This is Issue #41 of Dead Frontier by Walkerbait22, titled Instability. This is the fifth issue of Volume 7.
Issue 41 - InstabilityEdit
A man leads a group of six others through the forest, making their way toward the helicopter, crashed in the middle of the forest. Just by walking, this man makes his presence known: Charlie Bodin, tall, broad-shouldered, dark-haired, stone-faced. Even in the heat, he dons a black jacket, buttoned up to his neck. Behind him, five similarly built men and a younger boy, about 16, hold large rifles. The boy struggles to hold his up, but manages. Barely.
There’s a familiar face amongst his group. Dylan Ackerman, the corporal back at the underground laboratory, Hannah’s assaulter, carries a large rifle over his shoulder. Charlie leans into the helicopter, observing. “Air Force,” Charlie says. He inspects the four bodies. Two of them are charred, but he can make out Air Force insignia on their uniforms.
Cole, Hannah, Elle, and Adam watch from a thicket of trees, holding their breath. Hannah inhales sharply when she sees Ackerman and instantly fills with rage. She squeezes Cole’s arm and he nods, recognizing Ackerman.
There’s a pathetic whimpering from inside the helicopter. It’s Lt. Thomas, with a piece of shrapnel deep in his chest. “Help...” he pleads.
Charlie smiles at him. “Brady, come here.” The boy, after sulking in the back of the group, steps forward at his dad’s summons. He places his son directly in front of him, so he has a clear view of the dying airman. “Put him out of his misery.”
“Why can’t you just do it? You seem to get a kick out of this shit,” Brady retorts.
“Because you know I have no problem killing the living. You’re 16 years old; you need to do it sooner or later. And I vote sooner.” Charlie gestures to the helicopter, inviting his son to go ahead bless the dying man with a stab to the head.
“Please, Dad,” Brady begs. He pleads with his eyes, almost on the verge of tears. “Look at him...”
“Don’t you fucking cry,” Charlie demands. His face is wild, psychotic. He practically shoves the knife into Brady’s hand. “End it. It’s not that hard. Come on.” Brady kneels down and places the knife a few inches from Lt. Thomas’s forehead.
“I’m sorry,” Brady says, quiet enough that his father can’t hear him.
Cole, Hannah, Adam, and Elle watch, frozen in place. They don’t move, for fear of making even the smallest sound and alerting them. There’s suddenly guttural groaning from behind them, and Adam yelps. An infected’s foot is stuck on a maze of twigs. It tries to reach for the four of them, but it’s trapped.
Charlie and his group snap their heads to the trees when they hear the yell. Brady stands straight immediately and focuses on the trees. Thank God.
Hannah, Cole, Adam, and Elle drop to the ground and cringe at the rustling of leaves. They all shoot a look at Adam. “Are they...coming this way?” Elle whispers. They shrug, hoping not.
“Over here,” Charlie barks. Fuck.
Charlie’s group warily makes their way to the trees. Cole, Hannah, Adam, and Elle hear their footsteps and stand, moving quickly and hiding behind some large trees. Their hearts thump wildly as they hide, waiting for the worst and hoping for the best.
Someone stands behind Hannah's tree. "Who's there?" Brady says. Hannah recognizes him as the kid and clutches her knife. "It'll be...it'lll be easier if you just come out and...and surrender and stuff." His shakiness would be laughable if it weren’t for these circumstances.
Hannah hears someone cock their gun and the sound of a person walking past her tree. She takes this as her chance. She spins to the other side of the tree and catches the boy by surprise. She sinks the knife into his heart, and he screams.
"Brady!" someone yells, and directly behind Brady emerges Charlie. He meets Hannah's eyes for half a second before running toward them. Hannah pulls out the blade and runs in the opposite direction as Brady hits the ground. She feels a bullet whiz past her ear, but does her best to ignore it,continuing to run. "Go!" she yells, and she hears more rustling in the woods as Cole, Elle, and Adam follow.
Ellen runs next to Adam, and from the trees appears Dylan. He chases after them and fires a shot; it goes clean through Elle's neck and she falls instantly. Adam stumbles as she falls and hits the ground. He fires a shot on impulse at the man chasing him, just to buy some time, and it hits Ackerman in the ear, completely obliterating it. He drops his gun and clutches his ear with a loud cry.
Elle is grabbing her bloody neck, and staring Adam in the face. He scrambles to his feet as she reaches her hand out to him. A final gesture. She manages to let out a last plea of "Kill me," before Adam runs away, a horrible feeling in his gut he hasn't felt for a long time.
DAY OF THE OUTBREAKEdit
Adam looks in the hall mirror and adjusts his black skinny tie. He checks his watch; Sherma should have been here a half an hour ago. He brushes it off, hoping she didn’t have a change of heart and cancelled their date tonight. He walks to the living room, plops down on the couch, and picks up the remote, checking once more to see if Sherma has texted him back. Nope.
The TV airs reruns of some old sitcom and Adam laughs along, but a few minutes later, it cuts off. The audio shifts from a pre-recorded laugh track to a high pitched beeping; the words EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM fill the screen. A man begins to speak with a begrudging monotone: “This is not a test. This is not a test. This is not a test.” Adam scrunches his forehead in confusion, when he hears a frantic knocking at the door.
“Adam!” he hears Sherma yell from the hallway. He jumps from the couch and flings the door open. There’s Sherma, blood seeping through her fingers where she holds a wound on her wrist.
“Woah, what the hell happened?” Adam asks. “Here, come inside.” He leads her to the kitchen table and pulls out a chair for her to sit. “Let me see that.” He kneels in front of her and grabs the arm with the bleeding wrist. He quickly grabs a first aid kit from one of the kitchen cabinets.
“There was some guy outside and he---he bit me!” she explains as Adam places a rag on her wrist. “You’ve seen the news? Right?”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“The virus, the people! They’re dead, but they’re not. And...and I don’t know; they bite! I heard about it on the radio on the way over here. But they come after you, and they bite you, and I think this was one of them.”
“Are you serious?”
“Why wouldn’t I be serious?!”
Adam takes some gauze from the first aid kit and wraps it around her wrist. He grabs the remote from the couch and changes to channel 5. There’s a panicked newscaster stumbling over his words as he reports from downtown. “--not something we should take lightly, it’s real, it’s a virus, and it kills. You cannot let them touch you, or you’ll get it! That’s how it spreads! And they bite and scratch, like Goddamned animals, like bears for God’s sake!” He continues with his rant for several minutes, until something he says definitely catches their ear.
“They bite you, and you’re dead. There’s...there’s conflicting reports, but from what we’ve gotten here it seems to be as little as a half an hour before the virus kicks in completely and you...I don’t know, you die. And then you come back and then you go on this...cannibalistic rampage. I don’t know what you’d call it.” Behind him, there’s a police officer, and two infected rush toward him. “Oh, wow. Look at this.” The newscaster waves the cameraman over, and they focus on the officer.
The officer fires off a shot into one of the infected’s chest, but it’s not phased in the slightest. “Look at that!” the newscaster exclaims. “This isn’t human. Don’t be fooled: this isn’t human. A human dies from a shot to the chest; this thing didn’t even flinch!”
The officer switches to a baton, and inflicts a harsh blow to the heads of both infected. “That’s what they say,” the newscaster says. “Just like that, a blow to the head. That’s how you end it, that’s how--” Black. The screen goes completely black.
Adam and Sherma stand, staring at the television. Sherma’s face transforms into an expression of utter despair. “That’s gonna happen to me. It’s gonna happen to me, Adam!” She starts to cry, and Adam holds her.
“No, it’s not,” he says. “They don’t know anything.”
“How could they not know anything?!” she explodes. “They just told you everything!”
“Sherma, calm down! Nothing. Is going. To happen to you. Okay?”
She suddenly grabs him by the shirt with both of her hands. Her moist eyes bore into his. “You need to end this, Adam.”
“End what?” Adam asks, oblivious. Then it sinks in, and he feels as if someone has punched him in the chest.
“This!” She practically waves her bitten wrist in his face, then clutches his shirt even tighter. “You heard how the infection spreads. You SAW what happened. I don’t wanna be like that, Adam. I don’t. He said...he said you have to hit the head. Destroy the head.”
Adam opens his mouth the say something, but can’t. He’s silent for a long time as Sherma stares at him, waiting impatiently for an answer. She finally screams: “Say something!”
“I’m driving you to the hospital.” Adam grabs his keys from the counter, but Sherma grabs his arm. “Do you love me, Adam?”
“Of course! But do you understand what you’re asking me to do?! You’re asking me to kill you?! I can’t fucking---” He places his hands on his head and starts breathing faster than normal. “I’m not. No.”
“I know what I’m asking you to do is hard, but if you love me like I love you, then you need to do something. I don’t want to be one of those...people. Things.” She grabs his shirt again and lowers her voice. “I can feel it, taking over my body; I don’t feel right. And I just don’t want to turn into one and then hurt you.”
“We’re going to the hospital. Now,” is all he says.
Adam drives as fast as possible down the crowded roads to the nearest hospital. The traffic is horrendous, and in front of him someone crosses a red light and blindsides a car in a horrible accident. In front and behind, they’re surrounded by honking vehicles. He curses and slams the horn. "You're gonna be okay. I promise," he says to Sherma. "We're gonna get there, and the doctors are gonna help you."
But she's slumped in her seat, her face plastered with sweat. Adam places a hand on her head; she's burning up, and her fever gets worse every minute. "Adam. Please," she says. "I don't want this."
"Stop. We're almost there. See?"
"Adam!" She tries to yell, but it comes out as a weak croak. "I'm fucking begging...you."
Adam feels a lump forming in his throat. He thinks about it: pulling the pocket knife from his glove compartment and stabbing her in the head. The whole scenario plays out in his mind, and he instantly regrets contemplating it at all. "This isn't what they're making it out to be," he says. "You've just got a fever, and we'll get to the hospital and everyt---Sherma?"
She grabs his hand and squeezes it; then, she starts to breath heavily. It's disturbing, as if she's having an asthma attack. She's gasping for air with all she has, but it feels like it isn't entering her lungs. Adam watches this, frozen in traffic, and doesn't know what to do. "Sherma! Breathe! You need to breathe, okay?"
But his words don't register. "Kill...me...before..." She tries for oone last breath but stops as her body gives up. Her hand goes limp in Adam's, and her eyes stay open, staring out the windshield.
It happened so fast, Adam initially doesn't realize she's died. He lets go of her cold hand and opens the driver's side door. He falls to the asphalt in his panic and hits his head. He ignores it and starts to pound on the ground, hurting his knuckles. The car next to him honks and drowns out his yelling.
Ten minutes later, and tons of cars have been abandoned on the road, for people found it more efficient to walk than to wait in this madness. Adam sits in the street and leans against a black sedan left by its owner. Directly in front of him in his car, where Sherma still sits, but now as a corpse.
It's an unbearable feeling, and he can't describe was it is. 'Agony' could work, but it's more than that. He feels like breathing is his only priority; everything else just shuts down, making him a black hole.
Something stirs in his car. He begrudgingly lifts his head. Sherma, stirring in her seat. Now, her lovely brown skin is ugly, grey and pale. Her brown eyes share the same fate. Adam lets out a mixture of a sob and a groan and finds the willpower to stand. Sherma stares at him and claws at the window. He places his hand to the window as someone runs down the sidewalk behind him, but she just growls more angrily.
He suddenly feels an overwhelming sense of guilt. She didn't want to turn into one, but she did. Because of him. Because he didn't believe this virus was as serious as it is, because he was a coward. Or so he tells himself.
He opens the car door, and Sherma lunges. Adam moves out of the way and she hits the ground. Just like that. A blow to the head. That's how you end it! The newscaster's words ring in his head.
He stomps on Sherma's head once, twice, five times. And she stops moving. Stops reaching for him.
Adam runs for Cole and Hannah, and makes sure to dodge the trapped infected still reaching for him. Cole pulls out his walkie and yells into it, “Meet back at the cars! There’s some guys here, and Elle’s down!”
“Holy shit,” Tyler says. He, Billie, and Robbie sprint in the other direction, back to the cars.
Charlie has Brady cradled as he runs through the forest. They are both sobbing, one from pain and one from sorrow. “It’s gonna be okay, right Brady-bug? Okay, it’ll be fine.” His men run ahead of him and open the the back door of the pickup. Charlie quickly but gently places Brady in the backseat and he slides in next to him. “SOMEONE FUCKING DRIVE!”
Charlie pulls his T-Shirt over his head and presses it to Brady’s wound as Ackerman speeds off. He holds a bloody rag to his ear. “Don’t close your eyes, Brady. Brady! Don’t close your fucking eyes!” The blood starts pooling from Brady’s mouth. Charlie tries his best to wipe it away, but it keeps coming. “Drive faster, you fuckface!”
Ackerman presses the pedal all the way down. The other trucks follow closely behind. The pain is unbearable for Charlie as he watches Brady’s eyes close and pulse slowly fade.
“What the fuck just happened?!” one of Charlie’s men, Ronny, yells in the forest. He aims his gun towards the trees, but sees no signs of any threats. He gestures another man to follow him, and they walk around the trashed helicopter to Elle’s body. Ronny bends down and looks her in the face.
She’s holding on to a sliver of life. Blood rapidly spills out of her neck and stains the leaves and grass around her. Ronny puts a bullet in her head without hesitation. Then, he inspects her.
She’s wearing Air Force fatigues, and realizes she knows the four dead airmen in the helicopter. The broadcasts. Some guy named Abe Welsh, broadcasting the Air Forces location at the airport. Charlie ran into it while fiddling with his new radio. He rips Elle’s gun away from her and shouts, “Let’s go!” The other man follows him, and they head back to their car.
“What the fuck, Adam?!” Cole shouts as he speeds away from the forest.
“Me? ME?” Adam says. “Hannah’s the one that fucking stabbed the kid!”
“Yeah, Adam, because they were going to kill us!” Hannah counters.
“Maybe they were good people. Maybe they wouldn’t’ve shot if you didn’t first.”
“Oh, fuck off! If you hadn’t screamed like a little bitch--”
“HEY!” Cole shouts. “It’s no one’s fault, so both of you shut the fuck up! Jesus Christ.” He runs his hand through his hair and slams the steering wheel with his palm. The car is dead silent. “At least we know what happened to them.” He got a glimpse of Thomas in the helicopter, and just thinking of it makes him physically sick.
Billie’s voice comes from the walkie. “What the hell happened?” she says. Her, Tyler, and Robbie follow behind in the other car.
“We found the helicopter. It was wrecked. Must’ve crashed or something. Then there was a group of guys; they probably live nearby and heard it crash. An infected surprised us, and Adam screamed. Guess it alerted them because they started looking for us. Hannah...killed one of them. A kid. They fired back and Elle...Elle’s dead. We had to leave her.”
Billie sighs into the walkie. “...This is bad. Really bad.”
“Devon. Hey,” Harry says. He walks into the library where Devon flips through books by herself. Trying to get her mind off of the half hour gun lecture from her father. He flashes his charming smile to her. She has to admit, Harry is pretty hot. She has a tough time hiding her crush from him, but she manages.
“Hi, Harry,” she says, putting a book back on the shelf. “If you’re going to tell me I shouldn’t have disobeyed my dad, I don’t want to hear it. Seriously.”
“No, no, I wasn’t going to say anything like that. Just wanted to see if you were okay.”
“Well, thanks. I’m fine.”
“I could fix you up something special later, for dinner. I know we’ve got a few bags of sour gummy worms in the pantry...”
Devon perks up. “Since when do we have gummy worms?”
“I’ve just been saving them for awhile.” He scours the bookshelf. “Looking for something good?”
“Yeah, but this is all shit,” Devon says.
“How about this one?” He pulls a book off the shelf and inspects the cover. “In Cold Blood. Truman Capote.”
“What’s that about?”
“Classic crime novel.” He smiles at her, but this time it isn’t charming like it usually is. It’s unnerving. “Family of four, killed. Capote spent six years working on it. One of the best crimes thrillers ever written, I think.”
“Oh, that...that’s cool. But I think I’ll try something else.”
“No. Read it.” He forcibly shoves the book in her hand, but she pushes it away.
“I don’t want to read the fucking book, Harry! Geez. I’ll just go watch a movie or something.” She tries to push past him but he grabs her shoulders and pins her against one of the bookcases. She screams, but he punches her in the stomach and her shouts fade to a whimper. “Why are you--?
“I like you, Dev. I really do. But this...this is just something I need to do, okay?” His eyes are frenzied. He’s completely mad. A young girl. Vulnerable. He can be in control again, just like with that idiot drunk Kyle.
He pulls out a knife and presses it to her neck, but she builds up the strength to knee him in the crotch. He doubles over. The blade nicks her skin, causing her neck to bleed slightly. It’s nothing serious.
She pulls out the gun Mulligan gave her. “It was you? Did you...kill Kyle?.”
“I just...I needed--” He lunges at her in the middle of his incoherent sentence, but she fires a shot. Harry stops dead in his tracks when the bullet hits his stomach. She fires another, and this one gets him in the chest. He falls, clutching the bullet holes, and moans for help. “Oh my God. What the fuck, oh my God...” Devon drops the gun in shocks and runs out of the room. “DAD! DAD? MOM?”
She screams for her parents in the terminal. People give her nervous looks; she appears legitimately crazy yelling at the top of her lungs. Her parents rush out of Abe’s office.
“Devon, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?” Amy says. She grabs her daughter’s shoulders and pulls her into a tight hug.
“Harry...in the library, he--he had a knife and he--I shot him.”
Abe jumps into action. He pulls out his handgun and sprints to the library, with Devon and Amy behind him. Jennifer hears the mention of Harry’s name and follows them.
Harry is on the floor, dead, when Abe opens the door. His blood has stained the carpet around him. “I think...I think he killed Kyle, Dad.”
“And Emma,” Abe says. He remembers when he, Thomas, and Mulligan found Emma’s body ripped to shreds in another terminal.
“Emma?” Amy asks. “You said she--”
“She didn’t kill herself.”
“He must’ve ran out of pills again,” Jennifer says. Everyone turns and stares at her.
“Pills? What do you mean, ‘pills?’ ”
“Harry wasn’t stable. He...something was wrong with him. He’d go into severe states of mania, and he explained to me how’d he get violent. He must’ve run out sometime this week and never told me.”
“Why didn’t I know about this?”
Amy whispers something comforting in Devon’s ear, and they leave the library.
“He didn’t want me to tell anyone,” Jennifer says. “He thought you would kick him out, or everyone would shun him. Call him a freak.”
“He’s a fucking murderer, Jen! He’s told you about his fits of violence, and you didn’t even think to tell me?”
“I did think about it! But he was so helpless...he begged me not to tell anyone. And he promised he’d tell me whenever he ran out.”
“But he didn’t. And Devon could’ve been...” He turns and fires a shot into Harry’s brain to prevent reanimation.
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“That’s all anyone seems to be saying recently.”