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The Damned

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No one expected things to happen the way they did. Quietly, with no warning, and then all at once.

Michael was in, possibly, to worst state he’s ever been in when he finally made it to Jeremy's place. He had practically burst through the front door, dashing up the stairs to Jeremy's room with heavy steps. He didn't bother knocking, throwing the door open so hard it slammed against the wall. His eyes desperately scanned the room until he finally saw Jeremy. He paused for only a second to take stock of his state of being- he looked totally fine, thank God.

Michael, on the other hand, probably looked fucked five ways from Sunday. He was definitely sweaty, and he knew he had at least a few good mud/dirt stains on his clothes from where he had previously fallen. He had even managed to rip the sleeve of his hoodie slightly, right at the elbow. He hadn't even realized that he still had the blood spattered shovel clutched in his shaking hands. The most upsetting thing about him was probably his expression of complete, unadulterated fear and desperation.

Jeremy was on his feet in an instant, by reflex. He turned around faster than ever. He hoped it was Michael, so he went ahead and guessed. “Micha–” Then he saw him. Dirty, ripped, bloody shovel in hand– “W-What the fuck?”

Michael let out a relieved breath as he practically threw himself at Jeremy, hugging him tightly. “Thank fuck you're okay.”

Jeremy’s heart was beating fast. “Wh-What’s happening?” He gulped. “This is- this is a joke, right? Y-You didn’t kill someone, did you?”

Michael jolted, pulling back to look at Jeremy with wide eyes. “Wh- No! I didn't kill anybody.” Probably. “Jeremy, something weird is going on, and it's not good. I was on my way home but I hit this traffic and I wasn't sure why none of the cars were moving- at least, until I saw–” Michael gulped. “Something bad is happening.”

“B-Bad? How bad?” Jeremy was getting scared. He’d just started his math homework, though, and this was a good distraction.

Michael didn't answer. “Where's your dad? Is he home?”

“He’s downstairs, didn’t you see him when you came in?” Jeremy’s voice started to waver. “Michael, what’s happening? You’re really scaring me. Put that shovel down.”

Michael dropped it like it burned. “I– I don't know what's happening. But I'm–” he gulped, pulling away. “Look outside, Jeremy.”

“D-Do I really want to?” Jeremy backed up so his hand was touching the blinds on the window behind him.

“No. But you need to.”

Jeremy shakily turned around, parting the blinds and peering onto the street.

For a moment, nothing happened. All Jeremy could see was his neighborhood, an old man out watering his plants across the street, some birds, someone shuffling down the sidewalk. But then, the person on the sidewalk turned towards the old man. He didn't hear them. It wasn't until the person had the man on the ground did it become clear what was going on.

Jeremy let go of the blinds and turned back around in fear. “M-Michael, i-is that guy a fucking zombie?”

Michael's eyes were terrified. “I don't know.”

Jeremy walked away from the window like he was scared of it. He approached Michael. “Wh-What happened to you, Mike? Why do you have m-mud all over you? And that shovel?!”

Michael shuddered. “I f-fell. The shovel- I just, I had to–” he took a deep breath. “It doesn't matter anymore. We need to… do… something. We can't stay here.”

“I-I’ll get my dad,” Jeremy reasoned. “Wh-Where are your moms? Are they okay?”

Michael grimaced. “I don't know. They're on a business trip.”

“Shit. Did you call them?”

“They didn't pick up.”

“Wh-What do we do, Mike?”

Michael stared at the ground. “I don't know.”

Jeremy felt awfully nauseated. His anxiety hit him in a huge wave. “Michael? I-I think I’m about to freak out.”

Michael pulled Jeremy close, holding him tightly. “I know, Jere.”

Jeremy’s breathing started picking up, faster and harder. Tears came into his eyes. “W-What’s going on?!”

Michael buried his face into Jeremy's neck. “I don't know,” he whispered.

“I-I need to get my dad, h-he needs to know about this.” Jeremy didn’t move, however. He trembled in Michael’s arms. Had he just seen someone get killed? Had Michael killed someone? He didn’t want to dwell on it. He just wanted to play a game with his best friend.

Michael took a deep breath. “I'm scared, Jeremy.”

“M-My dad’ll know what to do,” Jeremy said through heavy breaths. He was getting Michael’s shoulder wet with tears. If this was a joke, it was a damn bad one.

Michael nodded, pulling away reluctantly. “Okay.”

Jeremy wiped his eyes. Now wasn’t the time to cry. He eyed the shovel on the floor. “M-Maybe bring that.”

Michael picked it up, holding it by his side. “I’ll go first,” he muttered, stepping over to the door. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest.

Jeremy felt numb as he followed Michael closely, sticking right behind him.

Michael shuffled down the stairs, peeking around each corner before they made their way around them. “Mr. Heere?”

No answer.

“Dad?” Jeremy asked shakily. “Are you home?”

Michael grimaced, stepping into the kitchen. “Hello?”

Jeremy started hyperventilating again. “M-Michael, he’s not here, where is he?!”

Michael gulped, pulling Jeremy's arm so that he was standing closer. “I don't know,” he breathed for the thousandth time.

Jeremy wrapped both his arms around Michael’s left one, terrified. “M-Maybe he’s in the bathroom.”

Michael carefully led them to the ground floor bathroom, knocking on the door. “Mr. Heere?”

“I-Is he in there?”

Michael frowned, cracking the door open. “Hello?”

“I-I don’t think he’s–” A loud noise cut Jeremy off.

Michael shoved Jeremy behind him protectively, holding up the shovel.

Jeremy’s father was in the bathroom. But he was standing still, looking down at a bottle of soap that had fallen, causing the sound. He didn’t respond to the boys in the doorway.

“D-Dad? W-We need to get somewhere saf–” Jeremy was cut off again as his father turned to face him suddenly.

Mr. Heere’s eyes were milky, his skin a little greyish. He stared blankly at the teens. Jeremy noticed a rip in the new pants his father had bought just the day before.

Michael paled, stepping back. “Jeremy, Don't look.”

Jeremy’s mouth was dry, the blood in his body rushing to his brain. He felt incredibly sick. “Wh-what?” he breathed.

Michael stared down the creature in front of him. “Go back to your room. Pack a bag. Do not look at this, Jeremy.”

“B-But I–” Jeremy was frozen. Nothing Michael said actually registered. His eyes were transfixed on his father’s; but were they really his father’s eyes anymore?

“Go, Jeremy.”

It took everything he had, but Jeremy backed numbly out of the bathroom.

Michael moved in.

The creature in the bathroom stared blankly at Michael, unmoving. It gave Jeremy the time to come to his senses—if only for a second—and sprint upstairs.

Michael cautiously reached for the doorknob, hoping he could get the door closed before it attacked.

Michael didn’t have the luck. It lunged at him.

“Fuck!” Michael brought the shovel up, swinging it at the zombie and managing to slam its side, pushing it back.

It didn’t let up; it didn’t seem to feel any pain. Its arms reached out to Michael, grabbing for him.

Michael ducked out of its reach, smashing it in the side and cutting into it with the metal of the shovel. It almost made him sick.

The zombie’s movements were slow, but strong. It growled, trying to pull the shovel away.

Michael took a deep breath, yanking the shovel back. He shut his eyes as he swung it forward again, stabbing directly into its rib cage.

It screamed deafeningly, struggling, but went limp. It still twitched; most likely still alive. But for now it was incapacitated.

Michael yanked the shovel free, slamming the door closed and jamming it with a chair. He turned, running up to Jeremy's room.

Jeremy had managed to get a bag from his closet, but now he was on his knees in the middle of his bedroom floor, in shock and on the verge of sobbing.

Michael's heart twisted as he locked the door, shuffling over. He crouched down beside him. “Jere?”

Jeremy’s eyes were wide and his hands covered his mouth. A choked noise came from his throat. He was paler than ever.

Michael held his arms out. “Hug?”

Jeremy wasn’t sure he could move. He gulped, but the next thing he remembered was clutching onto Michael with his whole body shaking, crying into his friend’s shoulder.

Michael soothed him as best he could, rocking him back and forth as he ran his fingers through the boy’s hair. “I know, buddy. Let it out.”

Jeremy yelled in anguish. He hadn’t even left the house and it was already too much for him. “M-My– Th-That was– M-My dad j-just– He just b-bought those p-pants!”

Michael grimaced as his own eyes teared up. He sniffled, pulling Jeremy impossibly closer.

Jeremy didn’t say anything else. He dug his nails into Michael’s back as he cried. Was his dad really gone? Already? The last family member that ever cared about him? That scream from downstairs broke him. He’d never heard a sound like that come from his father.

“I'm sorry,” Michael murmured, pressing his face into Jeremy's hair.

A broken sob escaped Jeremy’s throat. He wanted everything to stop. He wanted to catch up. What the hell was even going on?! He knew he was getting Michael’s shirt wetter than before, but he couldn’t pull himself away.

Michael let Jeremy cry himself out for who knows how long, pressed together in the middle of Jeremy's room for what could have been hours.

A sound from downstairs startled Jeremy out of his emotional state for a moment. He knew what it was. He pulled his face—wet and snotty—away from Michael’s shoulder. “W-We need to leave,” he said, voice scratchy and insistent. “Now.”

Michael hesitated, looking from Jeremy to the room they were in. “Yeah,” he muttered. “We probably should.”

Jeremy gulped, sniffing. “Please.”

Michael took a deep breath, giving Jeremy one last squeeze before pulling away and helping him to his feet. “Did you pack everything you need?”

“N-No,” Jeremy whimpered. “I didn’t pack a-anything.”

Michael nodded, still pressing him into his side. “We need to do that, then.”

Jeremy sniffled. “I-I don’t know what we would even– H-How?”

“Clothes and anything that might come in handy or that you can't live without.”

“H-Hold the bag open for me,” Jeremy said.

Michael nodded, doing just that.

Jeremy frantically began throwing shirts and pants and other clothing into the bag. Once that was done, he started with sentimental things like the tickets to his and Michael’s first concert and the DS Michael had given him years ago. He hesitated to throw in a framed picture of his father and himself, but he tossed it in anyway. He stepped back, still shaking. “I-Is that good?”

Michael nodded zipping it up carefully. “We need to grab some food and stop by my house. I need to get some stuff.”

“C-Can we hurry?” Jeremy’s voice was becoming broken again. “Please?”

Michael nodded. “Yeah, buddy, of course. We need to get out of here.” He gulped. Where they were going to go, though, he had no idea.

Jeremy didn’t care where they were going. He just wanted to leave. He wanted to figure out what the fuck was happening. But he also didn’t. He did want Michael to carry him, though. He felt weak. He’d never admit that however. Friends didn’t just carry each other. He put on a brave face, which wasn’t much different from his terrified one. “L-Let’s go.”

Michael gulped, nodding. He made his way to the door but then paused, his hand on the knob. “Hey, Jeremy?”

Jeremy’s eyes were wide and scared. “W-What’s wrong?”

Michael bit his lip thoughtfully. “I just- In case anything happens-” Michael’s face burned and he looked slightly frustrated. After a second of internal struggle, he leaned forward, pressing his lips to Jeremy's.

Jeremy froze, his eyes impossibly widening. Was Michael okay? Was he really kissing him? But why? Jeremy didn’t return the kiss, but he didn’t lean away either.

Michael eventually pulled away, staring at the ground. “I’m sorry. I had to do that at least once,” he laughed pitifully. “I won’t do it again, if you don’t want.”

Jeremy didn’t understand. It was one bombshell after another. This one would have to wait. Although his face burned red, he cleared his throat and said, instead of responding, “We need to go.”

Michael nodded, shoving away his encroaching anxiety. “Right. Um, stay close, okay?”

Jeremy nodded. He kept himself directly behind Michael.

-------------------------

They made it to Michael’s house without any bother, slamming the door and locking all of its locks once they were inside. “Jesus. We’re fine here for a while, I think. But we shouldn’t hang around for more than a day, if I’ve learned anything from TV and Video games.”

Jeremy was already close to another breakdown. “I-Is this really happening, Mike? A-A real zombie apocalypse?”

Michael took a deep breath, throwing his shovel down onto the floor and running a hand through his hair. “Looks like it,” he muttered.

That wasn’t what Jeremy wanted to hear. He sank in on himself. “I-I don’t believe it. I never wanted– All those games– They weren’t supposed to be real, Micah.”

Michael gave him a sad look. “I know, Jere. No one wanted this.” His gaze dropped to the floor.

“W-Will we even make it?”

Michael’s head whipped up. “Of course we will! I won’t let anything happen to you, Jeremy. I swear.”

Jeremy looked him in the eye. “Is that why you kissed me?”

Michael paled, blinking. “Huh? What do you mean?”

“S-Sorry, I don’t know how my thought process got to that,” Jeremy muttered. Really, he’d just been waiting for a chance to bring it up, if he realized it or not.

Michael bit his lip. “Why do you think I kissed you?”

“To distract me?”

Michael shook his head. “That's not why.”

“I-I don’t understand, Mike.”

Michael sighed, leaning back against the wall defeatedly. “I did it because I like you, Jeremy. Have for a while. I just figured that if the goddamn world is ending I may as well take a chance.”

Jeremy scoffed. “So you decided to– At the worst possible time?! Michael, my dad is a fucking zombie!”

Michael winced, closing his eyes. “I know! I know it was shit timing and I know it was a shit idea! I'm painfully aware! I'm sorry! I just figured–” he cut himself off as he pushed himself off of the wall, turning away from Jeremy and striding away down the hallway. “I won't make the mistake again, okay? I got the message loud and clear. I won't do it again.”

Jeremy watched him go in anger. Michael was right; the world was ending—as far as they knew. He wouldn’t let Michael guilt trip him. He stood in the doorway feeling numb and frustrated. It didn’t even matter if it was a kiss or not, or who liked who. Jeremy’s only concern was his father, and even if he hadn’t meant it, Michael tried to take that away from him. A dark place in his mind started to wonder if they’d be able to survive like this.