This is Issue #35 of Dead Frontier by Walkerbait22, titled Cope. This is the fifth issue of Volume 6.
Issue 35 - CopeEdit
Tyler takes another swig of beer. He and Adam found dozens of cases in the cellar, and almost everyone is shitfaced. Tyler, probably being the drunkest of them all, hands Chloe another beer and she cracks it open.
Luckily, the electricity in the house works, but only one lamp is on in the living room. No reason to risk attracting any lingering infected or people. "Okay guys," Tyler says. He stands in front of a radio an iPod in the slot. He slides through the songs. "We've got some Sir-Mix-A-Lot...50 Cent...Justin Bieber what the fuck."
"There has to be something good," Chloe says.
"No...no...noooo..." Tyler repeats as he scrolls through the iPod. "Okay. Fuck it." He presses the next song he sees and let's it play.
"I kinda... wanted to listen to Baby Got Back," Finn slurs. But he listens intently to the sad piano coming from the radio and the singer's silky, melancholy voice.
There's suddenly a disturbing tapping on the window. Dwight rises from the couch and peers through the blinds. "Knife anybody?" he asks as he looks at the infected clawing at the window. Adam hands him one. Dwight lifts the window and stabs the corpse in the eye. Its eye makes a pop sound, and it collapses on the windowsill with a thud. It’s obviously dead, but he lifts the window and brings it down on the infected’s head repeatedly. He finally pushes it out and it falls back out the window. "Turn that light off, and the music. And let’s all just...go to bed. We need to get up early tomorrow.”
Cole raises his knife and smashes it into the head of an infected. He is on the front lawn of the house the next morning, hacking away at the few infected wandering around the house. His head still hurts like hell, but he had to urge to just...kill. The anger that’s been boiling inside of him for days had been too much. This is the only way to let it out.
“You are an ugly fuck,” he says to an infected that groans and approaches him. He kicks it to the ground, rubbing his aching head afterwards, and stands over it. The knife is buried into its forehead, then ripped out. Cole stabs it again and again, until its entire face is ripped in half. He can hear the snapping of jaws behind him and leaps up, bringing the knife into the infected’s chin. It slumps to the ground lifelessly as he pulls it out.
Hannah watches, disturbed, from the living room window in the house. She explodes out the front door, onto the lawn. “What the fuck are you doing?”
He slams his eyes shut, wincing. One last infected rushes towards him, and he takes it out with a strong stab to the face. He sits on the grass, panting and holding his head.
“You could have a fucking concussion and you’re out here killing these things? Why?”
“Leave me the hell alone!” he snaps at her. “I’m fine, I’m not hurting anyone. I don’t know where you’ve been, but these last few days have been pretty fucking terrible. I just want to deal with things in my own way.”
She scoffs at him. “Is that what it is? You’re ‘dealing with things?’ What exactly are you dealing with? Because I had to see my dad’s fucking head get blown off, and I never even got to say goodbye to my mom.” She takes a deep breath, calming herself.“Look, Cole. I just don’t want you to hurt yourself.” He doesn’t respond, and she takes this as a hint to leave him. She turns back into the house.
“He’s just coping,” Billie says when Hannah walks in. “It may not be the best way, but he is.”
Hannah plops onto the couch, and Billie takes a seat next to her. “He was the same way when his mom died a few years ago,” Hannah says. “He wasn’t killing infected, obviously, but he was really violent. Throwing things, breaking things, punching things until his hands were bruised. I can tell he tries to contain it. His anger. But sometimes he just can’t. It’s...scary.”
“Were you there for him then? When his mom passed?” Billie asks.
“Yes. Of course.”
“Then just try to be there for him now. I know you’ve been through a lot, and you’re trying to come to terms with that, but he won’t be able to deal with everything on his own.”
Hannah sighs and looks out the window. She sees Cole repeatedly digging his knife into the face of an already-dead infected.
The truck is now completely filled up after Tyler siphoned gas from any stray cars they came across. It seems to be enough to get to the airport, because the Chicago skyline is directly in front of them. “We’re gonna make it, we’re gonna make it...” Tyler sings from the driver’s seat.
“You’re an atrocious singer, Tyler,” Chloe calls from the back.
“Why are you so mean to me all the time?”
“Because I’m your friend.”
“Yeah, well, friends don’t tell friends they’re terrible singers.”
“How much longer, you think, until we get to the airport?” Adam asks, interrupting their banter.
“I don’t know, an hour maybe. And that’s if the roads aren’t completely backed up. But we’re going to get there.”
And they do. Tyler is giddy with excitement in his seat when he sees the airport. A few lone planes sit on the runway, and it looks completely untouched. No signs of any helicopters or people. “We’re here! Let me just find a way in...” He drives the truck around the airport a few times until he finds a parking lot. He stops the truck and opens the doors from everyone in the back.
“I don’t see any Air Force,” Dwight observes. “Infected.” He points ahead and sees a few infected on the edge of the empty lot. They start to approach them. “Must’ve heard the truck.” He lifts his gun, but Billie puts her hand on his arm.
“Don’t waste the ammo,” she says.
“If we came here on some false hope...” Finn says, staring at Chloe.
“Look, we told you we didn’t know if this was a sure thing,” Chloe says, defending her and Tyler. “You chose to come with us. You didn’t have to, but you did. So don’t blame me, or Tyler.”
“Do we kill them, or what?” Adam asks. He eyes the infected getting closer and closer.
They suddenly hear the low, familiar rumblings of a helicopter. A few seconds later, a low flying helicopter emerges, hovering over the airport. It slowly lands in the lot, sending a few infected flying from the force of the blades.
The rotors stop, and men exit the aircraft. They begin mowing down infected with large assault rifles. A man stands behind the men, wearing a blue blazer donned with many badges. He doesn’t shoot as the other men are; he only watches.
A dark haired man stands behind the man in the blazer. He lowers his gun and says, “They’re people, sir.”
“I can see that,” the man replies. “Get them inside terminal 1. I'll find out how they found us, who they are. Stuff like that." He walks off to the other side of the lot.
Lieutenant General Abram Welsh, the man in the blue blazer, enters the airport and makes his way to terminal. Tents are set up in the large area, and he sees a few people sitting in the waiting area. He smiles and nods at them. Most of them are people he’s found, whether they were downtown in the early days or pathetic and helpless on the side of the road. There aren’t many, but it’s a start. A start to rebuilding.
He walks over to his wife, Colonel Amy Welsh, sitting in the waiting area next to their two kids, Devon and Peter, 17 and 16, respectively.
Amy is lost in a book, while Devon throws a football at her brother’s head. “You suck at catch,” Devon says.
“You’re such a bitch,” Peter sneers.
“Peter,” Amy says, “I thought we were bringing the bitch-calling to a minimum?” “Oh, great. There’s the family I love so dearly,” Abram says as he walks over. He smiles and gives Amy a kiss on the forehead. “We need to talk.”
Amy closes her book and addresses her kids. “You two, we need some privacy.” They scurry away quickly. “How’s the city look?”
Abram sighs and sits down next to her. “I don’t even know if you can call it a city anymore. Not one living soul, Amy. Not one. It’s filled to the brim with infected, and I think the noise from the helicopters could be bringing them here.”
“You saw some out there?” “A few. But that’s not what I need to talk to you about. There are people outside. They found us, somehow.”
“Through our radio broadcasts, you think?”
“I have no idea. Mulligan’s bringing them in right now." Right on cue, he turns and sees Mulligan, the dark haired man from before, and a few other airmen ushering in the newcomers. Abram pities them almost. They look hungry, afraid.
"Smith!" Abram calls out. A man around thirty years old emerges from his tent. He's not a soldier, but a civilian Abram found on the road. He's been put in charge of keeping stock of food, water, and medicine for the time being, and cooking any meals.
"Yes?" he replies.
"Harry, how are we on food? Think we can spare a bit for newcomers?" Abram gestures over to the new arrivals.
Harry smiles. "Yeah. Yeah, sure. I think we can."
A few tables have been pushed to create a large one in the cafeteria and the survivors sit around it, with Abram, Amy, Mulligan, and a new woman named Jennifer. They watch as the newcomers dig into their food: a feast of steak and canned corn.
"I never thought," Finn says with a mouth full of food, "that I'd ever see a steak again. I am happier than I have ever been in my entire life at this moment."
Abram chuckles. "There's more end of the world steak if you want it. Prepared by Mr. Harry Smith over there." Harry waves from a table farther away.
"We love you, Harry!" Finn calls out.
Amy clears her throat. "I'm glad you're enjoying everything, but we all know there are some things we need to talk to you about."
"Did you hear our radio broadcasts?" Jennifer asks eagerly. "Is that how you found us?"
"Radio broadcasts?" Cole repeats. "We...didn't hear any. Is that how you've gotten people here?"
"Some," Mulligan says. "Not many, but some. There's infected everywhere so that kind of makes the journey here difficult. But you guys made it. Amazing."
"Most of the others," Amy continues, "we've found either on the roads or deeper into the city."
"Oh," Hannah says. "So you like, send guys out on rescue missions?"
"Not as often as we'd like, but yes. We're low on airmen. And we can't always risk sending the few men we have out there; besides Jennifer, we have no medical personnel."
"She's a doctor," Adam says, pointing to Chloe.
"I have told you," Chloe says, "I got my PhD in biology. I'm a doctor, technically, but not the kind of doctor you're looking for."
"What's your deal?" Adam suddenly snaps at her. "It's like you run away from any type of leadership or responsibility. You're a scientist for God's sake. You're useful in a million ways."
Chloe blushes, embarrassed at being called out. "So what then?" she asks Abram. "You want me to be on your medical team or something?"
"It would be a medical team of two, but that's better than one." Abram smiles, trying to encourage her to accept.
"And you?" He points to Tyler. "Private in the army, huh?"
"Yes, sir," Tyler says.
"No stranger to combat, I assume."
"No, sir. I'm willing to volunteer for any combat opportunities you may offer me."
Abram smiles. "Look at that. I didn't even have to ask this one."
Jennifer clears her throat. "Sorry to interrupt, but the initial question was never answered. How'd you know to come here if you didn't listen to our broadcasts?"
Cole swallows his steak. "Tyler. He told us about it. Said the he heard the Air Force was hiding out here."
"Some of my buddies were talking about it," Tyler says. "I didn't really believe them but we just....had nowhere else to go. This was our only hope, honestly."
Mulligan smiles at them. "I don't think it matters how you got here as long as you are here. Welcome." He raises his glass, and everyone does the same.