This is Issue #53 of Dead Frontier by Walkerbait22, titled Fourteen. This is the fifth issue of Volume 9.
Issue 53 - FourteenEdit
Early the next morning, Billie lies on a bed in the medical room, gulping down a bottle of water. She finishes and looks at Chloe across the room. "Dwight's dead. Right?" she asks.
Chloe nods her head. Her eyes are moist and red. "Yes."
"I remember. I thought maybe I was dreaming. Had to make sure." She feels a lump in her throat and drinks some more water. She inhales deeply, dreading having to ask this next question but knows she has to: "Who died yesterday?"
Chloe starts listing off the names, many of them residents Billie never got to know well enough. "Jim, his daughter. Darcy, little Chase, Jamal, Christie, William, Darcy. Jen...Tyler." A small sob escapes her when she says his name. "Scott, Peter, Amy, Abe."
Billie counts under her breath. "Fourteen...fourteen? Chloe...that's not..."
She doesn't even know how to finish her sentence. That number is just unfathomable. Billie takes deep breaths and pushes back the tears. The fact that she's able to not cry amazes and frightens her.
The face of every single person flashes through her mind. She can only be glad she didn't have to see most of it happen, but that doesn't make the hurt anymore unbearable.
"How's Hannah?" Billie asks.
"She's..." Chloe starts. "I don't know what to say. With what happened, I can't even guess to how's she's doing. You'll have to ask her."
"They maimed her, beat her, raped her. Maybe more that she doesn't even want to talk about."
Billie swallows hard. "Maimed her?"
"Cut her hand off."
Billie doesn't think she can hear anymore. She finishes her water bottle and Chloe hands her another.
Cole has his backpack next to his feet, ready to leave. He stares out the large window in the terminal, observing the infected culminating at the gate. He wishes he had the strength to kill every single one.
Hannah, with new bandages on her arm, also has her backpack filled and dons clean clothes after a shower. She walks from behind Cole and wraps her arms around his midsection. "Everyone else is getting ready," she says.
"Anyone decide to stay?" Cole asks.
"About half. Chloe, Adam, Finn, Billie, of course.They're all coming. Robbie wants to come. And Devon.”
"...There's a lot of blame floating around. Don't really think we're wanted here."
He understands. "Do you think it's for the best? Leaving?"
"I don't know. Even if it was the safest place in the world, I wouldn't be able to stay here. After yesterday."
"We'll be fine out there. We'll be fine." He nods his head, as if confirming what he said with himself. He turns and hugs her tightly, burrowing his face into her neck. The scent of her recently washed hair fills him with warmth."We'll be fine."
She feels his body start to shake and realizes he's crying. "Cole. It's okay. Everything's okay."
He wants to say something back, but his words get caught in his throat. He just hugs her a little tighter.
Finn and Robbie finish stabbing the infected through the fence and hop into one of the vehicles. Cole, Hannah, and Robbie take a Sedan, and Adam, Finn, Chloe, and Billie ride in a black SUV.
They drive, their cars filled with whatever supplies they have, with no set destination. Staying or leaving, either was a risk, but by choosing to go they thought they would fare better. A psychopathic group in your backyard isn't the most calming idea.
1 1/2 MONTHS LATEREdit
Adam, Robbie, Devon, and Cole drive down Chicago Ave. in the black SUV. A few weeks after leaving the airport, they ventured into the city on the logic that the infected would have migrated out during the last three months. If not, then they dispersed enough to make the city habitable. It was a huge risk, but they couldn't help but notice how there were more infected than they were used to roaming the isolated roads. Now, back in the city, they are usually only bothered by a few straggling infected and a small group, if they're careful. Living in a boarded up office building, they're safety is reminiscent of their first days at the airport.
"Hey, Adam," Cole says. "Turn left right here."
"Left?" Adam asks. "But you said the store's over there." He points in the other direction.
"I was thinking maybe I could check out my apartment. Please?"
Adam obliges, turning left on the next street. He runs over a few speed bumps in the form of infected corpses and follows Cole's directions.
After about ten minutes, Cole orders Adam to stop. The familiarity of his old street hits him like a bullet. It's sad, knowing he had to leave it so abruptly, but he's happy he's at least getting to see his old neighborhood again. That's not something many people can say.
He exits the car and notices the infected shambling around the street. They're far enough away so ignores them, instead bounding up the steps of his apartment and ordering Robbie to take care of them. He does so eagerly as Devon watches, setting his feet and throwing knives into their foreheads. When he's done, he retrieves his knives and follows Adam and Cole into the apartment, with Devon following. "You really need to teach me how to do that,” she says.
Cole remembers his first encounter with an infected, the day he sprinted up these stairs and thought he'd be going to jail for murder. Then he remembers his call to Micah and feels a heavy weight on his heart.
He opens the door and takes everything in. The TV to his right, the couch in front of it, his kitchen. Everything is just how he left it six months ago.
"Okay. So what exactly are we doin' here, bro?" Robbie asks.
"Nothing in particular," Cole says, wiping dust off of his TV with his finger. "I really just wanted to see this place again. And I'm sure there's some stuff we can take."
He turns in the hallway and walks to his bedroom. Adam, Robbie, and Devon stay in the living room, looking around curiously. His blue comforter lies wildly on the bed, and a pillow is on the floor. He picks it up and takes a seat on the bed. He wishes he could just pass out here right now, and when he wakes up every thing will be back to normal.
He sifts through his nightstand. There's a tiny Bible his mom gave him that he never read; he slips it in his pocket thinking Robbie may want it. There's other stuff: rubber bands, a box of condoms, paper. Something catches his eye. A long rectangular piece of paper that incites a whirlwind of emotion. He grabs it and looks at it for a long time.
It's one of those four-picture strips you get at a photo booth. It's of him and Hannah a few months before their breakup. There's them, smiling goofily and in love into the camera, in the next their share kiss; then, Hannah playfully shoving Cole's face out of the shot; and the last, where they stick their tongues out and give the camera the finger.
He stowed this away a long time ago, remembering how much it hurt look at once they broke up. Now, it's even harder with everything that's happened to Hannah. He can't wait to show it to her. To maybe lift her spirits for once. He folds it neatly and slides it in his back pocket. This little reminder of the world before.
"I.....I'm so in love with you! Whatever you want to do, is all right with me!" Adam and Robbie sing along with the CD playing in the car, belting out every lyric of the Al Green classic.
“Is it bad that I have no idea what this song is?” Devon remarks. It's a joyous moment, with the vehicle filled with supplies from their run, which they retrieved after the detour to Cole's apartment: water, barely fresh bags of chips, energy drinks, clothes. Cole even snagged a few pictures from his apartment, blankets, and he grabbed some old issues of People magazine for the girls. Life suddenly didn't feel like a PTSD-ridden horror.
Adam and Robbie continue singing, as Cole and Devon laugh at them and drive up to the office building they've been staying at. Black and plain, and only a few stories high, it doesn't stand out. An ideal place to stay, if they play their cards right and don't fuck it up.
They grab the stuff and head inside. The windows are boarded up from the inside, and opening the door reveals a large, empty area with a few mattresses and a reception desk. "Hellloooo?" Robbie calls out. "We're back!"
There's shuffling around the corner, and Finn emerges. His hair is disheveled and he rubs his eyes. "Jesus, man," Adam says, "you're still sleeping?"
"What can I say," Finn replies. "Old habits die hard, I guess." He grabs a bag and scours through it, nodding his head approvingly. "Good day, I see."
"More than good," Cole says. "Haven't had luck like this for weeks. Where's everyone else?"
"Doing girl shit, probably. Think they're upstairs in the lounge." Finn grabs a granola and starts munching, as Cole heads to stairs with a bag.
He walks to the small lounge and opens the door. And, of course, there are Hannah, Chloe, and Billie sitting on the couch, hunched over a magazine. "Oh my God, I remember that," Chloe says, reading over a tabloid article on some socialite’s marriage. "They're divorce was on every single channel."
"Ladies," he says. "Hello, hello. I've got...stuff." He looks through the bag. "For you," he says to Billie, handing her a book.
"Yes, you found it!" she says and flips through the pages. "Thanks." Cole then hands Chloe a bag of Cheetos, her favorite.
"And for you," Cole says, pointing to Hannah, "I've got a very special gift." He opens the door and gestures for her to come outside.
"Wink, wink," Billie jokes as she nudges Hannah playfully in the ribs.
"Shut up," Hannah says with a smile as she follows Cole out into the hall. There’s a faint scar on her chin, and a few others around her face. They’re barely visible, but a constant reminder. "What's up?"
"So I went back to my apartment, just decided to look around and stuff." He pulls out a large scrap book and puts it in her hand. "I found a ton of pictures, and that," he points to the book, "is the album your mom put together a few years ago. I remember you leaving at my place last Thanksgiving."
Hannah flips through it as best as she can, still getting used to functioning with her one hand. The pictures of her parents hit her hard: there's her and her mom and dad on her sixth birthday, then ten years later during her sweet sixteen, and her college graduation. Her mother's signature sweet smile is in every one. She laughs at her dad's smile, which always looked more like a grimace. He was never one for pictures. She realizes now how long it's been since she's seen their faces, closes the book and wipes a few tears from her cheeks.
Cole grins as she looks through the album and finally asks, "So, do you like it?"
"Of course. Of course; I love it," she says. She wraps her arms around his neck and gives him a big smooch on the cheek; then gives him an especially long kiss on the lips.
"Remember this one?" he asks. He pulls out the photo booth strip and hands it to her. She gives him back the album, then laughs at the silliness of the pictures as she scans over it.
She hands it back to him, wraps her arms around his waist, and mumbles thanks into his chest. "I really needed this. I did."
- The song Adam and Robbie sing is "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green.