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Issue 17 - FrequencyEdit
Ree chose not to sleep. She was lying in her bed, her mind fixated on the static noise being made by the radio. She forced herself to sleep, but the looming thought of a voiced response kept her anxious. As such, she lied motionless in her bed for nearly six hours, much too deep in thought to move. Once Julius and Liam left, she took the radio and carefully transferred it to her room, placing it on the dressing table right in front of her bed. Now she was able to calm her anxiousness down, watching the radio in front of her as it talked to her with its quiet buzzes of static.
She continued to do this until the sun started to rise, and Patrick visiting their apartment for his annual “therapy session” with Evee. His silent footsteps were loud enough for Ree to hear, since there was barely any sound inside the apartment.
“Ah, there it is,” he says, as he peeks in through her room, glancing at the radio in the table, then at Ree. “Anything?” Ree looks at him once, then returns to the radio, shaking her head. “Get some sleep, kiddo,” he replies, noticing the tired blemish on Ree’s face.
He carefully enters Evee’s room, peeking his head through it first to see that the bed was empty. Evee was sitting on a chair in front of a desk on the top right corner of her room, her back turned to Patrick. He walks up to her, stops beside her, and observes the paper she was too fixated on to say hello.
“Couldn’t wait?” he asks, as he sits down on the bed beside her desk. She ceases a response for a few more seconds, until she starts looking around her desk. She turns to Patrick and asks, “Can you hand me the orange crayon?” Her volume was low, and her voice was slightly hoarse. Patrick, somewhat surprised, looks around at his sides and finds a few crayons scattered around. The orange crayon was to his left.
“Here,” he says, handing the crayon to Evee, who takes it and resumes her silent treatment. She has always been like this since he started observing her, which was at least three days ago. No progress was made, except for the three pieces of paper posted on the wall where her bed rested, which told Patrick nothing. The papers had drawings of crude figures of people, who were affiliated with Evee, according to Ree. He takes a look at the wall one more time as a quick summary.
“Evee, who are the people in the pictures?” He takes note of the figures for a brief moment then turns to her. He knew he’d get no response as usual, but he thought repetition would do the trick. The only reply he received was the scribbling sounds of the crayons. He pauses, continuing to look at her to see if there’s any change of expression. After a few more seconds, he gives up, and lets out a quiet sigh.
He leans in to look at Evee’s drawing; unlike the posted pictures, this had a blue car on it. Patrick didn’t want to call it progress, but it was different from her usual pictures.
“Billy,” she suddenly mutters, slightly surprising Patrick and making him look at her. “Middle picture. That’s Billy.”
He turns back at the wall and looks at the paper placed in between the two others; a crude representation of Evee was standing beside a light-skinned boy, with brown hair and blue overalls. This was the first time she acknowledged the people in her work.
He stands up from the bed, eager to inform Ree. “Keep drawing hun,” he says, as he rushes out of her room. He walks in to Ree’s room silently, so as to not wake her just in case.
He silently creaks the door open and peeks in, seeing Ree in the same position she was in earlier. He then makes a full entrance, catching her attention.
“She mentioned Billy, in… one of her drawings. And today, she’s drawing a car. A … dark-blue one.” He looks at her with an eager expression, hoping if this was indeed progress. Ree looked astounded at first, but her expression slowly dissolves, as she returns looking at the radio.
“Billy’s one of her classmates. The car… that’s how she came home.” Patrick relaxes, somewhat looking disappointed. He pauses for a second, then walks over to Evee’s bed and sits on the bottom side. “You know… you two women are… the weirdest I’ve ever spent my time with.” He looks at Ree for her approval; instead, a weak smirk forms in her mouth.
“You’re here looking at that radio like it’s the only thing that matters, while Evee’s in her room, still sealed up like a jar of pickles… I—I just can’t put a finger on you two.” The way Ree seemed unresponsive made him look at the radio with her.
“Yeah, well… I just wanna hear Duane’s voice. It’s been… weeks.” Ree then looks at the wall behind her, where her head rested. “As for Evee… we’ll just have to wait until she opens up.”
”Let’s go, Billy! We have to go!”
“Three ahead.” Liam looked at the far distance in front of him; three walkers were at the end of the street. Julius gives him a glance, then sets his eyes on the walkers. “Save your energy, alright?” Julius starts jogging toward the walkers, bat tightly clutched with both hands.
He swings at the walker closest to him, which was to his left. The force on his swing was the standard, hard-hitting one; it usually forces his targets onto the ground, and this one was no different. “Too much,” he thought. He started approaching the second walker, which was to his right. He swung a little weaker this time, similar to the swing he made when he and Liam were exiting the apartment. As expected, the walker was only shoved on the ground, though it seemed a little dazed.
He takes this time to prepare for the third and final walker, which was to his right again. He pulls the barrel of the bat to his back, and does a downward swing. As he brought his bat down, the walker’s head is forced to impact the ground, causing a messy spill of blood. Judging from how it was twitching, it didn’t want to move back up.
The swing somewhat took out some energy out of him; he takes a brief break, not noticing the walker he had shoved from earlier standing on one knee, almost halfway through its recovery. Liam jogs past his side out of nowhere, then drives his machete onto the walker’s forehead. He jerks his blade out and takes a bit of time removing it.
“Nice exhibition,” he says, as he shakes the blood away from his blade. It looked like he didn’t want to put the plastic bag on his other hand down. “But I told you… just save your energy. Who knows how many more we’re gonna face?”
Julius looks at him, glancing at the bloodied barrel of his bat a few times. “Yeah, well… keep ‘em coming. I’ll need as much practice as I can get.” Liam smirks, and shakes his head. “Alright, Barry Bonds. Just so you know, I’ll lose my energy at some point, too.”
Though he didn’t want to completely rely on him, Julius seemed comfortable at the idea that he had reliable backup; after all, the way Liam surpassed him in both height and muscle was pretty clear. He avoided looking at him, so as to not bring any ideas that he was comparing his body mass and shape. “At least we both look good,” Julius thought.
They both resume their movement, with Liam walking toward the left turn of the street. Julius could only follow him, since he has no idea what street their next destination was; this part of the town was a little bit cloudy to him.
“So, uh… why the day care?” he asks. Liam looks at him, nearly forgetting that this question has been left unanswered since at least five blocks ago. “Well—it’s—it’s this second place I look after.” He returns looking ahead of him, as if it was the end of the discussion. Julius remains looking at his back with confusion.
“You see, I grew up in an orphanage...” Julius was all ears; after all, their empty surroundings meant he could give his full attention to him. “… lived there until I could provide for myself. Looked after it like it was my family.” Liam glances him once.
“When the outbreak hit, I… couldn’t move everyone out of the building. Mostly because I was too busy keeping Ree and the others safe. So I… just hoped for the best. They, or… at least, what’s left of them, managed to move to a day care that wasn’t too far.” He makes yet another left turn on the end of the street. There were a couple of walkers at the distance ahead of them.
“You’ll get to meet them soon.” Liam stops his walking, preparing his machete for the two walkers that noticed them. “They’re just—” He walks up to the nearest walker, and drives his machete to the side of its head. “—up ahead.” As Liam jerks his machete out of the walker’s head, Julius approaches the other walker and swings sideways, forcing it to plop on the ground.
“No. Something isn’t right…” Liam and Julius were standing on the street leading to the day care building, which was just some meters away. The two dead walkers on this street made him wary.
He looks at Julius, then to the building, and starts running. Julius, slightly surprised, has a delayed response and follows him. As they moved along further, more and more dead walkers came into view, scattering as they closer to the day care.
Liam stops as he steps foot in the sidewalk in front of the day care’s half-gate. There was a walker sitting against the wall next to the main entrance, the blood on its head spread across the wall it rested on. Liam approaches the clear glass entrance, and slowly opens it. His expression of grief and anxiety never ceased to change.
He scans the room. “Lights are off…” he muttered. He looks at Julius briefly as a heads-up to raise his guard. They both continued to move through the narrow hall, approaching the open floor space ahead of them.
Julius could hear groans, mixed in with whimpers. The sound started to grow louder as they step foot on the open floor space.
“Ah, get the fuck—” Liam and Julius step back, as a silhouette of a bulky figure suddenly steps in their way, crashing into the clear glass wall to their left side. Liam holds his machete up, while Julius stood behind him, one hand on his bat.
The bulky figure seemed to split into two, as one half of it sat on the wall, while the other was starting to stand up. The second figure clutched a screwdriver.
“Elaine…?” Liam mutters. The figure, in response, turns to him.
“Jesus Christ—is—is that you, Liam?” a soft, female voice replied. They both pause, staring at each other, until the silhouette looks sideways. “It’s fine!” she shouts.
After a few seconds, the lights inside the building started to flicker on. A young Asian woman, about the same age as Liam, stood there, her hands bloodied by the walker she had just taken down. Her hair was tied on a messy top-knot, with small strands of hair dangling down. She wore a black t-shirt, with a white long-sleeved sweatshirt underneath, its sleeves folded up. The sweat in her forehead and darkness in her eyes indicated that the she hasn’t had sleep in the past nights.
They both leap into each other’s arms, tightly embracing each other. They let go after a few seconds, looking face to face. “You alright?” he muttered silently. The woman nods lightly.
Liam looks at Julius, then to the woman. “This—this is Elaine,” he said. She looks at him with a faint smirk. “Julius,” he responds, laying his hand out. Elaine shakes it, her grasp extremely light.
She turns back to Liam. “Well… we needed you about, two hours ago…” She looks to her right side again. “… but, we—we managed. Took care of all of them.” Liam turns around, glancing the entrance once.
“Is everyone fine?” he replied, as he started to walk toward the direction Elaine kept glancing at. Julius hoped to follow, but chose to pause, looking at Elaine for permission. By this time, Liam was out of view. “C’mon,” she urged, starting to walk toward Liam’s direction as well.
They were heading towards a small, glass-shielded wall. The walls inside were full of different colors and paper drawings. The floor had a pale tan carpet. There was a small hamper of toys on the left corner.
Liam looked to the medium-sized round table turned to its side, covering the far corner of the room. A bulky, middle-aged man wearing a bloodied jumpsuit was standing on its right side, a small half of himself visible. Once he met eyes with Liam, he revealed himself.
He looked to his left side, to what the round table was covering up. “Put it down,” he mutters, and the round table starts to move. A teenaged boy was holding on to the stands, carefully letting go of it as the table’s top falls into the ground. Behind him was a girl of the same age, crouching with three children who have huddled together.
Liam walks up to them to aid the teenaged boy put down the heavy table. The bulky man starts walking toward Elaine, who was a few feet behind Liam. “They all gone?” he asked, in his rough voice. Elaine looks at him briefly, and nods. He glances at Julius once, looking at him with doubtful eyes.
“You guys alright?” Liam asks to the whole group huddled on the corner. The teenaged boy steps over the table, standing right next to Liam. A collective “yeah” came in response.
The teenager started looking at Julius the same way the man did. They were about the same height.
“Oh, guys th-this is Julius,” Elaine tells them. Liam turns around to notice the introduction. “He’s my… partner,” he adds, reassuring them. Julius looks away to combat his shyness; even though it was the apocalypse, it was still hard to meet multiple people at once.
“Julius, this is Ruben,” Liam says, patting the shoulder of the man in the jumpsuit. He looks to the teenager next. “Dalton. But we call him Meek.” He turns around to the people behind him. The three kids, about Liam’s waist in height, were walking over the overturned table top. The two of them stopped near Liam’s sides, looking up to him with an unsure look.
“That’s Julius,” Liam said, getting the attention of the boy and the girl below him. They transfer their look to Julius, with the boy waving at him shyly. The third child was still behind the overturned table top, his face being wiped by the other teenager who was crouched down.
“This is Chris,” Liam says, patting the head of the boy to his left. He turns to the girl to his right. “Tammy.” He looks at the pair behind him. “Morgan,” he said, pointing to the dark-skinned teenaged girl. “And Matt.”
“Here, this is everything else…” Liam hands Elaine the plastic bag he’s been clutching since they got there. They’ve all transferred to the semi-big dining area, which was just next to the playroom they were all in earlier.
Liam was with Elaine and Matt on the kitchen area, sorting through the supplies he brought. Julius sat on the small, round dining table with Ruben, Dalton, and Morgan. The two kids, Chris and Tammy, were playing with stuffed animals on the open space in the corner of the room.
“How long you known Liam?” Ruben asked, looking at Julius. His rough, almost silent voice was a bit intimidating, but the friendly look he had balanced it out. His jumpsuit was slightly dirty, a few specks of blood visible from it.
“I… uh, just a day…” Julius replied, shyly. Ruben maintained his look. “He’s a good man. Don’t let ‘im down. I know he’s countin’ on you.” The other two teenagers didn’t seem to have anything to say, as they mostly kept to themselves by quietly conversing with each other.
“How long’ve you guys been here?” Julius asks. Ruben pauses for a few seconds, then places his left hand on the table and strokes his chin. “We… we been here since the day everything went to shit. There were… a bunch more kids than what ya see here. Probally ‘bout ten times more. Didn’ look back to see what ‘appened to them… since there were a bunch o’ walkers that made us run from that place.” His expression starts to dissolve into a more serious one. “Whoever’s here… we’re the ones that chose to stay. Couldn’ go back… don’t wanna go back. Don’t know what’s left waitin’ for us.”
Liam and Elaine were about done counting the canned goods he managed to grab from the plastic bag; they came down to about eight. “Matt honey,” Elaine says, crouching down in level of the boy. “Why don’t you go play with Tammy and them?” Matt gazes at her for a few seconds, then leaves. She stands back up and turns to Liam.
“So what’s the news with Ree’s escape plan?” she asked. Liam, who was turning back and placing the cans on the cupboards, turns around to her, pausing. “We just got the radio yesterday,” he replies. “Me and Julius. Ree’s promised to look after it non-stop. I’m sure she’s at it right now.”
“But what about the seat count? Any mentions?”
Liam’s expression starts to fade. “I… uh… no. She—she hasn’t said anything yet.”
Elaine looks away, slightly dejected. “It’s only a matter of time. This place’ll be too dangerous for us pretty soon.”
Liam stops what he was doing, and turns to Elaine. “Don’t worry. I’ll stay. Until we need to leave. I’ll look after you all.” She looks at him, a faint smirk forming. She walks up to him and rests her head on his chest. “As long as I could…” Liam muttered, slightly surprised.
“You’ve really changed, you know that? Doing… all of this for us. Going back and forth…” She looks up to him. “I haven’t… been able to say my thanks. All this time.” She slowly leans in and kisses him.
Everything around Liam stood quiet. He found it extremely hard to let go; the sweetness and bliss he felt were overwhelming. He was lost in this feeling until Elaine let her lips go from his.
“Liam? You… alright?” she asked, a smirk on her face. “Yeah,” he replies, as if waking up from daydreaming. “You guys about done?”
It was Ruben, looking at them from the small opening that Liam nearly forgot about. Julius was looking with him, turning back from his chair. “Don’t you guys gotta do other things?”
“Right, right,” Liam replies, looking at Julius. He smiles at Elaine, then goes back to the supplies.
“I been seein’ those two since they were teenagers,” Ruben says, looking at Julius. “If ya ask me, it’s ‘bout time. Them two are practically best friends.”
Liam suddenly appears to their side, his backpack now much emptier compared to earlier. He glances at Ruben once, then looks at Julius. “They need help clearing the bodies up front.” He spreads his look among the men in the table.
“Yep, yep… me an’ Meek ‘ere can help.” Liam briefly drums the table with his hands, ready to go. “Alright. Let’s do it quick.”
Liam waits for Ruben and Dalton to get ready, when he was interrupted by Tammy, the only young girl among the children. “Uncle Liam…” she timidly said to him, looking up. “Can you… can you do British Bob before you leave?” As part of her plea, she held on to the fabric of his pants with one hand.
Liam smiles. “Alright,” he says, with a faint accent. He walks over to the corner, pulled by Tammy along the way. He glances Julius once with embarrassment, then crouches down.
“Now, what do ‘ee ‘ave ‘ere…?” he started, his accent a little stronger. The kids start giggling with excitement, as he continues to say sentences and phrases with a British accent.
Patrick was sitting on the patio table, watching Evee as she rode around in her scooter. Barbara was in the back, watering the plants with a watering pot.
“Careful hun,” Patrick told Evee, as she circled on the cement area of the entrance. He then stands up, walking toward the gate. “Why aren’t those two back yet?” he asked out loud, hoping for Barbara to hear.
She was just behind him, showering the bushes as she walked up closer to him. “Don’t worry Pat, it usually takes Liam this long. Now that he’s got help from that… boy, I’m sure it won’t take ‘im longer.” Pat opens the gate, then walks out of view for a moment.
“Hide. Hide!!” he whispered, rushing back inside. He waved off Evee, who was forced to pause, seeing the look on Patrick’s face. He turns to Barbara, motioning for her to do the same. She puts down the pot and crouches.
“Run up to your aunt!” he whispered to Evee, exchanging glances with the gate and her face.
Ree was still in her room, her head now resting on a pillow. She was putting up an effort trying to combat the heaviness of her eyes. Her hopefulness for any response was starting to dwindle, as her grogginess pulled her down.
She was far too tired to care for the quick pounding of footsteps rushing toward her door. She dismissed it as Evee, just running around, playing…
She was about to let her eyes fall when her door suddenly opened. “Keep quiet,” Patrick said, trying catching his breath.
“The hell’s going on?” Ree asked in her normal volume, as she stood up from her bed. Patrick’s look gave her a bad feeling.
He puts a finger between his mouth. “Just some walkers passing by, no big deal,” he replied, calmly. Ree’s tired expression slowly dissolves into a more distressed one; there wasn’t much difference.
“W-where’s Evee?!” She ran toward her door, hoping to get out, but Patrick held her back. “Ran in with me… waiting on the living room,” he whispered. She pauses for a second, then rushes out of her room. “Ree, what—“ Patrick tries to catch her, but she was much too fast.
She catches a glimpse of Barbara and Evee hiding behind the armrest of the sofa, fixated on the locked door. “What are you doing—” Barbara whispered loudly, as she sees Ree rushing toward the front door, undoing the three locks.
Ree silently zips through the staircase leading downstairs, curious of what they were about to deal with. But the walker that came into view from the opposite end of the hall made her retreat back to the staircase, conflicted if she should wait it out, or go hide.