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Issue 8 - AshburyEdit
Julius sat silently on the stairs that led to the front door of his house.
For a while, he just couldn't bear the thought of stepping foot in his parents' room, ever again.
He remembered this room quite well. He'd sleep in it when his parents were away. He'd sit in their bed for hours, as his parents tried to talk some sense into him when he's in trouble. He'd visit the room to wake up his mother, whom drops him off from school in his younger days.
It won't ever be the same.
He didn't notice Alice, who was sitting right beside him.
"They ... went away peacefully," she tells him, her arm around his shoulders. "That's probably what they wanted."
He looks up, to the grayish skies above him. Wind blew through his face.
"They didn't want to die. Not like this."
He forgot about the note they left for him.
He stands up, turns around, and goes back inside. He climbs up the stairs, and walks toward his room.
He grasps the doorknob, turns it, and pushes it open.
A putrid stench suddenly overtakes him. He covers his mouth, as he inspects his room.
There was a stranger, sitting on his desk chair. Dried blood surrounded the carpet below him. There was also some scattered across his shoulders.
He looks to his left, turning to his bed. There was a piece of ripped paper. He grabs it, and reads it.
"To whom it may concern: This is my last hour. I gave the owners a proper eulogy. To the son and daughter: I defended it the best I can. They took the car, and most of the food, but they didn't dare go upstairs.
Annie: I love you, and I never wanted to leave you. It was my fault."
It was too painful to look at the man's corpse. Instead, Julius left the note on his bed, and closed the door.
He looked at the floor one last time, and marched downstairs.
The yard door was open. He could hear noises of Alice's voice, as if she was lifting something heavy.
She was killing the walker that waited outside, with one of the kitchen knives.
"You doing fine over there?" he asks her. She turns to him.
"This knife's pretty small; have anything bigger?" Clearly she was serious about this, as her sleeves were folded up.
Julius faintly smiled. "Let's go check on the garage."
Alice finishes up, leaving the knife plunged on the walker's forehead. She walks toward Julius, trying to wipe the blood away on her hands.
"What do you think?" he asks, as they were face-to-face with the shelves full of items typically found in a garage. The only thing that looked important was the second shelf, in which most of the carpenter's tools rested.
Aside for the toolbox, there were hammers, wrenches, nails, and tape scattered around.
"These make me feel like I'll be working my arm out," Alice states, as she grabs some of the tools to try their weight.
"Then again... they probably hit really hard." She lifts up a rusty monkey wrench, examines it, but then puts it down.
"Sorry... none of these." She looks at him, as if to apologize.
"Well... you really need a weapon. Unless you like blood on your hands, this is all I've got."
Julius felt like he wanted to take back what he said. The word "blood" will now be part of his everyday vocabulary.
Alice looks at the set of tools, delaying an answer from her. "I.. I've been holding up on asking you this since we found the car."
Julius slightly tenses up. He felt his heartbeat slightly increase in speed.
What was she going to ask? That she wanted to separate? That she doesn't feel the same way?
"Ask... ask me what?" he responds.
"Can you... take me to my house? I just want to check on some stuff."
Julius feels his heartbeat return. He breathes loudly, as a form of a sigh.
"I thought you were going to drop the ball on... something important."
Alice looks at him, one of her brows slightly raised. Julius quickly hugs her.
"Um... alright." She pats his back, feeling a bit confused. But then, she realizes what Julius just went through. "I'm sorry."
They open up the garage door. The pair return to the dining room, which was in the same area as the yard door. Julius grabs his his backpack, which rested on the dining table. Alice straps the duffel bag on and walks back to the garage, toward the car.
Julius remotely unlocks the car doors. He looks at the dining room, its walls, chairs, and tables suddenly becoming more interesting.
Finally, he grabs his bat. He pats his left pocket, reaches inside, and holds his cellphone on his hand.
He saw his sister, thinking of how she was faring. She was a few hundred miles out, either dead, or alive.
Then he remembers his parents upstairs.
Dwelling on the thought of his family was just too painful. He continues to look at his phone, then to the actual telephone that sat on a counter top in the dining room, then the pile of documents near it.
Days when his parents collected the mail, saving some of them since they were clearly important. Then he'd remember grabbing it for them, scanning through it first if he had any mail for him. He didn't want them to see his grades, no matter how good they were.
Compared to what he had now, he had such a carefree life here. Those days of sitting in his room, playing countless video games, waiting for Alice to call.
Days when he lived with he stopped talking to his parents, after countless days of shouting matches with them.
He didn't leave on good terms, and when he does remember his past with them, it just feels painful. Perhaps it was time for him to forget about his family.
Julius sets his phone on the table, and looks around his house one last time.
He grasps his car keys, and walks out, seemingly for the last time, to his garage.
"So..." Julius starts, as he turned the key on his car. The loud sound of the engine starting follows.
"What made you think about going home, after all this time?" He maintains looking at her, as she was fastening her seatbelt.
She looked even prettier than before, though there wasn't a notable difference. He couldn't understand it; perhaps because he thought of starting a future with her, no matter how grim it was going to get.
"I've actually been planning on going back, until I got stuck with you..."
Julius backs up into the street, turning toward the left direction of the house.
"... reunions always make me forget stuff."
Julius glances at her as a reply, then resumes looking back at the street.
They pass by the rest of the block, noticing a single walker emerge from one of the garages. There were probably more.
As they reach the end of the block, he makes a right turn, goes straight for a while, then makes a quick right to another block.
It was as clean as his block, with lesser cars parked on the streets. Maybe everyone managed to leave.
"Surprising that this place looks normal," Alice finally says, after moments of quiet.
"Wonder where all the chaos went."
Then, Julius thinks back to the note he read on his room. Where did the looters go? Was there nothing to steal from this place?
"Everybody probably just left."
Once he reaches the end of the block, he makes a left.
They pass the small section of trees and shade again.
"You still remember where I live, right?" Alice asks to Julius, as he was making a right turn.
"Ashbury street," he replies. Alice nods, reverting back to her passenger window.
The street that led to the exit of the townhouse complex saw more chaos; there were cars left parked, some of its windows broken. There were even other cars that looked as if they exploded. Aside for the trash, black spots of what seemed like ash were marked on the ground.
Everything didn't seem as bad, though, when Julius drove past a damaged transit bus, standing near the side of the roads. There were black streaks on the glassless windows. Blood was splattered on the visible side. Almost half of the top was broken off.
Both Alice and Julius laid silent, as their eyes were glued to the bus.
It took forever, but they finally reached the next turn, which overlooked the ocean from a distance. They forgot about what they just saw for a while, but it all returned when Julius turned left again.
The road was just as littered as before, though there were lesser cars present. Julius spots a few speeding jets overhead the clear skies.
"Did you see that?" Alice asks. Julius nods in response. It was peculiar for them to see aircraft flying that fast, in a quiet town like this. Then again, the town has long changed.
Julius continues to drive straight, as he tries to summarize the directions to Alice's house. He needs to keep going straight, then make some rights, a left...
"Why'd you leave your house, anyway?" Julius asks. He was a bit confused about the sudden change of topics in his head.
Alice turns to him, as if her focus was taken away. "Because I wanted to," she replies, looking at him briefly then turning back to her side again.
Julius looks to her quizzically. "Well, I knew that..." he replies, expecting a longer answer. "Why did you, though?"
She starts to look a bit more serious now. "Lots of stuff. Mostly, because of the walkers... and I was panicking..."
Julius makes the second right turn.
"There weren't any walkers nearby our neighborhood, though." This makes Julius glance her briefly.
"A... riot broke out. They attacked anything, living or dead. They burned a few houses on the way."
He lost focus on driving, giving some of it to Alice. The car's speed increased without him realizing it.
"I was actually hoping to come back to my apartment near the private school, but that needed a plane ticket..."
Julius recalls the sudden hike in ticket prices. It caused a stir that added to the already ensuing chaos of the plague.
"Well, I got one... gave it to my mom." Her voice started to shake, slightly.
The surroundings started to show signs of ruin again, as they were in the inner part of the downtown area. There were buildings here and there, separated by trees, or grass. Some of the buildings, which were mostly small businesses, had broken windows, or weak flames that illuminated the insides. There were a few walkers here and there, too little to worry about right now.
"It took all of my savings to buy it. I just wanted to steal my neighbor's..."
Julius was silent the whole time, wanting to hear the rest of it.
"Everything seemed fine until... that night. The same night I found you."
Julius slightly slows down, as they both look at each other. Alice turns to look at the front window.
"I was going inside my car when ... the riot got closer to us. They saw us, so we had to run. I held her hand tightly... tightly..."
Tears were starting to fall on her eyes. Julius didn't notice it, since her tone remained the same.
"I turn back, and she was gone, after we had run a few blocks. I ran back for her but..."
Julius's heart started to weigh down. He turned to her, hoping to ask her something.
"She was getting eaten... a-and you know, they couldn't tell the difference. I just... just ran."
He turned to look at her. It was as if she didn't cry, only letting tears drop from her eyes.
He felt selfish for a second. He thought it was only he who had dead parents. It turns out that Alice had it worse. She witnessed it, and had to bear with it for one whole night.
"I'm so sorry..." he tells her. She looks to him, wipes her tears, then looks back at the window.
Alice was interrupted, as something exploded on the windshield. There were flames growing to the sides of the windshield. Part of it was already broken.
The sight was blurry, but Julius knew what it was. He started to notice moving figures in the front, who were drifting toward the sides.
They were running, looking at the car. They clearly weren't walkers.
Julius turns to the side of his window. There was a man, trying to keep up with the speed of the car. He stepped on the gas, hoping to leave them behind.
He swerves the nearest left turn.
Alice looked at the back windshield, as she grabbed the handle above her.
Julius's heart skipped a beat at the sight in front of him. He was going too fast to spot.
A set of spike traps were laid in front of them, as it was only a few feet away.
"On three!" Julius shouts, as the car bumps up from the spikes on the ground. Alice looks at him for a second, then unfastens her seat belt. Julius does the same.
Alice attempts to grab the duffel bag in the backseat, but fails numerous times. Julius turns behind him, grabbing his bat.
Alice was looking at the opened door, as she grabbed on to her sides. Julius clutched his bat and had his backpack rest on his lap as he grimly looked out to the open door on his side.
The car hits a building, crushing the glass windows. Smoke starts to rise from the impacted area.
Julius was on his back, his body completely aching. He regrets jumping too quickly for a moment.
He tries to stand up, but finds it nearly difficult. In the distance to his right, he notices blurry figures moving fast toward him.
He musters up all of his energy, and stands up. His back was in deep pain. He grabs the bat below him, and tries to reach for the backpack.
He hears Alice's shouts behind him. He turns around.
She was on the opposite side, already at a far distance. She wasn't carrying anything.
Just as Julius walked toward her, he started to notice the flames from the impacted building rise.
He ignored it and ran toward Alice, not hoping to lose anymore time.