|Previous Issue - Ashbury|
Issue 9 - No MoreEdit
Julius's view shook, as he frantically ran just behind Alice, for their lives.
He thought of how wrong it was to be running from other people. In fact, this was probably his first. The last strangers he didn't run away from were Mathis and Graham. It was weird in his head, since he met them by running away from a crowd of walkers.
How was he going to tell his chasers about how they first met? That he was running away from them because they wanted to kill them? Surely, they won't be sitting down and talking about this.
They were getting deeper into the downtown section, as more and more small business buildings stood, divided by trees and foliage. He had no time to marvel at the feeling it gave off, which was somewhat relaxing, like you're taking a stroll. This wasn't a stroll, however.
He notices Alice turning back at times, starting to slow down.
"They stopped--chasing us," she exclaims, breaking up her sentence in half since she was losing breath. Julius slows to a jog, then turns back to look. They were standing at a far off distance, as if they were staring at them, menacingly.
He had no idea what they wanted from them. Probably just the car, which they just wrecked, or their life, which they probably wanted to take. Either way, he just didn't want to stay and find out.
"You really think--they were going to kill us?" he asks Alice, as he too, tries to catch his breath. They're now walking fast this time, instead of jogging.
Alice shrugs. "They look like the unfriendly lot I saw nights before."
Maybe they were still feeling the spirit of the riot, but were careful on victims this time. But that still doesn't explain why there were spike traps laid for them.
Julius thinks of how dangerous the people here might be, until he was forced to snap out of it, as he hears noises of glass shaking, and plastic being withdrawn. It was hard to tell if it were people, or walkers.
Alice looks at him, then motions for them to hide to the nearest building, which was a small thrift store to their right. They creep into the front doors, which were placed deep enough to create a wall for them to hide in.
Alice peeks, while Julius stays behind her, following her expression.
He hears footsteps a few walls ahead of him. It was hard to pinpoint the rhythm, since there were multiple. The way it does stay in rhythm might explain that they're people. Alice looks to him, as she murmurs "people," confirming his thought.
They wait, tensely hoping for them to leave soon. Julius was hoping for voices, which could reveal something about them, but they were careful.
The wait seemed like an eternity, as Alice continues to peer from their hiding spot. "Gone off to the gutter on the other side," she whispers.
They emerge from the spot, moving fast and silent. Things seemed to be in the clear, until a few walkers emerge from the buildings ahead of them. They quickly take notice of the pair, and start walking toward them.
Julius tries his hardest to keep sneaking, but his ticks of panic almost make him run. He eventually gives in, as he starts to sprint away from the walker, leaving Alice behind.
The view starts to change, as he reaches a dead end, which was a giant building. To his left, a park-like section stood, with more buildings on the other side of it. To his right, the road ramps up. He recalls this to be close to Alice's home.
She eventually catches up, looking slightly affronted at Julius.
"Walkers still give me the creeps," he tells her, in his normal voice this time.
"Yeah, well... you haven't changed a bit."
They both smirk at each other, as they continue on up the street.
They were getting close, as they pass by a few cars. Some of them were ruined, but others were nearly untouched. Black marks on the ground and the walls remind Julius of the riot, which might still be looming around them.
But the quiet surroundings, and unusual absence of walkers, takes his mind off of it for a while.
He remembers this place well, being lively at times, but mostly quiet. The small businesses, trying to make it through the economy. The trees and foliage placed so well, that it's like walking through a park. He was starting to have new appreciation for his town again.
"You know how to siphon gas?" Julius asks, breaking the silence after a while. He was reminded of the empty cars, thinking that he might need to do this soon.
"Yeah. Thankfully I hung out with Kris a lot."
Kris was one of her good friends. She worked with her brother in a car repair shop, owned by her father. She was slightly tomboyish, but she was always a girl around Alice.
"When the thing started to hit, she showed me how to do it. Took us a few hours."
Julius was so glad. Glad to have found Alice, since she's proving to be more useful than him.
"So... I think it's safe to say, that I'll be the female here." Alice shoots him a smile, and shakes her head.
"How can you ever prove to me that you're still a man?" she replies to him. He skips next to her, and gives her a kiss. She looks at him, unimpressed.
"Alright. You taste like... a dude. Barely, but enough."
They chuckle silently, mostly to add to the quiet ambiance around them, and less to alert any other dangers that might be lurking.
They were nearing her house, as the buildings turn into tall apartments. Most of them were only two rooms, separated into multiple buildings.
They make a left to the next turn to a street named "Ashbury." It seemed to be the only one after blocks of apartments. They pass by individual houses this time, until they reach a small one, with some trees providing shade. They were here.
Her house was considerably smaller than the buildings they've passed by, but it was the first of many. It was shielded by a metal gate, covered in black paint. Julius gives the gate a tug. It was locked. He looks to Alice, who was looking on the other side.
She surprises him by leaping from spot, and climbing the gate. She has no trouble getting across, like she's done it plenty of times. The gates were as tall as Julius.
She fidgets the front door, and pulls it toward her.
"Welcome home," she tells him, in a welcoming voice. Julius nods as he plays along, marching right in.
Aside for the fallen leaves, it was almost the same as he remembered it.
"I don't see any changes," he says to her, as he was looking around.
"Well, we cut off plenty of shrubs. Clearly, the car that should be parked here is now gone. Oh, and look up."
Julius looks, and sees the sky. He returns to Alice's face, giving her a clueless stare.
"We took out the roof. The one for the car?"
Julius's mouth forms a circle, but says nothing. He walks away, as he continues to look around.
Alice walks toward the front door, unlocking it with the set of keys she takes out from her pocket. She pulls the screen door, and starts unlocking the inner door. Julius was already standing behind her at this point.
She finally opens it, and pushes the front door, walking inside. Julius follows closely.
He couldn't recall the furniture, but the smell, the floors and the walls were so familiar to him, that he doesn't acknowledge it. He jumps into the sofa placed to his left, and lies down.
"I'm now rubbing my smelly odor in your sofa," he says to Alice, who was looking around to other things. He realizes now that he does smell; all of the sweat he dropped from the night before, the blood that might've gotten on his shirt, his presence around dead bodies... it surely must've stuck to him.
Alice pulls the collars of her jacket to her nose. "Yeah, I stink too."
She looks at Julius, who was starting to close his eyes on the sofa, then to a room to her right. "Checking to see if there's still water running," her fading voice says, as she starts vanishing from view.
He tries to keep his eyes open for Alice, who was taking off her jacket, peering into another room to her left. He struggles to look, as his eyes start to get heavier. In the next second, he was asleep.
He opens his eyes, noticing the lamps to be opened, brightening the room. It was nighttime, judging by how brightly the lights were.
He looks to see Alice, rubbing her unbraided hair with a towel, wearing more comfortable clothing. The slippers pretty much sealed it.
"Hey smelly," she says, looking at him as she stops rubbing her hair. "Hop on the shower before the water stops running."
Julius rises up, and stretches, yawning in the process. He takes off his fleece jacket, which heavily smelled like the outside.
"I wish I had Febreze," Alice says, her towel resting on her shoulder. She was clutching the remote control, as she was getting ready to sit on the only comforter.
Julius hops up, and takes off his shirt. He clutches the buttons of his pants, as the sound of running water grows louder. He unbuttons his pants, as he notices a towel strapped inside the bathroom, the lights left on. He starts to hear the running water clearly this time, also hearing the sound of static behind him. It was probably from the TV.
He hops into the shower, and starts to feel extremely relaxed. Oh, the feeling of not bathing for almost a day, then running around, stuck with sweaty clothes. The warm water felt so balanced. He felt relaxed standing up, not wanting to sit down to improve it further.
He notices the soap and bottles of shampoo. All of them were for women. Julius just thinks of how he was going to smell, and uses it.
He continues to savor the shower, standing in it for so long, not minding the time. Then, he starts to think, just as what showers always make him do.
He looks back at him frantically preparing to leave, as advised by his sister. Then he remembers his sister, and her voice. He worries that he'll forget how she looks like, so he tries to remember her face. The last time was through a webcam, her face somewhat blurred by the bad reception. Aside for the new short hairstyle, she looked the same. He tries his best to stick it in his mind, even closing his eyes a few times.
Then, he starts to remember giving his car up to Judith, his neighbor. Then, his walk to the suburbs. He dared not go any further, but his mind was too powerful. Images of Henry were forced on his mind. It was cruel, mixing together the good times he's had with him and the last time he'll ever see him. He couldn't go any further. He turns off the shower, steps out, and grabs the towel.
Then, as he was wrapping the towel around his waist, he realizes; he has barely any spare clothes. He opens the bathroom door, hoping to ask Alice, though feeling embarrassed. He hesitates at first, but it was better than just sticking to his towel.
He walks out, his hair still a little damp. He sees Alice, sitting on the living room, observing the TV. She turns to him, and her eyes widen.
"I..." she stops to have a quick chuckle. "I checked your bag. You only have one shirt."
Julius didn't know why he was embarrassed. Alice got used to this when they were together. But then, he realizes it was three years ago.
Then, he hears some clacking behind him. The familiar sound of metal zippers clacking on a hard surface, continuously.
"You spent such a long time in the shower, I was able to wash the clothes and put them in the dryer." A curious look started to form on her face. "You... better not be doing what I think you're doing in there."
Julius, already embarrassed, responds by shaking his head. The best he could do.
"Good," she responds. "I mean... I'd allow it. You had me to think about, at least."
She chuckles again, and returns looking at the TV.
He'd recall how silly Alice made him look. She'd do it around her friends, which he didn't seem to mind, since they were so approving of him. She was as cheerful as she remembers. Her teases, which he used to find as somewhat a nuisance, were good to hear this time around.
He walks back to the bathroom, hoping to wait it out there, when he hears the dryer stop. He walks to the direction where he thought he heard it.
It was just right next to the bathroom. Of course.
He opens it up, and taps for his underwear. He smells it for a second, since he knew he'll be wearing this for a very long time. He puts this on, then the rest of his clothes. He feels like he's about to go out in the streets again, when clearly, they were spending a night here.
He walks back to the living room, to have a better confrontation with Alice.
"Ah, just the handsome man I was looking for," she tells him, as she shoots him a look.
"I've humiliated myself enough tonight," he responds. He takes his time, as Alice looks at him blankly.
"But... do you happen to have any extra pajamas?"
Surprisingly, Alice didn't chuckle, nor respond with a silly remark.
"As a matter of fact, I dew." She makes the "do" trail off a bit, changing its sound.
She stands up and walks toward her room, Julius following her.
"You left clothes here a long time ago." She rummages, in her stockpile of clothes, some familiar ones. She looks up to him, as she was kneeling down in level of the clothes pile.
"You look like you didn't grow at all, so... these might fit you."
Alice hands him a complete set; a shirt, pajamas, and a few boxer shorts. He remembers these, wondering where they went. He tries to weight Alice's statement as a compliment.
You are awesome," he responds, grateful for this find.
"You are awesome for sleeping over so many nights," she replies back.
The shirt seemed to fit him nicely, but the pants were a little tight for his thighs. Still, it was more comfortable than his jeans. He was trying them on in Alice's room. She was sitting on the bed the whole time, looking at him.
Then, they both lock eyes. It was as if Alice was telling him to come sit with her. Julius approaches, and sits right besides her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. She then rests her head on his chest, and together, their thoughts fly off.
But this moment of peace didn't last, as they hear distant glass shattering and echoes of people shouting outside the front door.
Alice was wise enough to keep the lights closed, as if nobody was home. She quickly rushes for the lights in her room, turning them off. Julius leaps from the bed, quietly creeps into the living room, and stares into the window. He could see a bright, yellow light forming from a distance, and shadows there to pass it.
People, burning the streets. They had no regard for order in Julius's eyes. Only chaos.
He rushes back to Alice, who was curled up in her bed. Julius's heart drops at the sight of it. His mind was left and right. Should they stay here, regardless of what they're wearing, in risk of not being burned? Should they stay here, and hope for the best?
The way Alice was curled up, as if all hope left her, anguishes Julius even more. He lies next to her, holding her tightly.
He hoped that they ignore this house, that they start to put the fires out and have some sense. That they should be concentrating these efforts on the walkers.
But he knew what the apocalypse would do to people.
The sounds grew more intense, as their shouts became more sinister. If it was drowning out the sounds of burning, then it must've not been growing.
Julius holds his dear love tightly, as she started to shiver. He felt that this was the role he should be doing right now. To be there for Alice, to drown out the sounds for her.
He hoped, from the last ounce of his mind, that they leave.
Everything seemed to drown out, as the silence slowly fades. Has Julius achieved it, being calm in this situation? Has he prepared himself enough for any form of pain that might head their way?
Alice stood, motionless. She stopped shivering.
It took an eternity for them to nudge a muscle. Julius was sure that they've left, but he just wanted to be sure for Alice. Alice, who was motionless, aside for the breathing in her stomach. Alice, who was clearly traumatized by the rioteers. What they had done to the streets before her. What they had done to her mother.
They were quiet, until, finally.
"You stayed with me," she whispered, her voice weak and frail. She turns around to meet Julius's face.
They stare at each other for a while, until finally, they were sure that the riot was gone.
"I'll check. You stay," he insisted, as he stands up from the dark surroundings of the bedroom. The only light came from the outside, in the form of dim orange.
He comes back to the window again, peeking through the blinds.
The rioteers have apparently done a number to the gate, as there were large dark marks and even embers of fire glowing from it. Still, the gate looked unhinged.
It wasn't the same for the building to the opposite street though, as it was still rising in flames.
Julius turns back to check on Alice, only to find her peering through the screen door to his left.
They sat outside the gate, on their home clothes, sitting on two plastic chairs Alice pulled out. They didn't bother to wear any jackets, as the flames of the building opposite to them served as both their warmth, and light source.
It was a sign, Julius thought. A sign that order officially crumbled. People are now free to be arsonists, or mass-murderers.
He still felt a pang of chill in his insides, as he was aware the hostiles were somewhere, razing more buildings to to the ground. He turns to Alice, who was staring at the building, the fires illuminating her eyes. She stared blankly, as if she had just witnessed a death.
"It's sad. I knew those people from the other side," she finally utters, after what seemed like a year to Julius.
"They moved out a while ago. Scared by the plague."
She sniffs loudly, slowly starting to turn normal. She couldn't force the single tear drop from her right eye, though.
"You know what makes me feel better?" she asks Julius, smirking as if to wipe the sadness off her face.
"What?" he asks, hoping to just respond in simpler words. He was far too concerned about her.
She turns to the fire, then to her side, looking at the lone tree on her lawn, bare of leaves.
"I think of everything that we can't have, anymore."
Was she starting to give up? "No," Julius thought. "She's much stronger than this."
"No more coffee at the cafe..." she follows. "No more road trips..."
Her voice starts to become more normal, and less frail than before.
"It's sad, but sometimes you just come across something good that... makes you forget about everything else you mentioned."
She was now looking at the ground just below her. "No more property limits. Just open the door, or break inside," she continues. "And no more depressing newscasts."
"No more... food prices," Julius adds, hoping to keep up with her. She smiles at him, clearly knowing that he's joined in.
"I can eat whatever I want. S'long as it's available."
Then, Julius thinks about people going in a panic to raid stores. There wouldn't be anything left for them if they checked. They were wasting time.
"No more... school," he follows. "We don't need to wake up early, sit on a blank, lifeless lecture, and later regret that we didn't pay attention because--"
"We just don't care," Alice replies. "Yeah, I think I like that one."