The general populace always assumed that the world would end in a blaze of chaos. A massive, icy comet smashing into Earth and wiping out all life. A nuclear war that kills every living thing in a blazing inferno. The end days depicted in religious texts coming to fruition. Robotic uprising that exterminate their human overlords. Out of all the ways people seemed to think the world would end, no one expected the end to come from one of the smallest things in nature, and the deadliest. No one imagined the world would end quietly, no wars, no fighting, no struggle, just silence. The quietest of killers sneaking up on humanity, efficient and lethal. It only took two months for the world to spiral into decay.
At first it went unnoticed. A new strain of the common cold popped up, nothing out of place aside from the fact that this strain was more aggressive and methodical in its infection. Doctors treated it like any cold and flu virus and most people viewed it as a simple annoyance and went on with there lives. The first warning signs that something deadlier loomed on the horizon took the form of sporadic cases dotted around the globe. The virus seemed to have an explosion of activity, mutating at an alarming rate and consuming the hosts body in hours. However, these cases were spread out over weeks and many within the medical community chalked it up to random factors within the victim’s body. It was dismissed and kept quiet. Eventually a vaccine was created and the virus faded into the darkness.
Then one day a different strain of the virus appeared in a small little town called Fairfield, Pennsylvania. The entire town–a population of five thousand–seemed to succumb overnight. This new strain caused the victim to fall into a coma, and days later the body failed. It seemed like the virus had been masquerading as something harmless. The government commissioned the Civil Emergency and Defense Agency or CEDA, to investigate the situation. When CEDA arrived at the town to implement a quarantine, the whole town was a graveyard. Everyone was dead.
Of course, things never are that simple. CEDA continued their investigation, taking samples and experimenting with the dead tissue. Huge bonfires burning the bodies that they didn’t need. Unfortunately, they were rather careless and their investigation was half-assed. They missed hundreds of bodies that were hidden, concealed in shadows and out of eyesight. Those dead bodies, didn’t stay dead. They began to get back up, no longer human, but something much worse. A flesh starved beast that knew only two things. Hunger and violence. A wave of death and decay, these undead monsters washed over the CEDA personnel. Unprepared for such a threat, they never stood a chance.
The military was called in to try and contain the outbreak. Soldiers, tanks, helicopters, and jets were all mobilized to battle this new-found threat, while the government tried to cover it up in a futile attempt to keep the general populace calm. What the military didn’t account for was the hyper aggression the infected individuals displayed to anything that wasn’t infected and calling in more soldiers only served to increase the death toll and add to the infected numbers. To complicate things even more, the virus reacted unpredictably with certain individuals. Mutating them into grotesque and lethal killing machines. A thousand contingency plans were tried and failed, and as a last resort the government resorted to a nuclear strike. The strike wiped Fairfield off the face of the Earth and incinerated all traces of the infection, or so they thought. CEDA failed to realize that the virus was protean, changing from liquid, to blood, to air, to sexual transmission, depending on the environment it was presented with, CEDA also failed to realize that the virus could lay dormant. To be more precise, it lay dormant in many of the soldiers who survived the Battle of Fairfield or attached to dust particles that were then scattered to the wind by the initial detonation of the nuke.
Trying to cover up the disappearance of an entire and the death of every inhabitant was a massive undertaking. One that proved to be too large to successfully cover it up. When the truth about Fairfield surfaced there was mass hysteria. People demanded that the government go public with this, while others demanded recompense for the deaths of loved ones and family in both Fairfield and the soldiers who fought against the infected. A week later the virus resurfaced, this time scattered around the globe. There was no way to contain it this time. Countries and cities seemed to succumb in weeks.
Many began to try to flee the countries but all ways out were blocked. What many failed to realize was that Fairfield was not the only place that had succumbed to the virus. Many towns and cities across the world had experienced similar things at similar times. There was no where to run, no where to escape this. The militaries and governments were quick to respond. Cities were bombed and consumed by fire, soldiers marched through streets and killed anything that moved in a desperate attempt to destroy the infection. This began a rebellion of civilians who refused to be slaughtered like cattle. In three weeks the world descended into chaos.
With the failure of the governments, the militaries, and CEDA fresh in people’s minds, the masses took their fates into their own hands. Places free of infection walled themselves in and created fortresses to defend themselves and fight off the infection if necessary. While others became self-proclaimed exiles. Leaving the ease and comfort of civilization behind to wander the countryside.
Sometimes, the thing that makes us human would get in the way of doing what needs to be done. An arrogant man who thought he could take them all on. A naïve mother who thought that if she prayed and prayed, her little baby girl would be healed. A stupid teenager showing off to friends. That’s all it took before those walled safe havens turned into a pit of carnage and bloodshed. The infection tearing through the once peaceful haven. Other safe places didn’t collapse from the inside, rather, they were besieged by massive hordes of the infected. Huge gatherings of infected that moved in the direction of any sign of disturbance, be it light, noise, smell. An endless wave of shambling corpses, arriving at the walls of those fortresses, clambering over the dead and fallen and scaling or toppling the human defenses with ease. The grotesque mutations slaughtering the innocent with impunity, and the rest consuming all.
Very few fortresses remain standing now. Incredibly isolationist and xenophobic. They rarely ever leave the safety of their stronghold. Nor do they allow strangers within their walls. These strongholds were humanity’s beacon of light in a world ruled by death and despair.
David Church never thought that he would live to witness the end of the world. To watch as the world slowly crumbled around him. When this waking nightmare started his exposure to the undead had simply been from the news. Recorded footage or live streams of innocent people being brutally torn apart by goddamn zombies. Flailing and changing the channel so when his adoptive son Ethan entered the room didn’t witness the horrors that where now seared into David’s memory. He remembered the day the infection made it to his town. How the front door of his house had been smashed open. How he fought off that zombie with his bare hands. How he had smashed its head in with the toaster. Blood and brain tissue everywhere, his vision red. The horrified look on his sons face as he rushed into the kitchen to see his father covered in blood and tissue and a mangled corpse on the kitchen tile. The rest of the memories pass by in a blur. Hastily packing their belongings. Stuffing their things into the car, even as the infected raced through the neighbourhood, ripping people to shreds. Tearing out of the driveway and racing out of town, weaving in and out of damaged cars and terrified people. David telling Ethan to duck down as he floored the car and plowed over several infected. The phone call with his panicked older sister and brother as they told him to get to them as fast as they could so they could figure something out. Two days later, racing down the highway through what seemed to be an abandoned Valhalla City, before a massive infected appeared out of no where and knocked them off the road. Waking up outside of the car lying in a ditch, Ethan lying some ways away. Both miraculously unharmed save for minor cuts and bruises.
David shook the memories away and looked over to his left. Ethan was sleeping peacefully in the corner. He was lying on top of several flattened cardboard boxes and wrapped snuggly in his sleeping bag. The hood of his hoodie covering most of his face. He was using David’s blue and black plaid shirt as a pillow. He looked so peaceful and…soft, the tension he carried around when he was awake was nonexistent. A small curve to his lips indicating that he was probably having a good dream. One of the rare times when his sleep wasn’t plagued with nightmares. It made David’s heart ache. No one, let alone a child, should have had to endure what the two of them had endured these past two months.
For the longest time David had tried his hardest to shelter Ethan from the zombies. He had tried to make sure that Ethan would retain his innocence. Had tried to keep Ethan away from the harsh reality of their new world. It had been naïve of David to assume that he could keep Ethan sheltered for the rest of their lives. That had become apparent when a horde caught them off guard. Separating them. When David had found his son, he had been soaked in dark crimson, pale skin covered in blood and clothes forever stained with blood, surrounded by mangled corpses, eyes cloudy and far away. It was in that moment, as he stared at his blood covered son, he came to the soul crushing realization that Ethan had truly lost what shred of innocence he had left.
A quiet beep in the dim room caught David’s attention, derailing his depressing thoughts. Bringing his left wrist up to his face, he clicked the backlight button on his watch and checked the time. The digital readout read 6:00 am. “We should get moving soon.” David thought. He sighed quietly. He hadn’t slept all night, nightmares and his own self-loathing thoughts had made sleep impossible. Normally, Ethan and himself would take shifts during the night, maintaining a constant lookout while the other person slept, but since David found sleep impossible he decided he would “forget” to wake Ethan for his shift. Letting the teen sleep a full eight hours or so.
Keeping watch at night was necessary for survival. While the zombies were more docile at night, sitting down, leaning against things, lying down, or standing in place, this behavior did not extend to the heavily mutated infected. They roamed the night like nocturnal predators. Actively seeking out and hunting any non-infected individual. Avoiding them is surprisingly easy, so long as you are quiet and did not draw attention to yourself, you could easily make your way through a dense city undiscovered. Of course, that was one reason he stayed awake. He was also keeping an eye out for that massive thing that had knocked them off the road and had left them stranded in this fucking city.
Quietly slipping off the table he had perched himself on, David walked over to the window and pulled the blinds back. He surveyed the street below. In the dawn light, he could see several zombies sitting out front of the building they were currently using as a shelter. Some zombies were sitting out in the middle of the road and some were leaning against the building that was across the street. It was concerning how little they had seen of the infected as they travelled through the city. Which only made David more anxious and left one burning question in his mind. A question, were the answer dictated his and Ethan’s lives. Where were they all hiding?
Leaving the window, he walked over to were Ethan was still sleeping. David nudged the sleeping teen with his foot. Thankfully, Ethan had always been a light sleeper.
Ethan grunted and pushed himself upright. The hood of his black hoodie slipping off, a mass of wavy raven black hair spilling out. Rubbing his eyes with the back of his hands Ethan gazed up at his father, his electric blue eyes shining in the dim light. “What time is it?” He asked groggily.
“Six in the morning,” David answered. He turned on his heel and walked over to his bag, putting all of his gear back into it.
“You didn’t make me for my shift. Again,” Ethan huffed. “Why?”
David looked over his shoulder, fixing Ethan with a stern look that let him know he did not appreciate his tone. Ethan, true to his stubborn nature, did not back down. Instead his eyes narrowed, challenging his father.
David sighed. It was too early to get into an argument with him. “Because,” David began, standing up and slinging his duffel bag over his shoulder, “I wanted you to get enough sleep.”
“I can sleep when I am dead,” Ethan snapped. He glared at his father before wilting and averting his eyes. “Sorry, but I worry about you too y’know?” Ethan gave David an honest look. “You try and do it all. You try so hard to make sure that I am safe, that I don’t have to do anything bad. You’re trying to make sure that I stay healthy. But dad, this is our reality now. You can’t afford to lose sleep, or skip meals, or whatever.”
David approached and knelt in front of Ethan and looked him in the eyes. For the briefest moment he saw the fear that Ethan tried so hard to hide before it was again buried underneath layers of nonchalance and disinterest. Ethan’s go to emotions for his mask. You can’t be hurt if you don’t care. While it had been brief, David knew his son, and knew that fear well. Fear not only for himself, but for–to his knowledge–the only family he had left in this miserable world.
“Alright Ethan alright,” David smiled. “No more of my self-sacrificing bullshit.” It was a bold-faced lie, David would never stop, but it did its job because Ethan smiled.
“Amen,” Ethan said. “Also, what happened to our code names? I’m Epsilon, you’re Washington, well Wash for short, remember?”
David snorted and rolled his eyes. He stood up and moved out of Epsilon’s way. Giving the teen enough room to crawl out of his nest and begin packing his things. “Really? Are codenames really necessary?”
“Yes!” Epsilon sent his father a look that clearly said “you have got to be kidding me”.
“Because stupid,” Epsilon zipped up his own duffel bag, slipped on the blue and black plaid shirt over his hoodie, and stood up, “I don’t want people knowing our names, besides, you worked for a shady, clandestine, organization. Imagine what people would think if they knew who you were. Might give’em the wrong idea.” Epsilon walked up to his father, sending him a crooked smile. “Call me paranoid.”
“You are such a dork,” Dav–no, Wash chuckled. He reached out and ruffled Epsilon’s hair. It was times like this that made the end of the world almost bearable. It was also times like this that made Wash’s chest ache. “You have no idea the things that “shady organization” did, and I hope it stays that way.” Wash thought darkly.
Epsilon picked up his katana. Something he had picked up from the pawn shop they visited a yesterday. It was his pride and joy. The scabbard was black and its end had a gold metal tip. To Wash the blade looked like any other sword blade, shining metal and razor-sharp edge thanks to the almost zealous care Epsilon bestowed upon the blade. The blade collar, circular guard, and collar were all gold. The pommel had a piece of golden metal fastened to it. The hilt was black and wrapped in red fabric. The hanging cord was also the same red fabric that was wound around the hilt. It truly was a beautiful piece. Epsilon had insisted upon taking the katana because if he was going to have to survive the apocalypse he was going to be a sword wielding badass like Michonne from The Walking Dead. Wash had rolled his eyes at that but let Epsilon satisfy his fanboy fantasy.
Epsilon frowned at the weight of his duffel as he picked it up. Noticing Wash’s duffel made the frown deepen. “We have way too much stuff.”
“A problem for another day Ep.” Wash grabbed his son’s duffel and swung it over his other shoulder. “You lead for a bit, I’ll carry our stuff.”
Epsilon gave a quick nod. Drawing his katana as he approached the door of the storage closet they were in, scabbard in one hand, sword in the other. Pausing at the door he looked at Wash, waiting for his to nod his assent before cracking the door open. Peering around the door, Epsilon checked for any signs of infected. From what he could see in the dim and dusty atmosphere of the warehouse there were no infected in the immediate vicinity. Epsilon opened the door fully and signaled Wash to follow him.
The duo cautiously exited the storage closet and surveyed the area around them. Dawn light streamed through the dusty skylights above and painted squares of orange light across the warehouse interior. “Thank god for skylights. I’d rather not waste batteries.” Wash thought. Around them, amid rows upon rows of storage racks, they could make out the prone forms of zombies. It wasn’t quite bright enough for the zombies to become active. Which made this a perfect time to leave.
Epsilon began to move, katana at the ready. He slowly lead the way down an aisle, With Wash following close at his back. Epsilon kept his eyes glued front, not wanting to risk looking away and give a zombie an opportunity. He left the duty of checking their surroundings to Wash, trusting his dad to watch his back. They carefully walked down the aisle, each step light and purposeful, to make as little as noise as possible. Last night the warehouse had been completely empty, how these zombies got in was anyone’s guess, but with there numbers unknown every bit of caution increased their chances of survival.
Epsilon’s hand raised up, gently smacking into Wash’s chest. The signal to stop and wait. Wash obeyed, stopping in his tracks. He peered around Epsilon, suddenly wondering when his son had become taller than him. Just ahead of them, sitting in a square of early dawn light was a female zombie. She had her back to them and was sitting with her legs crossed and her arms nestled neatly in her lap. She was wearing a simple white t-shirt and jeans. Her has a pale brown and hanging around her head. Her clothes were tattered and stained, and her skin discoloured, almost grey in colour. From this angle she almost looked like a normal woman sitting on the ground, except for the horrible discolouration of her skin that is. Wash knew better however, she was indeed a zombie. She–no it dammit–was just playing possum in the hopes it could trick someone into coming closer. A common tactic used by the infected.
Epsilon began to make his way toward the zombie, making sure he was being as quiet as he could be. He tightened his grip on the katana. Once he was directly behind her he readied his katana and with a quick horizontal slash, he severed the zombie’s head clean off. Dark crimson blood spurted out from the zombie’s neck in time with its heartbeat, illuminated by the light filtering through the skylight above. The arcs of blood splashed up the side of the cardboard boxes that were stacked neatly on either side, staining them a deep red. Epsilon took a casual step back to avoid getting any on him. The zombie’s headless body then bowed forward, warm blood spilling from the severed neck and creating a large puddle on the smooth concrete floor.
Further down the aisle a male zombie emerged from the shadows. It slowly shambled forward, its head bowed and oblivious to the world around it. It was wearing a shirt that was full of so many holes it could hardly be considered a shirt, and black jeans. Much like the first zombie this one’s skin was also ashy in appearance. Its right foot was turned completely around, making it have a slight limp to its gait. Epsilon took his scabbard in his left hand and gently tapped it twice on the ground, the metal tip making a very faint ting ting sound on the concrete. The zombie’s head snapped up, revealing its horrible disfigured face and neck. It was missing its left eye, leaving nothing but a bloody socket that had several maggots calling it home. Its nose was completely gone. A steady flow of blood running down from it. It snarled at Epsilon revealing its horrible yellow and bloodied teeth. It began to move at a faster pace, stumbling over itself to get to Epsilon faster.
Epsilon readied his sword again. Holding his ground. Wash felt his stomach twist into several knots of various sizes, and his heartrate spike. It didn’t matter how many times this happened, how many times a zombie got close to Epsilon, or how many times he watched his son calmly dispatch them with a worrying detachedness, Wash didn’t think his stomach or heart could ever get used to the sight.
Epsilon patiently waited for the snarling zombie to get into range. Seemingly undisturbed by the horrible disfiguration of its face. Once it was within range Epsilon struck. Raising the sword above his head he slashed downward, cutting the zombie from shoulder to hip. He then stepped out of the way as the zombie stumbled forward, arms flailing to grab him. The zombies body split into two pieces. Falling to the floor and spilling its internal organs all over the floor, adding its blood to the considerably large pool of blood from the first zombie.
In science fiction, normally you would need to cause severe damage to the brain or spine of a zombie to kill it, depending on what source you were taking it from. In reality, any sort of severe physical trauma to the zombie’s body would be enough to kill it, such as cutting it in half. Hell, Wash had seen a zombie after it had had its arm blown off. Of course, that does not go for all zombies, but usually severe bodily trauma was enough to put them down. Which made killing them much easier. Well the ones that weren’t heavily mutated anyway. Wash rubbed his chest with his hand, trying to get calm his racing heart. “It’s fine! This isn’t the first time Epsilon has killed a zombie. He’s fine godammit. Get over it. There’s no use worrying over this. It’s not like he is surrounded by hundreds of them!”
Epsilon flicked his sword, excess blood and viscera sliding off it and onto the ground. He looked over his shoulder and tilted his head. The “let’s go” signal.
The two of them continued down the aisle, Epsilon eliminating the zombies in their path, and Wash a few steps behind. It was something that had been established since day one of this nightmare. The person in front killed the zombies, the one in the rear watched their surroundings and carried their gear. It was a comfortable rhythm, one that they fell into quickly. Emerging from the aisle and taking a left, the duo headed toward the door that they had used to enter the warehouse last night. Upon reaching the door Epsilon placed his ear against it, listening intently.
“How’s it sound?” Wash asked.
“Quiet,” Epsilon replied.
Quiet…that could mean so many different things. Epsilon opened the door a crack and peaked outside. The immediate vicinity outside was empty. He opened the door wide, allowing the morning light to flood into the warehouse. He stepped outside. Once Wash was outside Epsilon closed the door tight and set about barricading the door with anything that was nearby. Pushing crates and barrels in front of the door. It wasn’t exactly necessary, they had been silent as the left the warehouse so they didn’t have to worry about being followed, but it was prudent to be cautious.
While Epsilon was barricading the door, Wash took the chance to survey their surroundings. Heavy clouds sat above the city, black and full of rain, making it dark and gloomy. It was crisp outside, not terribly cold, but cold enough that Wash was thankful for his hoodie. It was a regular autumn day. Although Wash wouldn’t call this regular. A regular autumn day would be him sitting at home reading, while Epsilon played video games and drank hot chocolate. This, was anything but regular. To Wash, everything looked dull and bleak, the only splash of colour was the fallen leaves that covered the ground around him. Valhalla City was surrounded by a mountain range and lush forest, but even so, the streets were usually immaculate, never a fallen leaf anywhere in sight. Now they were covered in a blanket of red, yellow, orange, and brown leaves. It was almost pretty if the implications behind it wasn’t so horrifying.
The warehouse yard was empty except for the two of them and the blanket of leaves, and the streets beyond the chain-link fences were devoid of any activity, there was even a suspicious lack of abandoned cars. Wash however, knew better than to believe his eyes. An empty street was nothing more than an illusion of security. Empty streets made people relax, but make no mistake, there are undoubtedly zombies in the area. The distinct lack of any form of wildlife, even the lack of bird calls, was a giveaway that the infected were around. Here Wash stood, surrounded by the warehouses, buildings, apartments, and skyscrapers that once housed a population of close to six hundred thousand people.
Wash felt a familiar feeling crawl its way up his spine, the hair on the back of his neck standing up. It was the feeling of isolation, the feeling of being the last of your kind, the last man on earth. Accompanied by cold tendrils curling into his heart and the near madness this knowledge induced. To be the last of mankind. It was sickening. Wash felt the sensation of being watched, like he had a giant target on his back, like something or someone was watching him from afar. He frantically checked his surroundings, checking the streets and double checking the rooftops.
Realizing that he was alone Wash felt a new wave of panic wash over him. “Epsilon!” His mind screamed. Whirling around Wash felt immediate relief. Epsilon was just finishing up his barricade, taking a step back and placing his hands on his hips, inspecting his work. Taking a deep breath Wash looked around again. Everything was still empty and there were still no infected in sight. He rubbed at his chest, trying to calm his racing heart and ragged breathing. “Breath David, you’re fine, Ethan is fine. There is absolutely no infected around. You. Are. Fine.”
“All done,” Epsilon said. He dusted off his hands and walked over to Wash. He either didn’t notice his father’s current condition, and if he did, chose to ignore it. Instead he cast his gaze upward, a small frown tugging at his lips. “Storms coming,” he muttered. “Not that I mind the rain of course,” he added sarcastically.
“Well then, I suggest we move quickly,” Wash said, wincing when it came out strained.
Epsilon briefly regarded Wash, before nodding in agreement. The two approached the chain-link fence. Epsilon scaled the fence easily, but landed roughly on the other side, nearly falling face first onto the cement. Wash tossed the duffel bags over one at a time, giving Epsilon time to catch them. He then scaled the fence as well, swinging over the top and landing with grace.
Walking down the empty streets of Valhalla City, they fell into a tense silence. All their senses on high alert. A city was the most dangerous place to be. There were so many places for the infected to hide in and you were outnumbered a thousand to one. The increasing levels of daylight was only going to make the situation worse. Rounding a street corner, a bright flash of red and blue caught Epsilon’s attention.
There sitting in the middle of the road was an abandoned cop car. It’s emergency lights flashing, painting its surroundings in blue and red. Epsilon pointed out the cop car. “Hey dad look, a cop car. Worth a look?”
Wash weighed the options. Whoever turned those lights on effectively lit a beacon that said “hey come eat me!” Infected attacked bright lights and loud noises almost as ruthlessly as they killed non-infected people. Avoidance meant life. On the other hand, a car with its lights on could still be drivable, a potential way out of the city. “Sure. Just be careful,” Wash warned.
Approaching the car together, Wash kept his eyes on their surroundings while Epsilon moved to investigate the car. Affirming that the surroundings were clear he turned his attention to the car. Its windshield was shattered, caved inward from the looks of it. Like something launched itself through the glass from the outside. The driver’s side door was wide open. Just outside of the door was a M6G Magnum lying on the ground surrounded by eight spent bullet cartridges. A few paces away was a pool of coagulating blood, along with bloody drag marks that lead into a nearby alley. Whatever happened here happened at least a few hours ago, judging from the clotting of the blood. “Poor bastard” Wash thought and went over to Epsilon.
“Did you find anything?” He asked.
Epsilon’s head appeared from where it had been buried in the trunk of the car. He held up a large, thick piece of paper that Wash realized was a map.
Epsilon reached up and pulled the lid of the trunk down, gingerly closing it. Wash spread out the map on the back of the car and oriented it the right way. It was a map of Valhalla City. Scanning the map, he noticed that there were several circles drawn on the map with black marker. Seven in total. Six of which had a red “X” through them. The only one that didn’t have a red “X” through it was in the center of the map.
“What’s that say?” Epsilon titled his head to the side. “Mercy…Mercy Hospital. Do you think it’s a stronghold?”
“Could be. Could also be an evac site.”
“Then it’s worth a look, right?” Epsilon looked up at his father expectantly.
“I don’t know. The hospital is directly in the middle of town. Plus, it’s a hospital. It’s probably full of infected. I don’t know if it’s worth the risk.”
Epsilon visibly deflated at that logic. “But doesn’t the reward trump the risk?”
Wash sighed heavily. There was an overwhelming chance the hospital would be full of the infected. They could very well be walking towards their death. Looking at Epsilon however, he could see the hope shinning in his electric blue eyes, could see it amongst the fear and helplessness. Hope. That was something that they hadn’t experienced in a long time. Wash would be lying if he said he didn’t feel the slightest bit hopeful. If by some act of god, the hospital was miraculously empty of all infected and it was indeed an evacuation site, they could be saved. The chances of that were one in a few million, and yet Wash found himself growing more and more hopeful, which blossomed in his chest like a flower in the spring. A broad smiled formed on his lips and looked at Epsilon.
“It certainly does Ep, it certainly does,” Wash chuckled and ruffled Epsilon’s hair. “Let’s go to the hospital.”
Epsilon nodded enthusiastically and bounded off ahead a few steps. A prominent bounce in his step. Something that he always had before this mess started. It was like a sliver of Epsilon’s innocence had returned. Wash chuckled and smiled. He folded up the map and stuffed it in the back pocket of his jeans. For now, they were heading in the right direction. Wash followed Epsilon, smiling at the happy little tune his son was humming.
As they walked down the streets of the deserted city the day gradually got brighter. The heavy cloud cover delayed the growing brightness of the day but eventually it reached the levels where the zombies became active. Soon they were shambling down the streets and Wash and Epsilon had to slow their pace to that of a snail. The streets soon became so full of zombies that Wash had to get out the metal baseball bat and begin cracking some skulls and helping Epsilon with the clearing of the zombies.
After walking down the city streets for several hours, killing zombies left, right, and center, leaving a trail of carnage behind them. With an ache in their feet and hunger gnawing at their stomachs, they took refuge within a convenience store. After quickly and efficiently clearing the store of the few zombies that inhabited it, they settled in. Epsilon perched himself on top of the counter with his sword, swinging his legs while Wash checked the shelves. He wanted to avoid dipping into their own supply of food if he could. His search rewarded him with two ketchup chip bags.
“Found these,” Wash said, handing a bag off to Epsilon.
Epsilon stared at the bag in absolute disgust, however his hunger got the best of him and he begrudgingly accepted the bag. “The fact that these were left behind proves that even in an apocalypse no one wants these sorry excuses for chips,” he growled.
Wash laughed and opened his bag. Watching with amusement as Epsilon ate the chips with a face of utter disgust, gagging once or twice. After eating a few more chips Epsilon pulled out a cloth and began cleaning his katana. Wiping the blood and guts off of the blade until it was clean and shinning. The metal looking like metal and not like some weird mutated, chunky, tomato soup that you would find in the back of your fridge. Wash cast a glance at the bat resting against his thigh and briefly wondered if he should clean it. “Nah.”
Once they finished their snack they continued their journey into the heart of the city. Continuing their current pace. A few hours later, the sun began to set and as the light levels decreased the zombies began to settle down, becoming more prone. Still aggressive as hell though. “Well at least today was not too bad. None of those mutated ones showed up.” Wash thought. “Of course, that can change in a minute if we fuck up.” He added grimly. Wash looked over at Epsilon. He hadn’t lost the bounce in his step and he was continuing to hum, even as he killed the zombies. It was somewhat disconcerting to watch smile and hum as he sliced a zombie in two but…Wash would take it. It made something warm unfurl in Wash’s chest. A feeling of fondness and affection. It made him happy to see Epsilon acting happier, even if he was currently slicing the undead into tiny pieces.
“Hey look at that.” Epsilon pointed up at the roof of a nearby building. In the dusky light Wash could make out a zombie shambling across the roof. “How do you think it got up there?” Epsilon asked.
The zombie was slowly shambling across the roof, one leg dragging uselessly behind it. It seemed to turn its head to look at the two living humans below it. The zombie let out a raspy scream and tripped over its useless leg, plummeting down to the ground and smashing into the top of a car that Wash and Epsilon had been standing right next to. The roof of the car caved in with the weight of the zombie and the glass of the car exploded outward, razor sharp shards of glass soaring through the air. Wash and Epsilon both dove for cover, covering their heads and necks. Shattered glass sprinkled down around them. The shrill ringing of a car alarm pierced the dusky air and the denizens of hell answered it. The sounds of every zombie within hearing distance wailing into the darkening sky filled the air, forming a horrifying cacophony that would haunt the minds of any who heard it. The now disturbed infected would form a horde and converge on the cars location, intent on destroying the offending sound and any uninfected individual in sight.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me!” Epsilon yelled, pushing himself up off the ground.
“Just run!” Wash screamed as he leapt to his feet. He grabbed Epsilon and shoved him ahead of him. They needed to get out of here now! If they were lucky they might be able to leave the area before the horde arrived.
Wash spared a glance over his shoulder. The zombies were already emerging from the shadows like twisted reapers. They were even jumping off rooftops and out of windows. Landing on the ground unharmed and immediately chasing them. All the zombies in the area began to chase after the uninfected father and son. Chasing after the fresh meal that was before them.
“This way!” Epsilon yelled. He made a dash for an apartment building lobby that came into view. The lobby seemed deserted which was good. The front doors were blocked by a car so Epsilon changed his path for the large pane glass window of the entryway. This was going to hurt but that thought barely crossed the teens mind. Epsilon’s mind was on the all-consuming knowledge of the mass of rotting flesh and mutilated bodies chasing after him like he was a turkey dinner. Hoping the curb, Epsilon covered his face with his arms as he leapt through the glass. He smashed through the glass and landed on the tiled floor with a loud crash, his left shoulder taking almost all of his weight and his head crashing painfully against the cold tile. His forward momentum caused him to roll several times, worsening the dizziness that had seized his mind. He slowly began to push himself up, dazed, vision blurry, but the adrenaline coursing through his system made the pain in his head and shoulder dull and the knowledge of what was behind him spurred him on. Epsilon ignored the glass shards that were digging into his palms and knees and struggled to push himself upright. “What the fuck even was that glass!? Fucking bulletproof plexiglass?!” He seethed internally.
Wash saw Epsilon leap through the window and he immediately changed his own course, chasing after his son. Leaping through the now broken window he saw that Epsilon was still on the ground, struggling to his feet. Wash’s anxiety shot through the roof, they did not have time for this!
Racing over to his son he began to pull him up onto his feet. “Come on, come on, come on! Get up dammit!” Wash screamed. His blood roared in his ears and his heart was hammering painfully against his chest. He pulled Epsilon up fully and pushed him forward, spurring the dazed teen into action. “Stairs!” Wash herded Epsilon down a hallway that he hoped to god led to stairs.
Epsilon began to sprint in the direction Wash shoved him, ignoring the throbbing from his shoulder and head. His vision was still wobbly, he was relying entirely on Wash’s guidance. Epsilon was pretty sure he smashed his other shoulder–the good one–into the doorframe of the stairwell but he didn’t even feel it. He could feel Wash right behind him telling him to keep going, spurring him on.
They took the stairs two at time, bounding up them like desperate rabbits. A level below they could hear the thunderous sound of the horde of infected following after them. Screaming and wailing that sounded like demons. At one point the infected had been so close Wash could have sworn he felt their foul breath on his neck.
It was a miracle that they had managed to stay this far ahead of them, but their luck seemed to be running out. Epsilon was slowing down, tripping on the stairs and staggering on the landings. His muscles seizing up from the extreme workout they were getting. Wash was in no better condition. His legs were burning and his chest felt like it was full of nails, every breath he took was agony.
“You better not be fucking slowing down kid!” Wash snapped breathlessly, shoving Epsilon’s ass roughly.
“Fuck you old man I could do this all day!” Epsilon snarled back, wheezing. Mustering what little energy he had left he made one final desperate push. His legs were screaming in agony and his shoulder and head felt like they had been dipped in acid.
Wash followed right behind, right on Epsilon’s heels. Pushing Epsilon when he slowed down. They had just run several blocks at full speed and now they were hopping up, Wash glanced at the floor number, twenty flights of god damned stairs. Sure, they were both physically fit, but no human short of an Olympian could probably endure what they were putting themselves through. “We better be near the fucking roof.” He thought desperately. His body was starting to give out. His legs were going numb and his vision was beginning to tunnel.
Rounding the final staircase Wash saw a door that had “Roof Access” labeled in red right next to it. Epsilon reached the door first. His body slamming into it in his haste to open it. He shoved the door open roughly, his body falling through the threshold. Wash was right behind him, leaping through the door and slamming it shut behind him. He pushed his back against the door and dug his heels in. The door shook pushing Wash away from it slightly, which only made him push back harder. The screaming of the zombies through the metal door filled his mind, he could hear the gnashing of teeth, the sound of rotten flesh slipping on a smooth surface. They pounded on the door for what seemed to be an eternity before the pounding and screaming lessoned and lessoned, eventually stopping. Wash counted to thirty before he allowed himself to relax.
His legs gave out and he slid down the door, taking in huge gasping breathes. His entire chest burned. It felt like someone had pried open his ribs and replaced his lungs with rolls of razor wire. The rest of his body didn’t feel so well either. His legs were numb Wash had to pat them to make sure they were still attached to his body. Wash wondered if he could even move at this point. His entire body felt like jelly. Black spots danced across his vision and Wash was tempted to allow his eyes to close. He just needed to rest for a while. His eyes slipped closed.
Epsilon was lying on the ground in front of Wash. He was on his side, gasping for air as well. His head, hands and knees, as well as his entire left side ached now. Epsilon feebly tried to move his arm but all it did was slump down onto the ground next to his face. His entire head ached as well. He felt like his eyes were about to pop out of his skull due to the pressure behind them. The throbbing in his hands grabbed Epsilon’s spotty attention. Weakly moving his hands into his blurry visual range, he noticed that they were both covered in cuts and scratches with shards of glass sticking out of them. He assumed his knees looked the same as his hands if the throbbing coming from them was anything to go by. He felt like death had entered his body. His eyes slowly shut.
“Hello there,” came a foreign male voice, accompanied by the cocking of a shotgun.