This is Issue #80 of Dead Frontier by Walkerbait22, titled Lucy. This is the second issue in Volume 14.
Issue 80 - LucyEdit
Cole leads Lucy to his room; he pulls out a stool from under the counter and taps on the cushioned surface. She sits, and he takes a seat on the stool next to her. "I just wanted to say, I'm really, really sorry. For yesterday. What I said--I was kind of being a dick, and I feel really bad. I didn't mean to...belittle any of the problems you've had or anything like that. I'd never mean to do that."
Lucy grabs a napkin and twists it around in her hands absently, looking down at the dark granite countertop. "I didn't mean to make you feel bad about it," she says. "I just wanted someone to know...they think it's all awesome and great being in my position. The kid of the big leader and politician. Of course, people have it worse, a lot worse, but I'm not living the perfect life over here. No one is. But don't feel bad."
"What is it like being the kid of the leader of the grand politician and leader, then?" Cole asks, scooting his stool forward a little. He rests his arms on the counter and folds his hands together.
Lucy scoffs and looks up at him for the first time. "You don't care."
"Why wouldn't I care? Of course I do."
"I thought we had an agreement to keep our relationship...the way it is. You know, me being that bitch you bring here every other night. Nothing more than that."
Cole sighs. "You're not...a bitch. You know how to fucking speak your mind, but come on, you're a cool chick. Well-spoken. Smart. What were you studying--journalism? Yeah, journalism. Salutatorian in high school, too."
Lucy gives him the smallest smile, but it's noticeable enough. "Didn't think you remembered I told you that stuff."
"Well, I did. And you seem to have a very interesting past that I, being the asshole I obviously am, didn't even bother to learn about, but the one you're going to tell me about right now." He leans forward, placing his elbows on the countertop and resting his cheek on his hand. "Story time, Ms. Brinkley."
"...Then--look. You need to understand that, before everything completely collapsed, the worst thing I had to deal with was deciding whether or not to hit the snooze button that morning. Or...which brand to buy or something. Stupid things like that. I didn't live this hard life where I had to, just, struggle every day, or worry... Most people think saying that is shallow, or even insulting, but I'm just telling the truth. Right? And I'm not ashamed of it.
"So you have to imagine when--” She’s forced to stop, because words she wants to say are too painful, although they’re true. And she has to find a way to come to terms with them, eventually. “When I had to see both of them as these--I don’t even want to call them things, because it’s much, much worse than that--but as these inhuman, disgusting, soulless...creatures...It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through and the worst thing I can imagine. I wouldn’t wish an experience like that on my worst enemy.
“Not being able to say bye to people you love.” Cole finds himself nodding his head at that, a small pang in his chest. An involuntary tear slides down her cheek and, impulsively, he grabs her hand. Everyone has those moments when they need someone to be their anchor, and right now, he needs to be hers. She looks up at him gratefully, but then looks down just as quickly. “Thanks,” she mutters.
“You don’t have to keep going. Not if you don’t want to,” Cole says.
“It’s nice having someone listen for once. And I’ve already gotten this far..."
9 months agoEdit
In the Hyatt’s lobby, which is scattered with overturned chairs and blood stains that cover the carpet, Alexander’s grip on Lucy’s arm is tight, absolutely no way he’s letting her out of his sight. “You’re not going back there!” he bellows. His shouting makes the banging on the front doors increase in strength and volume, the loud snarls and groans following suit.
“It’s Mom and Richard! What’s wrong with you?!” Lucy shouts back, once again trying to rip her arm away, but he won’t turn her loose. She bores her eyes into his, trying to make him see reason, trying to understand why he won’t let her go back for her own family.
“Do you realize they’re most likely dead? It’s chaos out there!”
“We won’t know unless we go back.”
“I’m not going back, and neither are you. You’ll die out there; I’m not risking it!”
“I’m going to bring them back here, Dad. Your wife and your son, and you’re telling me no?”
He releases his grip on her wrist and instead grabs her firmly by the shoulders. He lowers his tone as he speaks, now more calm. “Richard and your mother could be lost in all that chaos, or even dead. But you’re here right now, and you’re safe. I’m sure of it. And if I can keep you safe, I will. Alright?”
“No, it’s not alright!” She pushes him away, slamming her palms into his chest. He’s forced to let go of her shoulders as he delves into a coughing fit, clutching his chest with one hand. She takes this as her only chance and runs past him to the back exit that leads to the parking lot. A man with blood covering his face reaches out to her, moaning for help. She swats his hand away and he falls to the floor, his pleas going unheard.
Outside, Lucy scours the lot for her car. A middle-aged, pale-faced woman grabs her by the arms, screaming the name “Amanda.” Lucy apologizes hastily, explains she doesn’t know anyone with that name, and breaks free from the woman’s hold. She pulls out her keys and, before anymore insane, panicking people can look for her assistance, enters the driver's seat.
She slams her palm on the steering wheel, making the horn blare and forcing the people crowding the lot to move out of her way. The city streets are packed, and she can even see the occasional corpse roaming the street amongst the frantic people. The friend’s house at which her mother is staying should only be a twenty minute drive, but with the traffic it takes upwards of an hour just to reach the blocks surrounding the residence. But her worst fear only looks closer to being confirmed as the concentration of infected increases the longer she drives.
She lets out a small screech when an infected stumbles in front of her car; but she doesn’t hit the brakes fast enough and it crunches under the tires. There’s no other choice but to move on, and she cringes as she rides over the body and down the street.
“Twelve-fourteen, twelve-fourteen...” Lucy repeats under her breath, turning her head left and right as she looks for the corresponding address. A scream catches her attention, and looking in the rearview mirror a man waves her down, stumbling as he tries to run with a bleeding leg. Two infected limp after him and before he can shout again, they’ve got him pinned to the ground, ripping at his limbs. She looks away, her breathing rapid and palms sweaty, a few tears staining her cheeks.
Finally, she reaches the house labeled “1214,” but what she dreaded seeing appears right before her eyes, and the hope that her father was wrong dissipates quickly. On the porch lies a slaughtered infected, its mouth hanging open with a knife protruding from its forehead. The front door is wide open, and inside she can spot movement.
She reaches into her glove compartment, just for a moment pushing that fear out of her mind, and pulls out a small gun. Her only defense against these things. She closes the car door as quietly as she can, keenly aware of the infected that have already notice her as a result of the car’s engine. She grimaces at the corpse on the porch and holds her breath as she pulls out the knife, which makes a disgusting sound as the blade separates from the brain.
Groaning is the only noise she can make out from inside, and peeking through the open doorway reveals two figures stumbling around the torn apart living room--turned over chairs, a ripped couch, blood stains on the walls. Her father’s words ring in her mind. She knows he was right. She’s either going to find them here, ripped apart, or maybe they’re already gone. And she’ll never see them again. She realizes she’s taking too long, and she has to make a decision quickly, as a few infected that previously lingered around the street target her as prey. She enters the house, slamming the door shut behind her, and, without thinking, stabs one of the groaning figures in the head. It falls, its head splitting open as its temple collides with the coffee table. The other infected gets a similar treatment, but this time a stab to the face.
With no other immediate dangers in sight, Lucy drops the knife to the floor and doubles over. She manages to reach a small garbage can and throws up, the culmination of fear and disgust too much to handle. But she doesn’t take long and is soon looking through the house, yelling out names. “Mom? Richard? Susan?” she says, the latter being the name of the homeowner, one of her mother’s dearest friends.
No answer. In the hallway, blood paints the wall to her left, and swiping it with her finger reveals that it’s fresh. “Mom?” she whispers again, but it’s interrupted by a sob that manages to escape her mouth. Deeper into the house, the moans that have gotten all too familiar start up again. Lucy mutters under her breath, praying to no one in particular and strengthening the grip on her gun.
“Rich--” she starts, before a grotesque face pops out from the corner to her right and lunges at her. She’s forced to the ground, the gun clattering on the tile behind her, finally having found Richard but not in the form she’d hoped. Jaws snapping, the smell of his breath absolutely unbearable, skin and eyes an unnatural grey, Lucy’s older brother is out for her flesh. And as much as she wants to break down, this would be the worst possible moment to do so. Instead, she smashes her elbow across Richard’s face. His jaw pops out of its socket, and while he seems disoriented, Lucy uses her knees to push him away.
He groans angrily and tries to get back on his feet, but Lucy is already standing. But she can’t run away, because directly behind Richard is her mother and Susan, each sharing the same fate as her brother. She reaches down and grabs the gun, lifts it and aims at her brother first.
But she can’t pull the trigger. She wants to, knows she should, that he wouldn’t want to be like this but she can’t make herself do it.
So she runs back to the front door as Susan, her mother, and Richard give chase. She flings open the door and fires a shot into the head of one of the infected attempting to enter the house, and she gives a firm kick to the stomach of another. She leaps over them, running back to her car, not daring to look back at the people she once knew.
“And that’s it,” Lucy says at last. “Couldn’t even end their suffering, and they’re probably walking around like brain dead fucking monsters...There’s not a day I don’t think about that and hate myself for not fucking doing something. For letting them stay that way.” Now that she’s finally finished he places his left hand over their two clasped hands and squeezes as a last form of comfort. Words don’t really seem appropriate, since he knows nothing he says will be able to dissolve the hurt he caused with one small assumption. But he has to say something.
“I’m sorry,” he says finally, an inadequate phrase but the only one he can muster. “It’s my fault for even thinking--”
“Nothing’s your fault, so don’t apologize. Just thanks...for listening.”
“Anytime.” He makes himself smile, but she doesn’t return it. “Can I tell you something, Lucy?”
“Yeah. Go ahead.” She sniffles and quickly wipes away the moisture from her cheeks.
“I’m not going to lie and say I one-hundred-percent know what it’s like to be in your position," Cole says, "because I honestly don’t, but I’m sure most people...anyone who has someone they care about and was given the same decision you had to make wouldn’t react that much differently.
"Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t think about what you could’ve done, or any other ways the situation could have gone differently. That’ll only make it that much worse, trust me. If you think it was a mistake not ending it for the three of them, then you can think that. But don’t dwell on it. Never hang onto that one mistake, because that’ll just make everything harder. It’ll rip your apart from the inside out. D’you understand?” As he says it, he realizes he could follow that advice himself.
She nods quickly, and she can’t make the tears stop. Slightly embarrassed, she covers her face with both hands, leans her elbows onto the counter, weeping silently. Cole lets her continue for a few minutes, and heads to the bathroom to retrieve some tissues. She takes them gratefully and mutters thanks, then an apology.
“It’s alright. Do your thing,” he says. She manages to laugh and wipes her eyes. “Didn’t mean to make you cry.”
“You didn’t,” she assures. “I mean, you did, kind of, but it was a lot of stuff...Oh, God. This is embarrassing; I’m a mess. Let me just leave before this gets worse.”
“Wait,” he says as she stands from her stool. He realizes this Lucy, the one with her guard down and the harsh personality put to rest, is the one he was drawn to when he first got here. Past mistakes and betrayals set aside, and, being in a risk-taking mood, he leans in and gives her a kiss.
Unlike the past times he’s kissed her, it’s something different that he can’t quite place. “Look, I know we agreed to never let it get to this point,” he says, her face cradled in his hands, “but I needed to do that. And if you...if you just want to leave, I understand.”
She turns her head the glace at the clock, then turns back to face him. “No. No, meaning I want to stay,” she says, and he smiles. “We’ve got time, right?”