Issue 23 - Two Weeks LaterEdit
It’s been two weeks since his attempted escape from the city. Two weeks since he saw Patrick one last time. Two weeks since he broke into that house.
He was on the run from the military then. Who knew he would continue to be on the run for at least a week? He constantly had to move from place to place just to avoid them; they seemed to be everywhere. He’s been through the suburbs, the city, to the suburbs again, and back. The city was bigger than he thought.
He discovered his knack for sneaking when on the run. He never knew that, with just a little push, he had the potential of a free-runner. He still had to work on jumping, and recovering quickly; other than that, he was generally quick on his feet.
The sun was almost shining, giving way to a new morning. He was eating a can of “Chicken of the Sea”, sitting on a seemingly abandoned eatery. It was like a normal day of eating out, minus the people, and the electricity; the clear glass near the building’s front door provided the only light source.
He’s been running through a bit of luck from the stores he visited; there was at least a full shelf of food for him to scavenge in each one. Still, the increased amount of raiders and military made scavenging a chore for him, especially in the later days.
He daydreams looking at the view in front of him, doing some much needed thinking for the day ahead; visit the day care, pay respects to the dead, scavenge some more. A little bit out of the ordinary, unlike the past two weeks.
He’s been able to look back on the people he lost thanks to his time alone; his godfather Henry, his two parents, and Alice. He finishes his can, straps his backpack on, and walks to the front door.
The deaths of his loved ones don’t bother him as much anymore. He’s been able to look at them as bad memories of his past, and nothing more. Still, the feeling of pain and depression lingers when he thinks too much into it. He steps out of the store, into the brisk day outside. He didn’t need to worry about running yet, since the street was empty, save for a few walkers that were too distant to notice him. The bright, yellow sun setting on the block of buildings, coupled by the smell of smoke and ashes, was no different than any other day. He continues to thank the beautiful weather of this state no matter how many times he’s done it.
He looks at his hands as he stretches them in and out; the gloves Liam provided really held up its promise. “Thank Liam,” he said to himself, as an addition to his schedule.
He found himself in the same area Patrick told him to run from; the one riddled with the military. Judging from how empty the blocks are, they seemed to have moved on. He also hasn’t seen any jets fly by, or hear any tanks or trucks roll. He hoped that there were just walkers in this area.
His surroundings, for the most part, stayed the same; the trees were still up, its leaves still green in color, its bark still brown. He noticed this through the numerous bay trees that shaded his path; trees that distinguished this area from the others he’s visited.
There were surprisingly not much walkers present today; by this time, Julius would have been bashing the heads of a few. He passes a few more empty blocks and makes a left turn.
The day care ahead of him was in plain view; the street before it had a few dead walkers on it. He walks closer to examine them; judging from the dried blood, putrid stench, and decayed flesh, these walkers have been on the street for days. There hasn’t been any killing going on in this street.
He walks closer to the day care, and opens the small, wired gate. The fallen leaves and unkempt shrubs made the day care seem abandoned.
He slowly opens the door. “Liam?” he calls, echoing throughout the room. “Elaine?” he follows.
There was no response. He edges in past the hallway, revealing the collection of rooms that were separated by a clear-glass wall; there was nobody present in any of the rooms. He walks over to the playroom, the one where he first met everyone in this place.
It was empty, as expected. There was a yellow piece of paper resting on the round table.
“Left for a better tomorrow” it said, in purple ink. “So Liam and the rest did make it out…” he thought. He ponders the idea for a second, then turns around to leave.
On the way, he notices a piece of paper stuck next to the wall next to the entrance. “Pay respects to the dead,” it said, with an upward arrow just below it. He looks to the direction of the arrow to figure out what it meant.
He was looking at yet another room, one he didn’t seem notice when he entered. The room leads to a clear-glass sliding door, displaying the outside. He slides it open and exits through it.
He was standing on the day care’s backyard. It had a small playground to its right, and a small garden to its left. He notices the collection of flowers and small stones resting on the grass. He walks toward it to have a closer look.
The stones were arranged in a semi-big circle, with a collection of wilted flowers just right above it.
He couldn’t figure out who died, but it gave him a familiar feeling nonetheless. His heart weighed him down for a second. Now would be a chance to pay respects to anyone he lost.
Since he was nearby, he took this chance to visit the apartment. The streets remained empty on the way, though he was finally forced to take down a few walkers.
He strolls right through the street toward the apartment, as the street was empty again.
Everything was left the same, save for the plants Barbara kept; a majority of them were already decaying. He walks over to the noisette flowers she showed to him, to see if they were still intact; to his surprise, they multiplied. The flowers’ petal arrangement and pinkish hue were as beautiful as ever.
He enters the apartment, mostly in hopes of scavenging any supplies they left. He was hoping to make a quick visit, but the lone walker on the hall made him slow down a bit. He prepares his bat with both hands, and then bashes its head to the side, causing it to collide with the wall. He felt like he did something wrong when he left a bloody mess on the wall, but then realizes that there was nobody present. He shrugs, and then sprints toward the stairs, into the second floor.
He opens Liam’s apartment room and rushes to the kitchen. He checks for water on the faucets first, something he has been doing since a week ago; as expected, it stopped working. He then rummages through the cupboards, but finds it nearly empty, save for a small package of granola and candy bars.
He opens the refrigerator and is greeted by a rotten smell; aside for a few jars and packages, he saw the vegetables he once scavenged for Patrick, riddled with decay. He closes the refrigerator and does one last scan before leaving.
His scavenging was good enough, for the most part; he hoped that the granola bars can last him for a few weeks.
He exits the apartment, and goes back to the street, making the nearest left. He takes out a red-and-black candle lighter from his jacket pocket, and proceeds to spin it with his finger.
The street before him was shaded by a handful of bay trees. To his left was a wall, with a small, makeshift shrine in the middle of it. He walks closer to it, continuously spinning the candle lighter on his finger.
He crouches down, and sees his message on the wall still intact. He reads the first few lines of it but gives up halfway through. He then scans the rest of the shrine, to see the messages he missed out on.
He looks at a particular piece of paper, with a picture of a young adult man, casually smiling. Below it was a message:
“6’1, pale skin, brown hair
Missing for seven days
If you find him please call 348-2299”
His looks to another piece of paper, colored pink with a headshot of a young woman:
“Alessa J.—I never got to say how much I had a crush on you since freshman year. I regret that I never got to visit you in the hospital—It was always backed up with visitors. Me, Trevon, and Bailey will always love you.
He stops for a second, then scans some more. A white piece of paper with messy handwriting seems to catch his eye next:
Gonna try the transit evacs next
go into the edge of the Urban
Look for the guy holding up the green poster sign”
He wanted to take it down at first, but then realized that the message might actually get across. He examines the candles to see which ones he could light.
Most of the candles were already burned out, save for two, small yellow ones; judging from their wholeness, the candles were recently placed there. He opens the candle lighter and burns its wicks.
He stores the candle burner on his backpack, and stands up. Before he leaves, he notices a spot full of papers with crayon drawings on them. He crouches back down to have a look.
He remembers the drawing of the boy, though his name escapes him. The rest were new to his eyes.
All of them were similar in style; a crudely drawn figure of a person, doing some kind of activity. A smirk forms in his face. Evee was a good artist.
He stands up, and looks at the shrine one last time. The weak wind made the flames of the candles blow south.
Something about this shrine made him feel at ease. Though the papers entailed a tribute of some sort, he knew that they would go unforgotten. He quietly sighs, and walks away.
“Maybe it’s time to visit Alice,” he thought.
The walk back to the urban area didn’t take long for Julius; he was around the area of it, after all. He expected to encounter difficulties along the way, but surprisingly didn’t; he only fought a few walkers, and hid from a few roving soldiers only once. Though there wasn’t much action going on in the area, the clutter in the streets answered for all of the things that happened there; Julius would see at least one block with a burnt corpse, and a destroyed car, all in one place.
He tries to look for the particular gutter, but fails to remember it; all the gutters looked the same to him. He goes on to circle a few blocks at least twice, wasting precious daylight. His impatience was growing by the minute.
The afternoon finally arrives; Julius was still circling numerous blocks, desperately trying to find the blockade. He’s been able to look past the bad memories he’s had from the place, having alone time to realize it all as just a “thing of the past.” He only remembers how the fenced-in entrance and the miserable people inside it would come to remind him of a depressing time. Alice seemed to be nowhere in sight in those memories.
Julius was about to abandon his search, when he finally steps foot in a familiar street; a street that seems to stretch for a mile, with nothing but a few cars and some decaying corpses on the sides.
The street wasn’t as empty as he remembered; there were a few walkers riddled along the path. From the distance, he could make out a familiar sight; some makeshift fences, and a large, flapping sheet of nylon, its movement apparent from his position. He squints to have a more magnified view.
He jogs toward the place, bashing the heads of any walker that got into his way. The way he comically bashed the middle walker made him want to chuckle a bit. He needed to keep this feeling when visiting Alice, just so she could see him happy.
He slows down to a walk once he reaches the entrance. Here, he remembered being given a syringe shot of something by the soldiers. What did they give him, exactly? Permanent immunity from the bites? He examines his left arm as he recalled the memory. “Wait… right arm?” he mutters, looking at his other arm instead. He shakes his head, unable to remember where those soldiers injected him.
He walks past the makeshift hall of the entrance, and enters the blockade. The first thing he sees was blood on the cement. “Blood from that night, probably,” he thought. They were separated in spots, some small, some big. He only notices the couple of standing walkers when he sees their feet standing on a spot of dried blood.
He walks over to them, hoping that these are the only walkers in the place. “Psst,” he calls, catching the attention of the walker to his left; this one was a soldier, only wearing the uniform. He points the tip of his bat at its head and swings with both hands. The second walker notices this, and starts limping toward him. This one seemed to be a civilian, and an older one at that. He prepares to swing with both hands, but stops half-way through to look at his bat.
“Hmmm…” He drops his left hand, leaving his bat held with his right. He pulls his hand back and swings, as forcefully as he can, at the walker; the walker only flinches back, and leaves him with a somewhat stinging arm. He can’t swing with one hand yet. He places his left hand back on the bat and prepares to swing with both hands again. “Gotta practice,” he mutters, after taking the walker down.
He sighs to gather his strength, looking at the walkers and twirling his bat with one hand in the process. He then scans around him for anything else peculiar.
He visits the cafeteria area, and sees a couple more walkers; he quietly leaves to not get their attention. He then goes over to the encampment area, seeing the tents still intact. Scavenging through those tents was tempting, but he wasn’t certain if there was anything left to scavenge; plus, there were more idle walkers here than the cafeteria had. He tip-toes out of view, and walks to the direction of the ward, where it all subsided.
He sets his eyes toward the pathway leading to the tent, recalling that night. People, pushing past him, more eager to escape than he is… He continues to walk toward the tent, but stops when he was near it, nearly forgetting something important. He turns around and walks toward the beginning of the path.
He scans the cement, seeing where she let go of his hand. He crouches down upon seeing three drops of blood, the spot he swore was the spot…. He nods. “Least you didn’t drop too much,” he mutters.
Still, he knew he will never meet anyone like her. He knew she was the one, even though they had to break up once for him to see it. The least he can do was stay single, just for her. But how long can he do it? He had to find something to motivate him.
“You’ll haunt me if I get another girlfriend,” he thinks to himself, as he stands up. Her ghost, telling him off about how bad his future girlfriend will be… Alice would totally act like that. He can’t help but form a smirk in his face, as he walks toward the tent.
He probably could’ve saved her in this tent. “But the soldiers could’ve got us,” he retorts. He was about to check on how limited the equipment was on the tent when he sees a soldier, sitting against one of the medical beds, his neck area colored ruby from the dried blood.
He crouches down to examine him a bit; his skin was pale, and he lost a lot of blood. Judging from how the blood still somewhat shined, this spill was recent. He shakes his head in disappointment of his death, then thinks; what was he doing here, visiting this place? Was he even a visitor, or a refugee here…?
He continues to scan the soldier, when he suddenly shoots his head up, and turns to Julius. He looks at him with his gray, lifeless eyes, and starts to weakly reach for him with his right hand. Julius stands up and takes a few steps back, preparing himself to put this man out of his misery.
He clutches his bat with both hands, as the walker staggers to get up. He was surprisingly quiet all throughout; then again, probably all “early-turner” walkers are. He pulls his bat upwards, when he notices the soldier holding something on its right hand. Something that looked familiar, though he wasn’t completely certain about it…
He brings his bat downwards, causing the walker to crash back on the ground, the back of its head bursting with blood. His left hand drops the object just below Julius’s feet. He bends down and grabs it.
He was right, all along. He unflaps the dark-ruby colored wallet, and sees it. Her, looking away, not paying attention to the camera at all. Him, eagerly looking at the camera, hoping that she was smiling with him. “Your smirk is good enough,” he mutters, a smile forming on his face. This was her wallet.
What was the soldier doing with it? A billion questions start to surge in his brain. He looks at the soldier, then to the wallet… was he sending a message? “No, no no, but you’re… you’re dead,” he mutters, a little louder this time. But he wasn’t there to see her truly die; he had to leave her without turning back. “Did you really die…?” he follows, the inside of his nose flaring up.
He had no idea how to feel; sad, or happy, or even angry. Confused is the best one. He starts pacing the floor, looking at the wallet, then the gurneys, then the wallet, then the outside of the tent, then the wallet…
He examines it some more, looking at the slit pocket. There was thirty dollars and... a piece of paper. A small, white ripped piece of paper. Julius takes it out.
A piece of a map. The small, piece of paper was a piece of a detailed map.
It was so beautiful. The way the flowers are patterned on the dress, as if it was itself a field of flowers… it must have cost a fortune from before “the time.”
She eagerly looked at it, but was held back by the barrier that stood in front of it. The door was too stubborn to open. If only she could break the window open easily…
Her gun didn’t work; it only created an unpleasant web-like crack on the glass. She sighs, continuing to admire the work of art in front of her.
She’s been wearing this outfit since “the dawn of time.” The way she had to cut the neck part of this sweater, and the sleeves… it was starting to smell. Maybe if she wore that dress, she’ll smell like flowers…
She taps her chin as she devices another way to get inside. “Shoot… the door?” she mutters. She digs her hand into her bag and takes out a pistol.
It was a beautiful weapon of destruction; it had a magenta-half-orange color on the handle, and the dangles… flowers, animals, all in small, plastic pieces. “You’re all cute little trinkets,” she thought.
She had to spend numerous quarters on these danglers. And not only that, she had to drive to different malls for them… Poking a hole through the gun was a different story.
But it was all worth it. It made her gun a little less of an abomination than it already was.
She prepares to shoot at the metal door, when she hears some grinds on the cement. She turns around to look.
It was a young man, hastily walking across the street, looking at something on his hand. The man seemed to not care about anything at the moment.
She waits for him to walk across her, until she finally decides to do something. “HEY!” she calls. The man takes a second to hear it, and stops walking. He turns around to look at her, with a somewhat concerned expression.
“Got—got any food?” The man pauses at her request. “I mean ‘how do you do’,” she says to herself.
He pockets the object in his hands and unstraps his backpack, bringing it to his front. He walks closer to her as his right hand digs through his backpack. “Here,” he mutters.
She shyly takes the granola bar off his hands, avoiding eye contact with him. “T-thanks,” she says, in an almost inaudible volume. The man nods in response, and walks away.
“Wait!” she calls back. The man stops his tracks, and then turns around.
“Do you… do you mind if I tag along with you?” The man, again, pauses at this thought.
“Just that…” she scratches her hair with one finger. “I—I haven’t talked to any other person for weeks; you’re pretty much the first one in a while. And—and you gave me food, so… I know you’re a nice guy, and…” She stops and gazes at him, waiting for a response.
The man lightly chuckles, then nods. “Sure. Sure.” He walks closer to her and pulls his hand up. “I’m Julius.” She shyly reaches for his hand and holds it with three fingers, lightly shaking it. “Call me Nina.” He nods, a smirk on his face. “Let’s go.” Julius resumes his path.
“Wait—wait, one last thing—“ Julius stops again, this time turning around instantly. “Could you maybe… help me get that dress?” She points to the display window just behind her.
It took him a few tries and an aching shoulder to bust the door open. Still, it was worth it; it brought a smile to her face and a few supplies for him to take. Something about this girl was different.
She wore a flower-embroidered headband on her head, keeping her messily tied blonde hair intact. Her overall outfit, consisting of a wide-necked sweater, leggings, and boots, made her look like a time-traveler from the 80’s. And lastly, her numerous accessories; two leather bracelets, numerous necklaces, and a feather earring on her ear. She was her own walking fashion statement; one that was a reminder of the past.
They both sat on a sidewalk, eating granola bars. The sun was starting to set.
“So… Julian,” she starts. “What did you used to do in your past?”
He wanted to correct her, though it wasn’t much of a big deal. “I worked at a pet store, with my uncle.”
She nods. “Do you have any pets?” she continues, now turning to look at him. Julius shakes his head. “I always wanted one, though.”
“Ohhh, I see,” she replies. “Well… I like animals. Anything I can tame is my pet.” She looks back at the road in front of them, scanning it. Julius nods once in response.
They stay quiet for a few moments. Julius decided that it was time to look back on the map from the wallet.
There were too many lines and names to specify a certain location. It may take him weeks to figure it out.
“Oh, that?” Nina suddenly says next to him. She was leaning in to look at the paper. “That’s Portola. That’s … kinda far from here.” Julius was a bit astonished at first.
He couldn’t have known; Portola is one of the other cities from his area. He barely visits that place, or any other place for that matter.
“I can take ya there if you want,” she follows. “I’m… not really, going anywhere.” She pauses for a second, to look at the road. “Yet.”
|Next Issue - Run Baby Run|