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Issue 14 - EndureEdit

Everything around him slowed down. For the longest time, Alice stood there, the clot of blood in her stomach expanding. He looked at the life escaping from her eyes; two different irises never looked so beautiful, and at the same time, so terrifying.

Julius was getting ready to catch her, when he was forced by the crowd before him to go back. She fell on her knees, revealing her perpetrators behind her; silhouettes of soldiers, their intentions to shoot anything that's not them. He could die there right now, next to the love of his life…

He forced himself toward Alice, but was met with resistance; the thinning crowd of people constantly pushed him back, as if their sole intention was to stop him. He even felt a few of them grab his arms, dragging them back.

He just can't leave her like this. She has to get buried. He has to have a proper goodbye with her, even if it meant dying.

As much as he wanted to stay with her, the people opposite to him were just too strong. He eventually gave in to the resistance, and started running toward their direction. Alice would have wanted him to live.

He followed the crowd of people, as they ran toward the inside of the medical ward's tent. There, the medical beds and other equipment were messily placed aside, paving a clear way for them. It led to another opening toward a huge alley way, where a single truck was parked. An opening, leading to a street, was on the other side.

Before he knew it, Julius and the rest of the fleeing people found themselves in the streets. He stopped for a moment to compose himself, with people around him running toward different directions.

He stood there, his heavy thoughts forcing him to take a break.

Was Alice really dead? Julius contemplated on going back to the blockade, just so he could see for himself. He often got lost in his thoughts, which only made him walk farther and farther away from the alley. Is he ready to see her lifeless body? Will the soldiers shoot him down if they see him again? Did the soldiers clean every single body there just for examination?

He thought of many other undesirable scenarios, that he eventually decided not to go back. All he needed to do now was to move on. What he decided nights ago, and what his uncle urged him to do, is what forced him to not die that night. He felt bitter, partly because of his selfish reason to let go of Alice once he saw her eyes. Was that her last message for him to live on?

“Did you want me to live?” he asked, looking up in the air. It was just at this moment that he realized he’s been walking for hours; the sky was starting to brighten, and the buildings around him seemed different. There were walkers scattered at far distances around him, not realizing he was present; the way he walked, not uttering a word, made him blend in.

He cursed the walker some feet to his upper-right hand side, who has taken notice of him. “It’s because of you people…” he whispered, preparing his bat. “…she died.” He stood still, waiting for the staggering walker to approach him. He swung sideways, as hard as he could, at the walker’s head; it dropped on the ground violently, spilling blood. He continued to beat on the walker, unleashing his frustration. After forcing its brains to seep out, he stopped.

He somehow felt relieved, something he hasn’t felt since last night. Still, it didn’t settle him; he felt that he had to kill at least a hundred more to truly avenge her. “Am I doing this right?” he asked himself, hoping to get some guidance, but more importantly, hoping to hear Alice’s voice.

“No. No, no, no… no…” he muttered, seeing another walker approaching him. He walked toward it, and tackled it, forcing it to fall on its back. “No… no…” he continued, as he placed his foot on the walker’s neck, pointing the tip of his bat. He rammed the tip on the walker’s head as hard as he could, using both his hands for good measure. He continued to do pound it until he created a hole on the walker’s forehead.

He stopped, slightly breathing heavily. He opened his bag, to see if he could wipe his bat clean of the blood. All he found were the shirts Alice held on to for him. Alice…

He still felt a mix of sadness, and frustration. He could’ve easily ran toward Alice and grabbed her, forcing his way through the stubborn crowd. But no… he was too much of a coward to do it. He was too afraid for his own life’s sake. If only he could risk his life and earn something out of it…

It was at this moment that he realized the numerous walkers closing in; at least fifteen, or more, in front of him. “Perfect,” he muttered. He clutched his bat, both hands on the handle, and started to jog toward them. He swung at the nearest walker, pushing it back to shove the others behind it. From there, he swung at the ones that got too close, with no regard for vital points.

Left, right, left, right… he continued to swing, hoping to bring them all down. There was no turning back now. All of them need to die, for Alice’s sake. Julius was forced to stop, as a walker behind him restricted both of his arms. He didn’t come this far; he struggled to shove the walker back, shaking both his arms. But its grip was too strong.

Is this what Alice would have wanted? For him to die, nobly fighting the walkers? He was about to see her, soon. He could feel their cold touch on his living body. But it was much too soon. This would be a shame for him to die.

Julius forced himself to fall on his back, landing on the walker that held on behind him. For extra measure, he slammed his head back, feeling the soft, decaying flesh of the walker behind him. Its grip loosened slightly, giving him a chance to escape; he leaps toward his right, giving him some needed space against the multitude of walkers.

He composed himself, and got his bat ready. It looked like he didn’t do any damage to the crowd; the ones forced to the ground stood right back up. He closed in on them, carelessly swinging his bat like before, hitting them one by one.

He felt that he needed to redeem himself. He needed to show that he can fight walkers, and defend himself. Defend Alice…

His swings became more and more forceful. Sweat started to pour from his forehead. He felt that he was running out of breath.

After forcing almost half of them down to the ground, he looked for open space; he sidestepped toward the more empty spaces of the street, hoping to catch his breath. Instead, there were even more walkers than before, doubled in the number of the crowd he was just fighting earlier.

He tightly clutched his bat, breathing heavily, finding it hard to accept his impending doom.

“Not done,” he muttered to himself. “Not done… they all need to die. I need to die…”

He dropped his bat, and slowly sat on the pavement. “Just a break…” he muttered. They were staggering, collectively, toward him. Wherever they came from, they didn’t reach him sooner. Julius looked at his bat, thinking if he should return to the fight. He grabs it, and rests it on his lap.

Walkers in front of him, and behind him. What better way was there to go? If only he had a gun…

But the walkers behind him weren’t reaching. He turns around, to see what was taking them so long.

There was a man, wearing a blood-stained sweat shirt, sleeves folded up. He was running toward him, clutching a machete on one hand. All of the walkers before him were downed.

“C’mon!” he shouted, as he sped up his pace toward Julius. He felt the leather grip of his gloves grab him by the arm, pulling him up.

Julius paused for a second, leaving the man to run on his own. He realizes that he was running from the walkers, who were still clawing their way behind him.

He snaps out of it for a second, and starts to run in the same pace as the man. They take the nearest right turn on the next street, and continued to move. The man quickly disposes the few walkers that were blocking their way with no trouble.

Once they reach the end of the street, the man stops to catch his breath. Julius, seeing the man stop, does the same.

"The hell're you doing back there?" he exclaims, his words slightly jumbled by his breathing. Julius could only look at him, not wanting to talk.

"You trying to get yourself killed? There was at least five behind you!" That was what Julius wanted to tell him.

The man looked just about the same age as he was, his head pouring with sweat and blood. He wore a blood-stained sweat shirt, its sleeves folded up. His equipment consisted of a single-strapped bag, open-fingered gloves, and a bloody machete. To Julius, someone who's prepared.

"Should've just left me," Julius said. The man looked at him, disappointed.

"So what? So you could get ripped apart by those things?" he replies, shaking his head. "Between you and me, that's not the way to go."

He takes out a cloth from his pocket, and wipes the bloodied tip of his machete off. He looks to Julius while he was cleaning.

"As much as I don't want to go on a suicide watch, you're coming with me. Bad enough you don't get to find other survivors willing to fight around these parts..."

Julius winces. Suicide? Was that what he was trying to commit?

"... the ones who do usually want to rob you, or... kill you. You're a whole different kind, though."

No. He was just trying to rest. He knew he could take those walkers.

"I could've taken them," Julius replies, looking aghast. The man sneers at him.

"Right. You could've been free food to them, you mean." He opens his bag, and rummages through it.

"Look... I know you aren't okay. Maybe it's just a little hunger." He takes out an energy bar, and hands it to Julius. He looks at him and pauses, as a form of rejection.

"They all need to die," Julius says instead. "My job isn't done."

He pauses for a moment, looking away. "They all don’t need to die. You only need to kill the ones you’re able to.”

Julius's expression lights up, slightly.

"I need to get something. I'm sure I'll run into more of them...."

He maintains a stern look, not sure what he was asking.

"Come with me, and I'll let you bash the heads of as much walkers as you want. Deal?"

Julius continues to pause, looking away. Liam started to give him an impatient look.

He eventually nods. "Perfect." He smirks, partly relieved to find help.

"By the way, my name's Liam." He lays out his left hand. Julius grabs it, his grip loose.

"Julius," he mutters quietly. Liam slightly leans in his head, but takes it back, noticing Julius's tone.

"Right. Um... Jul..." He stops for a moment, hoping for Julius to continue. "..ius?" He doesn't react, which was good enough for him.

"Alright, Jul-ius. Let's get out of here." He turns around and walks, Julius following closely behind him.

They walk, mostly in silence, as Julius seized any words. They pass by a few streets with walkers in them, but surprisingly, Julius didn't budge. Liam kept a close eye on him, his machete in hand just in case.

They continue to move past a few more blocks, saving their energy for the destination. "Bound to be a bunch of them," Liam tells him, hoping to start a conversation. "It's at a gym, in a locker. Don't know why, but... the person asking me said it was important.”

He notices Julius, still silent, no intention of talking to him.

"Look," he tells him. "You'll feel a lot better if you let out what you're bottling up inside there.” He exchanges glances with their surroundings, just in case he needed to fight; he knew Julius was going to get his attention. “Let it out. Tell me.”

“It’s fine,” Julius replies, slightly surprising Liam. “You don’t need to know now.” Liam shrugs, noticing his seriousness.

As they move, Liam tries to sneak in glances on him, seeing if he was fine, and partly to know if he was going to blow up on him. Julius looked the same throughout, his face still blank.

His eyes started to glisten. Small tears started to fall from his eyes.

Was this what Alice wanted? No. She wanted to be taken away from her shock, into a hospital, where he could use his mediocre medical skills to revive her.

He could see it now; him, rushing toward a hospital, forcing the bullets out of her stomach, even if he has to rip her open…

“No, no…” he thought. “That’s not the way to go.” Liam looks at him, slightly confused. “You alright?” he asks.

Julius looks at him, then looks back in front of him. “Yeah,” he replies, almost as a mutter.

Their walk together remained to be silent. They trekked a few more blocks, the amount of walkers in each street increasing. Eventually, they were forced to stop, when the sign “Gold’s Gym” stood out among the other buildings, in the middle of the street.

“Well, that’s just great,” Liam mutters, pausing. Julius does the same.

The street was heavily littered with walkers, so much so that there was no clear way toward it.

“Place is too damn crowded for a stroll,” Liam gripes, turning to Julius, as a few of them got their attention.

“We have to find another way…” He starts turning back, thinking of alternate routes. If they go around the other block, and see if there are walkers there…

“Let’s not waste time,” Julius replies, surprising Liam. “Go straight ahead.”

Liam shoots him a concerned look. “You sure about this?” As much as it was risky, it’ll help him get there sooner. “Hey!”

Julius already went ahead of him, forcing the walkers to the ground one by one. Each swing gave the walkers time to clump together.

“Get back!” Liam shouted, grabbing Julius’s shoulder. He shrugs him off as he keeps on swinging the incoming walkers. Some of them have already gotten up.

Liam joins in on the fight, hacking away the walkers that have gathered at Julius’s sides. He wasn’t precise, at times missing on the walkers’ bodies, but a single slash near their foreheads seemed to have done the job.

“This isn’t safe!” Liam shouted, hoping to discourage Julius from his rage. To his surprise, Julius turns to him, his eyes worried.

“C’mon!” he urged, as Liam started to run towards another block. Julius closely follows right behind him.

They arrive another block, just on the other side of the gym. There were still walkers, but much less compared to the other street.

“Manageable?” Liam exclaims to Julius, who was at his side, his bat ready. “Manageable,” Julius replies, and together, the two storm into the fray.

Julius goes ahead of Liam, this time not exerting too much energy on his swings, but at the cost of only shoving the walkers back. Liam is responsible for the ones that get passed behind him, hacking to make sure they don’t get back up.

Julius kept a steady pace, until they reached the middle of the block. Liam wanted to thank the architects of the gym, as they built a second entrance to this side of the block. Julius pushes back some of the walkers that stood in front of it, holding the clear glass doors open for Liam.

He storms inside, and is closely followed by Julius. The gym, spacious in design, with a huge field of exercise machines, made Julius pause slightly for a second. He pushes the door back, so as to not let the walkers outside of it in.

“No time!” Liam shouted, his voice echoing through the gym. Julius, hoping not to regret it, leaves the glass door, and runs toward Liam’s direction. He never noticed the other walkers trying to for their way in on the other doors; it was inevitable for them to get in.

They both ran to the far right side, as the middle ground had too much exercise machines in the way. After some distance, they finally reach the other side, where they make an abrupt right toward small path, a bench and some vending machines on its side.

For the most part, the gym seemed empty, but as they got into the locker rooms, blood was on the wall. Liam rushes in to the men’s locker door, practically barging in just to lock-proof it. They both pause for a second, mostly to take a quick breather.

A walker, sitting on its back against a locker, stands up as he takes notice of Julius, while Liam was out of view. It struggles to stand up from its spot, where a large amount of blood was spilled; judging from how dry it was, this walker has been sitting there for days.

“Hurry up!” Julius urged, as he prepared his bat at what looked like the only walker in the locker room. He patiently waited for it to approach, but was losing patience; he rushes toward the walker, and slams his bat vertically onto its skull, forcing its face to land on the ground.

He turns around to see Liam, fumbling something out of his backpack, as he exchanges glances with it and the locker in front of him. “Fucking key,” he mutters, as Julius walks up to his side. He opens the door and steps out, to see if there were any walkers close by. There was none at the moment, but he knew it was only a matter of time.

“Need to be a little faster there,” Julius urged, looking at Liam, who was forcefully turning the small key in his hand onto the locker’s knob. After a few more seconds, he was finally successful. Julius goes to see what was so precious about it.

“A…. walkie-talkie?” Julius says, seeing the large, pale green radio-like device, along with a pair of folded sweats, and packets of candy.

“Rifleman radio. Military grade,” Liam replies, flipping through the locker to see what else was there. "Here." He throws a pair of open-fingered gloves toward Julius. He pauses for a second, but eventually decides to pocket the gloves on his backpack, as he would waste precious time if he tried putting it on.

Liam nods him off, as he stuffs the over-sized radio on his small bag. Julius, holding the door open for him, lets go him first, then follows him closely.

A few walkers have stumbled their way toward their path, somewhat blocking it. Liam quickly drives his machete on the one to his side, which was to the right. Julius, on the other hand, shoves the walker toward the middle ground of gym machines.

Liam pulls out his machete and meets Julius, who was busy pummeling the walker’s head.

“We’re too late,” he cries, looking in the direction of the entrance; the walkers from earlier were accumulating, almost providing a makeshift block. “We can do this,” Julius reassures, wiping his mouth off from the blood that got on him.

Together, they leap into the exercise machines, choosing to step over the treadmills, as they provided clear ground. They continued to leap to each treadmill, hoping to reach the small opening at the far right side of the entrance. Their actions gave them intended results; the walkers that chased them tripped up on the treadmills, while some were further hindered by the exercise bikes and weight lifters.

After two more treadmills, Liam and Julius leap off, Julius swinging at the nearby walker that waited for them. Liam tackles the wide door, holding the door for Julius to zoom out. Most of the walkers in the block were going inside, giving them some much needed space in the street.

They turn to look to their right direction, where they initially came from. The walkers from the other block were pouring in. They look to their left; the way was clear. Together, they make their way toward the end, not bothering to engage the walkers that have thinned down.

They slow down their jogging as they distance themselves at least two blocks away from the gym. As expected, there weren't much walkers present.

Julius bent down, breathing heavily. Liam, also catching his breath, started to chuckle.

"Can't believe it," he says, pausing to breathe. Julius looks at him weirdly.

"Thought it'd take me a whole night--but nope--it only took a few hours!" He smiled at Julius, his breathing starting to slow. "You're one hell of a survivor," he adds, smirking at him.

Even he himself was surprised; for him to move that fast, and fight that much walkers, at a short period of time. He was feeling proud of himself, for once. He was feeling positive.

"Yeah, well... that walkie-talkie better be worth it," he scoffs. He was back to normal breathing by now.

Liam shakes his head, then slaps his hand on his shoulder. "You're coming with me," he says, smiling. Together, they start walking. "You can stay, at the flat."

The sun started to brighten, giving way to the bright blue sky. The brisk wind blowing through their faces was a form of relief for both of them.

Liam reaches in his bag, and takes out a bottle, pointing the bottom end toward Julius.

"You deserved it," he tells him, as Julius grabs it, feeling the coldness of it in his palm. It was vitamin water.

He takes a swig, then un-straps his backpack, toward his front. He opens it, and starts making room from his extra clothing, and snacks. The shirts that Alice held on to, for three years. She was so faithful to him.

He pauses for a second, remembering Alice for a moment.  "Sorry, forgot about you there for a sec...." He places the bottle in the small space between the shirts and  the pair of gloves. "It was all for you."

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