This is Issue #65 of Dead Frontier by Walkerbait22, titled In My Memory. This is the fifth issue in Volume 11.
Issue 65 - In My MemoryEdit
“Yeah but, dude, you’re like the least Slytherin-ish person I’ve ever met,” Billie says, trying to convince Adam there’s no way in hell he’d ever be in that particular House. They all sit on the floor in a circle in the lobby the evening of Cole, Devon, Alec, and Lienne’s journey to the acclaimed Hyatt hotel. Billie absentmindedly pets Wrigley behind the ears, and his foot starts to kick. “You’re like...Hufflepuff or something.”
“Hufflepuff? Hufflepuff?” Adam responds. “That’s insulting.”
“Lord fucking Voldemort was a Slytherin, Adam,” Chloe counters. “Voldemort. He-who-shall-not-be-named. You’re more of a Neville Longbottom.”
“Neville Longbottom? But Slytherin is cool! They’re cunning and slick; it’s awesome!”
Robbie mutters to Hiro and Tora: “I have no fucking idea what’s going on.”
“You and me both, Rob--” Tora begins to reply, but she’s cut off by the blaring of a horn outside.
Billie snaps her head around and sees three large trucks through the glass window sitting in front of the building. An anger boils up inside of her at their recklessness, but at the same time an uncomfortable sense of confusion. Wrigley jumps to his feet and rushes to the door.
Billie grabs the shotgun that leans against the wall and gestures for Adam and Hiro to follow. She peeks through the window; the three trucks each have a man standing in front them. They don’t look menacing. Friendly, almost. They have rifles slung over their shoulders, but in no way are they threatening.
A large man with tattoos running down his arms steps forward, holding a sheet of paper. Billie, Adam, and Hiro warily exit the lobby, pointing their guns forward
“My name is Marsh,” the tattooed, dark haired man begins. His baritone voice is booming, even outside. “I’m a member of The Regency. We’ve been sent to retrieve the following people: Adam Dugall, Billie Starr, Chloe Connors, Hiro and Tora Kamura, Robert Rhodes, and a dog by the name of...Wrigley. Is that correct?”
“You’re from the Hyatt Regency? The hotel?” Billie asks.
“Yes, ma’am. Your friends...” Marsh looks back down at the paper. “Ah, your friends Alec Parker, Cole Pruitt, Devon Welsh, and Marigold Lienessen sent us. They’ve made it to the hotel safely, and would enjoy your presence there.” There’s no response as he folds up the paper and places it in his pocket. “I mean, we could always just go...”
“No,” Adam says. “We just weren’t expecting...this. We...we’ll go get our stuff.”
The trip to the Hyatt is uneventful, until they reach the few blocks before the hotel and get their first sighting of the unusual propaganda posters. Billie eyes them suspiciously, raising her eyebrows at the more flamboyant ones. Adam can’t help but make note of the posters’ archaic designs as well.
They all crane their necks upward when they finally pull up in front of the hotel, admiring the skyway and two towers. “You guys don’t have a fence or anything?” Tora asks Marsh, whom she sits behind in one of the trucks.
“Nope. Look closely, though, on top of the towers,” Marsh instructs. Tora squints and can make out two figures. “Snipers. That’s Duke up on tower one, Charlotte up on tower two. They can see from miles in any direction. We know when someone’s coming. And, we wanna make the place look presentable. Welcoming. Big, scary gates can have the opposite effect.”
Marsh drives around to the back of the hotel, parking in a large lot. He opens the back doors for the new guests, and they are treated to the same jaw dropping sight Cole, Alec, Lienne, and Devon witnessed.
Cole, Alec, Lienne, and Devon are sitting around some leather chairs, drinking coffee, when the rest of the group enters. They greet them with smiles and laugh at their wide eyes. Everyone assists with the bags. “We’re on the fifth floor. Come on,” Cole says.
“So...what do you think?” Tora asks as she and Hiro roam around her newly assigned room, gawking at the paintings and comforters and leather couches. Ever since their arrival a few hours ago, he seems to have been in a better mood; though, in her eyes, it seems as if he wants to keep up his tough guy facade for a little longer.
That’s Hiro for you.
“Can’t believe this shit...they’ve got DVDs, too?” he responds, picking up an old action movie with a cheesy cover.
“Think it was a mistake staying with them now?”
“...Whatever. They--they...I don’t know, they’re not my type of people. They’re all a bunch of kids, honestly. How old is that Alec guy? 16..17? I’m not gonna get along with teenagers and twenty-year olds.”
“They’re nice, Hiro. They took us in, for God’s sake.”
“Look, we’re here now. All the chair kicking is in the past, and we can start over,” says Hiro. “And I’ll even try to be nice. For you.”
“For me? Oh, you’re too much,” she says with a laugh and gives him a hug. “And no more Goddamned chair kicking.”
A few hours later, Cole looks in his new bathroom mirror. His hair no longer hangs over his ears after a haircut, and his face is smooth after a shave. He wears a crisp red button up with a black-and-white striped necktie. The tie feels awkward after not wearing one for so long, so he adjusts it.
His gaze shifts from his reflection to the two small pictures he’s stuck to the mirror: he and Micah in middle school, and the photo booth strip of him and Hannah. He initally thought the Hyatt couldn’t get any better, but at this moment he realizes it’d be perfect if they'd been here.
He takes his time going down the several flights of stairs to the first floor of the hotel. He realizes he’s a bit late to the social organized by Alexander when he sees the cafeteria and bar packed with residents.
He pushes his way through the sea of people, only stopping briefly to shake hands and introduce himself to a few guys.
Afterwards, he stands on his tiptoes to peek over the tops of the heads in front of him, searching for anyone he knows. He spots Billie sitting at the bar counter alone, wearing a pale orange sundress and with her hair and makeup all done up. He slips into the seat next to her without her noticing. “Wow, Billie Starr,” he says, making her turn. “Looking good.”
She rolls her eyes. “Whatever. They had a few chicks...make me over.” She then looks him up and down and raises her eyebrows in approval. “You don’t look too bad yourself. I mean, you’re not a Paul Newman or anything, but you look good.”
“It was a compliment.”
A stern-faced bartender finally tends to them, and Cole asks for a beer. He shifts the subject to what he’d actually like to talk about. “Are you still pissed at me?” he asks.
She sips her beer and pulls at her earlobe. “Don’t know.”
“Huh. That’s fair, I guess. But I wanted to say I’m sorry. I had no right to act like an asshole, so you put me in my place. And you had every right to. So...thanks for helping me get my shit together, sort of. Even if you were kind of harsh.”
“That’s me. Knocking sense into people,” she says.
“At least you didn’t use your fists this time.”
“Oh, believe me: I was this close to doing just that.”
“We’re good, then?” he asks.
Billie clanks her bottle against his, and they both take a few sips. Adam, who seems to have had one too many shots, appears from behind them, placing his hands on their shoulders. “YOOO! You’re here, man! Finally!” he shouts over the music. “Dude, I fucking love this song, you don’t even know.”
“Yeah, Adam, it’s a good one,” Cole says, laughing.
“Yo, Alec and Lienne are about to perform. Come on.”
They follow him, and squeeze through the people to get to the stage. Lienne is chatting with one of the guitarists--a guy Cole doesn’t know--and then sits on a stool, adjusting the microphone in front of her. She’s wearing a bright pink-and-orange floral dress with a pair of tall, brown boots.
Sitting on the stool next to her, Alec seems to have taken a more casual approach, wearing just a blue plaid button up, jeans, and a simple pair of sneakers.
Lienne taps on her microphone a couple times. "Hello, hello. Testing, testing...Okay, good." She moves a few strands of blonde hair away from her face before addressing. "Well, everyone, my name's Lienne. This is my good friend Alec," she says, gesturing over to him. "We've decided to sing you a short little song. Thought it was something we could all relate to, at least a little bit. So...yeah. Here goes."
The guitarist begins, and Lienne and Alec both wait patiently to start the first verse together:
"I find the map and draw a straight line
Over rivers, farms, and state lines
The distance from A to where you'd be
It's only finger-lengths that I see."
Their voices blend together magnificently, creating something that's, weirdly, simultaneously bone-chilling and beautiful. "Wow," he ends up muttering to himself, but Billie overhears him.
"They're really good, right?" she asks.
"They're...man, they're amazing.'
"I touch the place
Where I'd find your face
My fingers in creases
Of distant dark places."
He continues to listen intently, clapping at a few certain parts, until one section hits him especially hard.
"Their words, mostly noises
Ghosts with just voices
Your words in my memory
Are like music to me."
He catches his breath, and feels his eyes begin to sting. He instinctively clenches and unclenches his fists together, and as Lienne and Alec's voices continue to fill the air, he can't take it anymore. He turns abruptly and pushes past those in his way.
"Cole!" Billie shouts after him. "What are you--" But he's already to far away. Still, she can't say those lyrics didn't strike a nerve.
He leaves the room, into the hallway of the hotel. He fumbles through his pockets and pulls out a pack of cigarettes, taking one out and putting it in his mouth, retrieving a lighter afterwards. He takes a deep drag after lighting, letting the nicotine calm his nerves.
He walks slowly through the hotel, and remembers the route Lucy showed him to the skyway. He finds it after a few minutes; it's empty, and he's free to enjoy the view alone.
Except it's not very enjoyable when he can't help but wish his dead girlfriend wasn't dead, and that she was standing next to him, looking out the same window he is. If they'd left a just an hour later he wouldn't have to wish for that.
"Hm. You smoke," says the familiar voice of Lucy from the other end of the skyway. She makes her way towards him, arms crossed.
"Sort of becoming a bad habit of mine," he responds.
"My dad doesn't like it, but I do it anyway. Got another?" He obliges and offers her one, and lights it for her. She takes a drag then removes the cigarette from her mouth, holding it with two fingers.
"Saw you left the party early," she remarks. "Not having fun?"
"Nah. It was fun. Lots of stuff on my mind though. And you were right. This is a good place to just relax and think."
"See? Socrates was right." She takes another deep inhale of her cigarette, the smoke quickly filling her lungs. She blows it out slowly. "Can I say something?"
"Of course," he responds.
"And I know it's probably none of my business, and this could be a terrible time to mention it, but I was talking to your friend Robbie earlier. That's his name, right?"
Cole nods. "Yeah."
"He told me a lot of stuff. And I know about...her. And I understand why you cancelled our dinner and...If I knew I wouldn't have come on so strong and everything. Sorry."
"It's whatever. Forget about it. Stuff happens, people die and...we move on. I'll deal with it in my own way."
"Good. That's good. It's tough, but you'll get past it. Trust me," she assures. "But you probably want to be alone, so I'll get going." She smiles bleakly and walks in the other direction. She turns, but continues walking backwards, and adds as an afterthought: "Thanks for the smoke, by the way."
"Anytime." Then, he feels this nagging feeling, and once he realizes what it's trying to tell him, he calls after her. "Lucy!"
"Yeah?" She turns at the exit.
"We can still have dinner, if you want. Friendly dinner."
"Sure. Friendly dinner sounds nice."
Marsh smashes his boot into the face of a collapsed infected. The skull cracks and an eyeball pops out. It's the next day, and he's on one of the Regency’s biweekly runs with a few other soldiers. One of his buddies, Porter, grimaces at the sight. "Gross, man," Porter says. "Gross."
"Just a little blood, Porty," Marsh responds. "Nothing to be scared of." He surveys the area around him; on his left, a building is in ruins, nothing more than brick and steel, and large office buildings line either side of the street. Directly in front, only a few stagnant cars make for any bumps in the road.
"Walgreens," says another soldier named Charlotte, the sniper from before. "Pharmacy."
They break the glass windows of the store, soaking in the sight of toppled over shelves and dead infected. It's eerily silent as they step over the glass and the dead, until they hear that one sound they all dread. A single groan comes from somewhere near the back of the store. "Porter, James, check it out," Marsh orders. "Charlotte, upstairs with me."
They separate. Marsh and Charlotte have their rifles drawn as they ascend the inactive escalator.
Porter and James journey through the obstacle course of shelves and corpses, looking for the source of the groaning. The single groan grows into several, then many, and they both clutch their rifles a little tighter. Then there's banging and the sound of wood breaking. Something topples over, and in an instant the infected pour out of the back storage room.
It's so unexpected, James's body freezes up. He stands there, terror radiating from him, his mouth hanging open. The barrel of his rifle is pointed, but he doesn't pull the trigger. He only begins to fire when Porter does. "What the fuck are you doing?!" Porter screams over the groaning and shooting. "Fall back!"
At the top floor, Marsh and Charlotte look over the balcony in disbelief, a disbelief that soon subsides as they bolt into action impulsively. They're soon back on the ground floor, firing with Porter and James.
Infected fall quickly as dominoes, but not fast enough. They have their backs against the wall against these infected--literally. There's no room for them to escape, lest they take a risk to run through the group to their right.
Porter makes a move to reload, but is grabbed. He swings his rifle in a wild circle but he's quickly taken to the ground, providing a distraction. For just a second, a large portion of the infected focus on devouring Porter's body.
They make their move. A small opening is available, and they rush through it. Marsh's shoulder collides with an infected, knocking it to the ground. Behind him, he suddenly hears a shrill scream. In the second it takes to turn his head, he sees Charlotte's leg get grabbed and her collapse onto the floor.
Marsh keeps running toward the entrance; there's nothing he can do now, and he knows this. But James must not; he stops dead in his tracks and screams Charlotte's name. James reaches out for her instinctively, but he's grabbed as well. Both of their bodies disappear under the hungry infected, and their screams fade in with the groans, leaving Marsh no choice but to run, alone, all the way back to the hotel.
- First and last appearance of James.
- First and last appearance of Charlotte.
- Last appearance of Porter.
- Song sung by Alec and Lienne: Set The Fire To The Third Bar by Snow Patrol feat. Martha Wainwright.