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The Eclectic Pen - The Day the World Turned Red

By: Blake B. (Blakeish)   + 6 more  
Date Submitted: 3/7/2009
Genre: Horror » United States
Words: 59,636

  Me and my friends did this story about a year and a half ago. Please tell me what you think.

The infection broke out six months ago. There are only estimates of how many survivors are left. Now they must find refuge with the military but to get there they have to cross the entire country which by now is infected with billions of zombies...
Nick Zarrack limped into the hospital building. He had pretty bad cut on his right thigh and it would get infected if he didn’t do something about it. There would be some antibiotics there still, even if all the hospital personnel were infected. He walked past the reception desk, rounded a corner and cocked his pistol. He looked around the corner. No sign of any infected. The halls were pretty dark with the exception of sunlight that poured from a few open doors. Nick never felt comfortable in hospitals and if his health wasn’t at stake, he wouldn’t have even thought about walking near one. He would have to find the pharmacy. A loud shriek echoed down the seemingly endless halls. An infected? Nick walked through a pair of swinging doors and through another door on his right. What he saw caught him off guard. A large pale skinned man in blood stained scrubs was standing there, back to the door. It was infected. He swallowed and flexed his his jaw muscles. He hadn’t been noticed. He slowly closed the door, and backed away. He backtracked and followed a different hallway.
He heard a sound he hadn’t heard in a long time. Someone was crying, and it was coming from the bathroom. He slowly walked to the door, unsure of what he would find.
Nick gently pressed on the door. He peered through the slowly widening crack. TWANG! A blood stained machete missed the crack and equally, Nick’s face, as it dug into the door jam. “Whoa! It’s okay, I’m Alive” Nick reassured the person, though the line between life and death has become much thinner and skewed. There was a brief silence. The door slowly opened and out came a woman of about 23 or so. She had grey eyes, red hair, and a bloody shirt and face. She had a pair of pistols hanging from her belt. She sighed in relief. "I'm sorry I almost killed you.” She smiled as she wiped away a few tears “Heh, I thought you were one of them." Nick had a million thoughts running through his head. *How is she still alive? Is she alone? What does she plan on doing to survive?* He looked at her, it wasn’t the time or place to play twenty questions.
"Hah. It's alright." He looked down at her blood soaked belt and at the weapons holstered on it. "Are you good with any of those?" He asked. "Yeah, I get a lot of practice around here..." She said. "Well, it’s a good skill now-a-days" Nick said with a laugh. “Anyhow, I need to find some antibiotics.” Nick said as he looked down the hall. “I’m pretty sure I saw the pharmacy on the second floor” the girl said. She had his full attention now. “So the second floor then?” She walked past him and into the hall, he followed close behind. They came to a door leading to the stairs. Payton peeked through the small window; all clear. They walked through the doors and started up the stairs.
There was dead silence in the hospital, except for the few sounds that would echo through the empty halls. *Them* thought the woman every time she heard noises.
"Nick Zarrack." he said. "What?" she replied. "My name, it’s Nick Zarrack." "Oh! Hey, Peyton Georgenson." [note, they will pick up an emergency flashlight on the next floor]
Cold and tired, Lindsay Collins sat crouched in a small storage room at the Treasure Coast High school. She was doing everything she could to stay awake but still found herself nodding off every now and again. *I can't keep going like this... I'll never make it.* She thought to herself. She adjusted her body, trying to fit more comfortably in the small space. She could feel every muscle in her body ache as she did this. *I need a plan...* She thought to herself long and hard, trying to come up with some way to make it out of all this alive. She finally decided that she couldn't go on much longer without falling asleep, and it would most likely be the end of her if that happened. She stood up, ignoring the pain in her left ankle and slowly began to open the door. She could here the moaning all around the building and felt her heart skip a beat. Breathing hard, her heart pounding, she slowly walked out of the closet and made her way over to the cafeteria. She walked carefully, looking around every corner and making sure not to be heard. The door to the cafeteria was open and with a sigh of relief she walked in cautiously. As far as she could see, there were none of them in the room so she closed the door as quietly as possible and got to work looking for what she needed. She whispered quietly while she worked, "C'mon, c'mon... there's got to be coffee around here somewhere... " She pulled open a cabinet and was happy to see a big container of instant coffee. Without thinking, she set her pistol on the counter and reached for the coffee. She walked toward the sink and began filling a cup. She turned off the faucet and began to listen. *I could've sworn... hmm... I guess it was just the running water.* She thought to herself. She then turned it back on and continued as before. She thought she heard a sound again, but waved it off, deciding that it was just her imagination due to the fact that she hadn't slept in over two days. She walked to the microwave and put in the coffee. As she waited for it to heat, she decided it wouldn't be a bad idea to get some food while she was here so she headed toward the pantry. She walked up, thinking about what she might want to eat and opened the door. As soon as she turned the doorknob and began to pull on the door, it burst open, hitting her in the head and pushing her to the floor. She was shocked at the sudden surprise and was lost on what to do for a moment. The infected was now making its way across the floor and toward her. It was slower than the normal ones and she guessed that something must have happened to its foot before it reanimated, causing it to limp instead of walk. After the shock had worn off, she reached for her pistol, only to feel an empty pocket. She cursed under her breath and ran for the counter where she had left the gun. As she stood to run, she felt a throbbing pain spike up her ankle and fell back to the ground. She began to panic, realizing that she couldn't stand and that the zombie was nearly two feet away. She could feel the tears welling up and decided that this was how it ended. The thought made her tremble with fear and she began to cry even more, letting the tears run down her face.
Lindsay wailed in pain trying to get up. Come on...girl.. get up, she thought to herself she could feel the tear drops running down her cheeks and fall to the floor like nothing. But to her, it meant infection.
It was coming near her every tear drop that fell to the floor, it took a step. She closed her eyes. She could hear it getting closer and closer. As she backed up in pain on the floor, like a wounded dog, she felt something touching the floor on her belt. the knife! she thought with relief. As it came closer, about to sink his teeth into Lindsay's skin, she pulled it out and slashed half of it's head right off. "Oh God.." she pulled the body into a closet and shut it.
Nick walked up a set of steps and opened a large metal door marked “Level 2”. It was dark, too dark to see anything. The only light crept from a small skylight at the top of the stair well. There was an emergency box at the top of another set of stairs to his right. *Please, oh please* Nick thought to himself as he ascended the stairs and opened the box. It was empty except for a mini fire extinguisher. “Looking for one of these?” Payton said with a sly smile as she pulled a miniature mag-light from her pocket. Nick smirked at her as he skipped down the stairs and followed her through the door. She looked back; Nick was right behind her, pistol cocked and ready. Nick looked back at her. She looked like she was a person who didn't take crap from nobody...for more reasons than one. "Do you see it," she whispered. "No, it's not in this hall either," he replied quietly. "You really need some stitches," she said looking down at his bloodied pant leg. He only nodded his head. "Are you a nurse?" He asked, walking as fast as he could. Payton laughed, "Yeah, I wish..." she trailed off as a loud roar sounded from the next corridor. He backed up to the wall and peered around the corner. If it weren’t for the fact that they were missing limbs and their scrubs were stained with blood, the two nearly motionless bodies standing there could have easily been mistaken for professional surgeons. Nick knew if he fired shots, it could attract others. He motioned Payton to quietly follow him, she nodded in agreement. They tiptoed across the hall, watching for any sign that they may have been spotted. About half way, one of the infected turned its head. Nick and Payton froze, their hearts were racing. Nick raised his pistol and was about to fire when Payton motioned him to lower his weapon. She pointed to its head. He realized why, the infected’s eyes were gouged out. They hadn’t been spotted, yet. They continued tiptoeing until they were out of hearing range. “That was close!” Payton whispered quietly. "I know." He answered simply, "Let's go." They rounded another corner. There it was, sealed behind a wire mesh reinforced window. They walked down a small corridor that ran perpendicular to the main hall. The door leading to the storage room was cracked. Payton shined the light on the door; it was covered with bloody hand prints. They entered and cautiously ensured they were the only ones home. There were shelves and shelves of bottles labeled from A to Z. They found tissue adhesive and bandages in a cabinet above a small sink. Nick washed out the wound with a wet cloth and applied the adhesive. It held the closed better than he thought it would. Payton handed him a bottle labeled “Amoxicillin- Oral Antibiotic”. He swallowed a pill and put the bottle in his pocket. He limped to the door, and looked at her, “Let’s get out of here”. Payton shined the light on the roof as they quietly followed the exit signs down the hall and through a pair of metal doors. They were greeted by the sun’s bright rays. It took them a moment to adjust to their new environment. "Do you want to come with me to the military base in Washington?"
Payton looked at him with the 'are you insane?' look. "I'm not insane, if that's what you're thinking." He said. "Heh, you can read my mind". He frowned at her. They started descending the emergency escape stairs. "Well, look it's the only chance we have of survival. If you want to stay here, run out of ammo, and get killed.. or infected"(she hated that word)"then I suggest you stay here. But if you want to live, then come with me." He said, with an irritated tone. "How do you know we're not going to die before we get to Washington?" She asked. "You know, you're really negative. Don't you have hope for anything?" said Nick.
She just looked to the side, as if they weren't having a conversation.
He regretted the words as soon as he said them. He wasn't usually bad tempered, and he didn't like being sour to matter how long he knew them. "I'm sorry," he said sympathetically, "I didn't mean to snap, it's just that, you were kinda lookin' on the down side of the situation...and I think that we stand a fairly good chance of surviving, if we play things smart…”
Her eyes were fixed on him as he apologized. "No, don't say sorry. I mean... heh. I was pretty negative. I'm sorry. I'm supposed to be encouraging you. We'll get through this." She said, her lips forming a smile. "So..." Nick said. "So, we should start moving. There's a gas station around here. We'll get a map there, okay?" he said.
"All right. I thi-" she was about to say something else, but she stopped. "Huh?" Nick said with a laugh. She just stood there with her eyes wide open staring over his shoulder. "What's wrong?.. Payton?!" "Run!” She screamed as she turned around and started a mad dash towards the front of the hospital. He turned his head. There was a horde of bloodthirsty infected working its way toward them. "Oh Crap!" he yelled to himself as he turned around followed her. They rounded a corner and froze. A 10 foot fence stood in their way. “Start Climbing!” Nick ordered. He had climbed fences when he was little, but never one this high or under this pressure. About half way up the fence there was a support bar. They pulled themselves up on it and paused. Nick reached for the top bar and pulled himself up, nearly falling to the other side. Payton tried the same but couldn’t lift herself. She stuck the toe of her boot into the fence and tried climbing. Nick had to do something, he could hear the horde, and they were getting close. He offered Payton his hand but realized there’s no way he could pull her up while staying balanced on the top. She was panicking and didn’t even notice. Suddenly, her right foot slipped, but she caught herself and managed to pull herself up. The monsters rounded the corner and smashed into the fence, causing Nick and Payton to fall on the other side. They stood up; nothing broken. “I didn’t think I was going to make it…" Payton said as she hugged Nick and cried on his shoulder. He was shocked at what was going on. He didn't answer her. The fence was rattling and from the crowd came shrieks and screams. He wanted to tell her that it was all right, and they would get through this, but he wasn’t so sure himself. He looked over Payton’s head. There was something in the distance, it was an RV.
“C’mon” Nick said as he started walking towards it. As they walked, Payton would turn every few feet to make sure the fence was holding. They reached the RV. Nick pulled the handle; locked. It took a moment to sink in. The door was locked. "What's wrong?" She asked. “Its locked” he replied.
Then as a thought seemed to come to her, she ran to the driver's side and shot the window out. Nick glanced at her, "Good idea," he yelled, over the howling of infected that was coming closer and closer, "but the window is way to high to jump into!"
She glared at him and cried, "Then give me a boost!" Nick immediately bent down and cupped his hands. She put one foot into it and thrust her up. She landed with a loud Thump. For one moment of dread he thought, "I barely know this woman, she might not even help me up!" But his worries were put aside as she stuck her head out of the window and yelled, "Look out!" He turned just in time to see an infected jump at him, he shot it with pure accuracy. Payton stuck her body out as far as she could go without falling. "Grab on!" She cried desperately, while more zombies rounded the RV on both sides. Nick knew he was about to die. He jumped as high as he could and barely grabbed onto her arms. She pulled with all her might...and actually pulled him through. She was very strong. He looked, and with so much relief found that the keys were in the ignition. "Hold on!" he yelled as he started the vehicle...
"Oh no.. what about the map?!" Payton yelled. "What?" "The map! We forgot the map! We were going to get a map in the gas station!" she shouted, her voice trembling. "Don't worry about it.. uh, we'll get one as soon as we lose them!" he said. Payton looked at the speedometer. 70,75,80. "I think we lost them." she said with a breath of relief, looking in the rear view mirror. "Yeah but we still have to keep a good eye around the streets" he said. "Yeah... Oh look! There's a gas station right there!"
"Crap, your right!" Nick pulled in at the last second. He opened the door and jumped out, he threw Payton his wallet, "Fill the tank up!" He called running to the small building. When he got in there, the whole store was trashed. Isles where littered with food packagings and blood. The sight of blood made him look around instantly. Payton was holding a gun while filling up the gas tank, looking at him, and mouthed *Found the map?* Nick shook his head and went to the counter, there was all different kinds of maps. He grabbed a whole bunch, just in case. He ran back to the entrance Payton was calling his name, there were more zombies heading their way. He dashed out to the RV, and shot three bullets into the nearest infected. Payton dropped the pump leaking out gas. An idea struck him, as the horde, once again, crowded the RV. He jumped into the drivers seat. Just as he thought there would be, there was a small lighter plugged into the dash board. "Payton," He said, "clear a path for us!" She stuck both arms out the window and began shooting the zombies that were in the front of the vehicle. She turned in her seat, "GO!" She yelled. He sped away "Hurry! Toss this out!" Nick hollered and handed her the lighter. She grinned and went to the window, "This is going to be a real fireworks display!" She threw it...and it landed right in the middle of the gas puddle. "Get down!" Nick pushed the pedal as far down as it would go. The RV lurched forward. An ear splitting explosion sounded from behind them. Nick stopped the RV and ducked down, Payton did the same. The RV was thrown forward, but did not tip over. Pieces of road hit it's back windows. After it quieted down, they both got up, and looked outside. There were bodies of zombies falling down from the sky, and littering the road. He and Payton looked at each other and laughed. "We showed those..." He trailed off as hundreds more of infected rounded the corner in front of them. "Will it ever end?" Payton whispered. Nick put the RV into reverse, spun around, and drove the opposite way from the zombies. "We might as well head to the grocery store, for some supplies." Nick said looking her way. She nodded, "We might even find more survivors."
Lindsay sat unmoving for a full minute, trying to comprehend what had just happened. The zombie was dead, she was alive... She could barely walk and felt like hell but she was alive. She knew the sound of the encounter would soon attract other zombies and she had to get out. She backed up towards the counter and lifted herself up, favoring her left ankle. Deciding to forget the coffee, she hopped toward the door and exited the kitchen. She was relieved to find that there were no zombies in the cafeteria but knew that by now, the halls would be flooded with them. She had to exit the building, and quickly. Spotting an exit sign above a small door in the far corner of the room, she slowly limped forward, making her way toward it. Reaching the door, she slowly began to open it, hoping against all hope that "they" wouldn't be out there. She held her breath as she peered around outside and was extremely grateful that the coast was clear. She had no plan and nowhere to go, but she kept moving, praying to whoever might be listening that she would make it out of this alive.
They pulled into the parking lot of Walmart. "Okay," said Nick. "You go in the store and get food and I'll get some tires for the car just in case something happens. If you get attacked, oh gosh, just scream." Payton nodded her head. She looked both ways before crossing the street to the super center, but Nick suspected it was out of habit and being alert for infected. He ran into the store and he lost sight of her.
Nick walked into the store, Payton behind him. "What took you so long?" He asked. "I was afraid...I've never seen so many infected running that fast before." She huged herself. Nick knew he should say something to comfort her, but nothing came to him. "Okay, we'll have to split up. You get the food, and I'll get some weapons and anything else I can find." Payton nodded and walked over to a shopping cart. She grabbed it and led it to the food section. He took in a breath and dashed to the weapon section.
Payton was pacing back and forth through the refrigerated section. She heard a sound coming from behind the corner of the next isle. She gasped as she looked back quickly. She turned around and faced the corner from where the sound came from. She heard someone walking in the next isle on the right. She couldn't see who it was. "N-nick? .. Nick.. is that you?" No answer. She separated food containers on the shelf to see who was walking in the next isle. She cursed under her breath when she discovered an infected was walking in the isle right next to her. She reached for her pistol.

Meanwhile, Nick was in the weapons section. ak47..ak47.. he thought to himself. "Oh, thank God." He broke the glass carefully not to attract any possible infected in the store. Payton! he thought. Why is she taking so long? He took out the weapon. He suddenly heard a the shot of a gun. "Payton!" He started running as fast as he could. "Payton! Where are you?" He stopped to look in isle seven which was near the refrigerated section. He heard a harsh breathing in the next isle. "Payton.." He found her croutched in a corner with her eyes wide open, rocking back and forth, her arms locked above her chest. Her hands were stained with blood and shaking. "Oh my G0d.. Payton.." He bent down next to her and tried removing her thin hands from her body. She wouldn't let go, she was shaking. "It's okay Payton. What happened?" She finally let him remove her hands. "Oh my G0d." From her neck down she had a deep wound. "Payton, who did this to you?" She moved her eyes to the left and Nick saw bare feet on the ground on top of a puddle of blood. "Okay Payton.. we have to get you to a hospital." He tried picking her up but she was too tense and she didn't want to move.

He finally picked her up and she started to cry. "Payton.. look at me! Everything's going to be fine."
Nick's shoulder was drenched in blood by the time he finally got Payton to lean on him. She was bleeding a lot. They didn't really need to go all the way back to the hospital, Nick had grabbed some things when they were there, before being chased out by the zombies. They passed by the infected that had done this to her. It was dead on the floor, but it's nails were almost as long as Nick's whole arm. He gapped in horror. He'd never seen that before. A roar resounded from somewhere in the store. Crap. The gun shot must have alerted other infected. The shopping cart was still in the isle. He decided that after he had bandaged Payton up he would come back for it. He pulled his pistol out, the ak-47 was to large to carry in one hand, he set it down on the cart. Then he and Payton slowly made their way to the entrance. Something passed by in the corner of Nick's eye. He turned around, Paton moaning at the sudden movement. The was nothing there except for an empty isle.
Nick's heart skipped a beat. Everything suddenly seemed very quiet.
He held the pistol tighter. Payton was losing way to much blood for this distraction. He started off again. Then an earsplitting roar sounded from above them. Nick looked up in horror an infected had jumped onto the shelves. Claws as long and as wide as his arm. And as sharp as a machete. It jumped down in front of them. Nick pulled his pistol up, as soon as he did that the zombie shot it's claw forward slicing his hand making him drop the pistol. He cried out in agony. Payton fell off to his side. She screamed when she saw the zombie that loomed only a few feet away. The infected took one step forward and charged at him, taking no notice of Payton, she crawled slowly behind the zombie as Nick tried holding it off with his bare hands.
Struggling, Nick tried pushing off the infected as it kept trying to sink his sharp teeth into his neck. He looked around. Where was Payton? Pushing with all his might, Nick kicked the infected forward causing it to fall. As soon as it fell to the ground it got up starting to charge at Nick again. He reached for his pockets. No knife, no pistol, nothing. Nick knew this was how it was going to end. He would die and Payton... No, Payton would live. She would survive.
All these thoughts were racing through his head like a car going 100 mph. I'm dead, he thought. This is it, I'm going to die. The zombie was running towards Nick. All of a sudden, the zombie stopped, twitching about four times. "What the-?" It fell to the floor dead with four knives in it's back. He saw Payton a few feet away from behind the body. She ran to Nick taking out scissors, and a gauze bandage. "No, no.. we'll do it in the RV. For now let's put the body somewhere so it doesn't attract any more infected." Payton nodded. " sure're going to be..okay?" It was hard for her to speak with the gaping wound she had in her neck. "Yeah, don't worry about me, it's just a cut. Heh." Payton helped him up. As they took all the food and weapons, walking in the parking lot, Nick looked at his cut. It was getting worse, and it wouldn't stop bleeding. Payton looked at him. "Are you sure you're all right?" "Yeah I'm... fine." He said putting his hand over the wound.
In the RV Payton was pouring alchohol on his wrist. "Stop whining! You sound like.. my cat when I.. had to give him his shots. Heh." Nick looked at her with a smile. He looked at her neck. "What about you? We need to change your bandage. It's full of blood and you're still bleeding." She didn't answer him. "Hey. I said we need to change your bandage." He said again. She looked up. "Oh yeah. Um, I'll do it in a bit." He frowned at her. "We'd better start..moving. I'll drive." He looked up. "Hey, no. You're making me feel like I'm a little boy that needs rest. I mean, it's just a cut. Heh." Payton sat on the chair. "Sorry." She coughed up blood.
Nick had turned away, but when he heard the gargling noise he turned back around, Payton was coughing and coughing. He had no idea what to do, he ran to the back of the RV and grab a bottle of water and a fresh bandage. Payton had stopped coughing blood,. but she was still coughing. He gave her the bottle of water, she began to drink vigorously. then with the water that was left, poured it onto the wound she had on her neck. Then he put the bandage on. "Alright?" He asked. She nodded her head and sat in the passenger seat. Nick got in the drivers seat. "Well...what now?" he asked, not expecting her to answer. But she manged to rasp, "I don't think we should leave town just yet. We might find some more survivors." Nick nodded, and started the RV up. "So I guess we'll just drive around until we see someone..."
"Oh God." Payton said, moaning. "What's wrong?" "I think...I'm going to barf." He looked at her wide eyed. "Are you serious? Like, right now? You're going to throw up?" She nodded. "Yeah." He cursed with an angry tone in his voice. Payton frowned at him, holding her stomach. "Whoa, Nick. Like.. I'm SO sorry I have to barf. And I'm SO sorry that I got attacked by an infected! And-" He stopped the RV. She looked at him. ", God, Nick!" He stood up. "Hold it! I'm sorry! It's just that, we've stopped at least a hundred times, and... it took you like an hour to look for some food. I'm sorry! I'm just.. so.. tired. Jesus,Payton I'm tired!" he said. She looked down. She stood up and and walked to the back. "Where are you going?" he said with a sigh. She picked up a bucket. "Payton! Where are you going?" She threw the bucket on the floor. "You want to know something? I want you to leave me alone." He started walking towards her."Payton! I said I was sorry, okay?" "Yeah you said it but you're not sorry, Nick." She picked her machine gun up. "What are you doing?"
"I need some time alone."
"Oh believe me Payton, if you go out there right now, you're definitely not going to be alone."
"Don't follow me." She picked her bag up and opened the door. "You know what?" he said, "you're real sensitive! You don't care about anyone but yourself."
"That's because there ISN'T anyone! Don't you get it? Everyone's dead! Everyone! ..I have no family left. Everyone!" He was about to say something else when there was a huge roar coming from the other side of the street. "Payton... look you have to get in the car! Just forget about what happened! Please?"
"Leave me alone." She started walking away. The infected were coming closer and closer. "Payton! Get in the freakin car! Look. I'm sorry I'm really sorry!" She looked back at the horde of zombies coming towards them. She sighed. "Fine..." She said with a smile. She got in the RV. "I'm sorry too. I'm just having a really hard time. I've lost everything. I know I've been a pain." "Are you going to barf? Heh." "no I'm feeling better." They smiled at each other. A loud sound came from the roof of the RV. It shook it. "Hold on!" Nick said, pushing the petal. They ran over so many infected, the tires were starting to wear off.
Nick laughed until his sides hurt. He hadn't had this much fun in months. He hated the infected. He wanted total revenge on what they had done. Nick pushed the accelerator. A thump sounded as the RV hit a zombie. "You know, this is kinda sick." Payton said, looking like she was about to laugh. "I don't care, these things wiped out the human race, 'cept for a few people. I don't care if this is inhumane. They're not human."
Payton shrugged and went back to the couch to lie down. Nick pulled out of a small intersection and made a right turn. "We'll try the schools first. There might be some terrified little kids around still alive." Payton responded with a grunt. "We'll start at the elementary schools first." Nick drove across town. After about an hour they arrived to a school. Nick grabbed his gun and a knife that Payton let him have. He hesitated at the door. Payton was sitting up now, looking at him.
"I guess you're not comin'?" She shook her head, "Maybe at the next school, I need my strength back." Nick nodded and walked out the door. He was in front of the school. The place was trashed. MORNINGSIDE ACADEMY. That was the schools name. He ran the rest of the way to the school. Nick opened the glass doors cautiously. No sign of any infected. He went to the gym. Nothing insight here either. Nick checked the whole first floor. Absolutely no sign of any infected. But there where signs of a struggle. Maybe back from when the infection first broke out. He went to the elevator. He pressed the 2nd floor button. The elevator gave a small lurch then went up. It's weird that there was no infected around. Then with a jolt he remembered why he was in the school in the first place. There where no children around either. The doors parted to reveal an open hallway. He walked over to one side. He saw the RV. But there wasn't any infected around it. Or in the parking lot. Strange.
Almost everywhere you turned in what was left in the city there was infected. But none here. He walked over to some class rooms and looked inside the small glass window. Nothing everything was dark. Nick stood straight again. He walked to the cafeteria and heard...voices. Voices! Nick dashed to the door and looked in the window. But what he saw, wasn't what he was expecting. Teenagers and small children no older than ten, where all on top of table stuffing their faces with food from the cafeteria. They all had guns. And strange tattoos on they're faces and skin. Then one kid turned to the doors. Nick's eyes widened. He dived onto the ground. The windows shattered with gun fire. Then two tall teens came out. "Are you infected!" Nick tried to get up, but one of them put his foot on Nick's back. "Are you infected, or I frigging swear I'll shoot your guts out! Now answer me if you're not infected!" He bellowed. "No I'm not infected, you idiot, now get off me!" Nick shouted. The two of them grabbed Nick and hauled him up. They were amazingly strong and he couldn't wriggle out of their grasp. "Bring him here!" A voice called from inside the cafeteria. They turned Nick around. All the teens and kids where behind the one teenager who had spoken. "Bring the infidel here." Infidel! But Nick held his tongue. "What is your name?" Nick guessed he was their leader. Nick didn't answer him. One of the teens holding him punched him in the mouth. "He asked you a question!"
Nick spit a tooth out. That was one of the strongest punches he had ever gotten hit with. "Nick Zarrack." He spit out blood. "Well, Nick Zarrack, why are you in our territory?" Nick glared at him, "Sorry I didn't see it on the map." Another punched in the gut silenced him. "That mouth could get you into a world of trouble, Nick Zarrack. I am Echo. And these are my followers. We are the rulers of this city. It is ours. We are the all powerful. We are infected, yet we don't crave the flesh of humans. Quite the opposite actually. We crave the flesh of the infected." Nick's eyes widened in horror as he looked more closely at the food they were eating. It was the infected bodies. He immediately threw up. Echo laughed in his throat. "How can you be infected and not look like the rest of them?" Nick asked sickly. Echo looked like he was about to answer, but then stopped and looked proudly at his followers. "I don't know. All that I know is that we have the strength and speed of the infected and we were chosen above the rest to have this power." Nick looked up at him. "So what are you going to do with me?" He asked. Echo laughed again. "Why of course we have to kill you my good man. We can't have infidels running a muck around the streets." Nick's eyes widened. Echo took a step down, "We will give you about five seconds to run. Then we will come and kill you." Echo had a glint in his eye of pure hatred. "Now GO!" Nick backed up slowly and ran as fast as he could. "I need to get to the RV!" He thought desperately as thunderous foot steps came running up behind him...
She looked down at her hands and shuttered. *Is it really worth it?* Elaine slipped her thick leather gloves back on her deformed hands. Six months had passed since the Infection. This recent mutation had only started yesterday; she was trying to get used to the horror. It was a total mystery to her as to how it occurred. Her whole story was an enigma, something very rare. Before this zombie outbreak in America, in fact, five years prior, she had been aware of the virus, as used in the African forests. It was experimented upon for mind control, for world domination. She was one of the scientists. She was also one of the experiments.
Elaine Scott was currently living secluded, in a secret, underground tunnel. She didn't want to come into contact with any infected; but worse, she didn't want to face an uninfected. She refilled her 9mm, and slipped it into her utility belt. She walked over to a picture of her boyfriend, lost to the virus. A tear formed and fell from her eye, as she pressed her fingers to her lips, and then to the young man's face. "Billy...." Elaine knew she couldn't keep living in her cave dwelling. Her food supply was running low. "I'm sorry, but I'm leaving. I can't stay here... I know, there isn't a lot to live for... but I know there are others out there that could use my knowledge. I know you'd understand, Billy..." And with that, Elaine Scott left her cave with her 9mm in her belt and a picture of her love in her wallet. She pulled her hood over her head, so none might recognize her should anyone spot her, and she left her cave.
Payton was beginning to fall asleep. Where the heck was Nick? She looked out the window. No sign of him. She was beginning to feel much better, so she thought she'd go on a walk. She grabbed her gun and machete. She kicked the door open and jumped out. There was no infected either. She walked around the RV just to make sure none would creep up on her. None. She ran to the main school entrance. Still no sign of Nick. She walked to the elevator. Then she heard something. It sounded like running upstairs, but a lot of something was running. She pressed the elevator button. Crap! The elevator wasn't working. She ran to the stair well. She ran as fast as she could. She could hear her heartbeat. "Nick?" No answer. But a loud-almost animal like- screech came from down the hall. Then, Nick came charging down the hall. "Nick!" Payton yelled, "What on earth is taking so frigging long?!" "Payton," Nick yelled at the top of his lungs, "RUN!!!" Nick barreled past her, grabbing her arm. Turned in time to see dozens of people running after them. But, they didn't look like infected. Why on earth would Nick be running from non-infected? "Nick!" She yelled while running down the stairs, "Why are we running?!" Nick jumped the rest of the way, Payton right behind him, "Payton! Just freakin' run!" Nick cried in desperation. The screeches were getting louder and thunderous foot steps were coming from behind them down the stairs. They ran into the small courtyard that led to the pathway, which led to the RV. Which appeared at the moment, to be their only sanctuary. Then two teenagers, jumped down from the hall over them. "Crap!" Nick yelled. "Shoot them Payton!" Nick ordered. Payton glared at Nick, "Why on earth would I shoot these two kids!" They lunged at Payton and Nick, "Payton, NOW!" She pulled her gun up and shot them, each, in the chest. She felt more bile in her throat, but Nick grabbed her arm and dashed off for the RV. She looked back, more of the teens where coming behind them. Finally they got to the side of the RV. Payton opened the door and practically flew inside. No sooner had she done that, the teenagers threw their bodies into the RV. "Oh G0d!" Payton cried out as Nick came in. "Get off the truck!" She yelled to them pointing her pistol to the windows. One infected flung his body to the side of the RV and made it tilt. "Oh CRAP!!" cried Nick. "What's wrong with them?!" she screamed. "They're freakin infected!" Nick said as he put started the car. Payton looked at him in horror. "Wh-what do you mean.. they're infected?!" She whined. "I don't know! They just-" Another infected flung his body to the RV, which made it tilt to the left. "Drive!" Payton screamed. "I'm trying!" Too many infected were hitting the RV. "MAN!" yelled Nick. An infected flung his body on the left side of the RV. It made it stop tilting to the left. "Go!" Payton screamed. He pushed the petal as hard as he could. They starting driving with a couple infected hanging on to the RV.
Nick turned so sharply that he felt the RV tip a little bit onto it's side. He leaned the opposite way, Payton doing the same. It came back down on all four wheels. He wasa silently urging the RV to make it to the entrance. He would rather be an infected than be held captive, or killed, by those half-infecteds. They reached the entrance, made the last turn, and were on the main road again. "We lost them." Payton murmered looking out the rear-view mirror. Odd. They had really wanted to rid the world of non-infected. So why would they give up so easily? He shook the thoguht off. They were away, and that was the important part. "What on earth just happened?" Payton asked. Nick explained all that he had seen and about Echo and how he and his followers hated the non-infected. She went to the back, saying she needed to throw-up again. When she was done she came back and sat down. "Well what now? Go to Washington? Or look for more survivors?" Nick reallly did not want to go to anymore schools. But he still wanted to look for more survivors. "I think we should drive around town one more time to look, but if we don't find anything, we'll head for Washington?" Payton nodded, "Okay." "Okay." He replied. They drove to the south part of the town, which did not hold much, only a few infected wandering aimlessly about. Then they came upon more schools. He turned onto another street, and stopped the RV. There walking in the middle of a road, was a girl. At first he thought she was infected, because she was limping, but then he saw the pistol in her one hand, a knife in the other. Zombies could not hold knives and guns. Payton looked at him with hope in her eyes. He gleefully pushed the gas pedal, coming around to the side of the young woman.
It had been nearly an hour and Lindsay had easily avoided most of the infected. She knew to stay away from the large hordes and walked mostly in small alleyways where she didn't expect to see any. There was always the stray zombie that would walk her way, but that was taken care of with a quick bullet to the head. Her head was throbbing from lack of sleep and she was reminded of her hurt ankle with every step she took. She realized that she would need sleep soon or she might end up passing out and getting eaten alive. The alleyway she was walking through opened up to a large main road. She spotted a small convenience store straight ahead. *I can't risk being seen but I need to stop and rest sometime?* She limped more than walked across the road trying to be as silent but quick as possible. She heard something coming behind her and jerked around, pistol in hand. Surprised but relieved at seeing that it wasn't a zombie, she lowered the gun. "What the..." Coming her way was a large RV, and driving it was a person... a real, living person. She could hardly believe what she was seeing! There are still people out there? survivors? Of course she had assumed as much... but after seeing nothing but the living dead for so long she kinda just lost hope altogether. The RV pulled up next to her and the man driving got out. Lindsay found herself staring dumbly as he walked her way and she quickly looked to the ground instead. "Hey, uhh... you are umm... wel-"
"Human?" Lindsay asked before he could finish. "Heh... Well yeah, human."
"No, I'm not... I'm actually infected and rather enjoy eating flesh." She said sarcastically. The man's face went blank. "Are you serious?"
"Of course I'm not serious! Are you kidding me? Do I look like a man-eating zombie to you?!" She snapped. "Whoa, chill out! No, of course you don't look like one of... them... it's just that... man, you wouldn't believe what I've seen today!"
She chuckled. "I doubt that. After all that's happened these past couple of days, I'd be willing to believe anything."
"Yeah... well hey, listen. We've really got to get a move on and well you know... I was thinking that maybe if you'd like to come with us then..." He paused.
"Well... I mean I guess if it's no trouble..."
"Of course it's no trouble! Get in." He smiled. Lindsay smiled back and walked towards the RV. "Oh! By the way, I'm Lindsay." The man looked her way. "Cool, I'm Nick." He said with a grin. "Nick... nice meeting you. And umm... thanks." She turned, opened the door, and got in.
Nick climbeed in the driver's seat. Lindsay and Payton exchanged friendly greetings, "So..." Lindsay said slowly, "where are we headed?" Nick glanced at her, "Well, the military is making a stand in Washington State. So that's the number one choice at the moment. But, before we get going though, we'll look around the city one more time before we go." Payton gave an exasperated sigh, "Nick, how many times are we gonna search this whole dang city?!" Nick glared at her, "Well, since we found her," He gestered to Lindsay, "There's bound to at least some more survivors." Payton shrugged and looked back at Lindsay, "So, where were you when the infection broke out?" Lindsay looked down. "I was in my school, a senior there, it was the day before I would graduate, we were rehearsing, when my teacher got the call." She gazed out into the windshield, "She was told to stay in doors until the military gave the all clear. WE didn't know what was going on, and we never found out, the teacher only ran out the exit door. I guess she was worried about her family or something," She choked, tears came to her eyes, "A-as soon as she ran outside, one of those...things jumped onto her, tearing her intestines out. Then more of them came, and began to infeste the entire school. And I've been there ever since yesterday, when I finally left. And that's where I was during the outbreak." Payton put a hand on her back and looked sympathetically at Nick. He blink and turned away. The poor thing had never even got to say good-bye to those she loved. "What about you two?" Lindsay asked, wiping tears away. Nick had never told Payton where he was during the infection either. "Well," he began, "I was with my grandparents at the time, I was visiting." He smiled to himself, "My granmdother was trying to teach me to nit, even though i'm 28. She never seemed to realize that I wasn't her little boy anymore. I had lived most of my childhood with them. You see, my after mom died, Dad became...unstable, and he would hit me...he even broke my leg. That's when grandma and grandpa found out he was hitting me. They reported him and took me away with them. I was only eleven. I went into law enforcement, I wanted to put a stop to abusive parent. He swallowed. "Anyway, Granpa was watching the news, 'Quiet!' He said, Grandma turned to give him a smart remark, but she stopped short when she saw the tv." He spoke softer, "They showed infected attacking everything in their path. Killing anything that moved. The anchorman said for everyone to stay indoors until the infection was over." His voice cracked. "Grandpa instantly went outside. Grandma yelling at him about what the news man had said." I jumped up and ran to the front door, "Granpa was yelling at some person who was walking on our lawn. Turns out, he was infected. Nick stopped the RV, he knew he was about to sob, he did not want to crash, "Granpa was obbsessed with his lawn, and hated when people walked on it. He walked over to the man-the infected. He was attacked...and bitten. H-" Nick's voice cracked again as he began to let his tears fall. "HE came inside, Grandma put some dis-infectent on it. He turned into an infected. He bit my Granmda. She became infected. They both attacked me. I ran to my car...and drove away." He began to sob, "I loved my Granparents more than anything in the world. And they were taken from me before their time. I promised myself that I would
kill whomever had created the virus. And that promise still stands." Nick calmed down, "And that's where I was during the outbreak."
The tunnel walls were moist. It was cool and breezy, but fairly difficult to breathe underneath the ground. The tunnel had been an underground railway, but was abandoned a hundred years ago, when part of it had collapsed, killing forty people in a train above the ground that had been crossing at the same time as one from underneath.
Elaine Scott kept walking, flashlight in hand, as she passed by bones and fossils. "All right..." she said to herself, thinking out loud. "This route will take me..." she thought about it, realizing she didn't know where she was going. The last she had checked, she was headed east. Eastward from nowhere in particular. "Hah, I'm lost." She wasn't upset; in fact, she was getting somewhat excited. Where will fate lead her this time?
Last time, it was to Africa, on a venture to save innocent people from a viral infection by formulating a certain vaccine. What she didn't know, however, was that she was merely a pawn in the grand scheme of things. When Elaine was called, she was told that their mission was to save the population of the country; but then, without giving notice to the other chemists involved, the African government secretly placed something in the formula that would alter the genetic code, that when injected into a host would supposedly go straight to the brain and make them obedient to whatever they were ordered to do.
"Everything will be better this way! Everyone will follow the rules, everyone will be good; no more bad guys. It'll be a perfect world..." That's what Elaine was told before she ran away. She'd been hiding ever since.
Of course, no one was told of this plan; it was all under wraps. The whole world believed that it was a good thing gone bad; a vaccine that was supposed to save the world had mutated under extreme conditions. That's what they were told, and that's what the world believed. Anyone who was told otherwise, unless authorized ahead of time, would be killed. Elaine had been told.
Now she was in America. She'd been walking for five days now, finding a way out of the tunnel for food every night. ...
He had escaped him. Nick Zarrack had escaped him. Echo hated all the non-infected. Because of what they had done to him. The infected were just a nuisance to him. He wanted the humans scraped from what was left of this earth. Echo did not feast apon the infected like the rest of his followers. He was the only successful expiriment, so he ate regular food. His followers were screw-ups. That's why they followed him. One of his followers, Fang, walked in. "What now, Echo?" Echo glared at him. He was the one that had lost Zarrack. Fang was his right hand man. And he had failed Echo. You have failed me Fang. I'm sorry, but you must die." He stood up. Fang backed away. Echo raised his hand. His nails began to grow. They grew longer and longer, until each nail was about three feet long. It was an agonizing pain, when they grew. And he only unsheathed them when he punished one of his followers, or killed a human. Echo stepped forward. "You may defend yourslef Fang, you served me well enough that you at least deserve that much." Fang brought his fists up, but as he was doing that Echo flung himslef at him, claws outstreched. Fang dodged, but Echo scored into his side. Fang yelped in agony. Echo did a backhanded claw attack, that sent Fang's head rolling across the floor. Echo slid his claws back in, which was even more painful than taking them out, the pain brought him to his knees. More of his followers burst into the room, and looked in horror as the saw Fang's limp body on one side of the room, and his head on the other. Echo stood up. "Gather all my followers, we will scout this planet and kill any humans we meet." I'm coming for you Nicholas Zarrack, He thought to himself, you and what's left of the human race.
Payton looked down at the ground. She wished she hadn't been with everybody she loved when it happened. Everything she owned. It was gone. She'd never see it again. Everybody she loved. They took them all away. Zach... she thought. If you would've- "Are you okay?" Nick said, interrupting her train of thought. She put her hand on his arm. She wanted it to seem like she was sorry for him at the moment. "I'm so sorry for you." She said with a tear running down her cheek. "I don't feel well." she said standing up with her hands on her stomach. "I need to move around. Like.. Go for a walk." "Hey it's getting dark, maybe you shouldn't. It could be pretty dangerous. How about you just lay down?" Nick said reaching for a bottle of water.

"What about you?" Lindsay said. "What?" Payton said sitting back down and taking a drink of water. "Like, where were you when it happened." Nick replied. Another tear fell down Payton's cheek. "I...I was with my family, my fiancé and his family. They were all at my apartment for a good bye party. I was leaving to the air force the next day to be a pilot for the navy." Nick interrupted her. "You were going in the navy?"

"Yeah. I would also be in the science labs there."
Nick nodded his head. "Wow. You would probably have a lot of work to do in there. What would you be studying in the labs?" said Lindsay. "I would probably be researching diseases, and viruses. Stuff that the government only kept. That's why I chose that career. I wanted to see what they were doing in there. Pretty stupid reason to go in that career, right? Heh." Payton said. "No, actually that's pretty cool. That would've been an awesome career." Nick replied. "You can keep going with your story if you want to." Lindsay said. Payton nodded. "Anyway, at the party they put on the radio for the music and it was interrupted by the news to tell about the virus and how it was infecting many that were alive. We looked out the window and there were..infected walking towards my apartment. We heard screaming and roaring down stairs in the building. Everyone started to panic. I ran to my room and grabbed, all my other weapons that I could get in on my belt as fast as I could. We heard all sorts of commotion downstairs. I told everyone to stay calm, but my mother was panicking way too much she didn't listen. She opened the door and ran out into the hallway hoping to get to the car sooner. She was looking for the stairs. We all tried running after her but an infected jumped on her and...she was killed. My father fell and he didn't want to get up. Everyone started panicking and they all ran to my room. My younger sister tried running after my mom, I tried pulling her back put she wouldn't listen she ran to my mom.. She was attacked. I tried shooting all the infected that were trying to get through the door. They killed the rest of my family. And my fiancé... was killed while running for his dad. I managed to kill the rest off." She paused for a moment and started crying. Nick and Lindsay didn't talk to her for the moment. She needed to pour out to someone. She needed to do this a long time ago. She stopped and rubbed her face. "Sorry." She said "You probably think I'm..".
"Sorry for what? Hey, you need someone to talk to. That's why we're here. We're going to get through this. Together." Nick said holding her hand. Payotn looked at Nick for a moment. She turned red. There was a silence. "I'm so sorry. I really feel for you." Lindsay said putting her hand on her shoulder, trying to break the silence. "Heh. Sorry I talked your ears off. You guys must be tired of hearing me." Payton said wiping another tear. She hated crying in front of people. "Hey it's fine. Don't worry about it." The was a long pause. "Well," Nick said, starting the RV, " I guess we should just head for Washington, I highly doubt that there are any survivors here."
The RV plowed through some more of the zombies. If they took turns driving non-stop, they would be able to reach Washington in a little over a week. Lindsay was driving, Nick was in the back with Payton. He and Payton were playing a hard core game of solve the riddle. "Ok I've got one," He announced, loud enough so that Lindsay could hear him as well, "What gets wetter and wetter the more it dries?" He grinned, knowing that they would never get it. "A towel." Lindsay replied from the front. Nick gaped at her, "How on earth-" Lindsay looked back smiling, "I was always fond of riddles." Payton laughed on the opposite side of the couch. Nick glared at her. "Ok your turn." He muttered. Payton thought for a moment, then said loudly, "What goes up the stairs, but never moves?" Nick thought for a moment. But before he could answer, Lindsay yelled from the front, "Guys! Look!" Nick jumped up, Payton right behind him, and ran to the front. "What?" He and Payton said at the same time. Lindsay pointed, indicating something on the side of the road. Nick looked closer, adjusting his eyes to the darkness outside. "It's a person...and a car!" Payton said quietly. Nick grabbed his pistol and ran outside. "Hello?" He yelled. A groan came, but not that of a zombie moan. They were words. Nick ran over and helped the person up. He was an elderly man, maybe in his early seventies or late sixties. "Uhhnn" The man let out another groan. "Let's get him into the RV Payton said, then turned and raced back the the vehicle. Nick glanced at the car, was the old man driving it? He helped the man back to the RV. When they were inside, he gently put the man on the couch. Payton came with some water, the old man drank it graciously. "Thank you, kids." He said when he was done drinking. Nick nodded his head. "What's your name?" Payton asked softly. "Ronald. Call me Ron." "Were you the one driving that car?" Ronald nodded, "Zombies attacked my car."
Ron drank more water until he finished the bottle. "Do you want some more?" Payton said. "Yeah, that would be great. Another bottle." Payton gave him another bottle. She watched him gulp down the next bottle down. "Were you dehydrated?" Payton asked giving him more water. He took a few more gulps then he put the water down. "Yeah. I was. And I thought I was sick. I thought I might be infected. What are the symptoms.. of being infected or whatever?" "I don't know. I wouldn't actually call them symptoms. More like... reactions that never go away heh, because you don't get better." said Payton. "You loose a lot of hair. And you don't grow it back. And..wait. Were you bitten while they attacked your car?" she said. Ron looked down for a moment." Naw.. I wasn't bitten. But they did scare the heck outta me." He said with a chuckle. "How long have you been dehydrated?" said Payton. "Look honey, I'm not at a doctor's office." said Ron. Payton paused. She sat down. Ron took another gulp of the bottle. "Well. Where will I sleep?" He said putting his feet up. "You can sleep there" said Nick pointing to where Ron was already laying down. Payton rolled her eyes. "You have a problem, honey?" Ron said with a smirk on his face. She got up and walked to the front seat with an irritated look on her face. Ron chuckled and gulped the rest of his water down. Nick walked over to Payton. He put his hand on her shoulder. "Hey I know.. he's a bit-"
"A bit sucky?" She interrupted him. Nick smiled. "Yeah. But he's old. And he's probably not taking the attack very well." She looked back at Ron who was looking around at the weapons in Payton's bag. She got up and harshly took the bag away from him. "Don't mess with these. Someone could get really hurt. Especially if you don't know how to use one." He got up. "Listen toots, I was in the navy back when you weren't even born! I know how to use stuff like that!" Ron said sitting back down, taking a bottle of whisky out of his shirt. "Don't appreciate vetrans." He said while opening the bottle and gulping down the whisky. Payton rolled her eyes. Lindsay looked back in the rear view mirror. "Hey this is going to a long drive so we all might as well get along." she said. "Unless we find a plane and we can sit ANYWHERE, and SLEEP anywhere we want without people nagging us." Ron said gulping some more whisky. Payton ignored him. Why did people like this get on her nerves? People that don't appreciate hospitality. She was only trying to help.
"You're bleeding." Nick said to Payton. "What?" She said getting off of her train of thought. "You're bleeding. Your neck's bleeding again." He said sitting next to her. "Oh. I'm fine it's not so bad. Heh." He gave her a towel and a bottle of water. "Thank you." She said with a smile. He helped putting the water on her neck. He padded the towel softly. "There ya go." He said. "All better. Just be careful not to touch it. "Thanks." She said. She couldn't help blushing. She wanted to tell him how she felt. It was hard for her to smile when she saw him. That's why she was sensitive when he made a comment when he was lightly expressing his opinion when he disagreed on something. Johnny Anderson was hard at work under the hood of his modified school bus. Spring had just started and it was reaching unusual highs of 85. When the infection broke out, Johnny's aunt, his only known relative, disappeared. Johnny felt he had no reason to stay in his rundown neighborhood just south of Atlanta Georgia. Just two weeks have passed since he picked up the school bus from an abandoned school down the road and took it to the auto shop where he used to work. So far, besides beating down a few infected with a wrench, he expanded the fuel tanks of the bus, removed all the seats and replaced them with eight blue swivel chairs, and replaced all the windows with sheet metal except for the windshield which he replaced with Plexiglass. After some thought, he added some eyebolts in the roof for hammocks and reinforced the door. Johnny had heard on the news when the infection first broke out, that many survivors were heading to the pentagon where the military set up a basic defense. He wasn't sure how successful they were in keeping away the infection, but there wasn't much he could do. He knew if there were any survivors anywhere, that they would try going there also. He planned to take as many survivor as possible and go somewhere safe. After a few tweaks to his bus, he set off to get some supplies before his trip. There was a long ride ahead of him.
Nick opened his eyes. Light was streaming in from the windows. It must be morning. He walked over to where Payton was sleeping on the couch. Lindsay was on the other couch, Ronald in the bedroom, and Nick had slept in the driver's chair. "Hey," He whispered, shaking her leg, "I'm going outside for a bit." Payton grunted, showing she had heard, then tured over. Nick opened the door, checking first to make sure there were no infected wandering around. He stepped out cautiously. They ha parked in a field of long grass, the road not far off to the left, where they had found Ron, and the woods to the right. He was definitly not going to go anywhere near the woods. He had seen all those horror movies, on how the good guys wentinto the woods and then the serial killer got them.
He saw some movement, something running into the bushes. He squinted. Only a fox. He let out a breath.
Payton opened her eyes and remembered Nick shaking her gently. She stood up and saw Ron snoring with a bottle of empty whisky in his hand. She mumbled as she got up and grabbed her bag. She looked at her watch. 7:00 AM. "Nick?" she said looking over the driver's seat. So he did wake me up, she thought. Where was he? She opened the door and saw Nick outside in the field. She sighed and jumped out of the RV and started walking towards him. "Hey. What are you doing out here?" She said. He turned around and smiled. "Oh, hey. I was just watching.. um, a fox. See?" He pointed to where he had seen the animal. "Nice." she said. "Sorry I woke you up." he said. "That's fine. We should probably wake up everyone else." She said looking back to the RV. He just stared out to the open field. Payton looked down to the grass. "When is it going to stop?" She said. He looked at her and looked out to the field. Ron opened the RV door and asked where the whisky was. Nick and Payton looked at each other and started laughing. "Hah. Umm, we don't have whisky. We only have water. Sorry! We'll stop by a liquor store if you want to today?" Nick said, still laughing. Ron grunted and closed the door behind him. "We should start moving." she said. "Okay." Nick said, taking one last look at the field.
"RONALD!" Nick yelled through the open window. They had stopped at the liquor store, but Ronald had been taking much too long for Nick's patience to hold out any longer. "Ugh! Where IS he?" Lindsay grumbled coming into the passenger's seat. Nick shrugged. Payton let out an exasperated sigh. "Okay I'm going in there." Lindsay looked back at her, "We should all go. What if there's an infected in there?" Nick shook his head, "I'm not sure, Ronald had a gun, we would have heard gun fire at least, or him screaming." Payton looked out the window, "Well I'm going." Nick nodded, Lindsay just shrugged. After about five minutes, Payton and Ronald came out. Ronald was in the lead and Payton was scowling at his back. Lindsay got up and went to the door, "What was the hold up?" she asked when they walked in. Payton blew out her breath, "This old man couldn't decide if he wanted bourbon or whiskey!" Ronald rounded on her, "Well I choose didn't I?" Payton glared at him, "Listen you old-" Nick eased his way in between them, "Okay, there's no reason to get nasty," Nick said looking at Payton, "And Ronald, you could have just gotten both and saved us a whole bunch of time." Ronlad shrugged and glared one last time at Payton before he went to his back room. Nick glanced at Lindsay, she was rolling her eyes. "Okay, let's eat some lunch, then get going." He said.
After lunch they decided they should finally get out of the city today, and hopefully find more survivors. A few hours later everyone was getting restless and Ronald had been talking up a storm."Where are we now?" Ron said, opening another bottle of whichever alchohol he had gotten from the liquor store. "I think we're in Tallahassee." said Lindsay. Payton was asleep, Lindsay was on the couch, Nick was driving, and Ronald.. drinking. Payton got up and asked where they were. "Tallahassee" Nick replied. "Wow. How long have I been asleep?" she said rubbing her face. "Maybe a few hours." said Lindsay. Ron got up and asked where the food was. "Look Ron, we're low on food and we won't be stopping for a long time maybe you should just wait." Nick said. Ronald didn't listen and walked to the fridge. "Hey! Cool it! We need to save the food!" Nick shouted from the rear view mirror. Ron shut the fridge door. And sat on the couch with a thump. He took out a cigarette and lit it. "No smoking in here. Sorry" Lindsay said. "We'll stop in an hour to get food and then you can smoke." Ron mumbled something and put his feet up. "Jesus! There's nothing to do around here." he said. "What the-?" Nick said. He stopped the RV. "They're.. infected!" Nick shouted looking to the far end of the street. Ronald got up and grabbed his machine gun. "Let's take em' down!" Ron shouted. "NO!" Payton yelled at him "Let's try driving away from them first." she said. Nick turned to the right and accelerated.
Nick gasped as the zombies veered torward the RV. "CRAP! Everyone hang on!" Nick bellowed. Payton ran to the passenger's seat. Ronald held onto the arm rest, dropping his drink. Lindsay began to yell something, but was cut short when the RV got slammed in the side. It went sliding onto the other side of the road, zombies were attempting to tear in through the door. They were succeeding. Nick looked back. Lindsay was standing ready with her pistol infront of the door, Ronald was standing now, with his gun in both hands. Then the zombies broke through the door. It amazed Nick they seemed so stupid at times, but then, some have claws and run like the wind and seem as smart as anyone with a coledge degree! There were three of them, Lindsay yelped and jumped back to Ronald, who started shooting as soon as she was out of the way. One of the zombies charged to the driver's seat and passenger's. "Keep driving." Payton yelled. She stood up, took out two throwing knives, and lashed them at the zombie, at what seemed like, the speed of light. The zombie went down instantly, one kinfe sticking out from its head, and one from it's chest. Payton jumped over her seat and went to help out in the back. Nick didn't see the rest, but he heard it. In no time, Ronald gave the all clear. Nick pulled over and jumped up. "Is everyone all right? Is anybody bitten?" All heads shook. He let out a breath. That was a close one. He glanced at Payton. She seemed alright, except for a few scrathes. She noticed him, and looked back. He looked away, embarrassed. Instead he walked over to one of the dead bodies. Lindsay bent down, looking closer Nick looked up at her, "We'd better get these things out of here or they'll stink up the place." Ronald piped up, "Your telling me! Those things are already starting to rot!" He went to the door and opened it, then grabbed the leg of one and dragged it out, everyone did the same. Lindsay put her hands on her hips, "Now we're going to have to clean up all this blood!" Ronald looked at Nick, "Why don't we stay here for the night?" Payton looked up from helping Lindsay, "But I thought we were getting out of Tallahassee?" Nick shrugged, "Maybe we should go just to the beggining of Georgia, then we'll stop, we're not that far from the border now." Ronald nodded, "Fair enough." Lindsay stood up, joining Payton, "Let's at least clean this mess." Everyone agredd, then got to work.
"They've been here!" one of Echo's followers cried out. Echo jumped over a tipped over car. They were at a store now. LIQUOR&SPIRITS the sign said. He had always heard that alchohal was a portal to the spirit world or something. But he always thought that was a load of crap. "How can you be certain?" Echo asked walking up to him. "I smell the humans," His follower growled, "It is like a beacon." Echo could smell it now. The unmistakible stench of non-infected. "Do not touch that!" He bellowed to one of his followers, who were picking up some liquor bottles. "It will weaken your senses and make you as stupid as a dog." Echo turned back to his follower that found the stench. "Go, tell everyone to eat. We will need our strength." His follower dipped his head, "Yes, Echo." Echo walked into the liquor store. There was a small refridgerator behind the counter. He slid over the smooth surface and opened it. Luckily, it was still running, the food was not yet spoiled. He grabbed everything, and sat down in the chair. He began to eat. When he had been under testing, he hardly got to eat. The scientists had wanted to see how long their "super human" could go without food. But there was one scientist...Elaine. She had snuck food into his room, giving him all he could eat. She would take him outside, he could breathe in the fresh air. He felt...Free. She would come out with him, and they would laugh together, and she would even bring lunch she'd called it a picnic. Elaine was th only friend he had. Echo had loved her. He loved her more than anything in the world. But then, they took her to Africa. He had been left alone. The outbreak started, and he ran away. Echo would give anything to see her again. Anything. Echo finished his meal and went outside. "We leave at dawn!" He yelled.
About an hour had passed since the incident with the infected and they were now sitting in a small Georgia motel. "So... what's the plan for tomorrow then?" Lindsay asked no one in particular. "Well... I guess we'll just do the same thing we did today... try and go as far as we can until we need sleep." Nick replied.
Lindsay watched without really listening as Nick then began to explain the route and the time it would take to get there. She was too distracted by her own thoughts about him. His smooth, tanned skin glistened with sweat in the dim light; he was tired... she could tell that much by just looking at his face... into his eyes. His eyes... she couldn't help but stare into them as he talked. They were quite possibly the greenest eyes she'd ever seen and were most definitely the most amazing. Every time she looked into them, she felt as though she was looking into two round pools of pure innocence. So kind and gentle... she used to be intimidated by this feeling but now accepted it with pleasure. She had really only felt it this strongly with one other person however... and he was... well he was gone; a part of the past. She could've sworn it was love and they had even made plans to get married. *Pssh... yeah... like that was gonna happen... who was I kidding?* She felt stupid thinking about it now. Troy... his name was Troy. He was her first real boyfriend and she was certain he was the one. But as it turned out, he was seeing someone else the whole time they were together and the realization of this was almost too much for Lindsay to comprehend. Her heart was broken; her world shattered. She almost vowed right then that she would never love again but that quickly changed when she decided that the only way to forget about Troy was to move on and find someone else... like a distraction. She's dated tons of guys since but none felt the same as the first. None made her feel as though she was truly in love as before... none until now. She thought it foolish to decide that she liked this man after only knowing him so shortly but she couldn't help herself. It was the way he talked, the way he looked at her... everything about him made her want to run into his arms and proclaim her love for him at this very moment. She knew she couldn't though... Nick was different than the other guys. And she had a feeling she wasn't the only one who felt this way about him. She glanced over at Payton who was also watching Nick talk. She wondered what Payton was thinking... if she was really listening or if she was just daydreaming the same way she herself had. A part of her was jealous of Payton... she could tell that Nick cared for her deeply and she wished he would feel the same about her. The other part of her however, was glad that Payton was here... was glad that Nick had someone... someone who was, no doubt, a better person for Nick then she'd ever be. She still couldn't hide the fact that she really wished that Payton would just get out of the picture for a while so she could be alone with him... get to know him... make him love her. Nick had stopped talking now and Lindsay realized she was still staring at Payton who was still staring at Nick. She quickly glanced down to the carpet. Nick said something about him and Ron going into the adjoining room while she and Payton would sleep here. She nodded and after getting ready, climbed into bed to sleep with her thoughts. She somehow got to thinking about her life before the infection and how she'd promised her friend that she would give him a hug the next time she saw him... stupid thought, she realized... but it made her sad to think that it was too late for that... for anything she'd planned to do... with that, she slowly drifted into sleep, no longer aware of this terrible world in which she now lived.
Five days in the tunnel. Elaine Scott had been reflecting during this time. Introspecting, remembering, planning. She was alone with her thoughts. She hadn't heard a human voice for the past five days, not even her own.
Two scientists in white lab coats, with note pads in their hands. They're speaking with each other, about her, but their voices are hard to make out. *What am I?... an experiment?* She thinks, looking as if through her mind's eye.
*I'm not an experiment.* She thought to herself currently. *I'm a scientist. I do the experimenting.* Something bothered her. It was as if she couldn't remember something... hoping it wasn't something important, but knowing it was her past, and it bothered her from within her gut, taunting her oblivious mind. What was she missing? *My name is Elaine Scott, born of Heidi and Michael Scott. I grew up in Nevada. When I began working in the field of genetics, I moved from my home to the lab in...* where was it?
Violent shaking; restraints around her ankles and wrists; mouth wrapped with a towel. A white room, alone, besides the person in front of her, featureless face. "Quiet, Elaine!" he barked... or was it a woman? She couldn't tell. "You go to sleep this time, and it'll all be over when you wake up..."
Why was she so bothered by these thoughts? They weren't real, they weren't even her past; they were stories. She had been paranoid for a long time, she didn't know why... they were only stories, they weren't real; stories she made up, from her own mind.
She remembered Billy. Back before she left for Africa, she had been doing other research in America for another project: How to improve man's natural abilities without negative side effects. If such a thing were possible, how huge would that be! It would start out with greater strength, boosted stamina, faster growing rates, longer lifespans... but it could have become so awesome that their bodies become bullet-proof. This was clearly the initial thought behind it all; a perfect army, in which America would no longer have to fear her enemies. It would have been fantastic, she thought to herself.
Elaine thought back to Billy. He was a pathetic experiment when she first met him. It was sad, really, to even look at him. Once they got a metabolic compound that might have resulted positively, they decided it best to test its results by not feeding their experiments to see how long they'd last. There were many that died in these experiments... all in the name of science; nothing unusual, of course; few sacrifices, for overall, the best for mankind; the golden age of the earth in its entirety! It's a small price to pay. But something was different about Billy... he was not pathetic; she found herself giving sympathy to the poor soul during her time there. They starved him, but he worked still harder to perform every task they demanded of him, pushing himself to the limit to do everything they wanted. She admired that about him. Everyone else she had come into contact with in the facility begged for food. But he didn't even ask. When she knew everyone else slept, she stole him away from the place they kept him and took him out where she knew no one would find them. She'd sneak food to him and come to know him well through these nightly outings. They knew that each liked the other after just a few nights of this sneaking away, but they never actually called each other lovers, nor was it ever hinted to anyone else that they were rebelling against their strict no-food-for-experiments policy. One night, she remembered, she actually took him out to a restaurant. That was stupid of her to do... but she didn't get caught, luckily. That was the last night she had seen him, though. That very morning she was called to Africa... they said it was an emergency. Very shortly after she started her work there, however, she received news that Billy had died. She wasn't even happy when she heard that they had finally succeeded in their efforts.
The morning light slowly made it's way across the sky. Echo had not slept that night. He was to busy thinking. Echo went over to his new right hand man. His name was Snake. "Get up you lazy bafoon." Echo growled kicking him. Snake was up on his feet in a heart beat. Echo left him to wake everyone up, and went to his small refrigerator. He needed to eat to keep up his strength. After he finished his small breakfast, Echo went back outside to his followers. Everyone was awake by now. "Everyone, you may eat on the way. Move out!" They all started of at a sprint. Echo set the pace, Snake at his side, another follower, Jade, on his other side. They came to a stop when they saw movement up ahead. Infected. "Alright my friends." Echo yelled. His followers surged around him, eager to eat. But then the infected looked up, from whatever they were doing, and then bellowed at Echo and his followers. Echo gasped as the infected, maybe ten or eleven, jumped up and ran straight for his followers. There were a little more than fifty of Echo's followers, not including him. Then as the infected ran closer...yes ran, he noticed, he saw that they had claws. Like him. "Watch out!" He called as Snake came into contact with the first strange super infected. It clawed him in the face. Another stabbed Jade in the chest. Then chaos broke out. The infected were surging through his followers, killing some, locked in combat with others. He needed to help. He was not a coward. Echo slid his claws out, agony swept through him, but he pushed it aside as he he let out a furious battle cry and jumped into the fray. He spotted an infected immediatly, attacking one of his younger followers. Fury shot through him. Echo jumped onto the infected, digging his own claws into it's back. It howled and brought its claws up and over his head and brought it down. Echo dodged, the infected hit itself in the neck, killing it. Echo dashed over to where another follower needed help. Echo brought his clws up, and did a dive straight for its neck. The infected noticed and jumped back out of the wayt before he got a chance to give a kill strike. Echo regained his footing and circled the hideous looking thing. Then it jumped into the air. Echo rolled to one side, the infected's claws coming down where he was only a moment before. Echo jumped to his feet and sliced its head off. In a few more minutes the battle was over. Echo walked around. "How many are dead?" He asked to no one in particular. But someone answered, "Five, Echo." Echo grunted. It wasn't that big a lose, but he still lost them. His followers did not have claws like Echo did, they only had their fists and their inhuman strength and speed. But they did kill all the infected. And now some of his followers were feasting on them. He raised his voice, "We fought well today, my friends." One of his followers looked up, "Yes, but at what cost? What were those? We never saw those things back in Port Saint Lucie!" That started an uproar of questions. Echo raised his hand for silence. "I do not know what they were. But we must not mourn for our lost ones now. We will mourn for them when we stop to camp. Finish your meal and then we will move." His followers were left to their muttering. Echo shook his head.
Johnny was driving his modified bus looking for supplies before he took I-95 north. He was surprised how many infected were scattered on the streets, much less how many were still in buildings and homes. There were infected and abandoned cars everywhere and it was nearly impossible to avoid everything. Johnny was trying his best not to hit the infected, but he couldn't risk hitting cars. It's not that he didn't want to hurt the infected, it's just that the more things he hit, the higher the risk of damaging the radiator. If the radiator ever gave out, he would be stranded in the middle of a zombie infested street. If he planned on going anywhere, he would have to make some kind of plow. Johnny saw the sign after passing over a small bridge. The sign read: Wal-Mart- closed for repair. This was his stop. He pulled into the parking lot and drove up to the doors should he have to make a quick escape. Johnny armed himself with a wrench and a heavy duty flashlight. He closed the bus door behind him and walked up to the Wal-Mart entrance. He smashed the glass just before realizing it was unlocked. He walked inside and grabbed a cart. He could imagine an elderly woman with a roll of stickers saying 'Welcome to Wal-Mart!' with a kind smile. Without power, it was dark and hot. He shined the light around looking for any signs of life, or rather, the absence of it. Johnny went through a mental list of things he would need. He would need food, water, hammocks, and batteries, judging by the way the flashlight was acting. Food was the most important so he headed towards the food isles. Johnny didn't particularly like vegetables, but he knew if he planned on surviving this living hell, he would need to stay healthy. He filled the cart with canned peas, beans, corn, mixed fruit, Chef Boyardee, soups of all kinds, and anything that looked appetizing. In the next isle he picked up a can opener, eating utensils, paper towels and bowls. He stopped at one of those sale shelves and picked up a couple of bags of Cheetos and Doritos. He realized he would need water after eating these so he pushed the cart to the drinks isle. After moving some cans around, he put two big water cooler bottles in the cart and picked up a case of beer. "Let's see, where would they keep hammocks" Johnny asked himself before rushing to the outdoors section. He put a few boxes of ready to use hammocks on the bottom of the cart and was about to leave when something caught his attention. There, behind thick panels of glass, was an assortment of shotguns and rifles. The idea of using guns hadn't crossed his mind before, but the more he thought about it, the more he welcomed in the idea. Shooting an infected in the head would far less messy than bashing in its skull with a wrench. Besides, there were probably looters out there and he had to defend his stash. Johnny swung his wrench twice before shattering the glass. He loaded the cart with any weapons he could get before realizing they had safety locks on the triggers. After some thought he decided he could get them off with some of the tools back in the bus. Johnny was filling the seat in the basket with ammo from behind the counter when he saw it. There was a key taped to the bottom of the shelf. After realizing it went to the gun locks, he slipped it into his pocket. Before leaving the sporting goods department, he picked up a few first-aid kits and put them with the ammo, which to Johnny seemed kind of ironic. The batteries were up front and they were next on his list. He pushed the cart up to the registers and was loading the cart with an assortment of batteries, when suddenly there was a loud BANG! Johnny jumped. His heart was racing. The sound came from the dressing rooms. "Hello? Is anyone there?" he asked. No response. BANG! It was coming from dressing room 3. He couldn't believe he hadn't noticed it before. There was a chair propped under the handle and there was a small puddle of blood coming from under the door. A pair of steel toed work boots stood in the puddle behind the door. Johnny knew immediately that the person was infected. He thought for a second and realized he was one of the maintenance crew and that his fellow workers probably realized something was wrong with him and locked him in there before running away. "That would explain why the doors were unlocked" Johnny mumbled under his breath, "But why didn't the infected make a noise earlier?" He looked down at his shirt. He was wearing a grease and blood stained tank-top. It was the blood, they smell the blood! He grabbed a pack of tank-tops, turned around and threw some more batteries in the cart before taking it outside. After loading the supplies, he closed the door and started the bus.
Payton opened her eyes. It was morning. She looked at Lindsay who was still sleeping. Why was she looking at her while Nick was talking last night? She didn't have time to think about it while she was going to sleep. She was too tired. Maybe she's nevermind, she thought. The door opened. Nick and Ron came in. "We should get moving. Let's get some breakfast and start heading out of Georgia today." Nick said whispering. Payton nodded and got up. "Are we going to go from Georgia to Alabama or just go north all the way and then west?" Payton asked. "I'm not sure. But we have to start driving. We'll figure it out when we hit the road. Wake Lindsay up." he replied. Payton walked over to Lindsay and gave her a shake. "Hey. Wake up. We have to get moving." Lindsay turned and grunted. "I'm up." Lindsay said pushing Payton away. Payton backed off and was confused. Nick looked at Payton with a frown. Lindsay walked to the bathroom and shut the door. "Okay..." Nick said. "Let's start moving."
They were on the road. Nick was driving, Payton and Lindsay were sitting across from each other on the couch, and Ron, drinking. Lindsay was looking at a magazine, occasionally looking at Payton. Payton looked to the side. After a minute she got up and went to the fridge. She got a bottle of water out. She walked over to Lindsay and gave it to her. Lindasy looked up at her. She took the bottle with a confused look on her face. Payton smiled and sat next to her. "Thanks?" Lindsay said. "I don't really need the bottle. Why did you give it to me?" Lindsay asked. Payton shrugged. "What are you reading?" She asked. "A magazine..obviously." Payton looked at her for a moment. "Okay. Sorry I asked you what you were reading." she said. Lindsay rolled her eyes. She got up and stormed to the room. Payton sat there speechless. Nick was looking from the rear view mirror. "Hey." he called to Payton. She walked up to him. "What's going on?" he asked. "I don't know. I don't think she's feeling well." she shrugged. "Yeah but she's rubbing it off on you." Payton looked to the room. Lindsay opened the door and sat back on the couch with a thump. Payton chuckled and sat back down to the opposite couch that Lindsay was sitting. She wondered what she was thinking. Maybe she is... she thought. Payton always caught Lindsay staring at Nick. Which she was guilty of doing also. Did she have feelings for Nick too? She wanted to ask her. The problem was, she would either deny it or say something rude to her. I would do the same. Heh, she thought.
Nick rolled his eyes as he heard Ronald start laughing because of the whiskey. That man drank to much for his own dang good. Ronald leaned onto the back of the driver's seat. Nick looked back, "Ronald go sit down! If I have to brake hard you'll go flying into the windshield!" Ronald muttered something inaudable and went to sit down. Nick rolled his eyes again. Lindsay sat down in the passenger's seat. "Where are we?" She asked him. "Near Atlanta I think," He said glancing at her. She looked down at the floor then back up at the windsheild. "LOOK OUT!" She screamed. Nick looked forward to see a huge semi in the middle of the road. He yelled a curse so loud, Lindsay flinched. Nick hit the brakes and turned the stering wheel, the tires screeched at the friction. Nick hoped the RV wouldn't tip over. Then a loud BOOM. The whoe the shuddered as it crashed so hard Nick was thrown half way out of his seat, Even thoguh he had the seat belt on. "Nice, frigging job!" Payton yelled from behind. "It wasn't my fault," Nick protested. Payton glared at him, "Well, maybe if you had your eyes on the ROAD you wouldn't have crashed!" Nick glared back at her. "Excuse me, but maybe we should go outside and see the extent of the damage?" Ronald yelled from behind, giving no sign that he had been drunk a moment before. Nick stood up and rushed to the door. He pulled his gun out and jumped down the stairs, Lindsay behind him and Payton scowling at them both from behind. "Well I don't think that we'll be able to drive her anymore, youngin'." Ron said, he was under the hood. "Could you fix this?" Nick asked. "If I had the proper tools yes. I'd say there was something wrong with the engine in the first place." Payton was about to yell at Nick again when Ronald held up his hand. "It was a mistake. He's only human." Payton smirked, "Yeah well without the RV we might not be human for much longer!" Nick looked at her, "I'm sorry, it was mistake...I wasn't keeping my eyes on the road." Payton's gaze softened, and she nodded. "Well maybe we'll find something driveable in Atlanta?" Lindsay said looking around. "Yeah but we'll have to walk there." Nick said quietly. Ronald walked to the RV, "Well let's try and carry what we can on our backs." Everyone agreed. Nick gaped at how wise Ronald had become...maybe 'wise' wasn't the word, but he had talked sense.
It was midday and the sun was shining down its merciless rays of heat upon the backs of the four survivors. They had packed what was necessary from the RV and loaded it on their backs before setting out. Lindsay could've sworn it was the hottest day she'd ever had to endure, and it certainly didn't help having to carry the luggage around. They had been walking for what felt like days, but in reality was only 4 hours at the most. She was sweating from the scalp down and her legs were growing weak. She pulled up next to Nick, and spoke in between breaths. "Nick... I think we should... take a break."
"Hmm... you might be right. What do you guys think?" Nick asked, glancing at Payton and Ronald. They both nodded in agreement and began to set down what was carried on their backs. Payton reached for the bag which held the waters and handed them each a bottle. After handing the last one over to Nick, she paused. "Is something wrong?" He asked her. "Umm... well actually, yeah. That was the last bottle. Without water, we're going to dehydrate; quickly." She responded.
"Mmm... You're right... we'll have to make a stop and soon."
Lindsay was reminded of earlier that day when Payton had given her the water bottle in the RV. *I still don't have a clue what that was about... she's so weird.* She rolled her eyes. Unfortunately, Payton noticed. "Is something wrong Lindsay?"
"Hmm? Oh, no... It's just that umm... well I'm still upset about the whole RV thing, that's all. It's nothing." She forced a smile and looked to Payton for one in return. Payton just shrugged and looked away, unconvinced. "Well I think we can all agree to that! I'm not sure what I did to deserve this but it's just not right, making an old guy like me work this way." Ronald remarked. Nick looked away, his face suddenly full of shame and embarrassment. Lindsay felt sorry for him. They all knew it was his fault, sure. But still... Payton spoke up, "Hey look you guys... we're alive aren't we? Just be happy for that" She smiled and looked Nick's way, touching his shoulder gently. It was a small gesture but it annoyed the crap out of Lindsay. What is this? A couple of hours ago she was putting all of the blame on him, probably making him feel like the biggest a-hole alive. And now she's comforting him? Suddenly on his side, having to defend him? heh... what a joke. They sat in silence, drinking their water and regaining their strength. Lindsay usually preferred it this way. She enjoyed the silence, it was comforting. She began thinking to herself about how hard this situation must be for Nick. Having to travel with two women and an old man... He would make it much quicker on his own. He used to be a cop for crying out loud! He was very fit, she could see that. Even now, as she and the rest of the gang were completely worn, Nick was barely even sweating. *He must be sacrificing a lot to try and save us* She sighed and looked out towards the trees. All was quiet and unmoving except for the steady breathing of the group. And suddenly that wasn't the case. While looking to the trees, Lindsay heard a faint snap from a branch. It was quiet but still audible and at this point, anything audible that wasn't supposed to be was enough to make her worried. She sat staring for five seconds, when she heard another one... and this time it was louder... closer.
She began to whisper. "Umm... you guys? I think we should..." And suddenly she saw it... an infected was making its way toward them, followed by three others. The sight made her freeze momentarily but she snapped out of it quickly enough. She pointed in their direction. "Look..." She said quietly. They all turned and that was all of the motivation they needed. They jumped up and began picking up their belongings. "You guys! C'mon! We can't bring all of that... it'll take to long to get on our backs. It also decreases our speed immensely. We'll have to go lightly." Nick instructed. They frowned but agreed after one more glance at the oncoming zombies. They gathered what they could hold while still being able to run and did just that. They ran. They ran for nearly a mile until the zombies were no longer in sight. They came to a stop, completely out of breath and fell to their knees on the soft grass. "There's no telling... how long they'll stay on our track." Nick panted.
"Why didn't we just take them with a few bullets?" Payton asked.
"The use of our ammo for just a few zombies is foolish... not to mention the fact that the sound would attract many more than what was just seen. We have to be careful and not act too quickly." Nick replied. Payton nodded and then felt silly for asking the question in the first place. In all honesty, Lindsay was considering asking the same question but couldn't catch her breath quickly enough to speak. She was glad Payton had done it first, making her look like the fool. She smiled to herself, amused. Her smile faded when she suddenly realized that everyone had gone silent and were now staring in the direction behind her. She braced herself for the worst and turned to see what had them all so stunned. She found herself staring the same way they all had. "Well I'll be!" said Ronald. "It's a bus! And someone's actually driving it!" He grinned widely and walked its direction.
Echo's followers gathered around him as they saw the crashed RV. It was slammed pretty good into the huge truck. He wouldn't be surprised if they weren't there. His followers did not think like he did. They howled in victory and surged forward. Echo didn't stop them, after all he only presumed they weren't there. They broke the glass and jumped on the roof. Pulling of sheets of aluminum off the roof and some breaking the air vent and jumping in. Echo rolled his eyes. They just had to make a big entrance. Echo walked over to the opposite side of the RV and opened the door. "That would have also worked." He said glaring at the few that were already in there. One shrugged and said, "They're not in here anyway." Echo was begining to lose his patience, he didn't know why though, "Of course they're not here! You could smell that the scent was stale a mile away!" His follower scowled and jumped out of the RV. Echo told the other who were in there to find out some food for them selves. When they had gone Echo walked to the small refridgerator. There wasn't much in there, but he still ate it. When he was done he walked out. It was still the middle of the afternoon and they weren't ready to make camp yet. Echo shivered as he remebered the super-infected that they had their first battle with. Echo thoguht for a moment before making this next choice. "All my followers gather around for a meeting." They instantly came to him. Once the last had gathered he raised his voice. "We will have a scouting party patrol the territory up ahead. They will be my strongest fighters, I do not want a replay of what hapened back near the border." He paused for a moment then continued, "The rest of us who remains will hone our battle skills. I will head the training. Zahn, you lead the patrol, take five more of our strongest." There were more than only five of his strongest, but the rest would help him with the training. When the patrol left. He turned to his followers, and they began.
Johnny had made it to I-95 and was heading north. It took him a little while to get used to driving the bus and he still wasn't completely comfortable with it. Johnny wasn't sure if it was just in his head or what, but the fuel gauge hadn't seemed to move since his started driving an hour ago. The more he thought about it, the more he considered the idea that he may have messed up the fuel sensor when he expanded the tanks. He would need to fuel up soon. Johnny's aunt had always told him it was better to be safe than sorry, so he took the next off ramp and started looking for an auto store. He picked up a pump, jumper cables, some rubber tubes and a car battery at an Auto Zone, and stared looking for a source of fuel. He parked next to a couple of trucks and got to work. Whenever Johnny would work, he would think deeply about the first thing that came to mind. Usually it was any music that he happened to be playing at the time. There was no music this time, just a pin drop silence. All he could think about was how it all came to be. No one really knew how or where the infection started, just that it spread quickly throughout the night. When the panic hit, Johnny was confused and alone. Most of the citizens in his neighborhood had disappeared including his aunt. He assumed they all went to find family and hide. His first encounter with the infected was when he entered a neighbor's house looking for food. It was an elderly man and Johnny felt guilty for an entire week after killing him. Johnny's reminiscing was interrupted as diesel fuel began flowing out from the cap and fell to the cracked asphalt. He was tanked up and ready to go. As he pulled of the ramp back on to I-95, he noticed an unusually large number of infected walking along the road. He didn't think much of it until about thirty minutes later when he saw four humanoid figures up in the distance. Unlike the infected, they weren't walking all stiff and they were carrying bags and backpacks. He knew they weren't infected, yet. The infected he saw earlier must be following their scent. They wouldn't stand a chance trying to sleep later without any buildings nearby. They group had noticed him and were waving. He pulled up next to them.
"Oh my G0d..." Payton said. She started running, everyone following behind. She forgot how tired she was and she had the biggest smile on her face. "Yes! Yes! Thank God!" Lindsay said catching her breath. "Over here!" Lindsay shouted waving her hands up. They ran faster. They were so happy. Finally... A place of sanctuary. Food, water, cool air. The bus stopped, it's door opened and out came a man with blonde hair and a shirt wet with sweat. "Hey! You guys need a ride?" he shouted. Payton ran up and hugged this complete stranger. She couldn't control herself. She was hungry, thirsty and tired. She didn't care if she looked like an idiot hugging a total stranger. Lindsay rolled her eyes, but was too happy to give her a dirty look. Ron ran up, catching his breath. "Do we ever need a ride!" Ron said. The man took a long look at the four survivors. "'re not infected, right?" he asked. The four looked at each other and started laughing. "What do YOU think?" Ron said with a chuckle. "I'm guessing.. you're not?" the man said with a smile. "Come inside you guys must be starving." he said. "Yeah, we've been walking forever!" Lindsay said. "I'm Lindsay." she said. "I'm Johnny." he said with a smile. He let her in, shut the door and started driving.
Nick was thrilled. He was on the verge of thinking that they wouldn't make it. That they would either die of thirst, or become infected. But then Johny found them. And they had hope again to reach Washington. "Thank you so much." Nick breathed as he shook his hand fiercly. Johny half smiled, "There's some water in the back. Nice and cold. Help yourself." Nick nodded, and pushed past Ron, who was drinking gratefully. Nick grabbed a bottle from the cooler and pushed it into his mouth. His throat was so dried out and the water so cool, that it hurt him at first. He half choked half coughed on it. Payton put her hand on his arm, he nodded showing he was okay, then continued drinking. He sat down in one of the chairs. Then he noticed how neat the place was. There were hammocks hanging from the wall, a few chairs on the side. And a whole bunch of other cool features. But Nick didn't want to think about that right now, all he wanted to do was drink and drink.

Two hours later, they were all rested up and and had aloe on every part of their bodies that had gotten sun-burnt. Nick was sitting in the passenger's seat talking to Johny about where they had been and done before they met him, he was also sharing the same. Nick was glad to have another guy with them, sure there was Ron, but he was pretty old...Now, Johny was starting up the bus, "Anyone need to use the bathroom? I don't have one on the bus..." Everyone answered a positive. They had drank a lot of water. Johny opened the doors and they all piled out. There was a large field with woods bordering it in a semi-circle. They all headed in different directions. Into the woods. "Be careful!" Nick called out, there might be infected in the area!" Paton looked back, "Well if your screaming, you'll just attract more!" Nick shrugged and dashed into the woods. After he had relieved himself, he headed back out into the open. He started making his way torward the bus, seeing Paton come out of the woods and Ron a little way off coming out too. But he didn't see Lindsay. Of course he wouldn't dare go looking for her, that would be...wrong. Then he heard a terrified shriek. Lindsay came dashing out of the woods. Nick feared that an infected had found them, but what he saw was the last thing he expected. The forms came tearing through the trees behind her, and charged up to her side. He recognized the tatoos even from this distance. They were Echo's followers. He had found them. No! "Lindsay!" Nick yelled desperatly, and dashed for her, Paton coming up on the other side, they exchanged looks. Ron wasn't far behind them. not far behind. "What's wrong?" Ron yelled confusedly. Nck did not have time to answer. He took aim and shot one of them they half-infecteds in the shoulder. He went down with a startled shriek. The others looked up and saw the others coming. "More non-infected!" One cried out. "Kill them!" One hissed. Then one jumped into the air. Nick gaped, the half-infecteds were over thirty yards away. This one jumped over to him in two bounds as it were nothing. The fist hit him in the gut before he knew it. The air left his body and he was thrown backward. "Nick!" Payton yelled. The half-infected grabbed him by a foot and lifted him up. Nick cried out in agony as he tightened his grasp, crushing his artery, until his ankle turned purple. Fury shot through Nick. He would not die like this. Nick brought his other foot around into a kick, and hit the half-infected squarly in the face. He howled. His grasp loosened. Nick pulled himself out of his grasp. Then grabbed his gun and shot him four times in the chest. Nick charged past to where Lindsay was crying and screaming, a half-infected literally squishing her wrists, it was snarling malisciously, Lindsay begging for help. Nick barrled into the goon. He shot him in the head. "Are you okay?" He panted. Lindsay was crying and rubbing her wrists. They were green and bulging. "I can't feel my wrists!" She wailed. He helped her up and they both ran through the field. Payton was coming up beside them. "They're all dead except two! The others ran for the bus!" Ron was trailing behind them. Lindsay was leaning on Nick, sobbing. "It's okay." He whispered, "You're going to be okay." Then Nick looked up. Johny was cornered by the two half-infected. He shot at one, but it moved and was only hit in the shoulder. Nick aimed and fired, hitting another in the back of the head. It's companion jumped back and looked at all the humans. He knew he had been defeated. Then it ran back the way it came into the woods. No one had time to feel happy or victorious. He felt his ankle now, it felt like it was falling off. They all got into the bus, Lindsay clinging to him, he sat down on a chair and just held her. He thought his problems with Echo were done. He was wrong.
The whole experience had been terrifying, to say the least. Quite possibly the most terrifying experience any of them had ever gone through. Or at least that's the way Lindsay felt. Fighting off mindless zombies was nothing compared to facing those menacing, half-infected beasts. Even now, sitting in the arms of possibly the only man she even cared for anymore, she was frozen stiff. This was the first time she'd encountered the monsters, and it left her feeling utterly hopeless. Even if they did stand a chance at making it to Washington without becoming infected... would they honestly be able to survive the half-infected? She couldn't get her mind off of it... she even thought it would be easier to just kill each other now and end this life as they knew it. The only thing really keeping her from doing that now was the man holding her. Normally she would think it awkward, being so close to him like this... but at the moment, it just felt right. She looked up to Nick. His eyes were closed and he was breathing softly. She wondered if he was asleep when he opened his eyes and looked at her. She held his gaze for a few seconds before he finally turned away.
"How're your wrists?" He asked her. As soon as he mentioned it, the pain returned. It had taken all of her strength to just get her mind off of it but she knew it wouldn't last. She looked down and saw dark purple bruises appearing where her wrists had been held. The pain had subsided some, and the numbness faded only minutes after they entered the bus. "Uhh... they're fine, just a little bruised. How's your ankle?"
He hesitated. "I don't know... It'll hurt for a while, sure. But I think I'll be ok." He forced a smile despite the pain she imagined he felt. It had been maybe 15 minutes, at the most, since their encounter and they had only started driving after Johnny was absolutely sure everyone was all right. Even still, he called back to them now, from the driver's seat. "Hey, are you guys sure you're okay? Be honest."
"I think we're fine, Johnny... thanks." Nick replied.
Lindsay smiled at Johnny's concern. The way he cared for them so much, despite the fact that he didn't even know them struck her as odd, yet sweet. If they ever made it out of this alive, she imagined she would remain good friends with him. Him and Nick both... as for Payton? She wasn't so sure. She had her strong points... just not very many of them in Lindsay's opinion. As if on queue, Payton walked to the back from the passenger's seat and sat on the couch opposite from them. Nick, suddenly feeling uncomfortable, slid an inch or two away from Lindsay. She guessed he was hoping she wouldn't notice... but she noticed. Why did Payton's presence make it suddenly awkward to be so close to her? Was he really that concerned about what Payton thought? Lindsay rolled her eyes and stood, suddenly upset for no real reason in particular. She walked to the front and sat in the passenger's seat, next to Johnny.
"You all right?" Nick asked from behind.
"Yeah, I'm fine... I just wanted to watch the road for a while, that's all." She replied without looking back. She stared ahead, out the window, letting her mind go wherever it decided to take her. They had a long ride ahead of them and she had a lot to think about.
Echo jumped onto the RV to get a better look from above. It had been almost twenty-four hours since Zahn and his patrol left. And Echo was growing impatient. Very impatient. Echo jumped off the RV after about an hour of looking. There wasn't much left to eat in the RV, he wasn't that hungry anyway, so he just grabbed a couple bottles of water. When everyone was ready to set up camp for the night, Echo caught movement in the trees. Remembering the super-infected they had encountered, Echo snarled an order and his followers set up a battle line. But then the trees parted to show...Zahn! Echo dashed forward, three of his followers behind him. "Zahn!" He said as he reached him, "What hapened to you!" Zahn's shoulder was bleeding heavily, luckily Echo had those water bottles with him still, he pulled them out of his pockets. "Drink, my friend." Zahn drank one bottle, while Echo poured the other on the wounded shoulder. Echo glanced back to his followers, "Don't just stand there! Get Cli'Had!" They dashed off. Cli'Had was they're medicine person. Cli'Had was over there in a few minutes. "Excuse me, Echo." He got out of the way. After a moment of examining the shoulder, she looked up, "He'll be fine, he just needs to rest. It's a good thing the bullet went all the way through and didn't stay in there." Echo helped Zahn up and they all went back to the camp. "Before you go sleep, you must tell me where the rest of the patrol is and what hapened!" Echo demanded. Zahn looked up, "Well we were in the woods, and we smelled some non-infected stench. We walked a little bit more and saw a female, relieving herself. We knew we had to kill her. We all ran forward, she noticed and screamed. Then she ran out of the woods, we followed. But we didn't know that there were four other humans with guns. They killed the others and I came back here." Zahn finished with a wince as Echo puffed his chest up to yell. "Six of you couldn't kill even one human! SIX! Six of you against five humans! They were out-numbered!" Zahn looked at him, "But Echo! They had guns!" Echo came down to his level. "That is no excuse." Zahn lowered his eyes, "I am ready to die." Echo smirked, "Oh no, I'm not going to kill you. You need to show us the way to the place where you found those humans!" Zahn nodded without responding.
Nick looked at Payton who was sitting on the couch looking out the window. She caught his eye and gave him a confused look. He shrugged his shoulders and went to sit next to her. "How's your ankle?" She asked looking down at his leg. "I think it's okay for now." he replied. She knew it really wasn't 'okay for now'. She felt guilty to the fact that she didn't shoot the infected while it was attacking him. She didn't want to miss and hit him, and that would've been horrible. Although she wouldn't of missed the shot. She was scared. She didn't know what to do. She really cared for him and she could've aimed wrong. Anything could've happened. "Did you get hurt?" he asked looking her over. "No.. I was running, and I tried keeping my distance. I was way to shocked at what was going on. And I didn't really want to miss any shot. That would've..." He finished her sentence. "It would've sucked?" he said. She nodded her head and laughed. "Yeah." She looked down. She still felt guilty but Nick was at least alive so everything was fine now. There was a brief silence and they didn't talk. She felt like a fool not shooting. "Well," he said putting his hand on hers, "I'm glad you're not hurt." he said. Her lips formed a smile and she blushed. She didn't want to seem too happy about being so close to him. Lindsay kept glancing back at them and she wondered what she was thinking. Payton let go of Nick's hand. She wanted to keep holding it but she didn't want to stir up any problem. Nick looked at her. His eyes showed that he truly did love her. But they were shy. He didn't want to tell her let alone express it but he did love her and she could tell. Why didn't she just tell him that she had feelings for him? She let out a sigh. It was too complicated. He noticed she was upset and held her hand again. She couldn't help but hold it too. She looked at Lindsay who was still looking out the window. She should stop. She didn't like people being upset for whatever the reason was. She felt bad. But it was her own fault too that Lindsay was upset and she knew that.
Nick leaned against the armrest. He hadn't had any sleep in two days. He didn't know why, but he just couldn't sleep. He walked to the passenger's seat where Lindsay was sitting. "Hey, Lindsay, can we trade seats?" Lindsay nodded and got up instantly, "Sure, Nick." He grinned, "Thanks." He plopped down. "Tired?" Johny asked without taking his eyes off the road. Nick nodded, "I just haven't been getting enough sleep, that's all." Johny laughed, "Yeah I know what you mean. I wouldn't be able to sleep either with those two crawling all over me." Nick glared at him. "What do you mean?" Johny rolled his eyes, "Come on buddy, I see the way they look at you. And don't you notice how they're always having these little bickerings? It's all about you." Nick shook his head. He wasn;t sure how he felt about Lindsay and Payton...true enough he did have a crush on one of them, maybe even both of them. Maybe even more then a crush for Payton..."Look, I'm not sure now would be the best time to start a relationship with either of them. All we should be worrying about now is getting to Washington state." Johny shrugged, "Whatever." Nick glanced back. Payton and Lindsay were talking quietly from across eachother. He couldn't help notice his name being said more then once. Payton seemed to notice and lifted her head to look at him. He faced forward again. Earlier when he held her hand in had felt right. Like there had been a connection between them...was Suddenly, Nick felt tired. "Wake me up when we leave the state." He muttered to Johny. Then sleep finally over took him, and he accepted it gratefully.
"Wake up, we're in Tennessee." Payton shook him lightly. Nick was alert almost instantly. He looked around. Payton and Nick were the only ones in the bus. "Where's everyone else?" Ha asked rubbing sleep from his eyes. Payton pointed out the window, where Ron, Johny, and Lindsay were walking along the road. "Why are they walking?" He asked, standing. Payton shrugged, we needed to strtch our legs, I just came back to get you. Nick nodded and walked outside. It was still blistering hot. It was the middle of summer. At least he thought it was. The time of seasons weren't as important as the once were half a year ago. "How long was I asleep?" He asked. It was almost sun-down when he fell asleep. Payton shrugged, "I'd say twenty-four hours at least." Nick nodded and ran to catch up with everyone. When he got up to Ron, he turned in surprise. "Ah, sleeping beauty is finally awake!" Nick rolled his eyes, grinning. His grin faded as Johny and Lindsay turned around. "What's wrong?" He asked walking up to where they were, only now did he notice they had been on their stomachs, looking over the hill. "It's Nashville." Johny replied, "It's swarming with infected." Payton raised her eye-brows. Apparently she didn't come all the way over here before coming to get Nick. It was new news to the both. Nick walked to the edge. Johny tackled him to the ground. "Do you want them to see you!" He said sternly. Nick shrugged him off. Then he crawled to the edge of the road. It went down a hill, and led to the huge town. It had once been known for it's country music. But now it was just known as one of the first cities in the U.S.A to get hit by the infection. Johny was right, the streets were swarming with them. Much, much worse than Port Saint Lucie. Nick crawled backwards and stood up. "Well, what do you propose we do?" Payton, who was still on her belly looking at the city, answered, "Why don't we just find a smaller road and go around?" Johny shook his head, "Everyone knows some of the tests for the infection started here. What if there's some kind of vaccine?" Ron pushed his way up to him, "If there is some kind of vaccine or cure, why wouldn't the government have used it during the Panic? Or The Swarm?" The Panic was when outbreaks started happening all throughout the world and people began to lose it. The Swarm was at the height of the infection, following the Panic. It was when the military was overrun and what was left of them retreated to Washington State, and a swarm of infected over took the continent in less than a month. Ron continued, "It's absurd to go looking down there." Lindsay piped up, "And the other smaller cities around this area are also heavily infected. Either way, we're screwed. So why not use less gas and just go through Nashville?" Nick glanced at Johny, "I agree with Lindsay, we should just go through the town and avoid as many infected as possible. But we shouldn't stop at any lab." Payton agreed, and Ron mumbled his support. Johny shrugged. "Fine,let's do it."
Johny buckled his seat belt. Nick did the same in the passenger's seat, Lindsay and Payton were on both couches, pistol and machine gun held in hand. Ronald was in the back wiht his machine gun. The windows were slightly open, so when they were driving they could pick off any infected holding onto the bus. Johny raised his voice, "Eveyone ready?" Everyone gave a positive. "Let's do it." Nick said. Johny started the bus, then took off. They drove down the hill that led to the huge, infested town. Then they were in it. Immedialty, infected bodies were swarming the bus. Payton, Lindsay, and Ron all had the windows open, shooting the infected on each side. Nick took his the machine gun Johny let him borrow and took up his position next to Payton. Ron, on the other side with Lindsay, yelled out in surprise as one of the zombies jumped up and almost bit him in the face. He easily put a bullet in its head. Now the path was cleared a good bit, Johny plwoed through the streets. Then Nick heard a sound that made his blood chill. A load booming bellow came from what seemed like, all around them. Nick gasped in horror as about two dozen super-infected streamed out from the alleyways. Nick and Payton had only encountered one before, back in PSL, and that had been hard enough to kill. But now there were two dozen! All of them had claws, and had strange mutations growing on the side of their heads. Payton tunred to Johny, "GO! DRIVE!" Johny literally put the pedal to the metal, the bus throttled forward. But the super infected were faster. They jumped onbto the roof and in the sides, their claws holding them in place. "Shoot them!" Ron yelled, everyone opened fire again. One of the super-infected cut it's way in throguh the roof, landing directly behind Nick. "Good God!" Ron yelled aiming his gun at the monstrousity. He fired. But the super-infected dodged, the bullets hit Nick in the shoulder, throwing him backwards. And then...all hell broke loose. More of the super-infected made their way into the bus and more regular infected were outside swarming it. Nick was bleeding pretty bad. Payton was shooting at the infected, Ron helping her, while Lindsay was shooting at the swarm outside. "Nick! Are you okay!" Payton yelled as she thrust a knife into the super-infected's head. Nick only shook his head, he was to out of breath to answer her. From up front he heard gun shots. Nick was on the ground so he could see, through a tangle of feet, Johny shooting out his window at the swarm. Was this the end? Surley the couldn't take out all these super-infected, while not getting infected them sleves, and getting by the swarm, AND getting out of Nashville alive? Nick pulled his pistol out with his good arm and aimed at a super-infected's head and shot. It went down with a sickening thud. There was only one more super-infected in the bus now. They might just make it!
The last super-infected turned to see his comrade fall. He may not have much of a brain or any feelings resembling emotion but Lindsay could've sworn she saw fear in its eyes at that very moment. Something inside of him knew that there was no way out. He would die here today, just like he died the first time before reanimating. Apparently something inside of him also told him that he wouldn't go down without a fight because he immediately regained his composure and raced for Nick, who was lying on the floor, still coddling his shoulder. If he was going to take one of them before dying, Nick would be the easiest target.
"NICK!" Payton and Lindsay both yelled in unison. In the few seconds it took for the super-infected to reach Nick, Lindsay knew she should do something. She should shoot, she should tackle it... something! But she was frozen by shock, by fear. All she could do was yell Nick's name, and so she did. Evidently, that was all Payton could find the power to do as well because she had screamed his name at the very moment Lindsay had. Suddenly, Ronald - who had just finished reloading - came up from behind and shot the infected in the back of the head, just as it was in midair; ready to land on Nick and attack. It fell on top of him, lifeless. They were almost out of the huge swarm and had just killed the last super-infected in the bus. They were going to make it! At least for the moment. Johnny jerked the wheel to the right, hit the pedal to the floor, and drove with undying speed, straight out of the hell-hole. They continued driving for at least 5 minutes, making sure they had lost the horde, before pulling over and stopping in a dark; deserted alleyway. Lindsay, with the help of Ronald, had pulled the dead infected off of Nick and Payton was now nursing his wounds.
"Hey Ronny, you think I could get a hand over here?" Johnny asked, while dragging one of the bodies across the floor and out of the bus.
"Promise to never call me "Ronny" again, and you got it."
"Deal." Johnny agreed. Ronald offered a smile and began helping.
"Oh, and Lindsay! If you're not doing anything, could you work on getting this place cleaned up a little? Just wash up some of the blood and stuff, you know?"
Lindsay smiled and nodded. She grabbed a washcloth and got to work. They knew they wouldn't be able to stay for long, the infected would show up any minute. But they worked for as long as they thought reasonable, which ended up being about 15 minutes. They had finished most of the work and Lindsay was just now stepping out to get rid of the towel she had used to clean the floor. She offered to just wash it, but Johnny thought it better to throw it out, just to be on the safe side. She walked to a garbage dumpster to throw it in. She could've just thrown it on the floor, it's not like anyone would've cared anymore... but part of her wanted to maintain some civilization. She came closer and lifted the lid, glancing in briefly as she tossed the towel. The lid slammed shut and she stood there for a minute. *Did I just see...* She paused, and then lifted the lid to look again. She was right. There, inside the dumpster, was a man. At first she couldn't tell if it was a man or a zombie because his face was smeared with dirt and he wasn't wearing any clothes. At least as far as she could tell. The lower half of his body was buried in trash. She then came to the conclusion, however, that he was, in fact, a man. He wouldn't be in here sleeping, if he was a zombie... zombies didn't sleep. And she knew he wasn't dead, because she could see the subtle rising of his chest and could hear his soft breathing. She was about to wake him when she decided it a better idea to call the guys over and let them choose a plan. For all she knew, this could be one of Echo's followers! She silently gasped at the thought and quietly ran back over to the bus, where the others waited for her return so they could get back on the road. Evidently, they noticed the look in her eyes because they all started asking what had happened. She caught her breath and recounted what she had seen.
"Okay... Payton, Lindsay? stay here in case something goes wrong... Johnny will stay with you and be ready to drive away if anything happens. Me and Ron will go check it out." Nick instructed.
"Woah, no way! You are in no shape to fight Nick... have you seen your shoulder lately??" Payton argued.
"Well... the bullet's out and you fixed it up really well.. I think I'll be okay." He said.
"Shut up, Nick. You're not going. I'll go with Ron and you stay here with Payton and Johnny." Lindsay offered. "Besides... I'm the one who found him! Shouldn't I at least be the first one to meet him?" She smiled jokingly.
"But-" Nick started but Johnny interrupted him. "No, Nick... she's right. Let her go."
"Thank you Johnny. C'mon Ron, let's go." She grabbed her pistol and Ron grabbed his shotgun. They walked to the dumpster cautiously and opened the lid slowly. "There he is." Lindsay whispered. Ron just nodded and started climbing inside. "What're you doing?" Lindsay asked quietly.
"If he tries to kill us, I want to be able to restrain him and in order to do that, I'm going to have to get closer." He answered.
He was inside and got down near his face. He grabbed a half empty bottle of water out of the pile of trash, and began pouring it on the man's face. The man sat up abruptly and coughed up water. "What the... who are you?!" He had a look of shock on his face.
"Not until you tell us who you are, buddy." said Ron.
"Kenneth.. Kenneth Murphy." The man replied.
"Alright Kenneth, here's the deal. We have a bus and we're making our way to Washington with a plan for survival. You can come along or not. It's your decision. But either way, we've gotta get outta here before we're found by the zombies, which I'm guessing will be any second now." With that, he jumped from the dumpster and walked to the bus. Lindsay was a little surprised by how much Ronald had matured since they first met him... He handled the situation perfectly and he really seemed to be stepping up to the plate. She wasn't sure why the sudden change, but nevertheless, she was very happy he was with them now. She followed him to the bus and heard Kenneth following behind. "Hey, wait up you guys! You never even told me who you were.. Why should I follow you?" Now that he was no longer buried in trash, Lindsay quickly glanced back and was relieved to see that he was wearing pants. She then stared forward again and continued on, not caring to answer his questions. They made it to the bus and walked in.
"Well, what happened? is he human? is he coming with us?" Payton asked. Her questions were answered when Kenneth suddenly walked in the door and gave an awkward smile. "Uhh... hi guys! I uhh.. I guess I'm coming with you..." He said. He walked over to the couch and sat next to Payton. And with that, Johnny pulled out and drove on.
It had now been 13 days since Elaine Scott had left her underground cave dwelling, wandering through the tunnel. She was eating only at night, when any sane human would be either sleeping or in hiding. Either way, of course, they would surely not be foolish enough to be out in the open, as the Infecteds were hungriest at night. She had been content with her solitude.
Scott looked down at her body. Thin. She could see her ribs. Her skin was graying; or at least, that's how it appeared in the dim light of the tunnel. There was no excess fat on her bones; any structure beneath her skin was muscle. She had a scar that ran diagonally from her left rib to just above her right hip.
She flinched, remembering how she had gotten the wound. She had been struck by one of the Infected; one who had once been an old woman. Her hair was a dark gray, and her skin around her face was heavily wrinkled, but she was so active in her strike, it shocked Elaine so much so that she was caught off guard and was left vulnerable to her attack. Elaine Scott was not one to give into her emotions easily, but she remembered having had compassion on the once old woman. She didn't know why. But looking into the Infected's eyes, solid white, no pupils... it pained her almost to the point of tears to look at her. I had been in Florida at the time. Heh... I'd always wanted to visit Florida. Of course, I was hoping it'd be under a bit better circumstances, maybe be able to see the sun, or people that were alive...
She remembered Billy again. It hurt her a bit to remember him, knowing she would never see him again. He was dead... she had to get over it. That was easier said than done, unfortunately. She had loved him deeply, and when they were separated that was hard enough, but when she heard that he had died, that nearly killed her. It stripped her of any excessive emotional behavior. Stripped her to the bone.
Elaine stopped, suddenly aware of what was in front of her. A massive pile of earth and boulders lay in front of her. She was trapped from going any farther forward. She looked up. *drip* A drop of water came down right on top of her forehead between her eyes. It must have been raining outside. *drip* The dirt separating her tunnel from the outside world was thinning from the start of her jouney until now. She sighed and pulled out her picture of Billy from her pant pocket. "I'm ready."
And with that, she climbed out of her tunnel into the dark of night, 9mm in hand, hood over her head. I am ready.
Payton stared at Kenneth who was popping his knuckles, flexing his back, and pushing his chin out. She glanced over at Nick who glanced back at her. They couldn't help but laugh. Kenneth paused for a moment, shrugged, and continued with his awkward antics. Lindsay couldn't help but laugh either. Although it was very annoying, it was still funny. Ron on the other hand you could tell that he thought what this really freakishly odd guy was doing was absolutely disgusting. You could tell that Ron was maturing a lot but he continued his love affair with alchohol. Kenneth got up and popped his leg. "" Johnny murmured to himself. "Can you PLEASE stop what you're doing?. Kenneth shrugged and stopped for a moment. This shrugging annoyed the heck out of Payton and she knew she had to say something else to Kenneth. Obviously 'stop what you're doing' didn't work for Kenneth and his little brain. "Hey you have to stop whatever the heck you're doing because it's annoying everyone!" She yelled. It was different before because the first impression was stupid but kind of funny. She felt a lot better now that she stopped him. Payton shook her head. Then she looked in the distance and squinted her eyes. What what she was seeing what she thought? No...she was just hilucinating things. But she looked closer. She knew it! It was a huge horde of infected running towards the bus.
Nick rushed to the back window. It wasn't a zombie horde at all, but the exact opposite. He could recognize those tattoos from even one-hundred meters away. It was Echo and his gang of misfits. "It's Echo!" He cried. Payton leaned in for a better view. Her eyes widened as well. Ron whirled around and screamed at Johnny, "Drive, kid! DRIVE!!!" Johnny pressed the gas pedal down as far as it would go. Nick sighed in relief. Thank Go-
"Uh-oh." Johhny said, "We're running out of gas. Fast." Nick felt his heart drop into his stomach. Lindsay whispered, "Here they come." Indeed, Echo and his gang were much closer now than they had been ten seconds earlier. "Oh crap." Ron whirled around, "Is there any gas canisters?" He asked Johhny. "Yeah there some right under the bench Kennith is on." He replied. Ron walked over, pulled Kennith off the couch, reached underneath, and pulled out a gas canister. Lindsay walked up, "Right, but how are we gonna get the gas into the [idk what the heck the real name is] little hole where you put the gas?" Nick's face fell, "Well either we attepmt to do it from a window, which i doubt will work, or we're gonna have to stop the bus, get out, and pour the gas in." Payton looked at him, "But if we stop the bus, Echo'll be on us in a second." Johnny spoke up, "Not neccesarily, we still have some gas left, if we can use what's left of it to get a little distance between us and Echo, we might have a shot." Nick nodded, "Here's the plan: Me, Payton, Lindsay, Kennith, and Ron will get out of the bus as soon as Johnny says we're clear. Then-"
Kennith interupted him, "Who died and made you leader? There's no hope that we'll live anyway, and I don't want you telling me what to do." That caught Nick off guard. How could a grown man act so childish? Didn't he see this was not the time to be arguing?!
He didn't know where to begin, Payton stepped up to Kennith. "As far as I'm concered, Kenny, Nick is the most obvious choice for being leader. He was on the police force, he helped us get this far into The U.S. without getting killed, and he will get us to the military. You? You show absoloutly no backbone whatsoever. You only think of yourself. You are the most perverted person I've ever met. You disgust me. Nick is more the man than you'll ever be. So either you help us, or I will personally throw you off the bus, and let you be killed by the half-infecteds." Everyone was shocked by the outburst. Kennith was red faced. And Nick felt so much warmth to Payton, he wanted to kiss her and tell her he loved her right then. But they he couldn't. They had alrady wasted too much time as it was. Instead he grabbed her hand, "Thanks." He said, grinning. She grinned back, "I meant every word." Ron cleared his throat, "Well I think we all agree with Payton, but we really should get a move on. What was that plan, Nick?" Nick realeased Payton's hand. "Right, As soon as Johnny gives us the go, we jump out of the bus. I'll put the gas in, while you guys shoot at Echo and his gang as they get closer." He swallowed, "When I give the all clear, we get our butts back into this bus, and Johnny, as soon as I get in here, Drive." Johnny nodded. Ron shrugged, "Not the best plan I've ever heard, but it might just work." Nick grinned.

They were all ready. Johnny sped up as much as the bus would go. When it started to slow, he began to pull over. Ron grabbed a bottle of whiskey, threw his head back, and took a drink. He passed it to Nick. Nick shrugged and tok a sip. It was awful. He caughed and passed it to Payton, after she took a sip, she passed it to Lindsay. When the bottle was empty, she tossed it on the ground. It shattered. "Hey!" Came the protest from Kennith, who was staying behind. Nick had coaxed Payton into not throwing him off the bus. Johnny pulled onto the side off the road, threw the doors open, and cried, "GO!!!" Nick went first, followed by Payton, Lindsay, and Ron. Nick had a gun in one hand, the gas canister in the other. He ran to the side of the bus, opened the lid and began to pour the gasoline in. Lindsay, Payton, and Ron took up firing positions. He heard a maniacle laughing up ahead. It was Echo. It sent shivers into his entire being. He heard gun shots start to go off. Nick looked up and saw how many of the half-infecteds there were. There was probably only about twenty or twenty one. The others must have stayed behind. And they were only about thirty yards away, closing in fast. The canister was only half empty. "Come on, come on, come on!" He said. "NIICK!" Payton yelled. He looked up. A shadow had fallen over him. His eyes widened. It was Echo. He jumped the distance?! He landed on Nick with a heavy thud. "You're not going anywhere, you trash." Echo breathed. Nick looked to his right, The prescious gas was spilling from the canister onto the ground. NO! Nick brought up his knee and sent Echo tumbling. Echo unleashed a snarl and came chraging for him. He slammed Nick into the side of the bus. His head spun. He got a glance of what was hapening with the rest of his companions. PAyton was dogdging a blow from a half-infected, Lindsay was ducking and firing with her psitol, and Ron was firing at anything that moved. His attention was turned back to Echo. The gang leader had his claws out, and was about to strike Nick with them. Nick did a snap-kick into Echo's knee. He heard the bones crack and snap. Echo went down with an agonized screech. By now, all the gasoline was out of the canister. But they had enough to escape. "Come on! Let's go!" He yelled. Lindsay got to him first. Johnny opened the doors, and Lindsay practically flew in. Payton and Ron were still having some trouble with the half-infecteds, but it was coming out in their favor. Payton was within arms reach, when a blur grabbeed her and pinned her down. "Echo!" Nick cried. Nick had broken his knee though! Nick had made a fatal mistake: He had underestimated Echo. "No! Payton!" Echo was laughing again, and had his claws high in the air. Nick felt as if he was frozen to the ground. Then Ron came out of nowhere and slammed the butt of his machine gun into Echo's jaw. Echo fell backwards, blood pouring from his mouth. Payton jumped up and ran towards Nick. They jumped aboard. Ron made his way over to the bus, but as soon as he touched the first step, razor sharp claws protruded fron his chest. He looked down, shocked. Nick's eyes widened. Payton's mouth was open and she already had tears in her eyes as she stood in the bus. Ron looked up and locked eyes with Nick. "At least I didn't go out as one of the zombies." He rasped. Then he was thrust backwards and thrown into the sand. "Ron!" Nick said. He was confronted with Echo's snarling, bloodied face. But Johnny closed the doors and sped away before Echo could make his move. Nick backed up. Payton was on the couch, mouth still open. Lindsay was on the other couch, unconcious, and a half-infected's body was on the floor. Kennith was in the front seat. That sick, horrid, awful man. If he had been with them, maybe Ron wouldn't have died, maybe he would have taken Ron's place. But Kennith didn't look the least bit guilty. Nick walked over to him and grabbed the wicked person by the collor of his shirt. "Hey! what are you-"
Nick socked him in the mouth, and then once in the gut. Noone objected. They must all have felt the same way. Nick walked over to Lindsay. A half-infected must have knocked her out. She looked all right, he put a pillow under her head. He side stepped and sat next to Payton on the couch, feeling tears come to his eyes. Payton looked up at him, tears also in her eyes. "Nick-"
Then she buried her head in his chest and began to sob, he hugged her tightly and began to do the same.
Payton couldn't stop crying. She remembered earlier when she gave Kenneth a piece of her mind and felt so good about it after she did. Of course now, when everyone saw her clinging onto the man she loved, sobbing and expressing a child. When did she express herself with crying? She probably hadn't done that in years. The last time she probably expressed herself with this emotion was when her older brother had died as a flight pilot in the air force. She remembered how terrified she felt and she knew she would follow her brother's footsteps and get those Iraqi dogs..
Lindsay grunted. Payton lifted her head. Lindsay was awake now, but totally unaware of what had happened. She didn't even know that Ron had...died. Lindsay took a deep breath. "Wh...what happened?" she said rubbing her face. No one answered. She looked around the bus. "Where's Ron?" she said looking at everyone in the bus. More tears filled up in Payton's eyes. Payton put her head on Nick's shoulder and continued crying. Lindsay was quiet for a second and took a deep breath again. "Where is he?" she said with tears filling up in her eyes. She looked around the bus. "H..he...he's dead...isn't he?" Payton and Nick looked up at her. "Isn't he? He's dead! Tell me!" she said with a shakey voice. Lindsay put her face in her hands and began sobbing. The more Lindsay cried the more Payton cried. Payton clutched onto Nick's shirt tighter. She knew he was feeling the same pain as she was. Maybe even worse. Nick had his face on Payton's head. He was stroking her hair gently and crying. She felt so close to him, like there was some connection between them. Why was she thinking this? She needed to quit it. Ron just died and she's thinking about her desires. She let go of his shirt and let go herself from his warm arms. She went to sit next to Lindsay. She tried comforting her. She put her hand on her shoulder but Lindsay flinched. She probably felt terrible. She got up and went to sit next to Nick again. She took his hand and held it for a long time.
"I'm so sorry." she said in a soft voice. He didn't look up, he just squeezed her hand tightly. She looked in the front where Johnny was driving and Kenneth was sleeping. She could see in the rearview mirror that Johnny was shedding a tear or two. He had gone through so much. He had risked his life for them. He probably would've been better off alone, but he was so willing to rescue them from dehydrating. He looked over to Kenneth who was snoring. Loser...she thought. What the heck did he do to deserve to survive? Hide in a freakin dumpster half naked? She wanted to go over there and punch him in the nuts. Hah! That would wake him up..mentally. She thought. But she was being selfish. Sure, he didn't do anything to survive, they just saved his little butt from being eaten by infected, but then again, he is another human.
Payton looked down. She was tired. She completely forgot about everything. She glanced over at Nick, who was sitting there speechless. She couldn't see his green, beautiful eyes anymore. They were full of despondency. She squeezed his hand and with that she put her head back and fell asleep.
They drove another hundred miles, to put some distance in between them and Echo, then they pulled over in honor of Ron. They where on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri, it was five o'clock in the afternoon and Payton was awake now, outside getting some fresh air. Lindsay was on the couch, arms folded, legs crossed, looking at her feet. Johnny was leaning back in the driver's seat, looking out his window. Nick was in the back grabbing a bottle of water, and Kenneth was in the passenger's seat, asleep and snoring loudly. Nick shook his head in disgust and took a long swig of his water. He sat on the seat opposite to Lindsay. She leaned forward and whispered, "Maybe we should pour some of that water in his mouth, he'll wake up coughing up a storm." Nick began to laugh, but caught himself. It seemed so wrong to take even the smallest of pleasures, like laughing, in the wake of Ron's death. He hadn't really known Ron...actually none of them really knew each other. But they were survivors of this hellsih apocalypse, and that created a VERY strong bond. But once they got to the military...then it dawned on Nick. Nothing would be any different, except the fact that they were with the military, safe and sound. The infection wouldn't be over just because their small group got there. What did he think? That they would say, "Okay, Nick Zarrack and his ragtag caravan have made it to us! Let's go out there and stop this war!" But no, the world doesn't revolve around them. If the military hadn't made a stand now, they never would. He always knew nothing would change once they got there, except that they'd be safe, but the infection would continue on. Nothing would change! It was like hopelessness had come up and slapped him in the face. He wanted to curl up and die. To end it all. But something kept him going. Humanity had the right to survive, didn't it? Of course it did, and maybe, just maybe, when the military sees that what's left of this world is ready to step up and fight, and then maybe they would do something. But, of course, that's assuming they even get to the military. He shook his head to clear it. Nick got up and walked to the front seat. "Johnny, is there anyway we could find a house and take a shower?" Johnny nodded, "Sure, but it has to be a house that has its own well system, then all I have to do is plug in the bus batteries into the power system, it won't be hot, but at least we could take a shower..." Johnny said. Nick shrugged, "Better than nothing, let's do it." Johnny grinned, "Tell Payton to come back in, we'll head out as soon as I put some more fuel in the tank." Nick flinched, reminded of earlier that day. Johnny patted his shoulder and walked to the back of the bus to get some gas. Nick opened the entrance door and walked out. Payton had her back to him, looking at the terrain. He came up behind and put a hand on her arm. She tensed, and with lightning fast speed, did a round-house kick the sent him sprawling. He went down with a grunt, surprised. Payton had a knife out, her eyes widened with surprise. "Nick!" She said helping him up, "Sorry, I thought you were a zombie...or Kenneth." They laughed, and then guilt seemed to sweep over them both. He cleared his throat, "We're gonna drive a little farther into the city, Johnny's going try and see if he can get a shower going." Payton let out a breath of relief, "Oh finally, a hot shower!" He half-laughed, "It's not going to be a hot shower, I'm afraid." Payton groaned, then Nick led the way back to the bus, Johnny was coming out at the same moment with the gas tank in his hand.

Five minutes later, they were on the road again driving deeper into the city, staying on the back roads so as not to encounter any zombie hordes. But for those few they did encounter, they plowed right through. They came to the suburbs. There weren't very many infected about, thankfully, it was a very small neighborhood. They went to the smallest house, on the farthest part of the neighborhood, the farthest away from the city. Johnny pulled the bus into the driveway. All five of them went into the house, guns drawn. The house was empty, of living, and the living dead. Then they raided the house. There were still canned food, batteries, and some steak in the freezer. There was one shower, and nice hot water. Nick turned to them, "Okay, we'll all need to take showers one at a time; the rest of us will have to keep a look out. Then once we're all showered up, we'll treat ourselves to some nice juicy steak, and then we'll get a move on. Sound like a plan?" Everyone murmered their agreement, except Kenneth; Johnny went to plug up the bus, after that he walked back in, Kenneth was already up saying, "I'll take the first one." He said walking to the bathroom. Payton spoke up, "Take a fast one, we're kinda short on time." Kenneth smiled slyly, "If you're so worried about it, why don't we take one together to save some time?" Fury enveloped Nick, Ron had just died and this perv was up to his tricks again? Payton stepped forward and walked very close to Kenneth, her face centimeters from his. Nick's mouth was open, along with Johnny and Lindsay's. Was she going to accept?! Payton spoke very softly, seductively, "You know, that's sounds just about as wonderful as," She brought her knee up with blurring speed, and hit him with a thud in his private area," Eating my own foot off!" Kenneth let out a screech. Payton pushed him into the bathroom, he crashed into some towel racks. Nick could barely suppress his laughter, he threw Kenneth's change of clothes in the bathroom and shut the door. Payton was grinning at them all, and then they let out a good laugh. And they weren't guilty at all; they knew Ron would have done the same thing. Ten minutes later, Kenneth came out, crouched over. "How was your shower?" Lindsay asked pleasantly. Kenneth moaned and shuffled to the couch. Nick walked to the bathroom, "I'll go next." He walked in. It was havoc, the towel rack was all toppled over, stuff was all over the toilet, with a closer look Nick discovered it was throw-up. He grinned. Go Payton! He undressed and walked into the shower, a freezing cold one, but still nice and cleansing. He dressed into new clothes and walked out, Lindsay was already at the door. She took one look at the bathroom and looked back at Nick, he shook his head, "It was Kenneth." She laughed and closed the door. Kenneth was still on the couch, clutching at his pants. Payton and Johnny were in the small kitchen, they looked up as he strode in. "Meat's thawed and ready to be cooked." Johnny stated. Nick nodded, "Is there a gas grill out back?" Johnny nodded, "And there's no sign of zombies anywhere, but they're sure to be attracted by the smoke and smell of cooking meat." Payton shrugged, "We'll take it on the go then." Payton walked to the bathroom, apparently to wait for Lindsay to get out. Nick went out back with Johnny. They sat down at a little glass table. Johnny set the thawed meat packets on it, and then sat down, Nick joined him. The two discussed where to go next, what to do about food and gas, and what to do about another zombie horde. Lindsay came out of the house a few minutes later and sat down next to Nick, "When can we have those steaks? I'm starving." "When Payton gets out and I get in, Nick will put the meat on the grill, it should be done by the time I get out." Johnny replied looking her over. She held his gaze for a moment, than let it slide over to the grill. Then something caught her attention in the bushes. "What's that?" She asked. Nick followed her gaze. Indeed, there was something moving in there. He stood instinctively. Johnny dashed for the guns, and brought back their pistols. Lindsay stood behind Johnny as Nick led them to over to the bushes. "What do you think it is?" He whispered." Lindsay replied, "I don't think it's a zombie, we would have seen it's upper body." Johnny lifted his gun, "Maybe only a dog..." He trailed off. The most gut wrenching smell enveloped them. Bile rose into his throat. He swallowed, and looked back at Lindsay, "Take my gun, when i pull back the bushes, if it's a zombie shoot it." No duh. A few more steps and they were there. Johnny and Lindsay held the guns up and nodded. Nick nodded back, and cautiously pulled the bushes back. He almost threw up. The smell was so much worse here. But it wasn't the smell that freaked him out. There were bones scattered around the small garden, or what once was a small garden. But in the middle of it, a Venus-fly tap looking creatur was snapping its jaws and swinging around two very long vines. They most likely worked as limbs. The three humans seemed to catch its attention. Those two vines slithered forward, armed with lethal looking thorns. Nick backed up. Johnny and Lindsay were looking at eachother. "No! Don't shoot, you'll attract zombies." Nick said. They lowered their weapons and the three of them rushed back to the back porch. Payton was coming out, wet-haired, "Did I miss something?" Lindsay explained what they saw. While Johnny departed for the shower saying, "The sooner we get outta here, the better." When Lindsay was done, Payton looked at them both, "Do you think some of the vegetation was infected with the virus?" Nick groaned, "If so, God help us. Even the plant life is getting infected!" He walked to the grill shaking his head in despair. Lindsay and Payton sat across from each other, discussing what else could possibly be infected. Twenty minutes later, the steaks were done. The five surviving humans gathered their new supplies, and took the steaks to go. The bus drove off, making its way along the side streets. And sure enough, the barbeque had attracted infected, but the survivors left the job of cleaning them up, to the vine-plant creature.
"Oh my G0d.." Payton said prying her teeth into the red meat. "This is so good." she said with steak stuffed in her mouth and barbecue sauce dripping from it. Nick smiled. To him, she was beautiful even with A1 barbecue sauce dripping from her mouth. "You have sauce...dripping from your mouth." he said with a chuckle. "Oh..heh." she said wiping her mouth. "So...where are we?" Lindsay asked. "We're heading out of St. Louis soon." Nick responded looking out the window. "Well, I'm done. I'm going to lay down. Thanks Johnny." Lindsay said. "It was really good."
"Don't mention it." he said with a grin. Lindsay walked to the hammock, lay down, and fell asleep. "Thanks so much Johnny. It was great. You should do this more often, you'd be my best friend." Payton said with a smile. "Yeah if it's safe enough to find a house with meat." he replied with a chuckle. Payton got up and sat on the couch. Kenneth finished his steak and helped himself to another serving, finished, and got up without a thank-you. He went to the front seat and went out like a light. Everyone rolled their eyes or sighed. "What a freak." Payton shouted across the room. Although it didn't wake Kenneth up. A few hours later, they were on the road again. Kenneth woke up and started singing annoyingly. "Shut up Kenneth!" Lindsay said. "No." he said, but then he stopped. "I have to pee." he said. "Oh G0d..." Payton said. "And of course, the toilet isn't working!" she got up and walked to Kenneth. "You can hold it." she said. "No seriously. I have to!" he whined. Johnny stopped the bus. "He's right. I needa go too." he said. Payton got up again. "What? No! We have to get to the base as soon as we can. Two people can hold it for another hour, so sit your butts down and keep driving!" she shouted. Lindsay got up. "Hey, sorry. I need to go too." she said. Payton rolled her eyes. "Fine." she said crossing her arms. "But I'm staying here." Johnny started the bus. "What do you think you're doing?" Payton said. Johnny started driving. "We're going to find a bathroom." he said. "Johnny! You can do it behind a freakin tree!" she said. "No. It's too dangerous. Not after what happened last time." he replied. "Look there's a church. We can go there." Payton plopped on the couch. "You guys are so spoiled."
Johnny, Lindsay and Kenneth were headed towards the church in search of a bathroom, with Nick and Payton left to watch over the bus. They approached the building and came to a stop as they reached the large double doors leading into the church. Lindsay scaled the building with her eyes. "Wow... It's big? you think it's safe?" she asked Johnny, concerned. Johnny shrugged. "I think we can take care of ourselves..." though he didn't sound too sure. Kenneth stood close to Lindsay and put his arm around her shoulder. "It's okay, hot stuff. Just stay reaalll close, Kenneth here will protect you." He leaned in and Lindsay could feel his hot, putrid breath on her face. She resisted the urge to puke and not knowing what else to do, bit his hand with as much force as she could muster. "AHHHH!!!" Kenneth screamed as he yanked his arm off of her. He held his hand and rocked back and forth, glaring at Lindsay who just smiled and turned towards the church. She tried the door but found it to be locked. "Crap... what now?" She asked, turning to face Johnny. Before he could answer, footsteps sounded from inside. The three of them froze, not knowing what to do next. Johnny whispered "Did you hear that?"
"Yeah... zombies?"
"Hmm... I don't think so... zombies don't move that quickly or fluently."
The noise sounded again and Johnny dared to speak. "Uhh... is there umm... somebody in there?" There was a long silence and they almost gave up and turned back to the bus when suddenly the large double doors opened to an old man with thin white hair, a ruddy face and soft blue eyes. He was a priest of sorts, judging by his attire. He looked them over carefully and spoke in a gentle voice "Please, come in, come in... hurry now." They stepped inside and he shut the doors behind them. "Tell me, what brings you here children?"
Johnny glanced quickly at Lindsay and then replied. "Well umm... we were actually looking for a bathroom. We didn't expect uhh... anyone to be in here."
"Oh my, of course! By all means, the bathroom is down that hall and to the right."
Lindsay could see the same confusion she was feeling in Johnny's eyes. How is he alive? Is he the only one? Why does he seem so relaxed? She had so many questions but decided to wait until after she relieved herself to ask them. They nodded their thanks and headed the way he'd directed. They came back minutes later and found the old man right where they left him. He stared at them for a moment, and there was a long silence. Normally Lindsay would've felt very awkward in this position but now... she felt completely at peace and wasn't sure why. The man broke the silence "So will that be all then?"
"Wait... I need to know something first." Johnny replied.
"Yes child, of course. Anything."
"How... are you here?"
"How am I here? Why, I've been here. I was here the day it all happened and I've been here ever since!"
"Well sure but..."
"How am I still alive?" The priest interrupted.
"Well... yeah!"
The man chuckled and left without replying. Johnny looked confused and hurried after him, Lindsay and Kenneth trailing behind. "Wait, hold up! Where are you--" He stopped himself short as he looked around the auditorium. It was huge with rows and rows of pews and up on the wall was a crucifix, bigger than any he'd ever seen. But more breathtaking than this, was what was filling the pews. People... real, non-infected people. About 50 of them filled the room, some praying fervently, some lifting their hands in worship, some just sitting quietly. Johnny stared gaping, as well as Lindsay and even Kenneth. "What in the..."
The priest smiled and said knowingly, "Yes, indeed... there are many of us. Are you so surprised?"
"Well no, it's just that... no, I'm sorry. Yes, I am surprised. Very surprised... how could this many people possibly stay alive for so long?? Have you BEEN outside lately? I'll admit, this isn't the most infected city I've been in but... it's got its fair share of zombies. It only makes sense that they would have found you by now and taken over this place for whatever its worth, I just don't understand."
The priest stepped up to him and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "You have much to learn, son."
"Well I'm sorry, but we don't have time to learn. Could you just tell me what it is you're doing to stay alive??" Johnny replied.
The old man nodded. "I see. Well to be perfectly honest, I am not doing anything and neither are any of my fellow people." He said, motioning towards the others. "This is the work of the only one who really has any real power. The one and only, true God." He said, pointing upwards. Kenneth scoffed, Lindsay stared at the floor and Johnny just looked lost. "I'm out you guys." Kenneth said, smirking and walked out towards the bus. Johnny ignored him and continued with the conversation. "So... you're trying to tell me that you're all alive here today because of... of some god?"
"Yes, my son. That's what I'm telling you. We have been faithful to Him, praying and worshiping daily... asking for His protection over His people. And he has answered. We have been so very blessed and it's all because of Him."
Johnny just shook his head. "I'm sorry, I'm just not a religious person. I don't believe in the stories and I don't believe there's an all-powerful god. What kind of god would let his people deteriorate into these... these zombies?! killing each other like savage beasts?! I'm sorry, I just don't buy it."
The priest sighed. "Believe what you want. But when the Day of Judgment comes, it may be too late for you to change your mind. He is coming soon! For this is all His doing, he is letting out His wrath on these wicked people! Jesus Christ will be coming soon to save us and all we have to do is wait patiently for His return, staying faithful to Him."
Lindsay stepped toward Johnny and put a hand on his shoulder. She spoke softly, "Hey Johnny, can we just go? We've been here long enough, I'm sure the others are getting worried." Johnny just stood silent, staring at the old man. Lindsay wondered if he'd even heard her. The man stood, unmoving; staring Johnny down with a firm gaze. Lindsay didn't know why, but she felt uncomfortable here. Before she had felt a peace... and the peace was still there but it was being overrun by this odd feeling of guilt. Lindsay had grown up in a church and gone through the process of accepting Jesus as her Savior but... she was never really interested and only did it due to her parents' urging. But now... sitting here... she felt as though she had abandoned Him and was too scared to go back now. She'd strayed too far and knew He would never accept her again. "Please Johnny..." she pleaded. "Let's just leave." Johnny was still captured by this all and finally replied quietly to the Priest. "You really believe all of this, don't you?"
"With all of my heart."
"Well obviously something's going on here. Who knows? You may be right. Look... we have to leave but... if you want to come, I'm sure we could... well you know, there's not enough room for everyone but surely we have enough room for you! We're headed to a military base... it's safe there!! We can help you..."
The man just smiled and answered softly. "Thank you, but I'm safe here, child... and you know I can't leave my people. This is where I belong. Be blessed on your journeys and we'll see what happens in the end. I hope you make it. Do you mind if... if I say a prayer over you all?"
Johnny thought about it and then nodded after careful consideration. "I guess... it couldn't hurt, could it?"
Lindsay smirked and turned on her heel. "I'm sorry Johnny, but we don't have time for this. You can stay here and get prayed for or whatever but I'm leaving." She walked out the way they'd come and Johnny just stared after her. He turned to face the man again. "I'm sorry... I guess... I guess I should go. Thanks anyways, and stay safe." He ran after Lindsay and out to the bus.
The man sighed and said under his breath. "I'm not the one I'm worried about, son." He muttered a quick prayer and rejoined his congregation.
Lindsay and Johnny came in a few minutes later after Kenneth. They looked solem. "Everything go smoothly?" He grinned. But they were in no mood for jokes. He cleared his throat, "I'll drvie for a while if you want, Johnny." He nodded, "Sure, thanks." Nick climbed into the driver's seat. Kenneth strolled over to take his usual seat, but Lindsay beat him to it. "I'd like to sit here for a while, Kenneth, if you don't mind." He grunted, and sat on the couch. About an hour later, they were out of St. Louis, and on their way to Kansas, State. During the outbreak, the military had quarantined dozens of highways, to stop the zombies from spreading. Well that didn't work. So now the survivors were forced to go on different routes than the ones they would normally choose. He glanced at Lindsay, this time only a glance, because last time he had crashed the RV. "You sure are quiet." He said. She came out of a daze shaking her head, "Just thinking." He didn't pry anymore, he sensed she really wasn't in a chatty mood. They drove silently under a large bridge, then made a right, and turned onto the highway. "Crap." He said, "Another quarantine boundary. Thing thing was a huge, thick, slab of cement wall. It went on in both directions, deep into the woods. It was about twenty feet high. Trees were blocking his veiw so he wouldn't have been able to see it over the tall cedars. "What's that?" Kenneth inquired from behind. "What's what?" Nick asked, reaching a hand out to put the bus in reverse. "That noise." Kenneth replied. "Yeah what is that?" Lindsay asked. He could here it now, a distant roaring. He caught his breath. He hadn't heard that noise in over half a year! It was a plane, no three planes! "Planes!" The five of them said at the same time. But there was no time to think fondly of that coincedense. They all jumped up and ran for the door. They flew out and almost ran into a car that was parked close by. They could see the planes, but they sure could here them. They wouldn't to drive all the way to Washington! They'd just hitch a ride on a plane! The military must have sent them out to look for survivors. A few zombies were around. But they didn't really pose a serious threat, still in the light of this joyous moment, Nick still held his gun tighter. "Here they come!" Lindsay cried gleefully. Then the planes were over the horizon. And Nick's heart ate dirt. The planes coming over the horizon were F-22s. "Those are fighter jets." Johnny said, sounding grave. "Wait," Nick said, "Maybe they were just sent by the military to look for survivors!" Johnny looked at Nick, "And then what? Will they send a 747 out here to come get us?" "No," He replied, trying to hold onto some hope, "Maybe they'll send helicopters out here to get us!" "And risk infection? Think about it Nick, would they put sniffer dogs on a chopter?" He let go of the hope that was stranglinh for breath. He looked around, "Hurry! We've gotta get the guns! Shoot at them! Show them we're down here!" Jhonny shook his head, "That won'y stop them, they were given a mission, and they must obey." Nick shook his head. Where could they hide if the fighters bombarded the area with bombs? They were on the bridge between life and death. Bridge. The bridge they had passed to get on the highway! "The bridge! We have to get there! It might be our only chance! We've gotta ge the guns, for future uses." Payton, Lindsay, and Johnny charged into the bus, grabbing all they could. They came back out a few moments later. The F-22s were now dangerously close to the survivors. "Hurry!" Kenneth cried already running. Nick grabbed Payton's hand, Johnny helped Lindsay along after she tripped. The bridge was only about ten yards away. "Come on!" He yelled. The F-22s were practically over them now, and they only fifteen feet away from their only source of safety. They got there just as Nick saw the first missle realeased from the first one, the other two following suit. The five companions run under the bridge, coming up angainst the wall. They fell to the ground, Nick covering Payton, and Johnny doing the same to Lindsay, Nick didn't know where Kenneth was, but he could hear him crying. Then a deafening roar, followed by two others, then a blind light, shook the ground. The bridge tottally collapsed. Payton was screaming, Lindsay was crying out for help, and Kenneth was sobbing. But all that was lost to Nick as the large shards from the bridge fell upon them, and darkness hit Nick in waves...
Payton opened her eyes. It was completely dark. She felt this heavy weight on her. "What the-?" she murmured. "Nick? ...Nick get off." she said. She shook him a gently and then remembered what had happened earlier. She made sure she pushed him off gently just in case he had something broken. It was completely dark and the ground was killing her back.
She groaned. There was debris all over the place, and what was left of the bridge was around them everywhere. The boundary wall was completely gone, that also in pieces around the area. Cars where overturned on the grass, either up in fires, or already burnt to a crisp. She let her gaze drift over to the bus. It was still there?! It was still there! But large pieces of debris were all over it, and huge dents were over it like freckles. She looked over her companions. Lindsay was under Johnny's body, dust and pieces of debris covered them both. Kenneth was curled into a ball next to what was left of the wall. Nick was on his side, a big bump on his head. Payton knew she had to get water for them all, and for that, she'd have to go to the bus. She tried to stand, but was overcome with pain in her side and back. She attempted it again, this time slowly, and succeeded. Her ankle hurt a bit, but it was probably only a minor sprain caused by a piece of concrete. It was a wonder any of them survived, but it looked like the rockets the F-22s shots were meant for the boundary wall, and maybe one of them had hit the bridge, whether on purpose or miscalculation, she did not know. But surly, if all three rockets had hit the bridge, they'd be dead. She limped lightly, making her way to the bus. When she got there, the door was still open from before. It was a mess on the inside, dust and concrete had flown in through the open door. She cautiously made her way up the stairs, favoring her left foot. She went to the back of the bus, opened the fridge and pulled out ten bottles, all that she could carry. She wrecked bridge. Lindsay was already coming to already, unsure of her surroundings. Payton bent down to help her get Johnny off. When that was done, she looked up at her groggily, "What happ?oh I remember. Are?are we still alive?" Payton laughed bitterly, "This look like heaven or hell to you?" Lindsay shook her head, "Hell, maybe." Payton handed her a bottle of water. Lindsay said her thanks and attempted to move into a cross legged position. She cried out in pain. Payton looked at her right leg and winced. It was all bruised up. "Oh it hurts!" Lindsay groaned. "Don't touch it." Payton said, "We'll have to put a splint on it or something, that way you don't hurt it anymore." Payton looked around for anything that might work, but all she saw was dust and concrete. "There might be something in the bus, hang on." Payton walked half ran back to it. She grabbed the first aid, which she should have done on her first trip. She hurried back outside and went around the bus to the woods. There were plenty of pieces of wood there fallen around on the ground from the explosion. She snatched up two stiff pieces. She made a make shift splint for Lindsay. 'Thanks," she said. "No problem." The three men were still unconscious. Payton checked on Johnny and Nick, they were still out cold, same as Kenneth. An hour later, Kenneth was beginning to wake up. Lindsay and Payton looked at each other. They did not want to be alone with him. It wasn't that they couldn't take care of themselves, with or without injuries, but he was pretty darn annoying. Payton walked over to him and handed him a bottle of water. He snatched it from her, and drank loudly. He took another swig and stood up, following Payton back to Lindsay. Payton sat across from Lindsay, Kenneth stood a few feet away from them, "You have a broken leg?" No, she just put that thing on her leg for fun, Payton thought, but held her tongue. Lindsay only nodded. Johnny and Nick woke up half an hour later.
Nick opened his eyes slowly, blinking away dust. His head was killing him. His shoulder felt equally painful. He looked up; it was evening now, the sun setting over the trees. Two legs came into his vision, he looked up farther, it was Payton. "Here," she said gently, something plastic against his lips, she tilted it upward, and nice cool water came down into his mouth and down his throat. When he sputtered and coughed she took it away, "You have a big bump on your head, looks like you got a nasty hit." He grunted, she helped him sit up. Johnny was hunched over, his head back, drinking water. Five feet away, Lindsay was on the ground, a splint on her right leg, she looked at Nick, "That's gonna need ice." She said referring to the bump on his head, he shrugged, then immediately regretted it as his shoulder screamed in protest. Payton helped him stand. He let her steady him, and then went to see Johnny. "Ouch, that hurts." He said looking at him, "Yeah. What about you?" Nick replied. Johnny gestured to his forearm, "Broke something in here, that's about it though." Nick nodded, "My shoulder's killing me too." Payton was behind him, he turned to her, "What about you? Are you okay?" She smiled at him and nodded, "I'm fine, Nick, my ankle's a little sore though that's all." He looked her over satisfied that she was alright. He noticed again the splint on Lindsay's leg. "Lindsay! What happened?" She shrugged, "No clue. I guess a slab of concrete fell on it." "Oh no!" Johnny interrupted, "Look at the bus!" Nick looked at it, it was pretty bad, junk was all over it, and the hood looked crushed. Johnny groaned, "We're going to have to fix it up." Nick glanced at him, "Yes, but not tonight, it's already almost dark. We should rest tonight, get our strength back, and in the morning, those of us who are fit to work, will help out." They agreed, "Get the guns, and let's go to the bus." Kenneth and Payton grabbed the guns, while Johnny and Nick carefully helped up Lindsay. When they got to the bus, they closed the door. Nick gently helped Lindsay In her hammock, and then they all went to sleep.
Johnny opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling as his mind began to recall the events that had taken place the previous day. As he attempted to sit up, a sharp pain shot through his spine. He grunted as he got to his feet. He looked outside one of the windows that hadn't been crazed by flying debris to the barely lit horizon. The sun began to climb its way into the gloomy sky as its orange rays illuminated the remains of a once thriving civilization. Johnny stood mesmerized by the view and began to wonder how the world had come to this. Was this infection just nature's way of reclaiming control of the balance of life and death that doctors and modern science offset? Had humanity's reset button just been pressed? Johnny jerked his head in surprise as something touched him. He looked over his right shoulder to see Lindsay's hand resting on it. She returned suite as he gazed back to the sunrise. Lindsay's sweet voice broke the silence and Johnny's trance. "It's like a new beginning..." He loved the way she saw the positive side of all this. He smiled and looked into her crystal blue eyes and put his arm on her shoulder. "You feeling alright," he asker her. "Relatively" she replied. He could sympathize; they had been through a lot lately. "We'd better get moving..." she said with a sigh. "I don't know if we can..." He interjected. "From what I saw yesterday, this bus is in pretty bad shape." She looked around for noticeable damage. "The front of the bus took a few small slabs of concrete and the radiator doesn't look to good." They walked outside and inspected the radiator and tires. "Why don't you start 'er up?" Johnny said as he tossed her the keys. He needed to be sure the radiator was in working condition. After a minute, several small leaks appeared. "You can turn it off now!" He yelled over the roar of the monstrous diesel engine.He walked inside as she pulled the keys out of the ignition. The sound of the engine had woken up Nick and apparently annoyed Kenneth as he moaned and rolled over. "Nick, you're up! Will you watch things here; I have to go pick some things up." Nick just stared at him for a second with a questionable face. His mind was still booting up. "Sure, but I wouldn't go alone if I were you." "It's okay," Lindsay spoke up, "I'll go with him." Johnny turned around and smiled at her. "Then let's go!" As they walked to a nearby house he put together a mental list. "We'll need a couple gallons of water and some eggs. They're probably rotten, but they should still work." "What do we need eggs for?" Lindsay asked inquisitively. "You'll see." He replied, "so do you want to get the water or eggs?" "I'll get the water, you get the rotting food" she said with sly smile. They walked into the house and after making sure no one was home, headed their separate ways. The house smelled like mildew and there were water stains on the ceiling and walls. Johnny stepped into the oddly shaped kitchen and opened the practically ancient refrigerator. As he did, a rush of rancid air led a frontal assault on his nose. He nearly threw up. He held his breath and dove in. After pushing aside mold covered cups and a gallon of green milk, he grabbed the carton of eggs and retreated. Lindsay met him at the front door with an unopened water cooler bottle. "OH MY GOSH!" she said as she pinched her nose. "You think this is bad, you should've seen what all was in the fridge..." He retorted with a grin. "I don't even wanna know" she said as she turned and walked out the door. Back at the bus, they set the stuff down at the door. Johnny filled the radiator with water and asked Lindsay to start the bus who quickly complied. After a few minutes, he thought the water was hot enough. "You can turn it off now!" He yelled. Lindsay and Nick walked outside and watched as he removed the radiator cap and dropped in the contents of a few rotten eggs. It didn't take much to "crack" them open and they definitely didn't crack. They sort of just fell apart. He replaced the cap and asked someone to restart the engine. Nick, being the closest to the door, jumped in and turned the ignition. Johnny stood there waiting, hoping the holes were small enough and the eggs would work. Sure enough, one by one, the holes stopped leaking as cooked egg filled in the absence. "Yes!" He exclaimed. We all stepped into the bus and found a seat. Everyone was wide awake now. "This bus can't take much more" Johnny said as he took the drivers seat. There was silence and everyone knew Johnny was right. "Let's find one of those real nice RV's with the showers and all" Kenneth offered. "That has gotta be the first thing you've said that actually makes sense!" Payton agreed. They all knew what was next on our list.
Lindsay stepped outside into the warm summer breeze. She couldn't help but smile as she looked to the sun, shining down its brilliant rays of light for all to behold. Oh, and the flowers! Vibrant flowers of all sorts spread out across the ground before her. It was more beautiful than anything she'd ever imagined. She sat herself comfortably on the soft grass, admiring its rich, green color. She heard the sound of laughter and turned to see her family, happily seated on a checkered picnic blanket; eating from a basket. Her mother caught her eye and waved her over. Lindsay ran swiftly and reached them in mere seconds. "Lindsay, darling... You must eat! Now I know peanut butter and jelly may not be the most appealing meal in the world but at least it's something." Her mother said cheerfully. Lindsay smiled. "It looks wonderful, mom." She bent down, gave her a kiss on the cheek, and took the sandwich gratefully. "Lindsay, Lindsay! After we're done eating, will you come down to the beach with me and help me finish my sandcastle?!" Lindsay's 9 year old brother, Josiah asked excitedly. "Of course I will Josie." She said with a grin. She sunk her teeth once more into the sandwich when a familiar voice sounded behind her. "Well here we are!" The voice said. She turned to see Johnny, standing there smiling. Johnny! He's here? She looked him over, admiring the way the sunlight played off of his hair and the way his soft skin glistened beautifully. He was absolutely breathtaking. She'd never really noticed how much she was attracted to him, but here... now... there was no doubt. Filled with joy, she turned back to her family. "Mom, Josiah! This is..." Her voice trailed off as she realized nobody was there. Her family had left and her once bright, vibrant surroundings were now dull and grey. "Wh... what happened?" She turned back to face Johnny, who was no longer standing in sunshine, nor was he smiling. His face was ashen and he was covered in bruises. She could see the pain in his eyes. And in that moment, it all vanished. She awoke to the feeling of a lurching bus and to the sound of Johnny's voice, saying again "We're here!" It all flooded back to her and she sat up, trying desperately to overcome the heavy feeling of hopelessness that now took over. *A dream* She thought. *A beautiful, yet so distant, dream.* She sighed, accepting the fact that this was her life now and she'd have to get used to it. Shaking any remaining grogginess, she looked out the window and recalled the words Johnny had exclaimed. "We're here? And... where's here?" She asked.
"Quality RV... Hopefully we can find something a little more suitable to our needs." He said, grinning. With that, he hopped out the door and stepped briskly toward the RV lot. Lindsay lay back down and closed her eyes again, wanting nothing more than to be back in her dream.
As Johnny stepped off the bus, he thought about what all they would like to have in an RV. He had never had an RV before and he wasn't quite sure what all they come equipped with, but he knew people live out of them so they must include the most basic of necessities. Johnny walked to the main building and peered in the window. They had a small office and a nice Winnabego on display. He walked to the front door and jiggled the handle; locked. Luckily though, it had a glass oval in the middle. Johnny pulled his wrench out of his right pocket. He turned his head away and with a swift blow, shattered the glass. If the power hadn't been out for months and the backup batteries long since run out, he would have expected an alarm system to go off. Johnny reached his arm through the hole and turned the deadlock. He stepped inside and walked to a salesman's small office. Johnny attempted to slide across the desk, but failed to bring his feet in front of him to land on. "Whoa!" he managed to say before landing hard on his side. He quickly jumped to his feet felling embarrassed, yet lucky, that no one was there to see him. He peered under the desk to find a box of labeled keys in it. A thin wire ran through the keys to a small plastic box, it was no doubt an alarm. Johnny unplugged the wire, once again half expecting the shrill screech of an alarm, but there was none. Johnny was about to turn towards the door when something caught his eye. It was a magazine entitled "Quality RV, see the world!" which he thought was a little misleading since you could, at most, see only two continents without the help of a ship. He picked up the magazine and walked towards the door. He noticed there was a coffee vending machine next to the door. *If only there was electricity...* he thought to himself before walking through the door. Nick stepped of the bus and walked to Johnny. "Well? Find anything?" Nick asked. "Here," Johnny said as he handed the magazine to him "look this." Nick flipped through the pages, some faster than others. "Take your time..." Johnny said. "But some of 'em are reaaally ugly..." Nick retorted with a smile. Johnny walked past Nick. "I need some water" he said as he jumped on the bus. Nick was trying to decide what they would need in an RV. Nick knew it the one the moment he saw it. It had a full bathroom, a small stove, and six bunk beds, three on each side, one above the other. It also had a couch and a fold out table. He walked on the bus to find everyone playing a card game. "I found it..." Nick said as everyone looked up at him. After sharing the specs (and the price, which everyone laughed at) Johnny matched the name to a key and they split up to find it. Three minutes later, Kennith yelled claiming he found it. "That's it alright," Nick said as Johnny unlocked it. It was just like the pictures in the magazine. Everyone claimed a bunk. "Are you sure these thing will hold up?" Lindsay asked. "I don't think they would sell it if there was a chance someone could get sued" Johnny replied. Everyone looked around and somehow, all eyes rested on the empty bunk. The same thought ran through their minds. I would have been Ron's if has was still alive. "Now all we have to do is pack up" Payton said trying to end the uncomfortable silence that permeated their very being.
Nick walked into the bus, and then he began to pack the last few things he had left on earth. A picture of his grandparents, the only sources of love he had ever known, until he met Payton. Two t-shirts and a couple pairs of jeans. They'd need to find a Wal-mart or something to get some decent clothes. His pistol, the only life line he had in the past six months. His razor and shaving cream, tooth brush, and a Swiss Army knife. He laughed to himself. It seemed like he was going to camp. He picked up his bag and walked out of the bus. The RV was twenty feet to his left. He made his way over there, setting his bag down on his bunk. He heard someone scream outside; he whirled around, gun in hand. He jumped out of RV and ran to the source of the scream. It was around on the driver's side of the bus. Kenneth. Nick rounded the corner, a fat zombie with a white shirt, it would have been white, if not for all the blood on it, and a ripped up tie. It was lunging for Kenneth, blood pouring from its mouth. Kenneth cried out for Nick to help him, he fired a shot into the zombie's head; it toppled over with a last moan. Payton, Johnny, and Lindsay came from the back of the bus. Nick looked up at them, "It's alright, a zombie only tried to grab the baby of the family." Kenneth glared at Nick and walked to the RV. "You're welcome," Nick muttered. Payton took Nick's arm, "He's very ungrateful, you know, he never even said 'thank you' after we saved his butt back in Nashville." Nick shrugged, "Well, what can you do?" Payton laughed shaking her head, "I guess nothing." He took her bag and escorted her to the RV. After she was in, Nick looked back to see Johnny and Lindsay talking quietly. He knew they were attracted to each other, just like he and Payton. He couldn't help feeling a little defensive of Lindsay, Nick was feeling as if he was responsible for her, like he was her big brother. He dipped his head so they wouldn't see he was watching them. When they came over after a moment, Nick said to Johnny, "I think the sooner we get out of here, the better." Johnny nodded, "I agree, just let me siphon the gas we have left in the bus, to the RV." When that was done, Johnny turned in the driver's seat, "Everyone ready?" The four of them nodded without saying anything. Johnny pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the street, taking one last look back the bus that had gotten them so far. It didn't seem fair to Nick that he should leave something behind that he put so much work into. But that was life; it couldn't always be fair, not even in the apocalypse. They were about in the middle of Missouri now, leaving behind Saint Louis. The arch that that St. Louis was known for was completely gone destroyed during the Swarm. The military was attempting to make a stand and fired blindly into the night, one missile accidently flew into the arch, destroying it, and the falling pieces killed the military's ground forces on the ground below. And when the President of the United States fled the country, the country lost all hope of surviving. Nick had heard on one of the early news reports that people were fleeing to the Statue of Liberty, but, of course, the infection got there too. They pulled onto the highway. "Huh." Johnny said from up front. "What?" Nick asked. "No boundary wall. It's gone, I thought for sure there was one here." "No, look." Payton said looking out the window. Nick joined her, as well as Lindsay and Kenneth. There was concrete everywhere, dust and ashes all over the ground. It was almost an exact replica of the F-22's missiles. Lindsay's brow furrowed, "Did the jets bomb this border too?" Nick pushed away from the window, "It looks like it, but the real question is why? Why would they bomb two of the boundary walls?" "God only knows if they bombed anymore." Payton said quietly. "Do you think they were doing it for strategic purposes?" Johnny asked. "I don't think so, if the military wanted to bring the fight to the zombies, they would have done it a while ago." Everyone remained silent. "Do you think they're opening the boundaries so the zombies could take the fight to them?" Lindsay asked. "Why would they do that? Wouldn't they just be overwhelmed if all the zombies came to the base?" Kenneth asked. Nick took a seat on the couch, and then said quietly, "Unless they are just planning to nuke the things when they get there." That got everyone silent. "But the risk of using a nuclear bomb could be disastrous!" Johnny said. Payton took a seat next to Nick, "I don't think we can possibly do anymore damage to the world, Johnny." She said. They remained silent for another hour or so. They drove by a nice little country side. A small neighborhood of about ten houses, all in a semicircle, stood about three miles about three miles out into the woods. Johnny pulled onto a small dirt road, leading to the neighborhood. "We need to get more supplies." He said simply. No one argued, they were starved. And there were only about two sandwiches in the small refrigerator. Johnny stopped the RV about three quarters of a mile away from the houses. "We'll check this one," Johnny said, pairing up with Lindsay, "You guys take that one." The houses had about two hundred feet separating each one. "Okay," Nick said, "Do you want Kenneth or are we stuck with him?" Kenneth was still getting out of the RV, struggling with his gun. Johnny grinned, "Well I think-hey!" Nick and Payton took off to their assigned house, laughing. Nick closed the door behind him, "Let's check for zombies." He and Payton searched the house, Nick going upstairs and Payton staying downstairs. He heard two gun shots go off and knew Payton had killed something. He ran into a couple of zombies himself, one nearly bit him. He yelped and twisted around, shooting it in the neck. Another one ran out of the shadows tackling him to the ground. A gun shot resounded. The infected slid off of him. He jumped up; Payton was there, having grinning, "You losing your touch, Zarrack?" He smiled slyly, "I'm sorry; I was too captivated by that beautiful woman in the picture." He gestured to a small frame on the coffee table. Payton laughed, "Watch yourself, mister." He pulled up close to her, "Why? Jealous?" She thumped him in the chest, "A little." "Ouch." He rubbed his chest, "Besides, I don't need to look at a picture when I already have a beautiful woman right here." She held his emerald gaze a few seconds more, and then said, "We should probably check the rest of the house." He cleared his throat, "Yes, ladies first." She smirked, "Well, hey, I'm not stopping you." He laughed. "You know wh?" He trailed off. He heard moaning come from outside. They ran to the window. Outside, hundreds upon hundreds of zombies were piling out of the woods, and still coming. They looked down at the front door, they were piling inside. Something moved in the room. Nick and Payton whirled around. Dozens of zombies were piling inside of the small room. "Run!" Nick yelled. He and Payton open fired on the closest ones, then they ran into the adjacent room. Nick closed the door, "That won't hold them for long." Payton was at the window, "Nick! We can climb out onto the roof!" She opened the window. Nick stuck his head out, there was a small overhang right when you stepped out, and then there was the roof on the top of the house, all they had to do was climb a bit! They hurriedly climbed out onto the overhang, and then quickly climbed up onto the bigger roof that covered the house. Once they got up, they could see the whole situation. Zombies were all over the place, all around the two houses and the RV. Nick saw Lindsay, Johnny, and Kenneth climbing onto the roof of their house. He was relieved to see them. Johnny saw them and called, "We never get a break, do we?" Nick shook his head, no they certainly did not.
Payton was sitting on the roof, her arms wrapped around her knees. Nick was yelling across to Johnny, trying to make a plan. But it was almost impossible to converse with all the moaning and howling the zombies made. But Nick managed to get one message to Johnny, "Our best chance is if we just run to the RV." Johnny yelled back, "Zombie horde is too thick! We'll be dead in an instant!" Nick shrugged hopelessly, "We'll think of something!" Johnny nodded and went to join Lindsay and Kenneth. Nick took in a breath and sat down opposite Payton. "I don't see how we can get out of this one." Payton looked at him, "Maybe if we just wait, they'll go away or something?" Nick laughed bitterly, "And where will they go? I don't think they have any appointments they're going to miss." Payton shrugged, "Guess not." Nick looked back to where the rest of their companions were. They seemed to be arguing about something, most likely with Kenneth. He looked through the sea of infected. Something was moving swiftly through the crowd. Nick jumped up. Super infected. There were three of them, one going for Nick and Payton and the other two going for the larger group. Payton scrambled to get up; Nick had his gun out already, shooting at the super infected. He shot it once in the shoulder which seemed to only fuel its rage. With two bounds it was up on the roof with them. It snarled maliciously at them, swinging its claws around. Payton shot off a couple rounds, but it twisted around, coming up on her right. She screamed and ducked. That took the thing by surprise; it tripped over her stooped body, howling the whole time. It landed right in front of Nick. Before he had time to bring his gun around, the super infected lashed out with its claws. Nick barely dodged it. The claw cut his into his hamstrings. Nick cried out in pain, but went with the claw attack, letting himself fall to the ground. By then Payton was already up, she shot the thing in the head. It moaned and stopped moving. Nick heard Lindsay scream. He suddenly remembered his other companions. He whirled around. Payton was already looking, "Oh, no." She said. The two super infected were ganging up on Lindsay, Johnny, and Kenneth. Kenneth was whimpering like a baby, even though Nick couldn't hear him, his body language said everything. Johnny fired with his pistol, the super infected took it in the chest and kept coming, Lindsay-who was in the middle of the two of them- Fired on the opposite one. Then the first one lunged for Johnny. He took something out of his pocket. A wrench? Nick couldn't tell from this distance. The super infected was about three feet from Johnny, and then he brought the wrench up with lightning fast speed. You could hear the super infected's skull crack even at this distance. It went down instantly, Johnny turned to help Lindsay and Kenneth, who were scoring a number of hits anywhere except the head, which was because the thing kept twisting around and ducking. And that scared Nick more than anything. If it was ducking and dodging that knew that a gun shot was coming, and if it knew that, then it must be using its brain somehow. And super infected who could think, was not a very good thing. Not at all. Lindsay fired one more shot, but this time when it ducked, she was ready; she brought her gun down and shot its lowered head. It toppled over. Nick fell to the ground with relief, and pain. He hadn't felt the wound during the fight, or when he was watching the others fight, but he felt it now. He looked at it, it wasn't too bad, just a minor wound. "Nick, your hurt!" Payton exclaimed, "It only nicked me with its claw that's all." [Okay that totally rhymed, lol] Payton shook her head, and ripped off a part of her sleeve and tied it around his leg. "That should stop the bleeding for now." He nodded, "Let's just hope there's no more super infected..." Payton shrugged, "Not really anything we can do about that." He sat with his legs in front of him, reloading his gun with the ammo he had in his pocket. He began to wonder about the super infected and how they knew those gun shots were coming. Maybe they were evolving. Nick never really believed in evolution, nor did he believe in a god. But if there is a God, he prayed that the super infected weren't evolving. Or maybe they were just adapting to the humans and their surrounding, it's possible. He shook his head. If zombie could think now, then they were all screwed. He couldn't really tell what time it was, but it looked about midday. They were up there for about two more hours, when an idea struck Nick. It almost made him cry at the thought of it, but he needed to do it, for his friends. He would lead the zombie horde away from his friends so they could get away. He knew it was very risky, and he could hardly stand being away from Payton, the love of his life. But maybe if he gave them a location to meet him in...he looked over the horizon toward their next destination. Kansas City. Yes, he would find them. He carefully stood up, and tested his hurt leg. He was surprised that it didn't really hurt that much. He still needed to limp a bit though. Nick looked out over the zombie horde and his heart dropped. There were more super infected. For some reason, they didn't jup up onto the roof, perhaps they were hurt. They would only put a dent in his plans, but what other option was there? He'd run down the road, his friends could get to the RV and come pick him up, but the road was swarming with infected. The only option was the woods. It was either use himself as bait, or let them all starve or wait for the super-infected. He needed to do this, for his friends. The human race couldn't aford to lose any more humans, but that point would be kind of moot if he got himself killed. He got a good bearing in what direction Kansas City was in. He walked by Payton, who was taking a small nap. She woke up, "You shouldn't be walking on that leg." He looked at her, "It feels fine, besides I should stretch it." She shrugged, "Boy, I'm hungry." Nick laughed and walked to the edge of the roof. "Hey, be careful! You don't want to fall off." He only looked back at her. She narrowed her eyes, "Nick, what are you doing?" "Just looking," He lied. He sighed, then turned around, "Payton. Wait for me in Kansas City, wait for me Payton. I love you." He whispered. Then he tore off the make shift bandage and jumped onto the over hang, then jumped onto the ground. "Nick!" Payton cried. Johnny looked over, and saw Nick on the ground, "Hurry! Get back on the roof!" He called, standing. Nick only shook his head; he squeezed his leg, making blood come out of the wound. Zombies were all around him, he dodged and ran, into the woods, looking back to where his companions were, Payton was screaming his name, Johnny doing the same, and Lindsay was trying to find out what was happening. Kenneth didn't have a care in the world. "Get to the RV!" He called. Then he turned and ran deep into the woods, with the whole zombie horde behind him...
"Nick!" Payton yelled with the top of her lungs. Tears struggled to come out of her eyes. "Nick!" she cried again. She put her bag down and jumped on the overhang. "Payton! What are you doing?" Johnny yelled from the other roof. Payton didn't answer him and jumped to the ground. "Payton! Stop!" he cried. She started running to the woods. "Payton!" Johnny jumped off the roof and landed on the ground. "You guys! Come back! It doesn't matter!" Kenneth whined. "Shut up!" Lindsay turned around to face Kenneth and slapped him across the face. "Payton! Come back! He probably had a plan!". Johnny finally caught up to her and seized her arm in attempt to restrain her and she came to a halt. "Let go! Don't you understand? They were chasing him! He can't outrun them!" she said tears going down her face. "Listen! He obviously had a plan! He wouldn't be stupid or selfish enough to leave us here." he said. Payton broke free from his grasp, she walked to the RV and opened the door and walked in. Johnny walked back to the house where Kenneth and Lindsay were still waiting. Johnny said something to them and then let Lindsay down from the roof and started walking to the RV. "What about me?" Kenneth whined, still on the roof. "What?" Johnny looked back with a smirk. "Aren't you going to help me down?" he whined. "I thought you were a man. Get down yourself." Johnny chuckled. Kenneth put his legs on the edge of the roof and let himself drop down with a loud thump. Lindsay and Johnny laughed their way to the bus. "Shut up!" Kenneth whined. Payton felt another urge to punch Kenneth in the unmentionables[haha I like that Blake!] but she was too upset to do so. Lindsay walked in and sat next to Payton. "I'm sure he's fine, Payton. He probably lost them by now." She said. Payton didn't answer her, she just stared out the window wondering where Nick was and what he was doing.
He came to a stop a mile later, gasping for breath. He had lost the zombies a half a mile back, they were so much quicker than he had first thought. His leg was a mess, bloodied and bruised up. He bent down and tied the bandage back on. He could barely walk now, the leg felt numb. It was starting to get dark. And everyone knew the infected were hungrier and more alert at night. He needed to get somewhere high or well hidden. Then, in the morning he would begin his trek to Kansas City. He moaned, he didn't even know his surroundings. At least all would be clear in the morning. He limped over to a tree, taking a brief rest. He loaded his gun, putting his last bullets into the firing chamber. [idk if there's a firing chamber on a pistol, but oh well]. He pushed himself from the tree, almost falling as he put weight back onto his leg. He drew in a few more breaths and then began to walk again. Ten minutes later, it was almost completely dark. It was getting cold. He couldn't feel his wounded leg. If he didn't find any shelter, he would have to climb a tree, and he didn't know how he could do that in this condition. He heard a snarling to his left suddenly, and heard some shuffling. There was barely enough light to see where the zombie was. He didn't want to fire off a shot, for fear of alerting more infected to his position. Thinking quickly, he bent down and picked up a sturdy branch. When he looked back up, the zombie was barely a yard from him. He gasped and jumped back, but that resulted in him falling backward when he put too much weight on his wounded leg. The zombie took that moment to attack, but Nick was already rolling out of the way. The zombie fell face first into the dirt, and Nick brought the branch down with a thud. Its skull cracked, caking the ground with blood. He managed to get up, using the branch for support. There was still enough light to look for some shelter. After five minutes, he gave up, instead climbing a tree. He fell to the ground twice, impacting his injured shoulder from the back at the bridge. He grunted in pain. This time, when he heard a snarling, he scrambled up the tree, adrenaline pumping through his veins. He reached out for a branch, found one, and scurried onto it. He sat there for a while listening to the pitiful moaning of the infected. He wondered how his companions were doing, how Payton was doing. He had been worried she'd follow him into the woods, but he knew she'd have more sense than that. He thought about them a while more, and eventually drifted off to sleep, the last words that came into his barely conscious mind were: maybe this wasn't such a hot idea after all... . By then, it was pitch black.
The entire RV was quiet; Payton's frantic pacing the only noticeable sound. Lindsay looked at Johnny, as he tried to decide the next move. He sighed and in a solemn voice, broke the silence. "We have no choice." Nobody cared to reply. "C'mon you guys, now you know Nick wouldn't have done something so... so stupid, if he didn't have a good reason. He knew it would ensure our safety and evidently, that was more important to him then... then his life." Payton stifled a sob. "No, wait... that's not what I meant" Johnny said, trying to ease Payton's pain. "He's alive, he has to be. Nick's strong, he can take care of himself, and we all know that. And well... even if he is... well you know"
"Dead, Johnny?! Just say it." Payton interrupted bitterly. Johnny sighed. "Yes... dead. He wouldn't want to die in vain so, for Nick's sake, we should just continue on to Kansas." Lindsay and Kenneth nodded their agreement. Johnny glanced over at Payton. "Well, Payton? Are we in agreement?" Lindsay could see tears welling up as she turned away and entered the small bedroom, closing the door behind her. "She'll be alright... just give her time." Lindsay assured. Johnny took his position behind the wheel and they drove in silence for 6 long hours.

Kenneth awoke as the RV pulled to a stop. "Where are we?" He asked. "Wichita, Kansas. I thought we could stop here and maybe try to find some decent food." Johnny answered. Kenneth shrugged and jumped out of the RV. Lindsay and Payton came out shortly after. He looked them over and smirked. *I don't understand what they see in Nick and Johnny that they don't see in me." He thought to himself. *Whatever though, they're not all that good-looking anyway. They'd be lucky to have somebody like me.* He smiled to himself, wallowing in his own pride. "Alright you guys, let's split up." Johnny said, entering the large grocery store they'd stopped at. "Split up? I'm not sure that's such a good idea." Lindsay remarked. Johnny nodded. "I know, I know. I think we'll be okay though. Kenneth, you take Payton and look for some canned food... we need something that's not gonna go bad anytime soon... and get a can opener as well. Lindsay and I will restock on water and whatever else we can find. We'll meet back up at the RV in 10 minutes. Sound good?" Lindsay and Payton nodded. Kenneth just shrugged. "Whatever." He said, uncaring. They split up, in search of what Johnny had assigned them. Kenneth just followed behind Payton, admiring the way she walked. She looked back and cast him a glare. "What? I didn't do anything." He said, smiling.
"Exactly! You're not doing anything... you're just following me like a puppy dog, letting me do all the work." She snapped. Kenneth rolled his eyes. "Well what am I supposed to do? I mean seriously."
"Gee, I dunno... help me, maybe?!?" Kenneth could tell she was upset, but then again, when was she not upset? "Girls and their hormones." He muttered to himself.
"What?? You think I'm upset because of... of hormones?! You really have no idea what's going on in this world do you? You're completely self-centered with no regard for anyone except for Kenneth. Kenneth's the only person in the world that matters, everyone else is just a fool. That's what you think, isn't it?" Kenneth knew that he should say something to defend himself but couldn't find the words. In all honesty, he did care for the people he was with... all of them. And he was afraid. Very much afraid... of everything. He just didn't know how to show it and so instead covered up with his obnoxious attitude. He suddenly became angry with Payton's accusations and turned away with a huff. "Oh what, did I hurt the baby's feelings? You going to tell your mommy on me? Well guess what Kenneth... reality check? You're mom's not here!!! You're mom's not here, my mom's not here? Nobody's... here. They're gone, all of them! And now even Nick is gone." Kenneth could hear Payton sobbing now as he still marched onward. He didn't know where he was going but he had to be alone. He went to the bathroom, locked himself in a stall and cried. He cried long and hard, wanting nothing more than to be back with his family; back with his mother and sister and to be rid of these man-eating b-a-s-t-a-r-d-s. He came out of the bathroom and decided he should head back to the RV before they left without them. More than likely, it'd been over 10 minutes. He walked out the exit and to his surprise, saw that the RV was no longer there. *What?! They seriously just left me here?!* He thought to himself, furious. He forced himself to calm down and then realized that this parking lot didn't look familiar at all. *I must have gone out the wrong exit.* He made his way around the building, trying to get to the front where the RV was parked. As he rounded the corner, a horde of zombies sat there waiting. They moaned and came after him, groping at his flesh. Kenneth screamed loudly, and not knowing what else to do, he ran. He ran as fast and as far away as he could.

Lindsay and Johnny waited 5 full minutes until Payton finally showed up. "Payton, what took you so long? Are you alright?" Johnny asked, concerned. "I'm fine, I'm fine. Just took a little longer than expected." She replied.
"Okay, good. I'm glad you're safe... we should probably get a move on if we want to... wait a minute, where's Kenneth?" He asked. "Huh? Oh, right. I don't know. We kind of got in a fight and he walked away all upset. I have no idea where he is, neither do I care." Peyton replied. Johnny sighed. "Look, I don't like him either but... he's still human and we can't just leave him. I'm sure he'll try and meet us here, right? Let's wait another few minutes and see if he shows up."
Peyton shrugged. "Whatever." She stepped into the RV and closed the door.
"You think he got into some sort of trouble?" Lindsay asked. As if in answer to her question, a loud scream sounded from the other side of the building. There was no doubt that it had come from Kenneth. They'd heard his scream enough to know what it sounded like. Johnny and Lindsay glanced at each other quickly and then ran toward the sound. Johnny pulled up and stopped Lindsay. "No, you go back to the RV. I'll go see what's up. If I'm not back in 5 minutes, leave without me."
"But Johnn-"
"Do it!" He interrupted. And with that, he ran off towards the sound. He came around the corner and what awaited him was maybe 50 zombies all chasing after one man. Kenneth. One of the zombies turned and noticed him standing there and a few of the others followed suit. He ran with all he had back to the RV, jumped in the drivers' seat and started the engine.
"What's going on, did you find him?" Lindsay asked, her voice full of panic.
"There's no way we're going to save him... Kenneth's a goner. There are just too many of them. We have to go on without him." Lindsay sat quietly and even Payton, who she'd expected to jump at the idea, remained silent. They all nodded in agreement, and drove on, leaving Kenneth to be eaten alive.
Nick opened his eyes, blinking away asleep. Watery sunlight streamed in through the trees. He had completely forgotten his surroundings, and when he stretched, nearly fell off his branch. He screamed and grabbed onto the branch for dear life. His legs were in the air, his arms the only thing holding his body from falling to the ground twenty feet below. He slowed his breathing and brought his legs up, wrapping them around the branch. He eased his way backwards, and when his rear end touched the tree, ha sat up, and then he slowly turned around. He began climbing down, grunting with the effort of trying to keep himself from falling. When he got to the ground, he tested his left leg, the wounded one. It seemed almost fine, but he would keep the weight off it, just in case it started to hurt again. He made his way over to a small stream. He checked his surroundings before getting on his knees to take a drink. He cupped the water in his hands and then brought it to his mouth. Then something stopped him form taking the first sip. He looked to his right, upriver. He gasped and threw the water from his hands; he fell backward onto his butt. Coming down the stream were bodies. Infected bodies. He knew some of them were still alive because they groped at him as they passed by. He almost threw up. What if he'd had a drink of the water? Could he have become infected? He didn't want to find out; instead he got up from the bank, and began making his way back to the tree. In his mind's eye, he could see an overview of the forest, and imagined Kansas to be directly forward, at least, that was the way he was running last night, desperately trying to stay in line with it. He'd seen it on the map, and felt certain he should go straight. Nick took a few steps forward, and remembered the zombie he had heard last night. He looked at his surroundings; a light fog covered the forest, giving it an eerie feeling. There were no birds singing. One never heard birds since the outbreak. He walked for about an hour before he encountered any infected. There were three of them, each moaning, arms out stretched. He pulled his gun out, but instead of shooting it, he held it like a club, coming up behind the first one, and hit on the back of the head. Nick didn't know if you could knock out a zombie or not, but if you could, that did the trick. The other two were almost upon him. He decided to do it the easy way and shot two shots off, hitting the zombies in the head. They toppled over, dead. Nick didn't really know the proper grammar to call a zombie dead or not, but dead was fine. He started walking again, his leg becoming a bit irritated. He found a tree trunk and sat down. He took off the bandage. His wound was smeared with dried blood; the cut was probably a little over a foot in length. It stung a bit, it also itched like crazy, but he didn't dare touch it, for fear of reopening the wound. He put the make-shift bandage back on. He tore a piece of his sleeve of and wrapped it around Payton's. He thought about them, if they were all alright?even Kenneth. He shook his head; he hoped Kenneth wasn't being obnoxious to everyone else. He also wondered how long they'd wait for him in Kansas City. Nick groaned. They were right outside of Kansas state when they were back at the houses, so if he kept walking non-stop, day and night-he could always rest when he got to the RV- he should be in Kansas City within three days, four tops. He only hoped his friends would wait that long.
Wind whistled through the black trees, a dark graying sky hovering over the world of Elaine Scott. It had become routine for her to be outside of the tunnel at night; but as of three days ago, she had run out of tunnel in which to hide. She no longer had the tunnel in which she could avoid the infected, so she had no choice but to become a master of disguise in her life and death game of hide and seek. Emotions no longer got the best of her, though; not fear; not hatred; she felt nothing. The only thing keeping her going was her drive to survive, which in and of itself had no logical explanation. Of course, there was one other purpose: her promise to Billy; a promise made after his death... no hope, true, of his return-for he was dead, and there is no hope for a dead person-but the only thing keeping her going. She felt quite like a philosopher during this time of dreaded silence. But no one was around to hear her thoughts or theories, no survivors with which she may converse her wisdom. But what was wisdom? Her solitude kept her mind going round in circles, and returning to past thoughts, and seeing them from different standpoints; like mirrors, again and again in her mind. Such a maverick may have driven her mad... though, it may have been the only thing that kept her from killing herself.
Elaine had seen that she was currently in Kansas. The putrid dryness in the air struck in contrast against the humid weather of Africa with which she had grown accustomed. Her boots quietly stepped her way upon the debris-covered earth. Holding up her rifle she had picked up at the last hunting shop, she eyed her target: a full-grown buck, about 50 feet away; left antler slightly chipped; otherwise healthy. She focused completely on her target. Easy now... I'm not out to hurt you... make you dinner, maybe, but you won't feel it for long, trust me... She thought to herself, as a loud grumbling in her stomach resounded throughout the woods. She flinched, feeling a sharp pain in her abdomen, and let out a groan. "Agh!" The deer had skidded off at the noise. "Drat..." Elaine was growing faint. She hadn't eaten in days, and she could hardly control herself any longer. need... food... blood! NO! not blood... I will not eat blood... I am NOT one of you! her head began to throb, as she held her head in desperation and yelled out loud. "AH!" Everything at that moment collapsed. She fell to the earth and searched frantically through her pack to find her photo of Billy. Picking it up, she just stared at it under the moon light. The barrier that had blocked her emotions had been broken, as she let out another cry of desperation. She threw herself to the ground and started beating on the earth, thrashing it with her bare hands, as tears came in constant streams. "Why did you leave me here to die??" She yelled out in uncontrolled sobs, looking down at her love, remembering his sweet face, when he was alive. On her knees, she just let out an uncontrolled cry of anguish and mourning at the top of her lungs. "Why?!" And she cried, alone, and spent the night curled up, all thought of rationality escaped from her being.

The morning came as a sweet autumn sunrise, though bitter under the circumstances. No zombies were in sight. Salt tears had stained her face in the night. That night had been the most difficult mental challenge she had ever endured. She had made up her mind. It wasn't worth going on, only to find that there are no survivors. And if there are, what of it? Billy was gone; the only one she had really cared about, gone forever, with no hope of finding him. There was no hope; only death. This was it. Unless there comes a reason for me to continue my life on this day... I will end it this night.
Nick tripped over a branch. He was cursing the whole way down. In this condition, he wasn't ssure if he would even make it out of the forest. He picked himself off the dirt, dusting himself off. He didn't even want to take the bandage off, afraid of what he might find under there. He trudged on another hour or so, killing off one or two infected on the way. Finally, he fell to the ground, exhausted. He breathed deeply through his mouth. It was late afternoon, the sun just beginning to set on the horizon. He really didn't want to sleep on another branch tonight, but what other option did he have? He would have much rather been in the RV. Back with his friends. Back with Payton. He was starving, the last thing he'd had to eat was breakfast the previous day, and now he was ravenous...and parched. He looked around for something to fullfil his needs. But the only thing he saw was dirt and trees and something moving in the branches ahead. He turned his head. It was an infected. He staggered to get up, but only managed in slumping back down again, too tired to stand. He pulled his gun out. He pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. He cursed. Out of ammo. The zombie was getting closer. Nick gathered all his willpower and strength he had left in his body. He stood, then when the zombie got close to him, he dodged, jumping out of the way. But he only succeded in crashing into a nearby tree. Something very sharp peirced his back. He felt something warm coming out of his newest wound. He groaned and pushed off the tree, he looked back for a second, and saw a small branch, splintered in a way that made it as sharp as a thorn. His blood was on it. The zombie was coming at him again. Nick could only stand there. His brain couldn't make his overly tired body move. The zombie was practically on him before adreniline started coursing through him. He jumped out of the way, kicking his good leg back, and knocking the zombie into the brush. It moaned and thrashed. Nick was already limping away. Twenty minutes later, he came into a small clearing, very small, maybe three meters across. Something moved behind him. He turned around. He gasped. It was a woman. A very beautiful woman. Or so it may have seemed to his delirious mind at the moment. He wasn't sure if she was infected or not, but as she tackled him to the ground, he practically begged for unconsciouness to hit him. It did.
Elaine Scott's emotions were numb from the night before. She walked with no feeling in her legs and a strange sense of power. Dead man walking. What risk is too great for someone with nothing to lose? She had grown to like her new way of life.
The sun was setting. The promise she had made herself that morning was about to take place. Her time was running out. The woods in which she was traveling had made a small clearing before her.
Infecteds. She could smell them. They were close. She bent down below a large rock as quietly as she could as she closed her eyes and tuned out everything around her that would be a distraction. Current target: The infected body/bodies that were headed toward her. She clenched her fist around her 9mm at her right hip. A smile crept upon her face as she zeroed in on three zombies coming her way. By the sound of their moans and the rate at which they were coming at her, it would be estimated that the closest one was approximately 30 yards away, due south. The next, about 150 yards away in the general south-east direction... she furrowed her eyebrows. Could it be? In the distance she could tell that an infected was gaining way on a human. A single zombie to attack one human? With such the slow rate at which the infected was walking towards him, the person would have been terribly weak to not be able to move more quickly than he was. She slowly peered her head over the rock to see whether she would be able to look through the trees to see what was occurring. Too dense to see.
She pulled out her rifle and aimed for the zombie that had gained considerable grounds while she was preoccupied in thought. *BAM!* Right in the head. Collapse to the ground. "Sorry." She said, looking down at the life form, gray and dry, gasping for air, spewing blood.
There were two others she was interested in.
One of them sounded like a human. Smelled like a human. And they were close. She started to run towards them now. Her heart started beating faster. I'm not going to be too late, am I? Once again she clasped her hand around the 9mm. She ripped it from its holder. Whoever you are, sir, I'm not losing you so easily.
To her left, she saw trees; to her right, more trees; straight ahead was the only visible pathway. She was getting closer. A clearing was in sight. And there they were! Just as she had pictured. The zombie was far enough away from the man that he wouldn't have even known it was there.
She aimed for the head of the infected while the man's back was turned. *SCHWOOP!* A soft whistling sounded as the syringe left the pistol and darted into the cranium of the unsuspecting infected. You're welcome, my friend. She thought to herself. The man was weak... terribly weak.
"Oh my g-..." This man was in grave danger. He'd been bitten. The man stopped and turned to look Elaine in the eyes. Red eyes, due to stress, lack of sleep, perhaps a heartbreak, and a mild dosage of infection. Now how am I going to do this?... Subtly... calmly... no; he needs to be unconscious. She ran up towards him, full force, and she tackled him to the ground, pulling her 9mm out and ripping out its contents. It's not too late. You'll be fine, kid... She couldn't help but smile as she looked at her concoction glistening in the sunlight. She stuck the syringe into his body; one third to his temple, one third to his heart, and one third to his right wrist.
"You're not gonna die, kid..." She smiled again. "And I do believe you just saved my life."
Nick fought his way back to consciousness. His eyes fluttered open. He looked around at his surroundings. He was in a very small cave, a small fire burning in the middle of it. The entrance to the cave was sealed off with large rocks and other things. He looked down at himself. His shirt was off, odd; he was still in his jeans though, tattered and ripped as they were. He tried to stretch but was immediately rewarded with pain shooting up and down his back. "Don't move, you must give the aloe time to heal you." Said a woman's voice. Nick looked for the source of the voice. Just beyond the fire in the darkness, he could see a silhouette of someone sitting. "Who...who are you?" He croaked. "Your savior. You were bit, kid. You're lucky I have the antidote." Three things flew into his mind at that moment:
One: He was absolutely shocked he was bitten, he hadn't even felt it. Two: That there was an antidote for the virus. Three: That this must be the woman that he saw in the woods. "What?" He said. "There's an antidote to the virus! Really?" The woman laughed, "Look at your arm." He looked down at his bare arm. There were bite marks there. He really had gotten bitten! "What's your name?" The woman hesitated for a moment. "What is yours?" "Nick Zarrack." He said. "Elaine Scott." Nick grinned, "Well then Elaine, I owe you my life, thank you for saving me." Elaine laughed again. "Actually, I believe it is me who should be thanking you." He was about to ask what she meant, when she continued on. "You know, you shouldn't even have been in the woods. It's much harder to spot infected. You should've stuck to the roads." Nick said, "Well, I was part of a caravan, me and about four other survivors in an RV, we came down a road and went to a small neighborhood to look for supplies. Then, while we were inside the houses, hundreds of zombies came out of the woods, barging down the doors and we had to climb out onto the roof." He swallowed, "Then super infected came. We killed them off, but I got a cut on my leg to remember them by. I saw that we had no chance of escape, so I used myself as bait so my friends could get out of there. I told them to wait in Kansas City for them, and I waqs making my way there, 'till i met you. And I mean that in a good way." Elaine got up and stepped into the light. He could see her now, and she was beautiful. She had long golden hair with curls at the ends and icy blue eyes. She was well built and had a gun holstered at her side. "That," she said, "was probably not too bright. But also very selfless." Nick smiled. "So what about you? Where do you come from?" She avoided his question, "You'd probably better get some sleep. I'll have breakfast for you in the morning." Nick nodded, then said, "Thanks again." Elaine smiled and walked into the shadows. Nick turned the opposite way. Elaine must have had enormous upper body strength to pull or carry his unconscious body to this cave. He marveled at the antidote. They would survive! The human race would survive! He felt tears come to his eyes at how happy he was. It was finally over. No more zombies or super-infected. It was over. He fell asleep with tears running down his face.

He awoke to the sweet smell of meat cooking. "Oh good your up." Elaine said, "I was beginning to worry you'd died. But then i knew you hadn't died with how loudly you snored." Nick laughed and stood up, she looked over his upper body for one moment then looked away. She grabbed his shirt from behind her, "Here, I think the aloe has healed your wound as much as it can." He took his shirt and pulled it on. "You, like deer, Nick?" He shook his head, "Never had it. But i'll eat just about anything right now." She nodded, "Good. There's some water right there in the back of the cave." He walked over. A small stream of watery sunlight came through a small hole in the ceiling. A small pool of water was in the middle of it. Water dripped down from the ceiling. He got to his knees and began to drink. After that he walked over to where Elaine was cooking the piece of deer meat. "So...Are you trying to make it to the military in Washington?" He asked hopefully. She looked away, "I'm not sure." Nick was stunned. "But you have to! You have the antidote that could save the planet!" Elaine shrugged, "You can't save a planet, when there's not a planet to save." Nick's mouth fell open. "But there is a planet to save! This one! Earth! There are still survivors, and there's still the military. If you get that antidote to them, it'll be all over! Don't you want the infected to go away Elaine?" She nodded, "Of course I do. It's just...I don't know, maybe I will go." He felt relieved, "Well if you do decide to go, please fell free to come with me back to my friends. We'll stay alive longer and get there faster in the RV." She nodded to show she heard him. The crackling of the fire was the only sound going on for a while then Elaine pulled the deer meat off and gave Nick a large piece. "Eat up; you're going to need all your strength." Nick said his thanks and then began to devour his very tasty deer. "Not so fast!" She laughed, "You'll give yourself a stomach ache. He shrugged and ate slower. After he was done, he stood. "Elaine, thank you for all you've done, but I've got to get back to my friends. Will you come with me Elaine? Please, the world needs this antidote." She dipped her head in thought. After a couple minutes, she looked up again. "Fine, Nick Zarrack, I will go with you to the military."
Elaine walked to the front of the small outcropping. She kicked out the rocks and branches she must have put there to keep infected out. "Let's go, keep your weight off that hurt leg." She said walking out into the sunlight. Nick followed her. Then dread hit him. He groaned. "What?" Elaine asked, eyeing him. He looked at her, "I have absolutly no idea where the hell Kansas City is! I lost my sense of direction after I got knocked out." He cleverly sidestepped mentioning she was the reason for that. Elaine looked around, then glanced back at him, "Do you know which direction it was in?" He nodded, "North." She took a few paces forward and pointed, "North is in that direction." Back into the woods. He stiffled a moan. "Okay, let's do it." They walked on for about six hours before they stopped for a break. Nick sat on a boulder and Elaine remained standing, taking in their surroundings. Aftera while she looked back at him, "There's untainted water a few yards over there." He raised his eyebrows. "How do you know?" She avoided the question, "If we keep walking through the night, we should be right outside the city." Nick got up to do get a drink of water. He passed a few bushes and, sure enough, there was a small stream. Nick's eyes widened in amazment. How could Elaine possibly know there was water over here? Let alone untainted. She was certainly a mystery...he bent down on one knee and cupped his hands, bringing the water to his mouth. After a couple handfulls he got up and walked back over to Elaine. She was exactly where she had been before. "Ready." He stated. She nodded and trudged on, then stopped and turned around. She held the rifle in one hand, and with the other she pulled out her pistol. "Here," she said, handing it to him, "There's some infected up ahead." He didn't bother asking how she knew, she probably had seen them from back at their rest spot. It didn't take lon to hear the moans coming. There were four of them. With lightning fast speed, Elaine whipped the rifle around, runnign head long into the smal group. One of the zombies came at her, it tripped and almost fell over. Elaine took the advantage of it bending over and jumped into the air, pushing off its back with one foot, and kicking another infected in the head with her other. She shot off two shots an killed the other two, and then she crushed the heads of the two that had fallen. It all happened in about two seconds. Nick's mouth was open. It took tremendous will power to close it. "That was amazing!" He cried. She glanced back and shot him a coy smile, "Let's move." She must have taken martial arts or acrobatics, Nick concluded. He didn't bother asking her, knowing she'd only avoid the question. "So," she said after a while, "Tell me about your caravan." Nick laughed, "Why do you want to know?" She glanced back at him, "Well, I always like to go into a battle kowing more about the enemy, so to speak." Nick grinned, "Alright. Well, there's Johnny. He's a good guy, pretty good at fixing things and figuring things out. He's really smart. He's also a good friend." He swerved out of the way of a fallen tree, Elaine simply jumped onto the trunk and jumped to the other side. "Then there's Lindsay. She's kinda quiet, but get into a fight with 'er and she'll rip you to shreds. She's barely reached adulthood, and she acts like she's much older than nineteen. Adnthere's Kenneth. He is the most obnoxious man you'll ever meet in your life." Elaine laughed and looked back at him, "I don't know, i've met many men." Nick grinned, "And then there's Payton. She and I are kinda..." He laughed a little sheepishly. Elaine looked back at him with a knowing smile, "You are in love with her?" Nick nodded, "Very much. She kind has this tough side to her-"
Eaine looked back at him. "Nick." She said cautiously.
He laughed, "No, not like th-"
"Nick!" Elaine was serious now, bringing her rifle around, "Behind you!" Nick whirled around. A very large super-infected was coming at them fast. He shot off a couple of rounds, it took them in the chest and continued running. Elaine shot forward. When she was within a yard of the monster, she brought her foot in front of her. Nick heard the breaking of bones from where he stood. Elaine's foot was covered with blodd when she took it away. The super infecte fell to the ground in a withering heep. She puta bullet through its head and walked back over to him. She hadn't even broken a sweat! He saw as she past that she had tears in her eyes. He loked her over,she wasn't hurt in the slightest way. Why was she crying? Nick sidestepped in front of her and said softly, "What about you Elaine? What's your story?" She gently touched his shoulder, "You are a kind and compationate man, Nick Zarrack. Giving your life for your friends, and now wanting to go back to them instead of saving yourself. Any normal man would have done just that, instead of having two woman and a three other men to worry about. But you have a softness that makes you who you are. You will know who I am when the time comes for you to know. That time is very soon, Nick. When we get to your frineds, i may tell you all. But i asure you, you will not like what you hear." She gave his shoulder a squeeze and walked by him. He followed, a little confused and for some reason, at ease with himself. He pondered on that for a while and didn't even notice the sun go down. "I don't think it's safe to walk through the night actually." Elaine said. "But I thoguht you said-"
"Change of plans. It's not safe at night."
Nick had no argument there. They found a large tree. Elaine scurried up, Nick followed her, his leg had begun to hurt again and he was glad to get off it. Elaine lay down on the branch directly below him. "God night, Elaine." He said. She was silent for a moment, as if she'd never heard what he'd just said. "Good night, Nick." She whispered. Nick settled in. He heard something, and was about to mention it to Elaine, when he heard a little cry. Then he knew. Elaine was sobbing uncontrolably on her branch. Nick wished he could comfort her. She seemed like such a powerful woman, but deep down something inside her was just...broken.
Kenneth sprinted over the expanse of the parking lot and onto the road with all the speed he could muster. He was no track star but he could certainly get moving when the time called for it; with the zombies already falling far behind, he was in good shape. No more than 3 minutes had passed before the zombies became but a distant blur. Kenneth slowed and caught his breath. He settled to the asphalt, muscles aching and lungs burning. He began sorting through his options which in all honesty, weren't really options at all; any decision he made would end in his own inevitable death. *I can't believe they just left me...* He thought to himself. *Not that I blame them... I probably would've left me too.* His eyes began swelling with tears and he didn't bother to wipe them away. His silent tears turned into uncontrollable sobs as he wallowed in self-pity. A moan sounded in the distance and Kenneth sat still. He briefly entertained the idea of giving himself up to this one zombie now on his trail... What did it matter anyway, right? But as soon as the beast got closer, and as Kenneth stared into its deathly, un-perceiving eyes, he knew surrendering would be a mistake. There was no way he was giving in that easily, not now. He stood shakily, legs still aching from the run. With a quick glance back, he moved onward, following the road; strengthened by a new determination to survive. "I will never become one of them... I swear it." He said to himself. He would make it to Washington and he WOULD live. *Yeah... I'm going to make it.*

"So... what's the plan then?" Lindsay asked. "Well... we don't really have much of a choice, do we?" Johnny replied. "No... We don't. We're waiting for him. I don't care how long it takes, he's coming and we're not leaving until he gets here." Peyton answered, defiant. Johnny hesitated. "Peyton... we can't just-"
"Listen to me Johnny. We wouldn't even be alive right now if it wasn't for Nick. We owe him this much and we're waiting for as long as it takes. Got it?"
Johnny swallowed hard but nodded his head in agreement, along with Lindsay. The RV was suddenly swallowed in silence as they all sat staring into space... It was going to be a long night.

Kenneth was growing weary. He'd been walking for over an hour now and with every step he took, his hope fell lower. He was hot, tired, sweaty and certain that his legs would give in at any moment. Just when all seemed lost, Kenneth lifted his head and spotted in the distance what looked like a bus, pulled over on the side of the road. The sight uplifted him and he regained strength, running quickly, ignoring the pain that screamed through his body. *This is it! The bus will take me to Washington and I'll survive! I knew I would make it!* He thought as he ran. The bus was now in clear view, and he could see that it was a school bus and that had fallen into a ditch. He ran to get a closer look, to see if it was feasible to back it out onto the road. The ditch wasn't incredibly deep and it was definitely worth a shot. He tried the door and when it didn't open, ran for a stick on the ground not too far from him. He picked it up and struck it against one of the back windows with enough force to break the glass. He crawled in quickly and fell to the ground in his hasty ascent. Standing and brushing himself off, he turned around, now facing the front of the bus and suddenly froze. Standing there were maybe 10 children, or what used to be children, all looking his direction. But what stunned him even more than this was the one zombie that stood in front of them all. It was a young girl with short blonde hair, matted to her forehead in a tangled mess. Kenneth stared into her eyes... those eyes. *I know this girl...* and suddenly the realization hit him. This was his sister. Tears flooded his vision and he ran to her. Standing in awe, he finally embraced her, kissing her cold, dead skin. She may be infected but she was still his little sister and nothing was going to change that. "Oh, Kara." He sobbed. "I love you so much... talk to me Kara... talk to me!" He cried, his voice full of desperation. Kara writhed in his grip and finally she sunk her teeth into his shoulder, tearing at his flesh. Kenneth cried out in pain but held tighter still. This was his sister and he wasn't letting go... nothing in the world could take him away from her... not again. "I love you, Kara... I love you. I'm here now; everything's going to be okay... I'll protect you; don't worry, you're safe now. I love you, Kara." He sobbed. She leaned in and tore another piece of flesh from his bones. The other zombies were now upon him as well and there, in the company of his dear little sister; Kenneth died a painful, agonizing death... and he couldn't care less.
Payton couldn't believe it, even though she agreed to leave Kenneth behind. She didn't like Kenneth, nor did she care about his well-being, but he was another human, and in a way, she did feel bad that they left him behind.. She looked at Johnny who was driving. You could tell he felt bad by also making the decision of leaving Kenneth behind to be eaten by those monsters. She wondered if Johnny ever cried. She never had seen him do so, but maybe he did have that little boyish side in him as Nick had. She admired that of Nick, like when Ron had died, he had expressed himself in such a way that she had never imagined he would. She wondered how or what he was doing. Where he was, if he...survived the zombies that were chasing after him into the woods. She looked out the window and wondered what he would've decided to do with Kenneth, to leave him behind, or to find some way to get him back to the RV. More then likely he would've found some way to save Kenneth, he always found a way to something. She closed her eyes, trying to forget about Nick. Knowing him, he probably was alright. He probably found a place to protect himself from the zombies. She wondered if he would bump into another human, if there were any left, but she doubted it.

Payton opened her eyes and woke up to the sound of a barking dog in the distance. Light was shining in through the windows. She got up and looked around. Out the window were lifeless trees and plants and grass growing from the streets and sidewalks. Lindsay and Johnny were still asleep so she grabbed a pistol and crept out the door quietly. Outside were crows pecking the muscle tissue of a dead cat. Something bright on the ground caught her eye. She walked to the object and wiped the dirt and dust off it with her hands. "Welcome to Kansas City" was written on the yellow sign. Payton felt tears struggle to come out of her eyes, but she let them out. She hugged at the sign and held it against her chest. Payton ran to the RV and slammed the door open. The sound immediately woke up Johnny and Lindsay. "What the-?!" shouted Johnny. "What's going on?" he said climbing out of the bunk. "Hah! Do you even know where we are?!" Payton said holding up the sign and having a big smile on her face. "Well, by your ecstatic behavior...and the sign you're holding up...I'm guessing we're in Kansas City, correct?" Johnny said with a chuckle. Payton's smile became even bigger. "Come on we have to go find him!" Lindsay said jumping out of the bed. And with that, Johnny jumped into the driver's seat, put the keys in ignition, and began driving to search for Nick.
Dawn light had barely peirced the sky when Elaine woke him. "Come on, the sooner we get out of this forest, the better." Nick groaned, "It's still too early to get up." Elaine shrugged, "Have it your way." She curled her knuckles and brought her middle one. She dug it deep into his side. He yelped in pain and nearly fell off his branch, "Okay, I'm up, i'm up!" Elaine disappeared and Nick saw her jump to the forest floor. Nick climbed down from the tree, almost slipping at one point. When he got to the ground, he turned to Elaine. She pointed outward, "That way is north, let's go." The two of them started off, and before long, they were killing off infected left and right. "Geez," Nick said, putting a bullet into the head of the last one, "How any more can there be in these woods?" Elaine motioned for silence, "Super-infected." Was all she whipsered. Nick looked around, they were out in the open! All was silent, he didn't see anything to give even a hint that there super-infected were even there. Elaine turned to him, "Don't move from this spot, stay absolutly still." Nick nodded. She took off into some bushes. Then a thoguht struck him. Could super-infected not see movement. He didn't think it mattered because he heard something coming through the bushes. Two long claws swept through the leaves, cutting them like a knife would a blade of grass. The super-infected spotted him and charged, out of the bushes behind him, Elaine voice yelled, "Duck!" The super-infected was in the air. Nick ducked. A gun shot peirced the air. The bullet hit the monster in the face, throwing it backward onto the ground. Nick was about to congraduate Elaine -then scold her for using him as bait- when the super-infected she just shot jumped to its feet. Nick was stunned, he whipped out the 9mm. Elaine came out of the bushes. Nick shot for the head, missed, and shot again, this time aiming for its knee. He scored. It went down with a groan. He walked up to it and shot it twice in the head. Elaine looked thoughtful, "They're getting harder to kill. This is not good, not at all." They began walking again before Nik asked her to elaborate. "Well," she said hesitantly, "First: if the super-infected could think, that could only spell doom for the humans,obviously. Second: If they could think, they're evolving, and if the super-infected are doing it, there's no doubt that the infected will follow suit. And in that case, we will have a whole world full of super-intellegent- man-eating-killing things. And no one, not even the military, can put up a defence against that." Nick swallowed, "That's almost happened. I meant a man named Echo. He was some sort of strange half-infected, I can't really explain it. He could make claws come out of his hands, and he was very strong-"
Elaine cut him off, "You're talking about him as if he doesn't exist anymore."
Nick shrugged, "Well, me and my companions had a couple run-ins with him and his gang, but we managed to get by and injured him. I don't think we'll be seeing him for a long time." Elaine was silent for a time, "These...half-infected, as you call them, do you know where they come from?" Nick shook his head, "Sorry, I didn't get a chance to ask, they were to busy trying to kill me." Elaine half laughed. "Is there anything else peculiar about them?" Nick nodded and felt bile rise to his throat. "Yes, they feed upon infected bodies." Elaine stopped then. "And does this, Echo do too?" Nick shook his head, "No." Elaine stodd silently there for a while, "Is everything okay?" Nick asked. She came out of a daze, "Yes, fine, let's go, Billy." Nick stopped, "What? Who's Billy?" Elaine stopped and whispered, "Is that what I called you?" Nick nodded, "Yes." She shook her head, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, I was remembering something." Nick smiled, "It's okay." Elaine touched her face for a moment and continued walking. Nick had a puzzled look on his face. They kept walking for most of they day and came a stop at midday. "Can we take a break?" He asked, out of breath. There were times when it seemed like Elaine had seemed like Elaine had tottally forgotten about him and began running at top speed. He would need to call out to her five times before she stopped. She nodded absentmindedly. Nick plopped down on a tree stump. They were on the very edge of the forest, but who knows how long it would take till the got to Kansas City. Maybe they could walk in the dark now if they could see out in the open and not in a thick forest. Ten minutes later Elanie looked at him, there are some infected on our tail, regular not super, if we move quickly we'll be able to get away from them. Nick stood. They were off again, going into some very long grass. Something slithered passed Nick. He looked down and was replused. He jumped back. There was a snake on the ground, or what used to be a snake, it's skin was falling off, leaving a blodd trail wherever it went. It turned on the and let out a weak hiss. It was infected. It struck out at Nick and Elaine. He put a bullet into its head. It whithered for a moment, then was still. Elaine looked horrified. "This was not in the formula!" She cried out to no one in particular. "This was not in the formula! Now you've doomed us all! Animals weren't supposed to be infected! I should have never been apart of this attempt." Nick was very confused. Elaine was full of rage. And she looked ready to kill something. She turned away, walking again, muttering to herself. Nick shook his head to clear it. Something was very, very wrong here. What did Elaine mean when she yelled, "This was not in the formula"? They didn't speak for a long time after that. It was twilight before Nick spoke, "Elaine, I think we should keep walking. Since we're out in the open, we'd be able to see any zombies coming at us." Elaine grunted to show she heard him, then contiued walking, lost deep within her own thoughs. A few times, Nick needed to kill off infected himself before Elaine came to herself. Then he thought back to earlier that day, she had called him Billy. Who was Billy? Nick shok his head to clear it. It appeared Elaine had done the same, because she was making idle conversation with him now. "I thnik we're almost there." She said. Nick looked at her. "What mkes you say that?" She pointed forward and his heart soared. It was Kansas City! There was barely enough light to see what was left of tall buildings and the roads. Elaine turned to him, smiling in the dim light. "I'm afraid we can't go looking for your frneds tonight, we need to fid somewhere high to sleep and wait the darkness out." Nick nodded gleefully. He hadn't felt this happy since before Ron's death. "Let's go." He said, and began to run to the city.
Nick and Elaine found a tall building wih little infected in it. They made their way to the roof of it. Nick lay down on his back, feeling elated. Elaine was looking over the edge. "Since it's night time, and if your friends are driving, we'll most likely notice their headlights." Nick shook his head, "I don't know if headlights would wake me." Elaine shrugged, "I'm a light sleeper, so'll notice tham and wake you." Nick nodded, "Thanks." He rolled over. He wondered how his friends would act when they heard about the antidote. He knew it had worked becuase he had gotten bitten and had cured him. Then he nearly sat up, shocked. He was so stupid for not thinking about it before. How had Elaine gotten the antidote? How was there any possible way? This women was no ordinary apocalypse survivor. She must have had something to do with this infection! That's why she must have yelled that thing about the formula and had been acting so strangly. It lso explained wy she would be crying. The poor hag must be wallowing in her own guilt! Nick shook his head. He didn't want to call her names, after all, she had saved his life. But if she had helped create the virus...then that must mean she helped inadvertantly killed his grandparents and put the world through this hellhole! Rage swelled within him. He flew to his feet. "Nick" Elaine asked, "What are you doing?" Nick glanced back at her, but it was to dark to see the hate and anguish in his eyes. "I'm going for a walk," he snarled. Elaine didn't queston anymore, evidently hearing the hate in his voice. He threw open the door and flewdown the stairs. He opened the entrance. Two infected wereout there, noticed him, and came in for the kill. He laughed bitterly, "Oh, hell no. Big mistake." With how angry he was, the two infcted were the perfect targets t take out his anger on. He grabbed one by the throat and smashed its face into the wall. The other one came up behid him, he twisted ot of the way. He kicked its knee out. It toppled over. For one second, no a milisecond, he thought he saw something in those enstranged eyes. Fear? He shook his head, no that was impossible. But then, Elaine's theory came to his mind. Infected might be able to start thinking. It only fueled his rage. He kicked thething in the stomach. "How does that feel, huh? How the hell does that feel!" He kicked it over and over again. He was yelling now, crying out fo his grandparents. Imaes flashed through his mind. His grandparents coing to see him at the hospital, him telling them his father had broken his leg an nose, them arguing with his father, his grandma holding him hile his grandfather argued with his father. "Everything wil be alright, Nick, hewon't ever touch you again. Just let your Mama and Papa take care of it." He shook his head, "No it won't be alright, mama! It will NEVER be alright!" He was crying out at the top ofhis lungs now, he brought his foot down and smashed the infected's face in. He was breathless. He couldn't see anything through the tears in his eyes. Then, one thought came into his enraged mind. Elaine Scott. If she'd had something to do with this, it was all her fault his granparents were dead! It was all her fault the only people who'd ever loved him were dead! He wouldn't kill her, no. He would make her live with her guilt as the destroyer of the world. She would live with that burden or the rest of her twisted life. He didn't know how long he stayed down there he didn't care. He made his way back up to the roof. Elaine was in the same spot. He didn't even look at her. He was to emotionaly exhaused to think anymore horrible thoughts at her. He thumped down onto the concrete floor. He fell asleep with all exitement of seeing his friends again forgotten...

Elaine didn't wake Nick up that morning. He might have bitten her hand off if she touched him anyway. He woke up alone on the roof. He lay on his back, wiping away sleep. He was still very sad and angry, but he thought of Elaine's side of the story. Maybe she'd created the virus for the purpose of good, but someone had taken it and turned it into an evil man killing virus. Or maybe she'd gotten an assignment to make the virus with unknown purposes. Nick didn't know, but he began to feel a little softer toward Elaine. Just a little. Elaine came back an hour later. They didn't speak at first, then Elaine said, "You had quite an episode last night." Nick half laughed. She couldn't begin to imagine the emotional onslaught he'd experienced the night before. "I'm...alright." He half lied, some of the joy at seeing his friends again lifted his spririts a bit. Elaine smile at him, "Well, the sooner we find your companions, the better." Nick couldn't agree with her more.

They searched a whole half of the city by midday, and found nothing. "You'd think that seeing a huge RV moving around a dead city would be easy." Nick remarked, resting for a water break. Elaine shrugged, "You'd think so." Nick looked up at the cloudless sky. Elaine turned her back on him and began to walk around. She looked back at him and jerked her head at the Publix across the street. "Let's go in there, maybe there's some food we can scrounge up." Nick nodded and took a final swig of the water bottle he'd found at a gas station. He threw it on the floor and walked behind Elaine. They entered the store cautiously at first, then when Elaine gave the all clear, went they're seperate ways. Nick went to the cash registers and Elaine went to see f ther were any canned foods left. He found to bags of chips, but then remebered that they'd be very, very stale. He went to the liquids section. The whole isle was cleared, even the whine and liquor. Elaine came around the corner, "Find anything," he asked still looking at the empty shelves. She walked up next to him, "No, the whole store has been looted." He nodded, "Yeah, I see that..." Elaine jerked around and said, "Do you hear that?" Nick raised his eyebrows, "Hear what?" Elaine looked at him, grinning, "It sounds like a car horn!" Nick let out a woop of delight and ran to the entrance. He through open the door. The RV had just turned the corner, it's loud horn honking wildly. He ran out of the small entrance putting his hands up and calling out all of his companions names. He saw movement in the RV. It stopped about a hundred feet from him. The door flew open and out came, Lindsay, Johnny, and Payton. They were calling his name and he found himself running towards them. The three of them also took off to meet him. Payton got to him frist. She tackled him with a huge bear hug. She was smothering with kisses before he could say anything. He laughed. Johnny and Lindsay were there a moment later. Payton pulled away to let Johnny in. He was grinning, "You son of- I didn't think you'd possibly make it!" Nick returned his greeting and hugged him. Lindsay wrapped her arms around him, "It's good to see you alive, Nick." He returned her hug, "You too Lindsay." Lindsay released him, and Payton was back into his arms, grinning up at him, "If you ever do that again, Nick Zarrack, I'll kill you." He smiled, "No, you won't." She luaghed, "You're right, I won't." Then he pressed his lips against hers in a passionate kiss. Payton pulled away when she noticed something behind him. "Who's that?" She asked, herhand sliding to her gun, Lindsay nad Johnny had the same looks on their faces. "It's alright guys, she's with me." He turned, "This is Elaine Scott, the woman who saved my life." The tension evaporated, Payton walked up to Elaine, "Well, then, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving Nick's life." Johnny cleared his throat, "We all do." Nick released Payton's hand and stepped up to Elaine, all his anger at her forgotten, "We wouldn't have gotten here without you, Elaine." Then he did the only thing that could surprise Elaine. He wrapped her up in a hug. She didn't know what to do at first, her arms hanging at her sides. Then she patted his back awkwardly. "Your welcome, Nick Zarrack." He smiled at her and grabbed Payton's hand. "Elaine will be joining us on our way to Washington." That drew smiles from them all. Then Nick noticed that ne person was missing, but he assumed he was in the car. "Is Kenneth waiting in the car, loathing my return?" They were all silent for a moment, then Lindsay said, "Kenneth's dead, Nick." He was puzzled, "How?" Jhnny looked at him, "How else?" Nick lowered his eyes for a moment, then squeezed Payton's hand. "Well, the military won't come to us. What are we waiting for?" They all grinned, including Elaine, and made their way back to the RV. Nick wanted to take a shower before they left. He grabbed his clothes from the suitcase he'd packed, what seemed like a lifetime ago now, and took out a t-shirt, jeans, his shaving cream and razor, and some deoderant. He tok a nice hot shower. He came out clean shaven and feeling and smelling good. Elaine was on her bunk, talking with Lindsay and Payton from the couch. Johnny was in the driver's seat. Payton looked up at him and smiled. Lindsay glanced at him, "Nice shower?" He nodded, "The best." Johnny looked at him through the rear view mirror, "Ready?" He asked. "Ready," Nick confirmed. He sat down next to PAyton and took her hand in his. Johnny started up the RV and began to move out of the city. He smiled to himself. They were on the road again. Payton rested her head on Nick's shoulder. He squeezed her hand and kissed her head. She was immensely happy that they had found him. She looked out the window and closed her eyes. She felt like she was with family, her family. She didn't know what she would do if they hadn't found him, ever. Maybe go insane, heh, she smiled to herself. She knew she didn't have to feel a bit uncomfortable when she was close to Nick now. She looked over to Lindsay who was in the passenger's seat next to Johnny. She could tell she and Johnny loved each other. Well, maybe not love, but something. She thought about Ron, if he had a wife or someone, but if he did or not, he didn't show it. And of course...poor Kenneth. With his obnoxious behavior, he probably didn't have someone that cared for him, maybe not even his family. Hah, she thought. She regretted her thought, the guy's dead for God's sake! she thought. Payton opened her eyes and asked Johnny where they were. He said they were almost out of Kansas City and were heading to Atchison, Kansas. She nodded and closed her eyes again, it was going to be a long day.

"Wake up, we're in Nebraska, Payton." in her sleepy state, Payton heard Nick's soft distant voice. She opened her eyes, in front of her was Nick stroking her hair softly. She looked around, it was dark in the RV. "How long have I been asleep?" she asked sitting up.
"I'm not sure, maybe about four hours, or so?" he replied. "Oh, well..where's everyone?" "Asleep. Here, come on." He took her hand and walked to the door, opened it and went outside. It was pitch black everywhere, except for the illuminated moon in the night sky and you could hear the grass wavering softly in the wind. "My grandparents and I used to come here during the fall. We would rent a cabin and have picnics here. It was so peaceful here all the time." he paused for a moment. They started to walk into the field. Nick glanced back quickly to remember where the RV was, just in case they couldn't find it. He looked back and continued. "Last fall though, they asked me if I could travel with them back up here. But, I couldn't. I was working too much." he said. "Now I'm here, and they're not." Payton looked up at Nick's silhouette. She couldn't see it, but she knew he was fighting back the tears. "I'm sorry." she said sympathetically. She squeezed his hand and kissed his cheek softly. They stayed out there for a while without speaking and looked at the night sky. "Well, I'm here for you, even when you need someone to pour out to." "Thanks." he said. Payton realized she should say something else, but she couldn't find the words to say. " did you meet Elaine?" she asked. "I bumped into her in the woods. She tackled me to the ground, and-" he paused. "Yeah." Payton looked up at him. "She tackled you..because she thought you were a zombie, right?" "Well, I guess, I mean. Yeah..?" he said swallowing. "Hmm. Okay then. So what was her story?" she asked as they began walking again. "Well, she didn't mention anything..she was just, well I don't know."
"Okay then, how old is she?" Nick paused for a moment. "I'm not sure. Maybe early thirties? I don't know. Why are you asking all these questions?" he said with a chuckle. "Well, I don't know...just wondering." she said. "Well, I don't like her. I mean...well I do like her.. as a friend..just know." he said nervously. Payton laughed. "It's okay..I approve." she said. "Okay well, I only love you. You know that, right?" he said. "Okay." she nudged him. "Well, I guess we should go back to the RV. I'm tired." she said.
"Yeah me too."

They walked back to the RV. Nick opened the door, let Payton in, went inside, and shut the door.
Nick awoke on his bunk. His shoulder felt a bit sore and his leg stiff, but other than that he felt great. He sat up. Payton and Lindsay were on the couch, talking with Elaine. It was about ten o'clock now. He slung his feet over the edge of the bunk and jumped down. "Sleep well?" Payton asked. He smiled and nodded. He went to the refridgerator in the back of the bus and took out a water bottle and a can of green beans. He sat next to Payton and began to eat. "So," he said in between bites, "What have you ladies been talking about?" Elaine laughed, "What a pain in the butt you were on our trek." Nick scowled, "Hey, after walking miles and miles, getting a gash in the leg, climbing trees, getting bitten, I'd like to see you-"
Payton cut him off, "Bitten?" Lindsay's eyes widened. Payton looked him up and down and saw his forearm. She slowly inched away from him. "Oh, no." she said. Lindsay was looking between them both, "Did he really get bitten?" She exclaimed, standing. Johnny looked back, "Who got bitten?" Nick grinned and loked at Payton. She glared at him, "Stop grining like a fool! We need to do something! Maybe we can stop the infection, you know maybe...cut his arm off?" Lindsay shook her head, "No, during the outbreak hudreds of people tried that! You know it didn't do any good!" Nick laughed, not wanting to see them panic, "It's okay, guys." He looked to Elaine, who was looking into her lap, "Elaine healed it. She has the antidote." Payton and Lindsay stopped tlking and looked at Elaine. "Really?" Payton asked carefully, aparrently not wanting to get her hopes up. Elaine slowly noddd her head, "Yes...really." Lindsay looked gleefully at Nick, "Let me see it." Lindsay said. Nick held out his arm. the wound was fading rapidly. Lindsay's eyes widened, "That's amazing!" Payton's mouth was open. "There's really an antidote? There's really an..." She trailed off, to stunned to continue. Johnny called back, "What's going on back there?" Nick replied, "Pull over." He did and walked back to join them. "Okay, what-"
Lindsay walked up to him and said happily, "Elaine has the antidote, Johnny! She has the key to saving us all!" Johnny looked confused at first, then said to Elaine, "Let me see it." Elaine looked up at him. she looked like she was about to refuse, but then she reached into the folds of her clothes and pulled out a vile. Johnny grasped it tenderly. He was smiling, then his face hardened. "How do we know this is really it, if there is one." Lindsay grabbed Nick's arm and held it out to Johnny. "Look! Nick was bitten and Elaine got the stuff into him...somehow." She turned to Elaine, "How did you?" Elaine answered, "I put the antidote in syringes and hit him in key spots of the body." Lindsay smiled and looked bac to Johnny, "See?" Johnny shook his head. "That could be a fake. Nick could be infected, he still has time to re-animate. Maybe it's only a matter of time." Payton spoke up, "Think about it, Johnny. If Nick is infected he would already be a zombie right now. His face'd be red his eyes would have that haunted look in them-"
Johnny held his hand up, "Okay, okay." Then he finally grinned. They were all silent for a moment, and then they burst with laughter and began talking about how the world would be like and how the planet was saved. Payton jumped into Nick's arms ad he kissed her. Then Lindsay looked up at Johnny. She walked up to him and moved in close-"You know," Elaine interrupted the celebration, "We still have to get to the military first. And well, since you have the antidote with us now, we all literally bare the wait of the world on our shoulders. Also...this is the last of the antidote that I have left." Everyone went silent as that realization sunk in. That was a very, very big responsiblity. Payton broke the silence, "Well, if we all stick together and kick some zombie butt on the way, we'll make it to the military and get that vile to them too." Nick nodded. Johnny broke in, "Elaine?" Elaine looked at him, "Yes, Johnny?" He swallowed, "How did you get the antidote?" They all looked to Elaine, wating for the answer of the century.
Everyone stared at her with questioning eyes. Sweat dripped slowly down her face. Heart pounding.
Johnny opened his mouth as if he were about to speak.
"Elaine?" he asked. She swallowed a lump in her throat before replying. "Yes Johnny?" It seemed as if everything was moving in slow motion. "How did you get the antidote?"
She looked around at all of the faces, holding their gazes on her with piercing eyes. "I made it." She told them, giving a smug smile. "They don't exactly sell these things at convenient stores." She glanced over to her bed. Returned to her awed listeners. "Well good night."
Peyton shot up, her eyes huge, as if they were going to explode. "Excuse me?! You have a LOT of explaining to do, woman! How can you go to bed at a time like this??"
"Because I'm tired..."
Peyton rolled her eyes. If Elaine could guess Peyton's thoughts at the moment, she would have probably been thinking something absurd about her, like, "she is so clueless about what's going on! Does she even HAVE a brain? Gosh... she's so impossible to work with!" And at this, Elaine couldn't help but smile. She has no idea.
"Elaine..." Nick tried to explain, as Peyton was venting, trying not to say anything too offensive to her lover's savior, "excuse Peyton... but this, this antidote... this is huge! We want to know how you came across it... or... how you made it..." Elaine looked into his eyes. All of these expressions and emotions these people used... they're so easy to read. Why do you leave yourselves so open?
"I don't really feel like telling you how I made it. And unless one of you is a geneticist and just failed to mention that to me, you wouldn't understand it anyway." Nick let his head drop into his hands in a frustrated manner. Her sarcasm was obviously agitating him. "That is not what I meant," he replied, pointing at her. She just tried to hide her smile again. It was like a game to her: how long can I keep them guessing before they all blow their fuses? The charade was rather amusing. "Hey... I really am tired, can we talk about this later?" Everyone gave exasperated gestures as if to say, "it's pointless... just forget it." And with that, satisfied with her ambiguous response, she picked up the pillow on her bed, looked at it, and threw it off. She curled up into her bed, and slept.
The RV sat silently, everyone inside sleeping soundly... everyone except for Lindsay. What on earth is going on here? Where did this girl come from and how could she possibly have a cure? Should we trust her? Her mind swam with questions all through the night, refusing to surrender to sleep. After an hour of tossing and turning with these unanswered questions, she forced herself to focus on something else... something that she really hadn't wanted to think about but knew she must. She thought about Johnny and Nick. Lindsay let out a long sigh. Nick... Nick, Nick, Nick. I don't even know how to feel about you anymore. She thought to herself. When they had reunited and Lindsay saw Nick kiss Peyton the way he had, she couldn't help put feel a tinge of jealousy... but why wouldn't she? She never really stopped liking the man... how could she? Not so soon... she'd felt so strongly for him. But now... seeing how close he and Peyton had really become, she knew it was time to let go. Lindsay let out another sigh and then moved onto Johnny. Oh, Johnny... You're so sweet. Quite possibly the most caring man I've ever met and I really like you! As a close friend... but do I have serious feelings for you? Gah, I don't even know... I really don't know what to feel and I don't want to jump into things... not again. I just don't know how much more pain I can take. Lindsay rolled onto her side and listened closely to the soft sound of breathing and, feeling at peace, closed her weary eyes and drifted into sleep at last.
Nick awoke to loud a crash. He sat up, "What was that!" He asked grogilly. Payton looked up from the floor, "Sorry, someone spilled water and didn't pick it up!" Nick got up to help her up, but Lindsay and Elaine got to her first. Nick grabbed a paper towel and wiped the water up. Johnny, who was in the driver's seat called back, "Hey guys, there's a house up ahead, let's stop there and get a few things." Nick nodded and pulled on his sneakers. Johnny pulled up to an old run down house that looked to be about one-hundred years old. The paint was peeling back, the wood was splintered, and the glass was broken. But the glass may have been from the outbreak. They pulled their guns and walked up onto the porch. There was a swing, swinging softly in the wind. It creaked everytime it went back. "Creepy," Lindsay stated. Nick opened the door. A large staircase occupied the space a few feet in. Off to the left and right were long hallways. A ghostly light crept in from the window above the stairs. The stairs went off in two directions at the top. Nick swallowed. "Okay, people, let's find some supplies and don't get bitten." Elaine looked at him quizzically, "Of course not," she said, then walked right. Payton grinned at Nick. Johnny, Lindsay and Payton went upstairs. Nick went left. There were two rooms on the right side, and another small room one the left. The door was slightly cracked. He pushed it open and walked in, flashlight in hand. There was nobody in the room, but something did catch his eye, on the ground. There were candles, black. When he looked closely he saw a six pointed star. Suddenly, he was cold. Something made him want to get out of there very badly. He sidestepped and walked out of the room. He slammed the door behind him. He continued walking down the hallway. Satanic people must have lived here, for he saw another room filled with strange looking dolls with needles sticking out of them. Voodoo too. Something moved in the corner. He held his flashlight up. Th shadow wouldn't go away. It blasted out toward him, and suddenly he had horrible visions. A man stabbing his wife and daughter, that same man taking a bath in their blood, him holding a knife up, ready to stab Nick...he ran out of the room. He was freaked out, now. He ran into the kitchen and caught his breath. He cleared his throat and saw a big book on a counter. He walked over to it and opened it. It was all in another language. He closed the book and went to the pantry. He grabbed two cans of tomato soup and one can of corn, that was all there was. He walked to the fridge, althoguh he doubted he'd find anything in there. He opened it and was rewarded with an awful spell that made him gag. He looked closely, green mold covered everything. But in one small sclear container, and saw something greenish red. Blood? He slammed the door. Whoever lived in this house deserved to be infected. He set his things on the countertop. Across the kitchen, a living room sat undisturbed. Nick hated this place with every fiber of his being. He decided he'd go find everyone else. "Hey," a gruff voice said from behind him, "why are yu in my house?" Nick jumped and turned around so fast, he felt a burning sensation in his neck. A man who looked to be in his mid-forties had a knife in his left hand, a can of food in his other. Nick cleared his throat, "I'm sorry, we didn't know this house had somebody living in it-"
"WE!?" the man cut him off, twirling the knife around, "You mena there's more of you?" Nick nodded and backstepped, "Yes..." The man leaned intoward Nick, "I don't like people coming int my house uninvited." He was dangerously close to becoming a threat, Nick tightened his hand on his gun, "Look, mister, we'll leave, let me just find my friends." The man sneered, "Why do you wanna do that? The party's down here." Nick pushed the man out of his way, then brought the gun up. "Stay right there, you sicko." The man laughed, "I don't think you'll use that on me." Nick smirked, "Oh yeah? Why's that?" The man's turn to smirk, "Because i'm not real." Not real? Nick looked quizzical, "What do you mean?" This man was probably trying to only distract him with this nonsense. The man twirled his knife, "I'm a demon, kid. Why don't you get out of my house?" Nick'd had enough. He kicked the man in the gut and ran to the stairs. "Johnny, Payton, Lindsay, Elaine! Let's go!" They came downstairs, Elaine came from her hallway, "What's wrong?" Nick shook his head, "Some wacko is saying he's a demon and not real." Johnny looked at him, "There's someone else in the house?" Nick nodded, "Let's go." Johnny stopped him, "Wait, shouldn't we invite him into the RV?" Nick shook his head, "No, I really think that'd be a bad idea." From the hallway, a loud screech came, it sounded like, "GETOUTMYHOUSE!" That was all the encouragment they needed. They heard moaning and some words in another language come from the inside of the house. Lindsay looked back, "What was that!" They got to the RV. Nick told them what he'd seen, the strange vision too. Lindsay spoke up, "When I went to church, they would say you could open up portals to the demon world. And I guess that's what the man did." Payton piped up, "We saw some weird things too. Pictures of two woman broken on the ground, dried blood all over some rooms. It was kinda creepy..." Johnny grinned, "Well I found a CD, it has some old songs on it, and a couple new ones." The dead teenag girl's , Nick mused. Johnny poped it into the player, and Makoonga's I Will Survive came on. Everyone's mouth fell open at the irony. Payton, sitting next to Nick, looked up at him, "Do me a favor. Next time we encounter a zombie horde, put that song on full blast, i know we'll all survive." Everyone laughed. Johnny started the RV up. They drove away on the chorus: "I Will survive, I will surviiiveee..."
Nick was lying on his bunk when he heard Johnny exclaim, "Oh, geez." He sat up, "What's the problem?" Johnny's voice was filled with irritation, "Come see for yourself." Nick jumped down from his bunk and turned to look out the windsheild. A huge tree was blocking the road. Which was very strange seeing as there were no trees for miles around. "How the heck did that get here?" Lindsay asked, coming up behind Nick. Elaine was at the door, "Let's have a closer look," she said. Everyone piled out of the RV. When they got closer to the big tree, they could see that some branches and leaves were missing. Lindsay was on her haunches, examining it better. "A tornado, maybe?" Nick shook his head, "A torndao wouldn't be able to carry as big a tree like this." Payton shook her head, "Then what was it?" Johnny glanced back the way they came, "Could've been a hurricane." Elaine looked from the tree to Johnny and then back again, "That's ludicrous, we would have felt some of the effects." Nick shrugged, "Look, it doesn't matter how the tree got here, let's just go around it." He looked to his left, there was a forest a few miles out, but the tree couldn't have flown here. They got back in the RV. Johnny started it up and moved into the grass and went around the tree. Something shook the ground. A hue cloud of dust was coming from the other side of the forest. Something was flying threw the air. No, a few somethings. Trees! They landed about half a mile from the road. "What was that!" Payton said. "Look," Lindsay pointed into the sky, "more jets!" Johnny looked back at Nick, "There must've been a boundary wall on the other side." Nick nodded, he was too focused on the jets to give an answer. They had their tails to the RV so there'd be no way for the pilots to see them. He looked back at Johnny and answered him, "I want to know why the military chose now todestroy the boundaries." Lindsay sat on the couch, "Maybe they want as many survivors to get to them as possible." Nick shrugged, "I thoguht you said they wanted the zombies to come to them so they could just nuke 'em all at once." Lindsay nodded, "Yes, that's what I thought at first. Now I see the error in that theory. If the zombies were to all get to the door of the military, they wouldn't nuke them there and then, they'd just blow themselves up becuase the zombies are only a couple miles away or so." Nick nodded again, he hadn't thought of that. Johnny pressed the gas down harder.
Payton looked back to the giant tree that they had encountered. She was totally confused. Elaine had the antidote, why didn't she just tell them what was going on? If she had helped creating the thing, then she might of known what the military was doing, but then again, the antidote wasn't created in the military, it was created in a lab..or whatever. Oh my gosh, Payton thought, why doesn't she just tell us? Payton was getting frustrated with the whole situation of Elaine hiding her little secrets from the group. They had saved her for God's sake! Well, it didn't really matter if they knew, it would probably matter to the military, but Payton was getting too impatient. She looked over to Elaine who was staring blankly out the window. She was...odd, Payton couldn't figure her out, let alone anybody probably couldn't. She seemed like she had no feelings. Like she was this drawing on a blank sheet of paper, no color, no emotion, except for anger, maybe. Yes, Payton could see plenty of anger in Elaine. She was hiding something, something more than just how she created the antidote, of course but anyone would notice that. Maybe she was terrorized by some incident. Well, haven't they all been terrorized recently? No, it wasn't that. It was like, all her emotions were tied together in whatever she was hiding, as if she hid her emotions with it, no wonder she was so blank. Payton took her mind off the subject by looking out the window, it seemed like they were going so slow. She looked over at the speedometer, 75 mph. It seemed way slower than that. Payton closed her eyes and tried to forget about the antidote, but she couldn't get over it. She closed her eyes tightly then opened them to look around the bus. Lindsay was reading something, she always read when they were driving. Honestly, Payton didn't like reading, but she knew that in the military, she would have to read a lot. Like that's ever going to happen again, well, maybe if they got to the military safely, she would continue her career, but she didn't know what would happen in the near future, or maybe far. She looked over at Nick. He was asleep, snoring silently. Payton smiled to herself. He didn't seem like the person that snored. She thought that old, boring people like Kenneth, or her uncle, snored. Not someone like Nick, he was not old, and definitely not boring. Hah, she laughed at herself on the subject she was thinking about, snoring. Wow, and you'd think she'd never get out much, heh, right...

She looked over at Johnny who was driving. He didn't seem tired at all. In fact, he was wide awake. He'd probably sneaked some major coffee to the RV from one of the houses. She looked over at Elaine. She remembered thinking about her enough, she didn't want to get frustrated with the thought anymore. But what about the time when Nick had found her? More like the time SHE found him. She didn't like that thought. Payton wondered what her reaction would be if she saw Elaine pound Nick to the ground like he said she did. Well, Elaine didn't show any feelings for Nick, and he didn't either for her, except for that time her and Nick were out in the field having their little chat about Elaine. He seemed nervous when he talked about her, just a little bit, but she knew he cared for Payton deeply. She knew he cared for the whole group enough to not cause a dramatic, romantic havoc between Payton, Elaine and himself. Although Payton didn't really care, she still loved him. She closed her eyes and rested her thoughts to her dreams.
Nick woke up to the RV engine rumbling. He wiped drool from his cheek and made his way to the refridgerator. He gulped down a bottle of water. He looked around. It pitch black, everyone must be asleep, except for Johnny. He made his way to the front seat and plopped down. "Hey, you're awake." Johnny said, glancing at him. Nick nodded. He kept his eyes on the light from the RV's headlights. You could only see about twenty feet out. A light fog was rolling in from the east. Nick looked at the time. "Four AM?" He said, astonished, "Johnny, you need to get some sleep, let me drive for a while, i'm all rested up." Johnny grinned and shook his head, "Nah, I don't sleep well anymore anyway, I'm fine. Besides, I always get a kick out of driving in the-oh crap." He swerved out of the way of five infected or so. "Driving in the night has always been something I enjoy," he said, glancing in the rear view mirror. Nick shrugged and rested his head on the window. He could barely see the landscape pass by. Johnny grunted. Nick looked through the windsheild, more infected were crowding the road, about fifteen this time. Johnny swerved, but ended up colifing with three of them anyway. Johnny hissed through his teeth, "I just cleaned the dang thing." Nick looked at him, "It's not like there's anyone left to notice." They were silent for a long time after that. About two and a half hours. The sky was begining to brighten a bit. Johnny looked over at Nick and grinned, "I think i'll take you up on that offer now." Nick laughed. Johnny stopped the car. He got out of the driver's seat and plopped onto his bunk. Nick climbed into the driver's seat and started the RV up. He pressed the gas pedal down and they soed away.

Two hours later everyone was awake except for Johnny. Elaine was in the passenger's seat, and Lindsay and Payton were arguing about something in the back. Elaine lifted her chin, "What is that?" She asked, looking out her mirror. Nick glanced out and saw it immediately. "Just a deer." He said, then turned looked forward again. "No look," Elaine whispered hoarsly. Nick looked again. Three infected were running out of a forest, coming up on the deer. They tackled it to the ground. Nick could hear the animal crying out from here. They ripped off its flesh and tore off its limbs. Tey animal was baying very loudly. One of the infected ripped its throat out, and it went silent. Nick could feel bile rise in his throat. Lindsay and Payton were at the window, also watching the ordeal. They weren't infected, he saw, they were super infected. "We keep seeing more and more super-infected," he said. Elaine nodded, "And they have started to feed on animals, this is also bad." Nick truned his eyes to the road, "They're running out of humans." He said. Elaine nodded again, "Fact. they shouldn't take interest in animals at all, unless they were dead hungry." Nick shook his head, trying to clear the images in his mind. They drove on.
"Pull over." Elaine said. They had been driving for about twelve hours. "Why?" Nick asked, now in the driver's seat. The sun was setting over the horizon, bathing the sky in a blood red color. Elaine glanced at him from the passenger's seat, "Please, just pull over." Nick complied. She looked as if she'd jump out of the RV either way. As soon s he slowed, she was out. There was a feild that stretched for as far as the eye could see. Elaine ran, long and far. Nick didn't bother calling out to her, he knew she'd be alright, she'd come back when she was ready. "We might as well spend the night here," Payton said, taking the empty seat next to him. Nick gave her a side long look, "Sure, why not?" She grinned and went to her bunk. Ten minutes later, it was almost all dark. Nick was in the dirver's seat still, exhausted. He nearly fell asleep, but he wanted t see if Elaine'd come back before they all fell asleep. Something caught his eye in the rear veiw mirror. Lights. Two of them. Headlights! "Guys! A car!" Nick cried out. Then he threw open the door and attempted to jumnp out. He was winded and thrown back into his seat. He gasped and laughed at himself, his seat belt was still buckled in. He undid himself and got out. The car was coming at a relativly slow pace, aout ten miles per hour. As soon as the driver saw Nic, the car stopped and the headlights switched off. And out came two people, a woman and a man. Both with guns in their hands. "Whao!" Nick ducked as a bullet flew over his head. "Wait!" He yelled, "I'm not infected!" The commotion drew out the rest of his companions. Johnny was pulling his tattered shirt on, and Lindsay was wiping sleep from her eyes. Payton looked raring to go. The man and woman walked slowly to them. "Sorry 'bout 'at." The man said with a thick country accent, "thought you 'ere one o' 'em zombies." The woman nodded, "Yes," she said in a New York accent, "We were just passing throuh with our son. Tim, come out here!" She called. The man turned to them, "I'm Bill, this is my wife, Sarah." She smiled, "Pleased to meet you." Payton shook hands with her, Nick shook hands wth Bill. They switched and Lindsay and Johnny took turns. A boy of about twelve or so came out of the car. "Ma, Pop, who are these people?" the boy had a strange crossover of a New York and country accent. Sarah walked over to the boy's side and put a hand on his head, "These are other survivors, Tim." Payton smiled at the boy, "Would you like to come inside? We have plenty of food." Bill's face lit up, "Thank ya ma'am." Nick nodded and led the way back inside the RV. The family of three sat down at the table, Johnny and Payton joining them, Nick and Lindsay sat on the couch. Johnny grabbed a few sandwhiches that they had prepared, and a some bottled water. Their guests ate hungrily. Nick waited until they were done to aks his questions, "So, where are you three heading?" The Bill swallowed his last bit of food and took a last swig of the water, "We're going to the military, in Washington." Nick locked eye with Johnny, "We're headed there too, maybe we could travel together?" Before Bill couyld reply, Sarah answere bitterly, "No, we will never trust anyone again. Never travel with anyone again. This world is filled with awful little people! Awful little infected people!" Hearing her talk, Nick imagined a swarm of infected elves holding torches and charging the RV. He shook the amusing thought from his mind. "But it would be much safer if we all traveled together! We'd be able to look out for one another!" Bill shook his head, "Never again, kid." He said. They argued about five minutes more, his companions joinging in. But Nick knew there was no way to convince this enstranged couple. Bill stood, furious. "Thank 'ou for the hospitality, we'll be leaving now." Nick was dissapointed. They'd finally seen some other survivors, and they were'nt even going to help eachother?! Nick stood as well, "Please, consider our request wisely." Bill made it look like he was thinking, then shook his head, "No." And with that, Bill, Sarah, and Tim rushed out of the RV and back to their car.

Nick awoke. It was seven AM. He looked around. Elaine still wasn't back yet. That wasn't good. He woke his companions up. "Elaine isn't back yet," he said, "I think we should go look for her." Payton nodded, "Good idea." Ten minutes later, they were freshened up and outside, guns in hand. They walked for about an hour, and no sign of Elaine. That was a very bad sign. "We should split up." Payron said, coming along side him. A million reasons of why they shouldn't came to mind. But it was adylight, and infected couldn't sneak up on them. He complied, "Okay, that's probably a good idea. We all meet back at the RV in two hours." They went four ways. Nick north, Lindsay and Johnny east, and Payton west. Another hour flew by. Nothing. Nick was starting to get very worried. He heard his name being called from behind. He turned around to see Lindsay, breathless, pull up in front of him. "What happened?" He demanded. Lindsay caught her breath, he put his arm out for supprt, she took hold of it gratefully. "Elaine," she gasped, "bitten." Nick's eyes widened, "What! she's been bitten!" Lindsay nodded, "Go, hurry, I'll catch up, they should be at the now." He patted her shoulder and took off.

He was back at the RV in a little over an hour. He gasped,catching his breath. He threw open the door. Johnny was sitting at the table, looking at Elaine who was on the couch. "She's been bitten." Johnny said. Nick's eyes were locked on Elaine. "It's okay, right? We have the antidote, all we have to do is give it to her." Johnny only looked at him, "We have no idea how to insert it into her body." Nick looked desperatly around, "We have to try!" "Noo..." Elaine's voice came from her withered body. Her face was begining to pale. "I'd rather be dead..." She gasped. Payton came in the door at that moment. When she saw the seen she asked, "What on earth happened?" Johnny retaliated the news while Nick began going through Elaine's things, "We won't let you die, Elaine. You're the key to ending this. And, you're also our friend. We won't let you die if there's something we can do to prevent it!" He found a syringe. Lindsay came threw the door, and took a seat next to Johnny, looking solemn. Elaine opened her eye an looked at Nick, "Please...don't...take it to the military...don't need me." She gasped again, fighting for breath. Nick gazed at her, his savior, his worst enemy. His friend. He couldn't let her die! "Elaine, I-"
"DON'T!" Elaine cried out. Then she was silent. A few more breaths. ", my friends..." And then she was silent. Nick's mouth was open. "Nick," Johnny said, gently pulling his arm, "It's only a matter of time before...." Nick nodded, "I know Johnny." He picked up a pistol that was on the floor, "I'll do it." He said, somberly. Lindsay looked away, and buried her head in Johnny's shoulder. He only looked at Nick. Payton was in the passenger's seat, she put her forehead on the chair, her face disappeared from veiw. This wasn't fair. Someone else was dead, again. It just wasn't fair. The RV was in total silence. Suddenly, Elaine's body began to convulse. Her body rippling, groans coming from her mouth. "Now, Nick." Johnny said, and lowered his head. Nick took aim. And just as Elaine's now lifeless eyes opened, he shot. Instead of a loud POP a whistling sound flew out from the gun. Something was lodged into Elaine's neck. A very slim syringe. He looked down at the gun. This wasn't his pistol! It was Elaine's! And it had the antidote in it! They'd cured Elaine! Elaine was motionless now, her stomach lightly rising. Everyone was still silent. He let out a whoop of delight. Everyone looked at him, incredulous. Johnny began to say, "Look, Nick, I know she created the virus that killed you grandparents, but you shouldn't-"
He cut him off, "No Johnny! I shot the antidote into her neck! She's going to be okay! Look," he indicated the steady rising and falling of her belly, "She's breathing!" Everyone came in for a closer look. "You're right!" Payton cried out in relief. She hugged Nick, Lindsay and Johnny were joyous as well. "When will she wake up?" Lindsay asked, taking a seat at Elaine's feet. Nick shook his head, "Who knows. But at least she's not infected." They all went to sleep that night, happy.

The next morning, Elaine's voice shook the RV. "Who cured me!" She yelled. Nick was startled awake, "Sorry, Elaine, I shot you with the wrong pistol..." He jumped out of his bunk. His friends were also starting to move. Elaine shook her head, tears in her eyes, "Can't you see that I wanted to die! That I wanted to join Billy!" Nick was confused, "Elaine-" He was cut off by a loud metal crash. The windows broke and figures rushed in through them and the door. Nick dashed for his pistol. Something pushed him to the ground. Someone was screaming. Nick looked to the door, from the floor. A lone figure came in to join the ten that had forced their way in. Tattoos covered his body, a splint on his leg, a scar running from his forhead to chin...Echo. "I suppose you thoguht you killed me, or lost me. Non-infected. But you didn't, you only prolnged the inevitable. Now you will-" He saw Elaine. He stopped dead in his tracks, his speech. His mouth fell open. "Elaine?" He whispered, "I thought you were...dead." Elaine had tears running down her face, "Billy." She said. She said it over and over. "Billy! You're alive!" She said joyously, and she ran into his arms. They kissed, over and over. Nick was furious, and repulsed at the same time. He struggled against his attacker. Lindsay was punching and kicking at a half-infected. A gun went off. Johnny was stepping over a half-infected's body he aimed at two more and fired. They went down in convulsing heaps. Echo came out of his daze. He did a snap-kick into Johnny's chin and Johnny went limp and collapsed. Payton was stabbing at anything that moved with her knives. She did a back handed stab, gutting one of the half-infecteds in the stomach. Nick didn't see what happened becuase something hit him on the head. The world faded as he fell into blackness.

He fought his way to consciouness. His head was thorbbing with pain. He wanted to die. He opened his eyes. It was dark. A fire glowing about one hundred yards away, dozzens of half-infecteds swarming the area. His hands, he could feel them tied, above him, hooked to a post or something. He looked around, his neck achig from the effort. He could see the limp bodies of his companions, also in the same position he was. all except Elaine Scott. How had they gotten like this? Then he remembered. Elaine getting cured, Echo and his gang attacking them, Echo and Elaine embracing, kissing...He almost threw up. "Ah. You're awake." A familiar but deadly voice said from somewhere behind. "It's a good thing really, you wouldn't hav liked the way I'd have awoken you." Nick scowled. "Echo!" He snarled, "show yourself!" Echo stepped out into the dim light. "Hello, Nicholas Zarrack. Happy to see me?" Nick spit in his direction. Echo sidestepped and pulled up close to Nick. Nick's face twisted into an enraged snarl, "So, are you going to kill us now?" Echo laughed, a deep throaty laugh. "No, Nick Zarrack. But, when I'm done with you, you'll wish you were dead. Oh you will, you will." Something sharp percied Nick's thigh, he cried out in pain. Echo brought his claw up further, into his abdoman. Nick could feel blood dripping from his wounds. Then, Echo bent and began to lick the blood from his cuts. "Get away from me you sick twisted bast ard!!" Echo luaghed and continued licking. Nick threw up. All over Echo. Echo bellowed and brought his claw behind Nick's legs and he sliced the back of his knees open. Nick cried out in agaony, again. His companions had awoken to his cries. "Get away from him!" Payton yelled. Echo smiled at her, "Your turn will come, my lady." Echo ran his claw down Nick's biceps. More blood stained his shirt. Echo broguht his claw down into Nick arm pit and stuck it about six inches deep. Nick couldn't even protest, he was dizzy from the loss of blood. Echo laughed again. He placed his hand on Nick's head and pulled out hair, blood splattered on Nick's face. He cried out again, Echo thrust his claw into Nick's motuh and cut off the tip of his tongue. Blood filled his mouth and he spit it out, toward Echo. His friends had been cussing Echo the whole time. Echo laughed and stepped back, making his way to Payton. "Stop..." Nick croaked. His throat was dry, blodd began to fall into it, he spit. He heard Payton scream. "Stop!" She cried. "Payton!" He, Lindsay and Johnny all yelled. Payton yelled, "Stop....aaahh!!!" He cry rose into a blodd curtling scream, "Stop! PLEASE!" She was crying out in anguish. Echo stepped back, Payton's shoulders were bloodied, her legs were covered in it too. Echo then moved to Johnny. Johnny began to say something. Echo brought his claw up and split open Johnny's nose and lips. He yelled in surprise. Echo elbowed him in the gut. Then he brought his claws into Johnny arm pits, Johnny was cursing Echo the whole time. Echo sliced the back of his knees too. Blood splattered the ground. "Stop!" Lindsay sobbed, "You're killing him!" Echo luaghed again. He stepped in fron of Lindsay, "Your turn my dear." Lindsay screamed in terror, "NO!" Nick yelled. But Lindsay was already screaming in anguish. "Stop!" She pleaded. Payton yelled at Echo now, "Let her go! She's only a kid!" Echo grabbed something and threw it at Payton's head. A brick. Payton slumped, her hands hanging abover head. Nick saw where they were now, an old abandoned warhouse it seemed. Lindsay screamed again. "Stop it!" Johnny yelled, weakly. "Help me..." Lindsay cried. Echo brought his claw along her chest. She cried out again. Then Echo slammed his head into hers and she fell silent. Echo did the same to Johnny, then walked over to Nick. "This is only the beginning, Zarrack. I'll have my healer treat your wounds, but tommorrow, we will resume." He laughed, then slammed his head into Nick's with a loud CRACK . And the world went dark.
Lindsay awoke slowly, trying to remember where she was and what was happening. She didn't know why but she had a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach... as if something terrible had happened the night before or maybe was going to happen today. Suddenly her memory flooded back and she recalled what had happened with Echo. She gasped, sat up abruptly and was greeted by a throbbing pain that shot through her skull. Overwhelmed and dizzy, she settled back down and tried to figure things out. The room was extremely dark and she couldn't see a thing. *Where am I? Where's Johnny?? And the rest of them?? Are they okay?* She was panicking now but forced herself to stop and think things through. She was now fully awake and realized that she was no longer wearing any clothes. She reached to her bare chest where Echo had cut her. The wound was definitely there, but the bleeding had stopped and it didn't hurt nearly as much as she'd remembered. She felt an oily substance on it as well, as if somebody had tried to help by applying a medicine of sorts. The cuts on her legs were the same way. She sat again, slowly this time, her eyes finally adjusted to the blackness. She looked around and could see in the dim light, that her friends were also here, laying bare and unconscience around her. She then saw on the ground next to her, a pile of old, torn clothes (Though "rags" would be a more accurate term) which looked and smelled like they hadn't been washed since they were made. Nevertheless, she put them on and took care to cover her friends as well so that any ounce of dignity that remained might be salvaged. As she was covering Johnny with his pile of rags, he began to stir. "Shhhh... It's okay." She whispered quietly and placed a hand on his shoulder. Johnny flinched and grabbed Lindsay's wrist, squeezing a little harder than Lindsay cared for; she couldn't help but utter a cry. Johnny's eyes suddenly shot open and he stared at Lindsay, trying to make her out in the darkness that surrounded them. The look of recognition covered his face and he let her go. "I-" His voice croaked. He cleared his throat and tried again. "I'm sorry... I didn't know it was you. I thought..."
"shh.. Don't worry about it. It's called reflexes, I would've done the same thing." She offered a weak smile.
Johnny just sighed. "Yeah... I guess... what time is it? where are we? Where's... where's Echo?"
Lindsay shrugged. "Well, judging by the lack of light, I'd say it's pretty late... We're still in the warehouse, that I'm sure of... and as for Echo, I haven't seen sight of him yet so I doubt he knows we're awake... Though we can't be too sure... God knows we can't be too sure... not about anything... not anymore."
Johnny just nodded solemnly.

Lindsay had turned away as Johnny changed into his rag-clothes and they now sat next to each other on the hardwood floor, talking quietly. They had joked about how silly each other looked in their new wardrobes, though it was only to fill the awkward silence. Fact was, neither of them found it amusing, not in the least bit. They now sat unmoving, staring into space. "What's going to happen to us?" Lindsay asked in a voice so quiet, she wasn't sure if Johnny had heard her. He just looked at her for a moment and she could see his eyes glisten with tears. He sniffed and turned away, unanswering.
Lindsay sighed. "We made it so far! We were this close, Johnny. This close!" Her voice cracked and she sobbed quietly. It felt as though all hope that once remained was lost forever. She felt a hand touch her shoulder, and Johnny pulled her in close. She buried her head in his chest and cried, as he stroked her hair gingerly. He then lifted her chin, and stared deeply into her eyes. He spoke softly, "Lindsay... There's no telling what's going to happen to us and to be honest, I'd rather not even consider the possibilities. But I want you to know, that no matter what happens, no matter what we go through... I love you more than I can ever remember loving any human being and nothing..." He was nearly in tears and had to stop, but gathered himself and started again. "Nothing... is going to change that. Not now, not ever." Lindsay felt her face flush and she searched frantically for a logical answer but couldn't find one. Johnny turned away and let out a breath of dissapointment. "Yeah... I get it... I didn't expect you to feel the same way I ju-" He was interupted when Lindsay suddenly grabbed his face and pushed her lips against his in a passionate kiss, which, after shaking his surprise, Johnny returned just as passionately. She pulled away gently, but stayed close... close enough to feel his warm breath against her face. "I guess you could say I kinda like you too." She said with a smile. He laughed, leaned in, and kissed her again. They finally settled back down together against the cold floor and Lindsay drifted into sleep, feeling like the happiest woman alive, in spite of her circumstances.
Echo came into the warehouse like a cold, harsh wind. They non-infected were asleep on the floor. Cli'Had, his healer, had demanded they be untied so as she could work on them better. Echo reluctanly complied. But he would tie them again at the earlies possible chance. Just in case they were feeling lucky and attempted to escape, he had placed two guards out the front and back. He would resume their pruification in an hour or so. He walked out of the warehouse and went over to his mke shift tent. Nothing but a tarp draped over four long poles. He pulled back the entrance flap and walked in. Elaine was sitting on the bed, brushing her beautiful golden locks. He loved the way they looked. He loved the way her lips worked when she talked. He loved the way her sweat glistened in the dim light. He loved the way her sky bue eyes flashed when she was angry. As she was now. "I wish you wouldn't hurt them, Billy." Echo circled the small fire that was in the middle of the room. "I must, Elaine. They humiliated me." Elaine looked at him, "They were only defending themselves, you were attacking them!" Echo took a seat. "Not only that, they are non-infected.They all should all be killed. Which, shouldn't be so hard to do, considering the number of them left." Elaine looked away. Echo stroked her gold hair, "What is it, my love?" Elaine contiued to look away, "They are my friends, Billy. They are vey good friends. Nick even stopped me from killing myself. I don't even know if he knows he did...and when we get to the military I-"
Echo cut her off, "Military?" Elaine nodded, and said softly, "I need to give them the antidote." Echo sat up straight. "You have the antidote, Elaine?" She nodded and looked at him, "Yes, I do, Billy." Echo smiled slyly as an idea formed into his mind. "Elaine, would there be anyway you could alter this antidote?" she looked up at him, "Yes, I suppose I could...I would need the right equipment though." Echo leaned in close to her. "Then I will get it for you, my love." Elaine eyed him, "You want me to alter the antidote?" Echo nodded, "We could make this world like us, Elaine! No more infected! No more non -infected!" Elaine shook her head and stood. She put her hair brush on a wooden crate, her back to him. He stodd and walked over to her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his chin on her shoulder. "Elaine, there'd be no more infected! Everyone would be like us! Imagine, a world full of the half-infected! I would be king! And you would be my queen, Elaine." Elaine looked thoughtful, then leaned her head back, her cheek touching his. "Where would you get the equipment?" Echo felt triumph ease its way into his chest, "There's bound to be something left at the old facility where they kept us." Elaine looked doubtful, "I don't know, Billy..." Echo turned her around and kissed her on the mouth. The kiss lasted for a full two minutes. "Think about it, my love," he said, then he turned on his heels and walked out. It was time for more purification.

Nick blinked. He tried to sit up, but was rewarded with pain. He flopped back down, which hurt him even more. He grunted. He sat up slowly this time. His whole body was sore. His head was killing him. He looked down at himself. He was naked except for some clthing that was placed in his lap. He checked to make sure no one was awake, then began to pull on the shorts. Raw pain shot up his leg. He whimpered. The back of his knees. Echo had sliced them open. Echo. Rage enveloped him. He would kill that sick little-someone grunted. He looked to his left. Payton. She had gotten a brick to the head. He yanked the tattered shorts on, wincing, and crawled over to her. "Payton," he said. A huge bump was on her forehead, dried blood all over her. Her eyes fluttered open. Only then did Nick notice she was naked except for some of the rags on her private areas. He retreated. Payton sat up, grunting with effort. He diverted his eyes as one of the rags fell from her chest. She noticed and yelped. Nick turned arond. A couple minutes later, "Alright, Zarrack, I'm decent." He turned, grinning. She was also smiling. He went over and sat next to her. She rested her head on his shoulder. He was careful not to touch her hurt head. Lindsay and Johnny were asleep, together, lying on the floor. "I hate Echo," she said. Nick didn't answer. He put his arms around her and just held her. Not wanting to be anywhere else with anyone else. He attempted to pll his legs in, but only received pain. He winced. "Payton, in case we don't make it out of here alive...I love you, Payton. I love you so much..." He couldn't even find the words to express how much he loved this woman. Payton looked up at him, "And I love you, Nick. I don't think I've ever loved anyone else as much as I love you." And then they kissed. Nick wasn't sure how long. But it seemed like it lasted for hours. He pulled back. She ran a hand over his bare chest, "You look like you work out." She stated. He chuckled, "I used to." She looked at his arms to, ran a hand over his biceps. "Used to-oh my gosh!" she was looking at his left bicep. It had been almost stripped of flesh. "That monster," Payton hissed. Nick shook his head, "We were so close Payton, we were so close to the military. Maybe only a couple days more, and we would have made it. Now Echo has tortured us to the point of paralyses and he's going to kill us. We were so close..." His voice cracked. Tears filled Payton's eyes and she buried her head into his good shoulder. Nick felt tears come to his eyes too. He held them back. He stroked Payton's hair gently. He heard foot steps coming. Payton sobbed harder, "This is it," she sobbed. Echo came around the corner an smirked at Nick. "Put your shirt on, trash. Don't defile my presence." He walked over to Lindsay and kicked Lindsay in the side. "Hey!" Nick yelled. Lindsay yelped. Echo grabbed her by the hair and dragged her to a post. "Lindsay!" Johnny cried, awake too. He stood and limped over to Echo. Echo glanced back, "Hmm, trying to play hero, huh?" He lashed out with his foot. Johnny was thrown to his back. Nick stood as well, ignoring the lightning shooting up and down his leg. Payton stood as well, "I'm not going down without a fight!" She snarled. Echo dropped Lindsay, who was thrashing and struggling. "Please." Echo rolled his eyes. Nick came forward. Echo lashed out with a kick. Nick sidestepped. But not quick enough, he wet spinning out of control. When Echo attempted to kick Payton, she grabbed his foot and twirled it. Echo went with the spin, twisting in mid air. He kicked out ward with his other one. Payton went down. Lindsay was up now. She jumped onto Echo's back when he wasn't looking. Echo laughed, "Pathetic! Get off of me, rodent!" He grabbed her head and threw her down. Lindsay gasped, winded. Nick stpped up to Echo and punched, Echo ducked and brought his knee up. Nick went sprawling. Johnny was attempting to punch Eco as well. The same thing happened. There was no way they could beat Ech, they were to weak to fight! But they couldn't just let themselves be tortured! Nick got to his feet again. Echo was already moving. He slid like a baseball player trying to make it to a base. Echo kicked out at Nick on his by. He kicked him in the back of the knee. Nick went down with a yelp. Echo was heading for Payton now. Echo jumped into the air and kicked her in the jaw. "Payton!" Nick yelled weakly. He locked eyes with Johnny, "This is it, buddy, it was nice knowing you." Nick gasped as he felt himself being pulled by the hair. Echo tied him up, standing, his arm above his head. He did the same for everyone else. Echo drew a small lighter from his pocket. He smiled and fliped it on. "Let's start with the other man this time." Echo stated and walked over to Johnny. Lindsay was screaming at Echo, "Leave him alone!" Echo back handed her, "Shut up, trash! Your time will come!" Lindsy was sobbing. Johnny's screams escalated to the point where Nick's ears hurt. When Echo moved away. Nick saw Johnny shirt almost completely burnt off small fires still going. Johnny was heaving for breath. Echo moved to Payton. "No!" Nick cried. But there was nothing he could do. He tried pulling at his rope restraints, but he couldn't do anything. Payton was crying in agony. Nick had tears running down his face. Echo moved to him. Echo lit the fire in front of his face. "This willpurify you, Nick Zarrack." Then he moved the fire to Nick's chest. White hot, eternal heat blazed over Nick's chest. Echo moved the fire over Nick torn flesh on his arm. He cried out in pain. Echo stopped and moved to Lindsay. He moved the flame over her chest. Lindsay's screams echoed through the night...
Deafening screams echoed throughout the warehouse. Elaine Scott sat in the shadows in stunned silence behind Echo, where she felt like an empty shell of her former self. She could hardly take in what was happening around her. Billy... what have you become? The discussion she had had with Billy just moments ago was storming through her mind as her heart pounded, and heat flashed through her whole body. Reminiscent visions flooded her mind's eye as she remembered Billy... the love that she had had for Billy wasn't as strong those years ago when he was alive, but had grown especially with his proposed death. And here he was again... it was her second chance at having the man she loved, to be forever embraced in his arms, and locked in his kiss. But she looked at the man before her, the one she used to know as Billy. She didn't love this man. A cold tear emerged from her right eye as she let out a silent sob. Billy was dead. The body before her was a dark creature whose intentions were purely and unchangeably evil... he was now Echo.
A glistening from the metal lighter shone from Echo's pocket as thoughts flashed swiftly through Elaine and she regained consciousness. Since she had sneaked in after the creature named Echo without anyone noticing her, she was still well-hidden and could make a surprise attack on Echo. He's so powerful... I don't know if I'll be able to do it... Sweat began to form and drip from her forehead as her heart pounded faster and faster. She couldn't remember the last time she had felt so panicked, letting foolish emotions get the best of her. Her head was throbbing with a sudden and unceasing burning as it spread down through her whole body in quick flashes, making her vision blurry and dizzy; she was hardly able to control herself at all as she let out a loud blood-hurtling scream.
"AAAAGGGGHHHH! Echo!" All that she could see now was redness as her entire body blazed with furious anger at what the monster was doing to her companions. "How dare you?!"
"How dare I what? I thought you were with me on this, woman!" she could see the sickness in his eyes; that which took over Billy long ago. "Get out of my way, you're becoming a problem!"
"You will let them go. You will let them go NOW!" She grabbed the pistol she would never leave without, the one carrying the antidotes, and shot him straight into the left-most part of his chest. He didn't even wince. Five long seconds passed in silence, and Echo let out a sarcastic chuckle.
"You think you can defeat me with your little magic potion? That you will be known as the hero that saved the world from the bad man Echo?" A menacing smile crossed his face. "You can't defeat me; it's impossible! I'm too strong for any of you! There's nothing you can do about it anymore!" He laughed heartlessly. Thunder crashed outside the warehouse as Echo babbled more about how great he was.
"You know pride comes before a fall," she added in nearly a whisper. Every one on the floor who had been beaten and burned by Echo's recklessness were looking at each other and whispering. It was so dark, barely anyone could see a thing save Elaine and Echo.
"You're preaching to me now?" And immediately, with all of her strength, Elaine yanked up a rope that had been on the ground, as she let out a soft cry. The rope had been tied around Echo's ankle, and out of surprise he fell backward onto the concrete flooring. Perfect... "Everyone! Get out," Elaine called out to her bloodied acquaintances, waving them out the door. "Go, get out before he wakes up! Hurry!" They scrambled to their feet. Johnny helped Lindsay up and Nick, Peyton, as a frantic collaboration rushed them along in their pain and suffering. "Wake up." She said in her commonly-used low, emotionless voice. She leaned over to slap his unconscious face. "I said wake up you-..."
"Elaine?" The man on the floor, who had been Billy, and then Echo, mumbled her name in near-unconsciousness. His voice was soft; his eyes were sweet... the disease was fading. She choked. "Billy?" Tears immediately started to well in her eyes. "Billy... is that y-..." she couldn't finish. She had missed Billy so much. She had wanted to feel that Echo was Billy; but once she could let that go, she had felt nothing for Echo. But now, looking into his eyes, the love for him came again to her like rushing streams. And she had possibly killed him! No... it was the only way. She mustn't lose rationality; it was really her only choice. "Elaine... I'm so sorry..." He looked into her eyes as he lifted a trembling hand to her face. She held his hand there as tears streamed steadily down. "Elaine... I couldn't control myself... I don't know what happened." He was fading out. "Like... cloud in my brain... no... control. I love you."
"No... please don't leave me! I love you too..." but it was the end. His head hung limp, and all movement in his hands ceased. Elaine couldn't help but to burst into tears. She released his hand, and lowered her head down to cry on his chest. And there she lay, for at least 15 minutes, mourning her true love.
Nick heard her sobbing. He stopped. "Come on, Nick!" Payton pleaded. He shook his head, "We have to go back for her, Payton, she just saved our lives! The least we could do is help her!" Payton still looked uneasy. Johnny and Lindsay had over heard. "I agree, we should help her." Lindsay said quietly. But they all knew there was little they could do if the fight was still going on. They were still reeling from their last torture session. They limped back to the warehouse. "There she is," Payton said quietly. The fight was over. Elaine was lying on Echo's chest, sobbing uncontrollably. The four companions went over to her. "Elaine," Nick said, coming down on one knee, and nearly fell over from pain, "It's time to go." He could see that Elaine had deeply loved Echo. No, not Echo. Billy. As she had mentioned in the forest. Elaine wiped her eyes. Nick helped her to her feet. When she gave them the nod that ensured she could handle herself, he let go of her. "Alright," Nick said, taking charge again, "We're not out of the clear yet. As soon as Echo's-" Elaine flinched "-Sorry, as soon as the other half-infected learn what's happened here, they'll have our heads. We need to get our guns back." Everyone nodded in agreement. Nick turned to Elaine, "Do you know where they are?" Elaine shook her head. Then looked thoughtful, "No, but I may be able to."

Nick, Payton, Lindsay, and Johnny were all hiding in the shadows. Elaine walked up to the nearest guard and said, "Echo wishes to use the non-infected's guns, for more of purification." The guard nodded, "Killing the non-infected with their own weapons. Genious." The guard scurried off. He came back ive minutes later. Payton's kives and pistol, Nick's pistol, Johnny's and Lindsay's, were all in his arms. "I'll give it to Echo," The guard said and began to walk inside. Elaine stepped in front of him, "No, I'll give it to him." The guard scowled, "Why you?" Elaine smirked, "Because I am Echo's lover. Give me the weapons." The guard reluctantly handed the weapons over. "Thank you," Elaine said, then got the business end of the gun in her hand and used the but to wack the guard on the head. He collapsed. "Let's go," Elaine said. Nick and his companions hurredly ran out and grabbed their weapons from Elaine. " are we going to do this?" Johnny asked, checking his gun. Nick held up a h and, "Hold on, still working on it...okay, I have one idea that might work." He told them of his plan. "That's going to get us killed," Lindsay muttered, "But I don't see any alternative." Nick grinned. Elaine made her way through the camp. Some half-infecteds leered at her. She rolled her eyes. She went to a peice of wall the had collapsed and jumped up on to it. "Followers of all ages, come here for a most joyous announcment." Elaine cried into the air. No one moved. Elaine rose her voice, "By command of Echo, come gather here before me!" The half-infected began to rise, muttering to each other. They all made a huge semi-circle around Elaine. "My friends," She began. Nick signaled to the others. The four of them began to creep by the camp, sticking as much as they could to the shadows. Elaine rose her voice so none of the half-infected would divert their eyes. "Our esteemed leader, Echo, has killed the non-infected! Let the great purification begin!" She was yelling at the top of her lungs now. The half-infected all broke out into loud whooping in a joyous dance. then a lone voice came out from the croud, "Why isn't Echo telling us this?" Everyone fell silent. A knot formed in Nicks throat. Elaine took a deep breath, "Becuase, he is still burying the bodies. And he sent me out here to tell you the joyous news. He wants you to join him. Go to him, my friends." Nick and his companions stopped. The half-infected began making their way to the warehouse. As soon as the last one dissapeared, Nick, Lindsay, Payton, Johnny, and Elaine, took off. They were running as fast as they could. "Where's the RV?!" Payton said, puffing. Panic seeped into Nick's body, he hadn't thought of that! "I don't know!" He said, gasping, "But we have to find it!" A startled cry of mourning came from the warehouse. Dozens more joined in. Then the horde of half-infected all pile dout of the warehouse. They were spitting in fury. "There!" One cried out, "Kill them!" The half-infecteds bellowed a battle cry and charged. "We're dead!" Payton. Nick suddenly remebered his gun. He twisted and shot of two shots. Two half-infected went down. Everone joined in. Gun shots filled the air. The half-infected were gaining on them fast. The first one got to them. The four that had been tortured were in no condition for hand-to-hand combat. But Elaine sure was. She kicked the thing in the face. He yelpe and flew backwards. He was up again in a moment. Nick shot the thing in the knee. It went down. Two more half-infected got to them. Lindsay twisted out of the way of one's grasp and shot it in the face. Payton ducked as the other one flew into the air. It went sailing over her lowered head. She sent a knife after it. The knife landed in the leg. It came up again, barely limping, and pulled it out. Johnny was there in a second. His wrench in hand, he slammed it down into the half-infected's head. It collapsed. Then, Nick saw it. The RV only about four blocks away. "Come on! I see it!" Nick cried. They were almost there, they could make it! Nick shot off four more bullets. Three of the things went down. Two blocks. They were running at top speed. The half-infected were pracically on top of them. One block. Four more bullets. A knif. Sidetep, shoot. Duck, block, kick. Half a block left. Duck, kick. Dodge. Shoot. They were tere! Nick threw open the entrance door. Payton screamed. A half-infected had her by the waist and was pulling her back. Nick fired a shot off, but missed. Payton cursed. She grabbed a knife and dove it into the haf-infecteds face. It released her, moaning. Payton dove into the RV. Half-infected dove in threw the already broken windows. Johnny grabbed the shotgun, Payton her machine gun. One of the half-infected's torso blew apart. Another's face. The half-infecteds were soon cleared from the inside of the RV. More kept coming. Nick ran to the driver's seat. The keys weren't in the ignition. "Johnny!" Nick yelled, "Keys!" Johnny glanced back at him, "Glove compartment!" Then he loaded his shotgun and fired. Nick reached over and pulled the keys out. He started he RV. He pressed the pedal down as far as it would go. A crash sounded in the back. Lindsay grunted. Two more shots fired off. "We did it!" Johnny cried. Loud cries of relief resounded through the RV. Payton and Lindsay hugged and cried. Johnny and Elaine embraced as well. Elaine seemed to have come out of her shell.Nick drove about thirty miles, then went back to join in with the celebration...

The Eclectic Pen » All Stories by Blake B. (Blakeish)

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Comments 1 to 3 of 3
Kami (Kidsey) - 3/7/2009 6:00 PM ET
wow! you should totally publish this!!
Stacy B. (stori) - 3/8/2009 4:17 PM ET
WAY too long for a story here and very time consuming. I lost interest after a couple words. I mean it would be a good story.............. or even a good movie...but shorten it to keep good interest
Deanna T. (romance-writer81) - 3/9/2009 11:30 PM ET
A little long winded but all in all an interesting plot. Probably would be better posted in chapters to keep the reader wanting more.
Comments 1 to 3 of 3