Town C, 5 hours after Inbreak, 11:00PM, First Guy
Pushed. Used as human bait. Murdered.
The headlines would be an odd one: boy, seventeen, pushed to his death; zombies. Would they find out that he had been murdered? No, probably not. Hey, they may even cover up the zombies.
But here I lay on the ground as the zombies surrounded me. On the floor, with nowhere to run. The Running Man already vanished into the distance, only I remained, sitting on the muddy ground, trying to get back up in the heavy rain. All I could do now was wait for my gruesome demise.
Yet as I tried to think of something else as the zombies descended upon me, I couldn't help but feel my sword next to me. I thought of my parents crying at my funeral, which would be bad. And I thought of how I had lost one of my dad's ancestral weapons to the person who had just killed me. But most of all I was swept over with a type of anger that I had never felt before.
I was angry- no, I was furious, and I had every right to be. Every time I collapsed hopelessly on the ground, I was reminded of that goateed man's smug face, the life that he would have because he sacrificed mine. I was reminded that he took my father's most prized possession from me, I was reminded that he took my life from me. And suddenly, I wanted revenge.
Maybe that thirst for vengeance was what made me stumble to my feet. And maybe that thirst for vengeance was what allowed me to, with both hands, slice in half the nearest zombie towards me. Maybe it was my anger that speared the next zombie through the chest, or my hatred that decapitated the next two. And maybe I enjoyed killing the last zombie a bit too much as I hacked off both of his legs, pictured him with a hat and a goatee, pictured him with my father's gun in his hands, pictured him alive and well, and then drove my sword down the zombie's temple.
When I got to my feet, I made a decision. I was going to kill The Running Man. I was going to track him down, murder him and take my gun. It wouldn't be hard: this was a zombies invasion and deaths were happening all over the place. It wouldn't make me a murderer: he had just tried to kill me, and he stole my weapon. And so, it was with that resolve that I set off after The Running Man, though instead of sprinting at full speed like he had, I walked.
On the road to Town B, 6 hours after Inbreak, 12:30PM, First Guy
While walking I noticed a zombie that was on fire. It was dead, collapsed in a heap, but it was on fire. Running Man, I thought. He was here, travelling in this direction, towards the next town over. That meant he was here, and as soon as I got to the next town I would find him and kill him. It would be a sweet, decadent victory.
Brushing past the flaming corpse, I continued my journey.
Town B, 7 hours after Inbreak, 1:30PM, First Guy
The town was in a state of disarray. Corpses of zombies littered the field in patterns, with burn and scorch marks everywhere. Houses were boarded up, an unconscious woman was on the ground, and several fires were just being put out now. Firebugs? Didn't matter. What did matter was finding leads towards The Running Man.
I went up to a boarded up house. There was nobody on the street: everyone was still hiding, thinking that there were still zombies outside, even though there clearly weren't. Idiots. I knocked on the door of the boarded up houses. No answer. Odd.
I went to the next one and knocked. The door creaked for a moment and slammed to the ground, caving in on itself. Very odd indeed. At the foot of the house, a half eaten corpse was on the door step, as if it had dropped from the roof and been dragged down. I barely flinched as I stepped over the corpse and into the house.
I had seen this carnage all before in the Ivanis Cravalok movies. What really horrified me though were people. People were just as bad as, if not worse than, zombies. If you let a random person talk to you, as I learned from The Running Man, they will definitely try to kill you. Therefore I should trust nobody, and be a lone wolf, just like Ivanis Cravalok.
Upon exploring the house I only found a battered down door and a broken window. Nothing to lead me to The Running Man was here. I exited the house, working my way down the block. If I was going to talk to somebody about this, I would need to wait until everybody came outside. And so I waited.
Town B, 9 hours after Inbreak, 2:50PM, First Guy
I woke up with a start after taking a short nap on the side of a house to the sound of The Siren being activated. It had been late and I was tired, but now I was more rejuvenated than ever. I hadn't meant to sleep though, because his trail may have gone even colder by now. But he was in the town. He had to be.
The villagers were all talking about the attack now, but I didn't care about how the zombies got inside The Gate like everybody else did. I began asking around. I talked to one man and described The Running Man: short hair, fedora hat, goatee, a bit older than me. He pointed me to a grieving old couple. Two old people where crying on their doorstep, for some idiotic reason no doubt.
One was an old woman with grey hair tied back into a bun, the other a balding man with a fierce yet tragic expression on his face. He was trying to explain something to the old woman, but she wasn't listening and just continued to cry.
I walked over and asked about my gun. The elderly man told me that two people- one of them carrying a gun that matched my description- headed towards the town to the left of us: the town with The Siren! The elderly man said that he had fought during the first zombie outbreak so he knew all about it and noticed when someone was carrying it. So, Running Man. You've decided to throw me off your trail by fleeing towns! Well, you won't lose me that easily, mark my words. I will kill you if it's the last thing I do, and I will take my gun back.
On the road to Town A, 9 hours after Inbreak, 3:10PM, First Guy
I reviewed what I knew in my head: two people were travelling towards the town with The Siren. One of them was carrying my gun. And recently, The Siren had been sounded. That meant that The Running Man had activated The Siren. And it also meant that he was in the next town over, which would be where I would find him and kill him.
I left the sobbing couple and followed the road, gritting my teeth and ignoring my hunger. I hadn't eaten for hours, I was wet and I was tired, but I would have my revenge.
Another flaming zombie came in sight. I laughed, licking my lips. Oh Running Man, you're just bringing me closer and closer to your demise. I heard a growl coming from behind me and I turned to see a fanged zombie in the moonlight. Fangs? Hmm... just like those Ivanis Cravalok films. Interesting.
While before this may have intimidated me, I was so angry that the actual zombies didn't pose much of a threat. As the fanged zombie ran towards me, with one hand I raised my sword up and with the other I threw the zombie to the ground and cut it in half. I was getting good with my sword.
As soon as the fanged zombie was dead, six more appeared from the forest, making a beeline towards me. I charged towards one, slicing it in half, using the rebound to stab another one, quickly working my way around until they all lay dead at my feet. The zombies weren't the problem here. The people were the problem. I continued walking until I saw a pitiful sight.
It was a zombie, sitting down. As it saw me it opened its mouth to moan, but nothing came out. It seemed like it was in pain. "Grk. Grraaak."
I would say it looked familiar almost, like The Running Man. But if The Running Man set a zombie on fire a few meters ahead of here, why would his body be over here? And besides, he wasn't wearing his hat... although the goatee was in the right place. I couldn't place it though. The zombie began to snarl. "Gaaargh! GRRARRRRGH!"
"I'm not happy to see you either, ugly," I smiled, bending down to look him in the eye. Maybe this was The Running Man? I looked around him, trying to see my gun. But it was nowhere. "You're not who I'm looking for," I said, "The one I'm looking for just activated The Siren. Did you hear the beeping? I think the beeping is what woke me up. I'm pretty cranky when I just wake up."
For a moment, I imagined that he was The Running Man, and drew my sword. "I'm going to enjoy this," I smiled. First I cut off his foot; not the entire leg, just the foot. The zombie moaned a bit, as if in pain. But I knew it didn't feel anything. I stabbed it through the chest, the sword coming out the other end easily. I cut a hole in the chest, carving it out like a pumpkin. The zombie tipped over, just about dead. I balanced over the dying zombie, who pathetically looked at me with a sorrowful feeling in his eyes. I didn't care. For these five minutes, he would be The Running Man, whether he was or not. "Grurk."
"Shut up!" I yelled, throwing my sword down and kick him in the stomach. The zombie, or The Running Man, or whatever it was slid across the ground, groaning. I advanced angrily, grabbing the zombie by the side of the head and slamming its face into the road. I didn't stop until both of its eyes fell out.
A smear of flesh was on the ground now. I wasn't done yet. I elbowed the zombie in the face, as it tried in vain to bite my flesh. "That was for pushing me down," I said, rising up above the zombie with my sword. I stomped on its jaw, severing it completely. "This is for stealing my gun."
I severed the zombies' head with my sword. Messy, but cathartic. I felt a great deal better, pretending that the zombie I had just killed was The Running Man. But my father's gun was still out there. And I was determined to find it.
On the road to Town A, 10 hours after Inbreak, 4:15PM, First Guy
Upon seeing the woman with my gun a new wave of anger rushed over me. After dispatching the zombie that was carrying her, I now held a sword to her throat, ready for answers. The blonde-haired girl on the ground gagged in pain, clutching her ribs as she buried her face in the dirt road. I gave her a kick in the stomach so that she'd face me.
"I'll ask you again. What. The hell. Are you doing with my gun!?"
"Guuh..." she moaned, pathetically. Just like that zombie. It made me mad, and I dug my sword closer to her throat. "I'd rethink that answer if I were you," I spat.
"Got it... got it from my friend."
So, The Running Man was her friend? Interesting. While thinking of my next question I didn't notice the approaching footsteps. I kicked her hand and she dropped her gun. I put my foot on her stomach so that she couldn't move. The footsteps got louder and I turned my head. Then-
A fist slammed into my face and I was flung backwards, off of the girl and onto the ground. She steadied herself. As I tried to get up I saw a Keeper stand over me. He was missing his mouth piece, so he would be able to talk. I should have expected to see at least one, what with The Siren being rung.
The Keeper slammed me to the ground. Cruel. Hard. Efficient. This was definitely the real deal. He was definitely a Keeper. "What were you doing to my friend back there?"
"I don't have to tell you anything," I laughed. He dug his foot into my stomach. I was now in the exact position that the other woman was in. "Get off of me. You have no right to do this."
"Oh, I don't? I have you for assault charges after what you just did to that woman over there."
"I kicked her ,like, once!"
"She had my gun!"
"How the hell do you know that it was your gun!?"
"WHAT OTHER GUN FIRES FLAME BULLETS!?"
"SHE DIDN'T FIRE THAT WEAPON ONCE! We have a word for people like you. We call them 'punks'. Now, Punk, shut up before I-"
"Before you what," I sneered, "You wouldn't hurt me. You're not allowed."
"Ah, so you're saying that in an environment where dozens of corpses are scattered everywhere and many people are dead that I can't aim my gun to your head and fire? Do you really think anyone will notice?"
"You're threatening me with death after I saved this woman's life! I saw you firing at the thing, you were barely scratching it. It took someone with real abilities to take it out."
"While you did save her life, you also put it in danger immediately afterwards. Of course, I could forget about it if you helped me out."
"...Are you blackmailing me?"
"While I can't hurt you, I can sure as hell arrest you." He smiled triumphantly over me, and began to release his foot from my chest. I got up. "And what's to stop me from running away?"
"You can try to run away, but I don't think you can outrun a hail of bullets."
"So you are threatening me with death for saving a woman's life. Great."
"No, I'm threatening you with death for putting a woman's life in danger. You can get out of this scot free if you tag along with us for about an hour until back-up arrives."
I brushed the flakes of mud off my shirt and slung my sword around my back. "I need my gun back, though." The woman looked at me. "If I give you the gun, can you give me the sword so I'm not defenseless?"
"Absolutely not. You'd probably stab me with it as soon as you got the chance." The woman looked insulted. "So you expect me to hand over my last means of defense to you?"
"I expect you to give me what's mine."
"Enough! If it will shut you up, you can take her gun-"
"-my gun," I interjected. The Keeper turned to the woman and began to speak to her.
"Stay close to me, don't let anyone or anything sneak up on you, alright? Most importantly, don't turn your back on this punk."
"Believe me," she said, "I'll be the last person to do that."
"Well, now that the formalities are out of the way, what say we do whatever you want me to do and let me go? What is it that you want me to, anyway?"
"We need you to come with us to this woman's professor's house. Just follow us and kill any zombies that approach. If you try anything I will not hesitate to-"
"Yeah, yeah whatever. I need to babysit an incompetent Keeper and a whiny useless woman just to get back my gun which was stolen from me unjustly! Perfect! Great! This is what I travelled half way across the suburbs for! No, not for my ancestral gun, but for the pleasure of babysitting you blokes! Well," I said, looking around, "Let's get this over with."
On the road to Town A, 10 hours after Inbreak, 4:20PM, The Keeper
The punk looked like hell. He had long tired bags under his eyes, he tripped over his feet with every step, and he kept muttering under his breath. He refused to tell us his name, why we he was here, or more about himself, so we left the punk alone.
The woman looked worried. Of course she was worried. Before she had been grabbed by that tentacle thing- which nobody brought up again due to the sheer insanity of it- she had been gushing on and on about how great her professor was and how she hoped that he was okay. After the beast had grabbed her I think that sent home how terrible this whole mess really was.
Her professor probably wasn't alive, and if he was he definitely wasn't still in town. You'd need a bomb shelter to survive a disaster like this. Still, we had to go to satisfy her curiosity. Even if I restrained her, even if I told her it was a lost cause, she'd go to her professor's house anyways. And as long as she was willing to do that she was willing to put her life in danger, and as long as her life might've been in danger I would be there.
We ran into a few zombies, but the punk quickly dispatched of them. He may be a homicidal jerk, but he's a homicidal jerk that knows how to channel his rage into zombie killing skill.
Eventually we reached a large house. It looked fairly expensive and well made, albeit now it had been run into the ground. The hinges of its doors had fallen to the floor, windows had been smashed, and a . The woman stopped in front of it and ran her hand across the side of the house. "This is it," she said softly.
"This had better be it. My feet are sore, my arms are tired, and I want to get out of this damned town."
I sighed and entered, expecting to see the dead body of the professor lying around somewhere, or maybe his half eaten, still zombified corpse sprawled out on the ground. Instead, all that was in the room was an odd scene of carnage. A huge mound of zombie flesh was in the center of the room, near a window, which immediately caught everyone's eye. "What's this doing here?"
"This is disgusting!" gagged the punk. For once I agreed with him, and wished I had my mouthpiece back so that I wouldn't need to bear the smell. The Doctor went to examine it. "It looks like a pile of zombie parts... many are cut in half. Some are missing limbs, but most have them have their brains dissected."
"So looks like your professor managed to kill a few of them, or maybe he got help. Either way, he's definitely not here. Let's go."
"Hold on a sec," said the punk, motioning us to stop. "these don't look like they've been desperately clawed in half. They look like they've been... tactically destroyed."
"That's my professor for you. Knows his zombie inside and out. Probably knew exactly where to target them and how to kill them. Anyway, let's check the house and we can leave. I know he's alive now."
I didn't have the heart to tell her that just because there was a mound of dead zombies in the middle of the room didn't mean that her professor was still alive, but I followed her anyway. The punk kept eying us suspiciously.
"You know what's been really bugging me? How did you end up with my gun, lady? How could it possibly go from a guy that pushed me into a horde of zombies into your hands?"
"Wait a second... did this guy that push you into the horde have a fedora hat? And a goatee?"
"Yes! So you know him! Is he your son or something? Maybe when this is over you can... show him to me. I have some unfinished business with him, you see."
"No you idiot! First of all, I'm not his mother; I'm not old enough to be. Secondly, I'm pretty sure he's already dead!"
"Wha- but, how-"
"He died trying to save my town from a Firebug infestation. He was knocked back from one explosion and then bitten trying to save a girl. The girl then took his gun, and travelled with me here, until she dropped her gun and ran away back to her hometown. I picked it up as a secondary weapon when I activated The Siren!"
"So... he's... he's already dead?"
"You seem more crushed then I would have thought, seeing as you were just talking about killing him a minute ago."
"Yeah... but I... I sort of wanted to kill him myself, you know?"
"Do you really want me to add 'attempted murder' to your list of felons, kid?"
"No... never mind, let's keep moving."
We searched the house uneasily, sticking together in case there were any zombies around. Starting with upstairs, we ventured up to the top. The Doctor sighed as we came to a bedroom. "This was my old room... it's pretty much exactly as I left it."
"Yeah, let's save the nostalgia trip shall we? Your old room could be infested with zombies. Let's leave before we're all killed."
"Oh, shut up."
"No... he's right. Let's keep moving."
We came across a locked room. There were clawing sounds coming from the inside of it. "Zombies," said the punk, drawing his sword and readying his gun. "Pop the door open."
"What!? Why would we open a door filled with zombies!?"
"That's what I'm here for, right? To help you clear the town of zombies? Open the door."
"Don't open the door!"
I looked at the punk, and then at the woman. As much as I was loathe admitting, the punk was right. We had to open the door and clear out the zombies. That was the duty of a Keeper. "Stay behind me," I said.
"Oh God... you can't be serious!"
The punk smiled. "Glad you see things my way."
The woman headed down the stairs. She didn't have a weapon and would be a liability in the fight. I would be safe at least; only a hoard could bring me down to get at my face. The punk's life may be in danger, and I would protect him if I could, but I wouldn't exactly be happy about it. "Alright, get ready. I'm going to bust the door down." The scratching intensified.
I got a running start and kicked down the door, which landed with a thud on the ground. The splinters of wood barely had time to settle to the floor as the first few zombies lunged at our throats. The punk killed a few with his gun before they got close enough to him. Then he switched to his sword and began chopping a few in half. I managed to kill a few with my gun before I began to get overwhelmed: there were a lot more zombies then I expected more than could possibly fit in that tiny room.
I freed myself from the grip of the zombies and worked my way to the other side of the room. I tripped over a test tube set and fell to the ground. The punk and I were pushed backwards into the hallway of the upper floor, the zombies frantically clawing for us. One lunged for the punk but I knocked it away just in time, probably saving his life. I was on my feet again, and we eventually got the battle under control.
From there it was a cleanup operation, destroying stragglers and fencing off the horde until they were all dead. Human remains were smeared all along the hallway. It was a gruesome spectacle to behold, even for me as a Keeper. "We can't let her see this," I said, examining the blood and guts that were everywhere. "One of these could be here professor, and even if they're not if so many of them were in this house that he was probably eaten by them."
"What are all these things doing in the house anyway? Compared to outside, there were almost as many zombies in that one room than in the entire town! It's like they were trapped in there!"
Without waiting for a reply, the punk rushed back into the room where the zombies had been stored. While I disposed of the zombies carelessly, I didn't expect him to be treating them so lightly. Civilians were trained to be fearful of zombies, but while fighting it was as if he let out all of his rage on the beasts in front of him, mowing them down like a well trained killing machine.
Like a Keeper.
I shook the thoughts out of my head and joined him. We now had a better look at the room. As we glanced around, we saw something we hadn't before. It was a large, thick, steel gate with a large metal handle closed shut. And from behind the gate was a slow, powerful and methodic pounding. Each time the door shook from the pounding, and with each pound the resonating noise got louder, as if the door would break off its hinges. For the first time ever, I saw the punk become afraid. Still, though, like any Keeper would, he readied himself in the face of danger. I joined him.
"I don't care why there are all of these weird zombies everywhere, and I don't care why there's one behind that gate. All I know is that we need to kill them. O-open the door."
I looked at him. "It's not necessary, kid. We can just get out now while we still can. When the rest of the Keepers come, they'll deal with it. Nothing to bother risking our lives over." Yet the pounding on the metal door seemed to be lulling him in. "Open. The Goddamned. Door."
I stopped talking. If he wanted to kill himself, he could go right on ahead. I was covered head to toe in protective armor, and I probably wouldn't be blamed for his death. Besides, maybe it's better if he-
Wait, what the hell I am saying!? A few minutes ago I was trying to keep up my morale of sacrificing everything to save lives, and now I'm planning the death of this boy?! "No." I said, firmly. "I am a Keeper, and like or not I'm not supposed to be endangering civilian life. "Now let's go before-"
I didn't finish. The punk ran to the door, and flung it open, a bloodlust in his eyes that only more killing could satisfy. "Yes…" he yelled almost demonically, "YES! BRING IT ON, YOU ZOMBIE SONS OF-
I gasped and gagged at the same time backing away and trying to make sense of the beasts that were staring at me and the punk with the same bloodlust that the punk was staring right back at them. The punk raised his sword and flashed a smile. For the first time in my life, though, I was filled with terror.
A zombie with the teeth of a shark, its head snapped backwards into a glazed position, snapping every so often at seemingly nothing. A zombie with two wings that sprouted out of its back, flapping powerfully and sending blasts of wind down the side of the room to greet us. And an assortment of others, each one worse than the last, each one mangled and disfigured beyond belief. The punk let out a war cry and charged towards them.
I ran the other way.