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Issue 20 - Danger ZoneEdit
“You were talking in your sleep,” she said, glancing him once as she drew. “Really loud.”
Julius relaxes himself, letting out a yawn and stretching. “Shouldn’t you be asleep?” he asks, his volume somewhat lacking. “Can’t,” she replies, looking at her drawing the whole time.
He knew he couldn’t sleep anymore; though he only experienced it once, it felt like he’d done it annually. He sits back down the sofa and examines the contents of his bag. While rummaging through it, he doesn’t notice the fresh linen scent of his clothes, and for that matter, the neatly folded clothes inside it. He notices the pair of gloves, their velcro straps stuck together. He had forgotten to ask Liam about them.
“Who was she?” he hears Evee ask from behind him. Her voice slightly echoes through the small dining room. He nearly freezes at the thought of uttering her name so clearly during his sleep, that Evee was able to hear it. He doesn’t want her to repeat it, so he tries to reply as soon as he could.
“She… she was this person I knew. A really good friend.” Silence looms over them for a few seconds, accompanied by crayons scribbling.
“Where did she go?” she asks. Julius didn’t want to dwell on it too deeply, but it felt like he was obliged to, for the sake of this kid’s curiosity.
“The… a-away. She had to leave. Just…” He pauses, quietly sighing. “… had to.”
Evee takes a few seconds again, letting her crayons talk. “They all don’t want to. They don’t want to go away.” Julius turns his head behind him, surprised at her reply. It seemed unwise for him to hold back the details.
“Did you get to say goodbye?” she continues. Julius looks at the coffee table in front of him, pausing at the stack of CD’s.
“No. I couldn’t.”
He hears a chair move behind him. He sees Evee moving the chair right next to hers, a small, blank piece of paper on the spot in front of it. She pauses looking at him, her right hand resting on the chair’s backrest.
Julius stands up and walks to the table, somewhat confused. Evee’s look gives him a clear message.
He sits on the chair, looking at the ripped square piece of paper. He sees her hand place two crayons to the top left corner of it. “Write what you wanted to say to her,” she told him. “Before she left.”
Julius looks at her; the blank expression on her face tells him nothing. He shifts his look to the paper beside her, which seemed to look finished. He couldn’t make out the paragraph of words colored in blue, with a picture of a boy right below it. Evee notices his look.
“This is for Billy,” she told him, as she seats herself back to the chair. “He was one of my friends. I saw him get bit.” She returns drawing on the paper, taking a few crayons from the small pile above it.
He was baffled at first, not knowing what to do. But after a few seconds of seeing Evee, he started to feel a little more comfortable. He takes the red crayon with his right hand, and places the tip of it on the paper.
Alice, he wrote. He points the tip just below it.
He was conflicted as to what to write next, suddenly feeling anxious for any mistakes he could make. There were so many things he wanted to say to her before she left…
Whatever I write here won’t ever be enough to tell you how I feel about you. I just knew, when I first saw you, that you’d be the best person I’d ever spend my time with. He had the urge to write the four-letter word, but felt it was much to “cliché” at this point. “Cliché…” he thought. “You hated that word."
I’ll miss those days. Those memories. I know I won’t get to relive them again, and I’m angry for that. But I just can’t be angry for it right now— He crosses everything he just wrote out in almost an instant, starting with a line at first, but quickly following it with scribbles.
I wanted to be there with you, as much as I could— He crosses the second part out of it, pausing at the comma.
...but something told me to live. Was it you? He pauses. He looks to his side, seeing Evee reading her paper.
But I’m living for you. I’m going on, as much as I want you there with me. Just know that you’ll always be the one. Always. He felt that it was completely lacking, but he didn’t want to go any further. He looked through it one more time, just as Evee did with her paper.
He placed the paper back in front of him, and took the blue crayon. He drew a scribble of a smartphone, with the words “No giving up, right?” coming out of it, accompanied by music notes. “Just figure out what it takes,” he mumbled, as a habit.
He could hear her harmonic voice in his right ear, where his phone would usually be pressed against while he was laying down in his bed. She liked to sing over the phone mostly as practice, but as time passed, her singing helped him sleep. Sometimes, it was the other way around; Alice would go mute all of a sudden, as it was replaced by quiet snoring.
Evee stands up from her seat, and walks over to the front door, placing her hand on the knob. She looks at him, the piece of paper clasped on her other hand.
Julius had no idea where Evee was going; they were headed outside, with Evee opening the locked gate. The sky was a deep dark blue, though it was starting to brighten. Julius had his metal bat in hand just in case.
The streets were, for the most part, empty. He had noticed the pile of ashes to his right, and the missing bodies, their messy puddles of blood left to dry on the cement. Evee was silent all throughout, walking at a steady pace, heading toward the left side of the apartment. Julius followed her every step, staying alert just in case he needs to protect her.
They turned left at the end of the street. Even though he’s stayed in this area for a few days, this was unfamiliar territory to Julius. There were tall bay trees shading the street, similar to the area he saw on the way to the day care. To their side was a large stone wall, stretching all the way to the next block. To the middle of it was a pile of things he couldn’t make out, due to the poor lighting.
As they got closer, he started to see the layers of paper stuck to the wall, glass vases full of decaying flowers, and a large amount of melted candles; a shrine.
He didn't bother looking at the papers in detail, aware of their contents. The portraits and pictures of people posted all over the shrine were hard to miss, though. Evee walks over to the right side of it, looking at a small spot of papers just below her. She crouches down to it.
As Julius got a bit closer, he noticed that the set of papers Evee looked at were drawings, the style similar to hers. It must have been her dedicated spot.
He crouches down a few feet from her left, looking for a spot of his own. Evee sticks out her left hand, a strip of scotch tape on her index finger. Julius hesitates for a few seconds, then takes the piece of tape. He sticks it at the top of his paper and continues looking for a spot.
There was a bare spot on the wall, in between a letter with a picture of a child in the bottom, and a headshot of a young, dark-skinned man wearing sunglasses. He sticks it in between, looks over it for a moment. He stands up, hoping to quickly forget about it.
He notices Evee still crouched down, a red-and-black candle lighter in hand. She lights a few small, unlit candles, then stands up. They both pause, staring at the shrine for a moment.
“Don’t tell my aunt,” she whispers, catching Julius’s attention. “She doesn’t like me coming here. She says it’s depressing.”
They both walk back to the apartment, the street almost staying the same, save for a few walkers visible from the far distance in front of them.
“You’re nice, you know that?” she tells him, surprising Julius. “You didn’t stop to question anything I did.”
He glances at her with a semi-smirk. “It really helped. Thanks a lot.”
He was close to shedding tears at first. But as soon as he saw the shrine, he couldn’t feel it anymore. It still lingered, but it wasn’t as intense.
Evee quietly returns to her room, while Julius returned sitting on the brown sofa, right next to his items. He tries to take a nap but fails, nearly forgetting that he doesn’t want to sleep anymore.
He examines his backpack, then sets it on his lap. He zips it open, and takes out the pair of gloves. He slides the left one in his hand, followed by the right one. He clenches his fingers on and off to feel it. It felt like he was wearing nothing.
He hears the muffled sound of a door opening and closing to his front. He removes the glove on his left hand, as the lock of the front door turned.
Liam comes into view, sliding into the door and quietly closing it. “Morning, Romeo and Julius,” he says, a smirk on his face. Julius does a partial chuckle, as pity on his part. “Very nice,” he follows.
“Oh, so I see you’re trying the gloves out?” Liam asks, placing a small duffle bag on the dining table. “They’re kinda new. I bought ‘em, but completely forgot about them.” He takes out a pair of his own from his right pocket. “These are older, but they grew on me,” he says, dangling them for display.
“Yeah… so, do I keep them or… what?” Julius asks. Liam nods. “Yes. My gift to you Mercutio,” he replies. Julius shakes his head, while Liam walks over to him. “It’ll help. I’m telling you. Protects your hands, hardens your grip.” He examines his right hand while at it.
Julius places the gloves aside. He stands up, one hand in his bag. “What time we heading out?” he asks. Liam glances him once, while rummaging through the cupboards of the kitchen.
“Patrick and Barb are packing. Oh, and… I’m not coming.” Julius’s expression dissolves into a confused one. “What? You’re not…”
Liam takes out a mug from one of the cupboards. “There won’t be enough seats for the guys back at the day care. Just enough for all of us. In this building.” Julius looks away to ponder the thought. Liam has a bottle of orange juice on his right hand.
“I figured I should stay with them. Nobody’s looking after them…”
Julius pauses, thinking of an answer. “Well… did Ree say anything about… coming back for you, at least?” Liam sips his mug, and shakes his head.
“I don’t know. But if you can, I’d appreciate it.”
“Of course we will. I’ll tell them.” Again, Liam shakes his head.
“No… you guys… you guys might not turn back at all. Just keep going straight.” He sips his mug one more time, and walks over to him.
“I need you to look after ‘em. I’ve seen you fight; you’re capable.” He glances the metal bat resting on the sofa. Julius takes a few seconds to respond.
“Of course—of course,” he replies, nodding. “Great.” Liam pats him on his shoulder.
Ree was the last to wake up. After a breakfast of crackers and juice, everyone was in the entrance of the apartment, bags strapped. Ree was hugging Liam, and was finding it hard to let go.
“Have the car,” she said, patting his back. “It won’t fit all of you, but it should help you with transport.” She lets go and looks at him; “Thanks,” Liam replies, nodding. She hands him a set of keys, a few dangling keychains on it.
“We’re going on foot?” Patrick asks, as soon as he saw her hand the keys. “Don’t worry,” Ree says, approaching him, then placing her hand on his shoulder. “It’s not too far from here. We should be there by noon.”
She transfers her look from Patrick, to everyone else. She then walks toward the railed gate, and opens it. Patrick approaches Liam and embraces him. Evee and Barbara join in. Julius was beside the gate, watching them say their goodbyes. The barrel of his baseball bat tapped against his shoulder.
As soon as everyone stopped hugging, Liam walks over to Julius. He places his right hand out. Julius notices the signal, and places his left hand against it. Liam grips it tightly and shakes it.
“Good luck,” he says, as he pulls Julius toward him, patting the back of his shoulder. Julius does the same by patting his. He then lets go, and follows the rest waiting outside. They were all standing on the street, with Ree watching Julius exit. As soon as he reached them, they all started to move. Liam appears nearby the gate, watching them leave. As he starts to appear more distant, he raises his hand up.
The group made a right as they reached the end of the road; different from the way to the day care. Ree impatiently went ahead of them, walking faster and occasionally slowing down. She was followed by Patrick, then Evee, then Barbara, then Julius. The street they walked on was mostly empty; nothing kept them uneasy.
They walked in silence for a few more blocks, until Ree made a left into another one. She was forced to stop, when she saw the block’s street covered with cars. She stood there, a look of wonder in her eyes, as the rest of her group caught up.
“Why… so many cars?” Patrick asked, pausing right beside her and looking at the two rows of cars. Ree walked closer to check on one, toward a car to her left. She tried to open the door, but had extreme difficulty doing so. Patrick joined her by going to the car above it, and attempting to open it; his efforts were similar.
“Come on. Let’s just go past it,” Ree proposes, walking ahead of them on the sidewalk. There was virtually no space for them to walk on the road.
Their pace resumes as they reach the end of the block. The road was empty, save for a few cars, giving them plenty of space. There was no living soul in view, save for them. They head to the right of the street, as fast as they could, and continue forward as they reach the end of it.
Something seemed wrong to Julius. There haven’t been any walkers in the few blocks they’ve trekked. Surely there was a surprise, or something along those lines, waiting for them.
Their surroundings start to change into small buildings, as opposed to the numerous apartment complexes and trees they saw from the blocks earlier. There were lesser trees there, but the buildings provided the shade.
They continued to move at the same pace, until they were forced to stop, when the street ahead of them were littered by walkers. The way they blocked would continue their steady pace to the bus stop, and Ree’s promise of reaching it by that afternoon.
Ree takes out a thick, steel pipe from her vest. She transfers her look to the rest. Julius readies his bat with both hands, while Patrick reaches something from his pocket. To Julius’s surprise, he had a pistol in hand.
“You guys ready?” she asked; the both of them nod, in quick response. She then leads the way by walking toward them carefully, then shifting to jogging. Patrick follows her closely, with Julius right behind them. The rest was carefully moving behind him.
Ree was ready to get the walkers’ attention. She would swing at the one to her left, as soon as she reaches it…
But halfway through, a loud gunshot sound rang to her left. One of the walkers plopped onto its side, into the cement. The rest of the walkers glance at them once, then toward the source of the gunshot.
She motions her hand up, forcing everyone behind her to stop. The gunshots continue to ring, in short, successive bursts. One by one, the walkers fell. These sounds were familiar to Julius.
They looked at each other for a while, as all the walkers in front of them died in a blink of an eye. Soon, two figures came into view, clutching rifles and wearing gasmasks. Julius’s hunch was correct.
The two soldiers checked on the bodies first. “Let’s go. Run now,” Julius suggested, in a hushed volume. Ree and Patrick look at him with confusion. “They’re going to kill anyone that’s not them!” he exclaimed.
The soldiers relax their stances, looking at each other for a brief second. Soon, they notice the group of people some feet away from them. They resumed their stances and jogged toward the group.
“C’mon, let’s go!” Julius continued to say, as he was the only one starting to run back. The rest of the group paused in confusion, exchanging glances between him and the soldiers.
For a split second, Julius thought he was wrong. Were those soldiers’ intentions good? He was about to pause his running, when bursts of gunfire started to ring behind him, forcing the group to bend their heads down, and start moving. He was right, all along.
Liam was ready to leave. All that was left for him to do was dig through his closet, in search of something. As soon as he felt a small, rectangular box, he pulled his hand out.
The box was tanned in color. He looked at the small tag that hung from it.
“Elaine – Sorry for wasting money.”
He held on to this gift for about three years. It was to be the sign of their new friendship, if it wasn’t for her boyfriend back then…
Liam felt that it was time. Regardless of what happened to the world, he was never too late to tell how he felt for her. He looks at the box for a few more seconds, wondering when he should give it to her. He exits his room and heads downstairs, thinking of what her reaction would be.
He was a bit ecstatic, partly at the thought of spending time with Elaine and the day care, and partly because he was saving much needed time with the car. He drove, with nothing outside to hinder him.
He was forced to stop, when a number of walkers were wandering the street of the day care, scattered all over the place. A bitter feeling crept up inside him, seeing all of the walkers on the street, and the day care’s front door opened, from a distance. He exited his car and grabbed his things with haste.
He unsheathed his machete as soon as he strapped his bag. He slashed any walker that got too close. Most of the walkers that got in his way were quickly taken down with one fierce slash to the head.
“Elaine!?” he shouted, as he reached the entrance; there were drops of blood trickling down the cement ground, onto the linoleum floors. “Elaine…?” he muttered, entering the dark hallway. He had no regard for the remaining walkers behind him.
As soon as he reached the end of the hall, he froze. His grip loosened, dropping his machete. The loud clang of the metal against the floor echoed throughout the room.
Elaine was curled up against a wall, her head covered by her two arms. To her left, a row of bodies were covered in cloth, or blankets, blood seeping through them. Some of the bodies below it were much too small.
Elaine raises her head up, seeing Liam in front of her. Her face was covered in dirt and dried blood. The mascara in her eyes were dried.
“They all died. E-everyone—“
She stands up and walks toward Liam, slowly. She wraps her arms around him. Liam could feel a sort of wetness in her shoulder.
“They got them all—they—all of them—“ Elaine muttered, trembling.
“Who? Who…” Liam’s nostrils were flaring.
Liam’s insides start to drop. For some reason, it felt like he knew the attackers.
He wrapped his arms around Elaine, who seemed to have trouble letting go. His feeling of joy quickly divulged into grief, and despair.
The group has been jogging since the soldiers were shooting at them. None of them dared to look back, just to see if they were still giving chase. Ree was moving the fastest among all of them, making numerous turns that made her followers somewhat struggle. They were forced to make a few stops, when either soldiers or walkers stood close to their midst.
They had no idea how long they’ve been on the run; all they know was that the sun was starting to move down above them. They jog for one more block, stopping as soon as Ree made a right to another one.
“Where the hell’re we going now?” Patrick asks, as they catch their breaths. Ree looks at the distance in front of her.
“We just—took a quick sidestep… we’ll be back on the path as soon as we go over there.” She points to the end of the block. “Depends on—the soldiers though...”
Each and every soldier they encountered had the same response as the first ones they saw. They were lucky enough to see them from a distance, hindering their accuracies. But what they lacked in accuracy, they made up for in numbers; they’ve encountered at least one soldier every other block.
“C’mon,” Ree urged. “No time to lose.”
They continued to move toward the end of the block. As soon as they reached it, Ree makes a left. Fortunately for them, the street was empty.
Barbara was starting to slow down, as she reverted to walking. Patrick, who was just beside her, notices it. “You alright?” he asked, slowing his jog to a walk. The rest of the group start to leave them behind.
“I just—“ Barbara says, sweat pouring from her forehead. “Just need to sit…”
“What’s up?” Ree asks from a small distance, pausing her movement. She starts walking towards them.
“She alright—“ As Ree approached them, a sharp sound rang behind her, causing something on the cement beside her to spark. She, along with everyone else, cover their heads.
“Someone’s shooting—“ The shots continue to ring, forcing the group to resume movement. Everyone, except for Barbara, ran for the nearest cover, which was a building to their right.
“Move!” Ree urged, heading toward the “Shirley’s Deli” building, which had a pushed-in front door for them to cover in. She, followed by Julius, Evee, then Patrick, sprinted toward it, slightly crouched down. Barbara, struggling to trail them, was forcefully thrown onto her side when a bullet impacted her shoulder. She crawled on her front, her shoulder uncontrollably bleeding, leaving a trail of blood in her wake.