This is Issue #32 of Dead Frontier, titled Take Out The Brain. This is the second issue of Volume 6.
Issue 32 - Take Out The BrainEdit
"Okay, what the hell is going on?" Adam asks groggily as he walks from the bedroom to the bathroom. He looks up and sees Mercer hanging in the bathroom. He instantly feels the need to throw up.
Dwight overcomes his shock and rushes over to Mercer. He hastily undoes the belt and sets Mercer on the bathroom floor. He can feel tears welling his is eyes but ignores them as he focuses on Mercer. Billie looks on tearfully with a hand covering her mouth.
"Come on, man...come on," Dwight mutters as he attempts to give Mercer CPR. He does a few hard chest compressions and places his ear to Mercer's chest. Silence. He presses his fingers to his neck for a pulse, but feels nothing. "...Fuck."
"Is everything okay?" Tyler says as he emerges from the living room with Chloe. They see Adam, Finn, and Billie huddled around the bathroom door and peek in to see what's wrong.
"No it's not okay. He's fucking dead!" Dwight shouts as he stands and wipes a few tears from his face. "Because of all those God damned scientists or whatever.. " He glares at Chloe before leaving the house to blow off some steam. He slams the front door shut behind him.
Cole and Hannah sleepily trudge toward the bathroom. "Holy shit," Cole mutters when he sees Mercer's body.
"He hung himself," Billie whispers.
"Tyler," Chloe says, "could you get his body out of here?"
Tyler gives a solemn nod. Everyone moves out of his way and heads to the living room. Chloe grabs Tyler by the arm, and only so he can hear, says, "Make sure you destroy the brain."
"I can't take this shit anymore," Adam says as he plops down on the couch. "I just want to go one day where only good things happen. Just one day. I mean...fuck." He doesn't know what else he can say or do so he just holds his head in his hands. They sit around the living room in silence until Tyler comes back and orders everyone to gather the food and head back to the truck so they can make the trip to the airport.
The silence is heavy as they are crammed in the truck, with Tyler once again driving. Everyone is eating something, and some just pick at their food, like Adam, Billie, and Dwight, while others scarf it down. Cole sees Hannah devouring her beans and offers her his granola bar. She denies at first, but Cole persists, and she accepts it with a grateful smile.
Finn suddenly clears his throat. "I had a hamster once."
"Nobody cares, man," Dwight says.
"I had a hamster once," Finn continues anyway. "He was a dwarf hamster named Joffrey. Really cute. But he was really mean. Like, a total asshole. Sometimes he'd even bite me, or he'd run on his wheel at night and make it hard to sleep. But I still liked the little guy because, I guess we had fun times. Like when I'd take him outside to run in his ball or some shit."
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
"I'm just saying, me and Joffrey sometimes had bad days, but guess what? I still looked forward to tomorrow because maybe I could watch him run around in his ball...or something."
"So you used a hamster to tell us to be happy or some shit?" Adam asks. "To look forward to better days? You're weird."
"I'm just trying to be optimistic."
"Thanks, Finn, but this isn't really the best time," Billie says, and he looks at her apologetically. They ride in silence until the truck comes to a slow stop.
Everyone hops out of the truck, including Tyler. "What's wrong?" Chloe asks him.
"We're low on gas," Tyler says. He looks up and down the road for a few seconds. "And no sign of any cars to siphon."
"Then what? We can't just sit out here." "I thought I saw a sign a few miles back about a gas station or rest stop somewhere up ahead. I'll head up there, I guess." "On foot, by yourself?" Chloe says, raising her eyebrows at Tyler. "I'll go," Adam says. "It's been rough this past week. Everyone just sit and relax for a little while, and don't stress out any more. I'll be fine. I promise."
Billie manages a small smile. "Okay." She gives Adam and quick hug and whispers to him: "Thanks."
Tyler provides him with a gun and he and Adam head down the road on foot.
Chloe has been contemplating how to inform everyone about the discovery that everyone is infected, even if you've never been bitten or scratched. She can't really predict what their reaction will be. Scared probably, and she doesn't want to add on to their grief. But will they be angry at her for not telling them initially? Chloe finally clears her throat as she sits on the edge of the truck. Everyone else has blankets laid out on the road, mostly silent, but they look up at Chloe.
"I kind of have something to tell you guys," Chloe starts.
"Is this 'something' good or bad?" Cole asks.
They let out a collective groan. "I'm looking forward to hearing this shit," Dwight mutters. "Back at the underground facility you guys were held at, we were basically finding out as much as we could about the virus. And we came across some pretty big stuff."
"Like...what?" Billie asks.
"Don't freak out when I tell you this. And I realize you've guys have been through a lot of tough stuff, and I don't want to add to that, but I thought it'd be better to tell you sooner than later." She pauses and looks at their confused faces. "Everyone's infected with the virus. It...it doesn't matter if you were bit or whatever; if you die...that's it. If the brain isn't harmed during the death, then you come back. You turn."
"Wait. WAIT," Finn says. "That's like...what the fuck..."
"It's pretty 'what the fuck' worthy," Chloe says.
"So we're doomed, basically? Is that it?"
"Not...necessarily. I mean, it doesn't mean you'll turn for sure. You just need to take out the brain."
"'Just need to take out the brain?'" Cole says. "You say it like it's no big deal."
"That's not what I meant. I just...I'm sorry," Chloe says. "I know this is a lot to take in and accept--"
"I'm gonna go for a walk," Cole cuts her off, standing from his seat on the road next to Hannah. It's too much to take in. If he didn't feel like all hope was lost before, he certainly feels that way now.
Tyler and Adam walk mostly in silence down the road until a gas station slowly comes into view. "Do they scare you? The infected, I mean," Tyler asks.
"They creep me out," Adam says. "Well, they do more than creep me out. They're just scary. That's all."
"Why? They don't scare you or something?"
"They did, initially. But they're like...not human. And when something's trying to eat your fucking face off, it's not too hard to put a bullet in its head. You know what I mean?"
"How about we just drop it?" Adam suggests.
"What? Feeling a little jittery?" Tyler teases him and smiles.
Adam clenches his jaw. It may be a joke to Tyler, but Adam's fear runs deep. Having to kill his girlfriend early on has stuck with him...traumatized him.
Tyler sees Adam's face and quickly apologizes. "Sorry. That wasn't funny."
They walk in silence the rest of the way, until they reach the gas station. A dingy cardboard sign is pinned to one of the pumps and reads "NO GAS." After finding a red gas jug, he tries the pump anyway. Nothing. The next one; empty. It's the same with the others.
"Goddamnit," Tyler mutters. "Come on. We'll look around in the store."
They open the glass doors to the gas station's store, and the shelves are empty. A light hangs from the ceiling, flickering at uneven intervals. Adam grips his handgun a little tighter. "OH FUCK," Tyler yells, then lets out a sigh of relief. "Just a spider. False alarm."
Adam chuckles to himself. Guess he isn't the only one feeling a little jittery. He squeezes through the shelves and sees a bathroom at the back of the store. He opens it and a corpse leaning on the dirty, wooden door collapses onto him. Adam and the infected are both taken off guard, and Adam screams.
Tyler can't see what's going on, but he tries to maneuver through the shelves as quickly as possible. Adam can barely breath with the large infected collapsed onto his body. As he looks into its grey eyes, he feels as if he might pass out, but he manages the strength to lift his gun and stuff it into the infected's rancid mouth. Adam pulls the trigger, and the infected's jaws stop snapping. Its head falls forward onto his shoulder lifelessly.
Tyler finally makes it over and grabs the infected, throwing it off of Adam. He offers Adam his hand and lifts him up. "Are you okay? Jesus Christ..." he says as Adam stands.
"I don't...I think...Fine. I'm fine," Adam says.
Tyler claps him on the back. "You're not bit, you're not scratched. You're good, man. Take a few deep breaths."
Adam follows his advice and inhales deeply a view times. Too bad that doesn't make the panic in his chest disappear.