's hands started to ball up into fists.
"What the hell do you mean you couldn't save her?!" The man shouts, suddenly standing up, throwing his tray aside.
"It was a small fuckin' bite! A small fuckin' bite..." Clearly, the man had no regard for the few children sitting two rows behind him.
"Is this is one of your fuckin' sick experiments again, huh!?" The man leaps forward to the level of Whedon's face.
"This... this w-wasn't an experiment, Hal," Whedon replies, his voice much lower than his. "A bite's, well... a bite. We-we don't know how to stop it. It's just too lethal."
The man named Hal seemed to calm down, lowering his face, which started to ripen. "Jesus christ... she's my... she's my daughter." He seems to have a lower volume now. All of the attention seemed to be calming down as much as they were.
"Experiment?" Julius thought. He turns to Dolores. "What ... experiment was he talking about?" he asks her.
Dolores takes her eyes off the scene and turns to him. "Oh, oh... well, I don't know. It was just a small rumor going around that the patients that died in the ward were actually experiments by Whedon." Her eyebrows started to drop. "It's applicable, since... he had volunteers who were near perfect health. Living one day, dead the next. But..." She starts to relax her expression a bit, glancing at her tray. "... my memory's spotty. Maybe I mixed them up with the dying refugees."
She looks at them both, observing their expressions. They both ponder the idea for a bit, until Julius notices the seat in which Hal was in was empty. Him, and a handful of other people, were starting to leave.
"Well, this place has got a mad scientist. Perfect," Alice gripes.
"We can't be sure about that," Julius replies. "For all we know, those might really be just rumors."
"Oh, I don't know," Dolores suddenly interrupts. "The people protesting at the ward that day looked pretty serious."
Julius didn't want to believe it. "Well, of course you're bound to be... in a world like this? They..." he sighs briefly. "... might've just died from bites. Granted, Whedon did look a bit creepy when he was greeting us, but, so are most doctors--"
Julius was forced to stop, as a loud gunshot rang some distance from him. Everyone was suddenly quiet.