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Issue 21 - Around the CornerEdit
Barbara desperately tries to crawl forward, her shoulder a colored deep red from the blood. Julius and the group stared at her in horror. Evee couldn’t hold back her tears.
As a cruel reminder, and a sort of wake-up call, Barbara was shot one more time on the back, stopping her movement for good. Everyone flinches awake.
“Where the hell are we gonna go now?!” exclaimed Ree, trying to peek at the direction of the gunshot behind her. Patrick desperately tries to open the glass doors right next to them, but was struggling.
“Locked; it’s locked!” he bellows, trying to force the stubborn doors open. He, along with Julius do a quick scan of the doors; it had four, big glass areas that could be big enough for all of them.
Patrick aims his pistol at the bottom right corner, and shoots three times. The glass almost instantly shatters, paving a small opening inside. Julius clears up the shards with his bat.
“Get in! Let’s go!” Patrick guides Evee first, then Ree. Julius bends down and follows closely behind them. Patrick was the last to crawl inside.
The deli’s room was poorly lit; the only light source was coming from the outside. Ree runs toward the dark end of the room, vanishing from sight.
“Follow her,” Patrick urges Julius, who was still a bit shocked by the fast pace around them. He pauses for a second, then runs toward Ree’s direction. Patrick then approaches Evee, who seemed to be even more shocked.
“How are you kid?” he asks, crouching down to her level. He looked like he had all day to know.
“Fine,” Evee responds, in a hoarse voice. Patrick smiles and starts wiping her tears with his fingers.
“That’s good, that’s good,” he replies. “W-we can’t do anything for Aunt Barbara anymore. We have to keep moving, alright?” He slips something inside the pocket of her jacket. “Here—it’s fine. W-we’re gonna be alright, alright?”
Evee stares at him for a second, then nods. Patrick pulls her in for a hug. “It’s fine, honey,” he says, comforting her. Evee started to sob on his shoulder, quietly.
Julius and Ree couldn’t see anything from the darkness, but they had no time to look for the power. After passing by what seemed like a maze of rooms, she saw the one and only light source.
It happened to be a door with a glass window on it, providing the only light from the outside. Ree peeks inside it, and sees a gutter. “Found it,” she announces, calling Julius’s attention. “Go ahead and get ‘em.”
Ree pushes the door, but was held back instead. She tackles it again a few more times, with no progress. She tries to hit the knob with her pipe, but it didn’t seem to do anything.
She stands back in front of the door, and starts kicking it. After at least two hard kicks, she started seeing her progress in the form of a sliver of light seeping in through the door. She notices Julius and the rest approach her from her left.
She kicks one more time, and forces the door open. “Let’s go!” she exclaims. She comes out first, leading the rest of the group behind her.
As soon as she looked to her left, her eyes met with a soldier, frozen in shock. She could almost see through his goggles. The soldier realizes what was in front of him, and aims his gun.
Patrick rushes in front of her and starts to shoot. The soldier was forced onto his knees, his rifle dropped on the ground. Ree snaps out of her own shock and runs toward the soldier, forcefully swinging her pipe at the soldier's head; he was thrown against the wall, losing all movement.
Everyone stares at the soldier for a second, to see what the damage they’ve done. “Grab his gun,” Patrick suggests, breaking the silence. He transfers his look between Ree and Julius, who were both standing to his left. Julius hesitates at first, but then walks toward the soldier, carefully grabbing the rifle he dropped. Ree joins him by tapping the soldier’s pockets, to see if there were any spare clips they could use.
Patrick looks ahead of him; toward them, a narrow path leads into another street. He looks at the group behind him, to see if they were ready. “Good to go?” he asks.
Julius, looking unsure with the gun strapped to his shoulder, pauses. He hands the rifle to Patrick. “Probably more capable than me,” he says.
Patrick gives him a reluctant look; he takes the rifle by the trigger handle. “M-might as well,” he replies, as he pulls the gun into both his hands, trying to feel it. “A bit ironic,” he follows.
“Here I am, ready to commit gun violence. Just the time before the end of days, Dan and I were voting against it.” He shakes his head, and looks at the group for their response; they were already walking ahead of him. He drops his smirk, and catches up to them. “Just a thought I couldn’t hold back,” he mutters.
Elaine sat on the round table inside the playroom, an opened bottle water in front of her. Liam sat to her opposite side. They were both wordless, staring into nothing.
“How?” he asked. Elaine didn’t respond for a moment, only staring at the perspiring bottle in front of her. “How did they all die? What happened?”
She tenses up from her seat, pulling herself back to rest on the chair. She lets out a loud sigh first.
“Well, they came in. Unannounced.” Liam, who was staring at the room’s entrance, transfers his look to her.
“Kicked the door open, just like that.” She scoffs quietly. “Didn’t… didn’t even bother to lock the door. Of all days.” She sighs, transferring her arms to the armrests.
“There were four of them. Three males, one female. Meek saw them come in. Shot him down before he could even speak.” She starts rubbing her face with her right hand.
“The kids just stood there, shocked. Ruben—“ Her voice started to shake. “H-he tried doing something about it. No gun, though. So—they—they shot him too.” Her nostrils flare up.
“Me and Morgan hid th-the kids to the playroom.” Her eyes started to glisten with tears; she points to the corner of the room. “You know. Eme-emergency procedures—“ She starts to snivel, as tears fall from her eyes.
“It was worthless. They just… pulled the table down. Grabbed Morgan by the hair, threw her on the floor. Shot her.” She couldn’t control her sobs for a few seconds.
“I—In front of the kids. Then they grabbed mine.” She taps the table in front of her nervously. “They were so close to doing it. So close. But—“ she sniffles to gather her shaking voice. “They said they wanted to save me for later. The woman in their group groaned; like she knew what would happen. I—I didn’t know what to fucking say. I was just done. Fucking done. They saw it in my eyes. Me and kids. All of us, done. So I told them to just do it and be done with it. The guys t-they—“
Liam wanted to approach her, but the way she seemed made him think otherwise. She sniffles, and wipes her tears away to make room for more. “—grabbed me on the next room. But s-something made them stop… the way I looked. At them.” She pauses, sighing, and wiping her tears. Liam’s insides were flaring; his heart was beating a hundred beats per second.
He was a mix of emotions; sad, angry, confused. All of it mixed into dejection, which made him feel sick, and weak, to his stomach.
“It’s like t-they saw it, you know.” Elaine’s nose and cheeks were red. Tears still didn’t stop streaming from her cheeks. “They said I was ‘too far gone’. That I wou—wouldn’t enjoy it. So instead they…” She looks at the corner of the room again one more time for a brief second. “Lined up the kids. Killed them one by one. I didn’t bother to look but… the gunshots w-were loud. Just—so damn loud—” She motions both her hands to cover her ears, but gives up half-way through.
Liam didn’t want to hear any of it. But he knew this was for Elaine’s own good. She didn’t need to carry this to her grave.
“They proposed one last thing.” She sniffles one last time, and wipes the tears from her eyes. “They’ll be back. To—t-take this place. They sp-spared me so they can have one last person to kill. But they’ll be back. They’ll be back for it…” She pauses, still as bewildered as earlier. She struggles to keep still on her seat, finally taking a drink from the bottle.
“I’ll be there when they return,” Liam responds. Elaine glares at him, looking a little less concerned, and more afraid.
“No—we—we’re leaving before we do, and—”
“No.” Liam shakes his head. “The kids. Morgan, Meek, Ruben. Their deaths were in vain.”
He looks at the blade resting on the table beside him. “They have to go. For them. So they don’t bother anyone anymore.”
Ree was ahead of everyone; her back is pressed against the left wall of the opening, scanning the street in front of her. She peeks her head left, then right, then to the group behind her, as a signal that the road was clear.
She steps foot on the cement, but in almost an instant, a spark in the cement makes her flinch back to the wall. She hides her full figure behind it, frozen for a few seconds, then dissolving into an anxious gesture. She turns back to look at her group one more time.
“Gotta be kidding me,” she says, in almost a hushed tone. “Has to be another way. Any ideas?”
Patrick, who was the last person behind her, turns around to observe the fences. He approaches the one to his left, and starts pushing it with his left hand. The fence’s gate parts open, making way for an empty section of the gutter. Ree was the first to respond by jogging toward the gate, and sliding through it. Julius is next, followed by Evee. Patrick was the last to slide in.
They sprint up to the semi-stairs, which leads to yet another narrow pathway of a gutter. Ree turns left, seeing the same opening that leads to the road. She briefly turns to her right direction and starts jogging.
The group was jogging in a uniform line, having Ree leading it and Patrick sealing it up. Everyone, save for Evee, had their weapons ready just in case. The jog seemed to take an eternity, until they were finally stopped by a few walkers idly waiting on the sides.
Ree stops her jogging, tightly clutches her steel pipe, and unloads a heavy side-ways swing on the walker to her left. Julius jogs past her and swings his bat against the walker to his right, forcing its head to collide on the cement wall next to it. He then rushes to the next walker and slams his bat downwards, forcing the walker to only flinch. Ree walks past him and finishes the job by doing a down-ward diagonal swing, silencing the walker for good. They take a two-second breather, with Ree scanning her group.
“Everyone good?” she says, her breathing growing a bit louder. They all nod in response.
They resume their pace, as the path ends with yet another crossroad; this time, Ree doesn’t hesitate and goes right. The narrow passageway seemed a little bit shorter; it seemed to lead to a more wide opening, judging from how far the distance of the other wall was.
Before they knew it, Ree and the group found themselves on another street, this time much less empty than the sniper-controlled street from earlier. The groans of walkers seemed to grow louder in this street, and were followed up by a few distant clicks of gunshots. Ree scans her surroundings fairly quickly, noticing the batch of walkers to each of her distant sides.
“No sniper, at least,” she says, a bit reluctantly. She starts moving to her left direction, with Julius and the rest following her. They resume their jogging pace, heading toward the far right side of the street to get past the small clump of walkers that noticed them.
They kept this pace up, until they started hearing louder gunshots just behind them. At least three soldiers, donning gasmasks and no remorse for life, were a short distance away from them, catching their attention. In a flash, the group reverts to hastily sprinting.
Ree and the group make for the end of the street, aware that soldiers were at their heels. She seemed to be setting an example for their pace, as she was desperately trying to outmatch almost everyone behind her. Julius followed her closely, wondering why she was too eager to leave them all behind. To his side was Evee, who was catching up. Patrick kept a steady pace, but struggled to catch up.
Ree makes a curving turn to her left, expecting her group to follow. There were much more walkers on this street than the last, but not enough for them to stop running. At least a few spaces were wide enough for them to comfortably run past; it probably had to do with the fallen corpses to its sides, puddles of blood on their heads.
After passing by the clumps of walkers, Ree looks behind her. She slows her pace to a slower sprint, her right hand pointing to her right direction. “Split up!!” she shouted, enough for the people behind her to hear. Julius, out of bewilderment, slows his own pace down. “Split up!!” she repeats, now flailing her arm to her right. It looked like she didn’t have any regard for pairs.
Julius runs to the direction she pointed to, zipping into the nearest gutter he found. As he got deeper into the pathway, he slows his running into a jog.
Once the walls around him got taller, providing him enough shade, he stops his running. He bends down, trying to catch his breath. He looks to the pathway in front of him, hoping that someone followed. Much to his relief, Patrick’s orange sweater came into view. He looked just as relieved as he was once they found each other.
“Alright, alright…”Julius asks, assuming his regular, though slightly slouched, posture. “Where do we meet?”
Patrick glances behind him. “Don’t know. Probably—most likely O’Farrell…” He was breathing much louder than Julius.
“You happen to know where that is?” Julius replies. Patrick pauses for almost a moment, thinking.
“Y-yeah. I’ve been there once. Took a highway bus there once—I think…”
“Great.” Julius lets out a sigh to end his rest. “Let’s do this.” He motions Patrick to follow him. Together, they start briskly walking to resume their path.
“You know how to use that thing, right?” Julius asks, glancing at the rifle Patrick clutched. He looks down at the enlarged gun he held with both his hands.
“Oh, this? Y-yeah, sure, I definitely do. Regular trips at the shooting range, y’know. Like, right after our bowling session—“ He pauses, trying to think of a follow-up. “Is… is that something as manly as gun-hand—“
“No,” Julius replies with a light smirk, shaking his head.
“Oh, well… after our—mixed-martial arts sparing sessions. Yeah—Yeah! Our days are always filled with testosterone…” Julius wanted to chuckle, but his fast walking and current ordeal made him think otherwise. Patrick, on the other hand, seemed to be able to enjoy it while walking the same pace as him.
“Well—“ He starts jogging as soon as Julius does. “—I’m not exactly the gun advocate… I mean, for goodness’ sake, I have a partner. We—we were just about to—”
“I can see that,” Julius replies. “But as long as you can shoot with that thing—“
Julius was forced to stop when he sees a damaged fence to his side, a huge crowd of walkers clawing their way open. “Let’s go—let’s go,” he urges, starting to jog to his direction. Patrick follows him soon after.
Julius hoped that the path would lead to yet another street, but instead, a clump of walkers stood in front of him, its size a bit comparable to the enlarged fence to his back.
“Julius,” Patrick says behind him. “I think—I think we’re stuck.”
He wasn’t able to hear the fence fall, but the groans around him seemed to be growing much louder.
Evee followed the trail of her aunt when Julius and Patrick split. She was a bit confused at first, slowing down her pace to see where everybody was going. Her aunt nearly left her behind; the last thing she saw of her was a sliver vanishing into a wall of some sort.
She ran to the direction of the wall, which was to her left side. There happened to be a narrow passage for her to slip through. She sidesteps into the passage, in hopes that she’ll be able to catch up to her aunt…
After a few seconds of jogging, her insides bubbled at the site in front of her. She managed to hide behind a huge dumpster, peeking through it to observe what was happening.
“—Civilian captured,” said the soldier, his or her speech muffled by heavy static. They looked menacing with the dark gasmasks on, as if they knew what was in the air around them. The person talking was looking down on her aunt, who seemed to be extremely oriented. The soldier to her right pulls her up without care. “—Calling for any HQ's in the area—“ Their voices start to fade.
Her heart started to beat so much, that she nearly lost her breath. She taps her pockets for anything she could use…
“B—Billy…?” she whispers, seeing her former friend walking in front of her.
Billy? What… what are you doing here…?
The only thing she dreaded the most was coming to haunt her here. The afternoon of the “End of Days,” as Patrick loved to call it, was returning again.
The tall walls of the gutter around her were traded with bay trees, and a wide open space. A playground.
Billy? Why? What are you shouting for…?
She remembers his screams. She remembered everything so clearly.
We have to go, Evee! C’mon!
We just have to go!
Evee looked around her. Grown-ups, rushing their kids to get inside their cars, frantically driving away. She thought the grown-ups could handle it, but it looked like they were doing a terrible job.
But my aunt doesn’t come for another fifteen minutes!
C’mon! It doesn’t matter!
Billy pointed his hand out, for her to take it. But she saw Harriet just behind him, her mouth dripping with blood, her skin as pale as the clouds…
Harriet, one of her friends. She snuck up behind Billy, and bit his neck. He lets out a blood-curdling scream that she never thought she would hear again, after that camping accident…
Billy quickly falls to the ground, crying, and clutching his profusely bleeding neck. Evee didn’t know what to do. Cry? Scream?
Instead, she feels something cold touch her arms.
We—we have to go now, sweetie—we—it’s not safe here—
It was her favorite teacher, Mr. Baldwin. He’s been there since her elementary school days; she was great friends with his son, Kevin.
Mr. Baldwin had a tight grasp of her arm. He jogged toward the parking lot as he pulled her. Kevin suddenly pops up to her side.
“Dad…?” he asks, his skin almost as pale as Harriet’s. He clutched something bleeding on the side of his left arm.
“You’re gonna be fine, Kevin! It’s okay!” his father replied, his voice slightly shaking.
Almost for a split second, she feels something metallic on the left pocket of her jacket. She feels the handle of it…
I’m taking you home to your aunt, Evee.
Mr. Baldwin quickly zips in his seatbelt, stopping the small alarm sound of the car. It was making her more nauseous by the moment.
Then we’ll go to the hospital. I—I’ll get you checked up, Kevin.
In almost an instant, Evee sees herself inside the car, seeing her surroundings outside pass by in the blink of an eye.
She found it hard to balance this imagery and the current one she was seeing. The two soldiers pulling her aunt away, driving Mr. Baldwin’s van… it was far too confusing. Her heart was beating like a drum. It was now or never.
She takes out the pistol from her pocket, holding it with both hands, so as to not drop it. The soldiers were slowly vanishing in sight…
M-mister Baldwin, Kevin, he’s…
Kevin, sitting to her right, had his head down, completely motionless. The car swerves to the right side of the street as soon as the man saw his son.
Fuck! Fuck!! No!!!
He furiously slammed his hands on the steering wheel. Then, a few seconds of silence…
Evee. He looks at her with bloodshot eyes. Stay in the car for a moment.
He opens the door to his side, and walks to the side of Kevin’s door.
“No…” Evee cried. She was unsure if the soldiers in front of her heard it.
Kevin. Kevin… The man pulls his son from the seat.
Kevin could barely stand in front of him in plain view. Evee rushes to the window seat, a bad feeling crawling up her stomach.
“No!” she shouts. The soldiers turn around in an alert fashion, pointing their guns to her direction.
The man pulls his hand up, a pistol in hand. He pulls the trigger three times in front of Kevin, forcing him to crash on the ground, lifeless.
“No!!!” Evee shrieks, tapping the passenger window.
She pulls the trigger five times. All she saw were flashes of light, similar to that afternoon.
After that, she had trouble remembering what happened next.