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The Children Are The Future

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Eugene can almost convince himself that it's a normal saturday afternoon in his bedroom. There's a phantom itch in his missing foot, Jody is having an anxiety attack with Simon holding her hand, and Five (whose nickname nobody has explained in the entire three years he's been homeschooled with these kids) is staring out the window. The only things out of place is the moaning filtering in from the street outside, and that Eugene's desk is pushed up against the door.

His mom is dead. He doesn't know what happened to his dad, or his neighbors, or his physical therapist, or to any of his friends' parents. Jody's panic is more than reasonable, because there's a dead body in the driveway and an undead body in the hallway. Eugene has never seen Simon actually praying, but since they got trapped in here after Eugene's mom turned three hours ago, he pretty much hasn't stopped. And Five isn't just silently people-watching; she's looking for anyone who might still be alive enough to help them.

It isn't likely that they're going to survive the day, let alone make it out of his house. The incredibly grim part of Eugene thinks this is fitting. He's barely left his house since the car accident, it shouldn't be surprising that he can't get out when staying in is a death sentence. If there's ever a time to be sulking about his lot in life, it's now.

So that's exactly what he's doing when Five starts frantically snapping her fingers to get their attention. Immediately, Jody and Simon are off the bed, and Eugene struggles to stand up. They have to look to see what's going on themselves, because Five is mute and also trying to crawl out the window.

“Woah, Five, no!” Simon grabs her by the back of the shirt, and she gestures wildly to whatever she was trying to reach.

Eugene gets a look out the window, and his sudden intake of breath doesn't even register as coming from his mouth. There isn't just one person coming down the street, but a whole group of them, seven or eight in total.

“Oh my god, look at--” Jody starts to say, before Five shoves past her, pulling free of Simon's grasp and charging past Eugene back into the room. Eugene watches her grabbing for her bag and pulling things off his desk for a split second before Simon's shouting brings him back to the issue at hand.

“Hey! We're alive up here!” Simon calls out the window, and Jody apparently thinks her boyfriend has the right idea, because she starts waving her arms and adds a “Help us!”

Eugene watches as the figures at the end of the street pause, and there's a terrifying moment's pause before the first sentient people they've seen all day start towards them at a run. Eugene lets out a breath he hadn't known he was holding, and Simon turns to him with a giddy grin.

“What, you thought they'd ignore us?” He's laughing, and there's a sound Eugene hadn't thought he'd hear again. Jody squeals with joy and Simon puts both hands on her cheeks to kiss her. Eugene turns back to Five, and gets exactly what he was expecting from her. There's no celebration on her face, just worry. She's gathered her backpack off the floor and filled it with something, and pulled her long hair back into a ponytail.

'How are we going to get down?' Five signs, and Eugene is glad he took the time to learn ASL, because neither Jody nor Simon is in any state to translate for him.

“There's a ladder in the garage,” Eugene hears the fear in his voice more than he can feel it. Five nods firmly and returns to the window without another word. Simon is distracted; he doesn't grab her when she goes out the window this time. Jody yelps in surprise.

“Five! What are you doing?!” Jody calls after her friend, but Five is already halfway across the roof. They're only left wondering for a few seconds before Five is crouching at the edge, and then she's out of sight, and Jody is hyperventilating. Eugene grips the windowsill hard, wanting to follow her, if only to see if she's okay. He doesn't trust his prosthetic on the slanted roof tiles.

“Simon! Simon, oh, oh, Simon, see if she's hurt, please!” Jody's voice is pitched higher than Eugene's ever heard it before.

“Right, got it, hold on, I'm going,” Simon's less sure of himself than Five had been, approaching the edge of the roof, but at least he's not mute. He calls back an update almost immediately.

“She's... headed for the driveway?”

“She's getting a ladder out of the garage,” Eugene corrects. He can't see Five from his place at the window, and Jody is clinging too hard to his arm. He has better things to worry about, though, because there's another figure coming at their rescuers, who are now close enough that Eugene can hear them react.

“Shit!” That's a teenage girl's voice, and Eugene swallows hard. Jody says what he's afraid to.

“They're-- They're our age, aren't they?” Her voice shakes, and Eugene just nods. They're only two houses over now, and Eugene is roughly 90% sure that the one in the front is wearing an Abel high hoodie. And carrying a baseball bat, it seems, because that zombie went down hard, he can tell even at a distance.

There's a thunk of wood against wood, and Simon jumps, because he'd apparently forgotten that he was out on the roof to watch Five, not their horde of would-be rescuers.

“Come on, guys!” Simon calls back to the two of them still in the room, before climbing down the ladder himself. Jody is halfway out the window before she realizes something and turns back to Eugene.

“Can you make it on your leg?” She sounds afraid of his answer, and Eugene bites his lip for a moment before he nods.

“I have to try, don't I?” He doesn't let himself wonder what might happen if he can't, because he saw the dead look in his mom's eyes, and he never, ever wants to lose his mind like that.

***

It's been a few hours since Eugene found that that he can, in fact, get down a ladder on his prosthetic leg, and he hasn't yet learned everyone's names.

The pretty black girl who knows ASL is named Maxine, and her best friend, the boy who talks about as much as Simon on a good day, is Sam. Five's attached herself to them, maybe a little too enthusiastic to find someone who understands her outside of their little homeschooling circle.

The girl with the baseball bat and the attitude is Janine, and the boy she may or may not hold hands with when they stop to catch their breath is either Evan or Ethan, Eugene can't remember. Another girl named Maddie, or Maggie, or something like that, then there's the intense girl, Sara. The last member of their little group is maybe the most important one-- Mr. McShell, the Abel High statistics teacher and the only person present who is of legal drinking age. It's nice to have at least one adult around.

It's Mr. McShell who decides that they have to stop for the night. It's getting dark, they don't know where they're going, everyone's exhausted from a day of killing the undead and/or crying and running at the same time. Eugene might be paraphrasing that last bit.

They'd found a house on a road a few miles away from Eugene's house with an open front door, and while nobody was terribly excited about running into the ex-residents, they don't have a better option for where to spend the night. A quick check of the house had found no people alive or dead, but had given them a damn good idea of what had happened to the place.

“Wasn't Kevin Scoobs having that big party last night?” Ethan/Evan asks, looking at the family pictures hanging in the living room.

“You don't think they actually did it, do you? They didn't let anyone out of the gym until the principal got bitten!” Janine sounds incredulous, but the place does smell like booze and bad life decisions. It obviously hadn't been cleaned before the partygoers got the hell out, and somebody had knocked over a bowl of potato chips on their way.

Eugene is quickly losing interest in the conversation, and most of the rest of the group has already wandered off to find places to sleep. It's only him, the maybe-lovebirds, Mr. McShell and Sara still lingering in this room. He waits a moment to see if anyone's talking about anything immediately relevant, before finally heading towards where they'd found the bathroom earlier. If the water's still running, he can at least wash his face before passing out.

When he walks into the bathroom, though, the shower curtain is pulled partially back, in a way it hadn't been before, and there is an unfamiliar, shirtless teenaged boy sitting up in the bathtub. Eugene stands in the doorway and stares at him.

“Is the party over?”