This is Issue #23 of Dead Frontier by Walkerbait22, titled Pain. This is the fifth issue of Volume 4.
Issue 23 - PainEdit
Cole awakens to the sound of upbeat pop music filling the store. He rubs his eyes and realizes that Hannah is no longer next to him; her pillows and blanket are strewn on the floor. He slowly stands, using a nearby shelf as leverage, and searches for the bathroom. On the way there, he notices a razor and shaving cream, and he grabs them. Rubbing his chin reveals maybe it's time for a shave.
Cole closes the bathroom door behind him, the music fading to a hum. He sees someone's shoes under a stall door, but doesn't bother to check who it is. As he begins shaving, Cole recollects his conversation with Hannah.
He's unsure if he should bring it up. It's possible she was just overwhelmed after having four people die in a matter of days, two of those people being men she was close to. Plus, he never thought of Hannah as being one to turn to suicide, even during the apocalypse. She's always been so strong and sure of herself; that's one of the things that attracted him to her in the first place. But Cole can't help but think the world as it is now can change even the strongest of people.
Cole hears the click of the stall unlocking and sees Finn emerge. He is shirtless, with new, clean gauze wrapped around his abdomen. "Hi," he says rather shyly as he limps to the sink. "Just changing my bandages."
"Shouldn't Melody probably do that?" Cole asks.
"It wasn't too hard. And I didn't want to be a burden. You guys have helped me so much already." Finn clears his throat. "They, um, told me about your friend Mike."
"Yeah, Micah. Sorry." Finn scratches his head in nervousness. "I...know what it feels like, if that makes you feel any better."
"It doesn't." Cole sighs, feeling a bit like an asshole. "Sorry. I just haven't had the best couple of days." Finn's eyes suddenly begin to water, which catches Cole off guard. "...Are you okay?"
"I'm perfectly fucking fine," Finn says, slapping the bathroom countertop with both hands. He slumps to the floor and holds his head in his hands. "I'm great."
Cole warily sits next to him on the floor. "I'm sorry. If I said something--"
"It wasn't you," Finn says, wiping tears from his cheeks. "I just think about my brother and--forget it."
"Hey, man," Cole says, feeling bad when he looks into Finn's hopeless eyes. "If it'll make you feel better, you...you can tell me."
Finn takes a few deep breaths, but when he speaks, his voice is still shaky. "My little brother, Andy. He's fucking dead, man. He was eleven. No eleven year old deserves to die. Especially not in the way he did, turning into one of those things." He slams the back of his head into the wall in anger and continues. "...I lived on campus, but on the weekends I would visit him and my parents. It was fun, our parents were out, we were playing some stupid fucking racing game and then everything shut off. All the power just went out. I was kind of happy at the time because he was kicking my ass." Finn gives a weak smile at the memory, and as he speaks he has a distant look in his eyes, as if he's in another world.
Finn continues, but his tone soon turns hateful. "If I would've known that was the last day I'd ever see him, I would've done something more special instead of playing that stupid XBox. Anyway, the blocks around our house had power outages too, so I just took Andy to get some ice cream a few miles away, hoping the electric company would get everything up and running by the time we got back. ...Jesus, why couldn't I just stay in the fucking house?!" He wipes a lone tear from his face.
"So we were sitting in the Baskin Robbins, eating our ice cream, and then this drunk looking guy came in... groaning or whatever. Me and Andy were the only ones in the shop, so when we started laughing he turned to us. Then he started wobbling and his groaning got louder so I started to get a little nervous." Finn's heartbeat starts to increase rapidly as he recounts this last part of his story, the part that has been haunting his nightmares.
"This guy, like, lunged at Andy and bit him in the arm. Like, a huge fucking chunk of flesh. So I pushed him off and the cashier tried to subdue him. I rushed Andy to the hospital, trying to get him to stay calm. But, of course, he's freaking the fuck out because a grown man just bit him.
"Then when we got to the hospital, I couldn't find a parking space because it's packed. So I ended up carrying Andy into the hospital, but there were like a million people there. This nurse came up to me and asked me if it's a bite, like it's a regular thing for people to come in with bite injuries, and I was confused until I saw a bunch of other people with grey skin and bites in all these weird places.
"The nurse took him from me and led him to the ER. I followed them and started asking a million questions because I'm really confused by this point. This doctor then explained to me the whole 'dead people coming back to life and eating the living' thing that I was for some reason unaware of, and I was pretty sure this meant Andy was going to die, so I turned into a blabbering mess.
"I tried to look into the hospital room to see what they were doing to Andy, but they had the curtains closed. Then I heard screaming and that awful fucking groaning, and me and a few doctors burst into the room. Andy's latched onto one of the nurses, biting her neck, and I saw one of the doctors stab him with a pair of scissors, right in his neck." Most of the emotion is now gone from Finn's voice as he recounts the events.
"But he jumped from the nurse and then ran towards me, so I ran away down the hallway. When I turned around I saw a doctor stabbing him in the head with that pair of scissors. I knew that wasn't my little brother. I knew that wasn't a person. People don't grunt and groan and eat people like that. So I just kept running. And now I’m here."
Cole stares at him wide eyed. He doesn't know what to say, and there probably isn't anything he can say. He just places a hand on Finn's shoulder.
Cole exits the bathroom and follows the source of the music. He comes upon the electronics aisle, which is now empty of most of the electronics, and sees almost everyone sitting and talking or entertaining themselves in some way around the radio. They almost look...happy.
"Cole!" Billie calls out to him over the shrill vocals coming from the radio. He sees her and Hannah sitting cross-legged in front of a large shelf filled with CDs. He gives them the best smile he can manage, and walks over, planting a kiss on Hannah's cheek as he takes a seat next to them. "Finally, you're up."
"Sorry I'm late to the party," Cole says. He notices Billie's puffy eyes and can't help but wonder if Roger's death is still on her mind.
"Oh, come on!" Dwight yells at his handheld video game. "This is bullshit..." Cole, Hannah, and Billie snicker at him, but he glares at them. "This is serious shit, guys."
"Of course it is, Dwight," Billie says, smiling. "Mind if I pick a CD?" Cole asks. He doesn't know if he can take anymore of this pop music assaulting his ears. He scours the shelf, passing over a bunch of bands he doesn't know. He grabs a CD of an artist who sounds familiar and pops it into the radio.
He sits back down and closes his eyes, listening to the peaceful guitar strums. Just as the song crescendos into a drum solo, several glass windows shatter in the front of the store and men in camouflage barge into the store, broken glass crunching under their boots.