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Death's Little Master

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When Rick woke up the first thing that registered was the lack of noise. The normal background music of voices, footsteps, and beeping of any hospital were missing. Gone was the almost indecipherable buzz of electricity. It was as if the man-made world had suddenly died and stopped its constant humming. His throat was parched and he hoarsely called for a nurse. Forcing himself to turn he reached for the vase of flowers he had at one point remembered his partner bringing him.

The vase he reached for was empty with just a handful of dead flowers. Attempting to get off the bed, his legs couldn't hold his weight and he collapsed to the floor, groaning he slowly sat up, looking down he sees the IV in the crook of his left arm; he slowly peels away the tape that held the needle in his arm and pulls it out. Grabbing the IV pole Rick pulls himself to his feet.

Walking into the small bathroom attached to the room, he shifts his weight from the IV pole to the sink turning the handle. The water that flowed from the faucet was a godsend for his parched throat. After drinking his fill he splashes water on his face; trying to wash away the feeling of grime and sweat. His face was coarse from the stubble that had begun growing while he was in his coma. Looking at his reflection in the small mirror above the sink, his eyes widen. His face was a little gaunt, with slight bags under his eyes, and his hair is greasy from lack of washing. He wondered how long had passed since he'd been shot. 

Judging from the stubble on his face he'd guessed the last time someone shaved him was, two maybe three weeks ago. That didn’t tell him how long he had been in the hospital for though, merely how long till whatever had happened, happened. He shakily grabbed the IV pole and slowly made his way back to the main room looking for something, anything that would give him an idea of what was going on. The only thing he saw was the dead machines, and flickering lights.

Rick slowly moved towards the door and twisted the knob pulling it open carefully. He wasn’t sure exactly what was going on but he didn’t like it, and he didn’t want to be caught unawares by whatever it was. A gurney had been pushed in front of his door, and he surmised that it was most likely one of the reasons he hadn’t been discovered, by whoever had turned the hospital into a third world war zone. Pushing the gurney aside he slowly made his way down the silent hallway. Papers and blood littered the floor and bullet holes riddled the walls and doors. Although given the silence and the fact that no one had known he was here for at least two weeks, Rick stayed quiet incase who ever had done this was still here somewhere. He made his way slowly towards the nurse’s station leaning against his IV pole for balance, and to help counteract the nausea and dizziness he was feeling. 

The hallways were dark, the only light coming from the occasional flickering of an emergency hall light, leaving shadows in the nooks and corners. Abandoning his IV pole for the counter of the nurses station, Rick felt around for the phone he knew would be kept there. He pulled the receiver up to his ear, moving to punch the buttons when he heard it. Silence. There was no dial tone. Whoever or whatever had done this had not only cut the power but the phone lines as well. Running his shaking hand over the nurses side of the desk, he searched for anything that he could use to help him get out. His fingers grasped a small matchbox a nurse had most likely confiscated from a patient. A buzzing and flickering caught his eye down the hall. He moved toward the hallway slowly leaning on the wall for balance, he could see one of the hospital’s emergency lights flickering. 

The flickering of the emergency light led him to a set of closed double doors, barring him from entering the hallway. Peering into the barely lit hall Rick takes in the destruction. His eyes are drawn to the ground and what he sees makes him sick. The top half of a woman body is laying in an open doorway. Rick swallowed thickly as he recognizes the face of the woman he knew as Amy, a nurse who had helped the doctor with Carl’s cast when he was seven, and jumped from the shed's roof trying to be superman.

He backed away quickly stumbling a little as he moved down the opposite hallway towards the cafeteria. His mind was racing as he passed some blood pooled on the floor, bullet holes marring the walls and a hole in the roof were it had most likely collapsed. Upon reaching the closed cafeteria doors Rick was shocked at what he saw. The doors were chained shut a padlock locking them together, a wooden board had been shoved between the handles. It was the words sprayed painted on the door that took Rick aback. ‘Do Not Open, Dead Inside’. His eyes widened as he heard thumping and moaning coming from inside the locked doors, his breath caught as the chains and door rattled; and a pale dirty hand inched through the slight opening. As the groaning grew louder he quickly backed away, pushing through a set of double doors he rushed passed the elevators and towards the stairs.

Closing the door to the stairwell he stood in pitch black darkness. He fumbled to opened the matchbox in the dark and quickly swiped the head of a match, lighting a small flame. Now that he had a some light he listen for more of the groaning he had heard from the cafeteria, but there was nothing. He could barely see as he moved slowly down the stairs searching for the exit. He finally comes across a door marked Exit after having to lite three matches.

Pushing the door open sunlight immediately blinds him, raising his arm up, he tries to block some of the brightness until his eyes are slightly adjusted. Moving down the metal stairs he slowly let his arm drop, his eyes finally adjusting to the brightness. He almost wished they hadn’t. 

 The back lot was covered with over a hundred or more bodies, all covered with white sheets, flies buzzing around them. The only sound he hears, are coming from the flies and his own ragged breathing. Whatever had caused all this looks to have affected the whole town which meant that Lori and Carl might be hurt somewhere. He had to make it to the house and see if they were alright. 

Slowly he made his way out of the back lot of the hospital and towards the street. He walked on the sidewalk even though no cars moved along the road. Rick didn't see how anything could move on the road; It seemed every couple of feet there was a wreck, or a car was crashed onto the sidewalk forcing him to walk around. The streets were littered with trash, broken glass from storefront windows and what looked like looted goods from different stores. It felt as if he was the last living person in the whole town. He watched carefully for any movement as his ingrained police instincts began to kick in. He had been almost too foggy before to understand anything he saw, but the longer he was awake and moving the more his head seemed to clear. He felt in his gut that somehow he was in danger and began scanning the streets as though he was looking for a hiding perp when he saw it, movement. Twenty or thirty meter’s in front of him to the left of a wrecked car something was moving slowly across the grass. He carefully made his way forward and it quickly became apparent that the movement was a woman, or part of one. Like Nurse Amy the lower half of her body seemed to be missing. Unlike Nurse Amy however she was still moving. Rick made his way forward to investigate but stopped a few feet away as she turned her head towards him. 

Her eyes were nothing but a pale fog and as she tried to crawl towards him she gnashed her teeth together. She reached for him but he quickly took a step back, his instincts screamed at him to run, flee, and get as far away as possible from this thing on the ground because it certainly wasn’t human, not any more. He swallowed down more bile and moved towards the slightly rusted red bicycle that laid on the grass just off the sidewalk. Although rusted it moved easily enough and he could get to his house faster, if he could keep his balance that is.

Finally he arrived at his house. Although shaky he had kept his balance well enough to make good time. Dropping the bike on the sidewalk, he quickly climbed up the stairs to the front door and twisted the doorknob. It was unlocked, which was strange given that crime had risen in their neighborhood. It told Rick that they must have left in a hurry for Lori not to lock the door. He called out as he entered the house but no one answered. The house looked as though it had been ransacked. Rick went room to room calling out as he searched before collapsing on the floor, sobbing. Looking up he noticed the photo albums were missing. Lori was the only person who would have a truly vested interest in the albums which meant she had gotten out with Carl. The burden of fear fell from his shoulders for a moment, and then fell back on even harder. If they weren’t here, where were they? 

He moved back to the front door and closed it. He moving around the house filling a bag with things he might need. The first aid kit was missing along with all the canned food, most likely packed by Lori before they left. Moving into the bedroom he searched the dresser for clean clothes. Packing a few pairs of jeans, a few t-shirts and some boxers, Rick decided to put his spare uniform on incase he ran into anyone. Once he was out of the hospital gown he moved to his nightstand and pulled open the drawer looking for his personal side arm, It was missing. Moving he checked Lori’s nightstand, there was the strong possibility she had moved it when he was in the hospital to feel safer.  

Opening the drawer he pulled out the sheaf of papers that were on top and peeked under them, nothing. She must have took it with them. He went to put the papers back when he glanced at the letter head; ‘Carson & Carson Divorce Attorney’. His body stiffened. As he began looking over the forms he saw that she had already signed them, along with her lawyer almost two weeks before he had been shot. He sat on the bed staring at the papers for a moment. He knew that their marriage was rocky before he was shot, but he hadn’t believed they were anywhere close to a divorce. Rick tried to push the memory that sprang up away. About a year ago he had seen her get into her vehicle at a nearby motel on his way home from work. When he asked her about it, she had brushed it off saying a friend of her family had call to say they were in town but leaving that night so she had gone over to say hello, before picking Carl up at baseball practice. At the time he had brushed it off but now he wasn’t so sure. He sat up and rushed towards the front door and onto the small porch, looking to make sure there were no alive dead things around, he quickly moved to the corner where the camera was and stood on his tip toes to unclip it from its cradle. Rick moved back towards the house, closing the door once more behind him.

He moved towards the bedroom as he switch the small camera on, but as he had thought it was dead. He raised his arm to throw the useless camera when he saw the laptop out of the corner of his eye. Moving towards the desk he hoped the laptop still had some battery. Taking a seat at the computer desk he turned the camera in his hands looking for the memory card slot. Finding it he slid the chip out and held it tightly in his hand while he turned the laptop on. Rick sighed in relief when It powered on and he slid the chip into the side of the computer allowing it to load, clicking on the first hours of film he leaned forward on the desk. The first three days there was nothing but normal day to day stuff. Then came the first Tuesday after he had installed the camera. He noticed the angle of the camera was shifted by a hand; so it viewed more of the yard than the front door, since Rick couldn't see who had shifted the camera he knew it had to have been done by someone who had stood in its blind spot. He remembered this, although he hadn’t realized it had been done on purpose. He remembered moving it to view the porch better only a few days later before he left for Carl’s baseball practice. Rick fast forwarded through the video finding nothing out of the ordinary. He almost missed what he had been looking for, pausing, he rewinded slightly and with a heavy heart, hit play. 

He let the entire scene play, trying to find some way to deny it in his own head. As it finished he fast forward to the next time he was out of the house with Carl. His anger became more and more evident the further he watched. His wife was sleeping with his best friend and partner. He slammed the laptop closed and laid his head in his hands as he was overcome with anger and sadness. 

After he got a hold of his emotions and breathed in deeply a few times. His mind went back to the missing photo albums, there was a very good possibility that they made it out and that they would see each other again. He opened a desk drawer searching for a pen and took the papers from the bed. He looked at them for a moment before bringing the pen to the paper and signing. He stuffed the papers in his bag as he left the house. He made it off the porch and half way down the front steps, when he realized that not only did he not know what had happened to the town, or what was going on with the dead moving, but he had no idea where his son and now ex-wife would have gone. He all but collapsed with his head in his hands on the ground as he once more tried not to cry.

A few moments later he raised his head, tears blurring his vision. The adrenaline, desperation and anger that had kept him moving was beginning to fade, and even sitting down he was beginning to feel dizzy. Down the road a man seemed to be stumbling along. Rick stood quickly, fighting the dizziness in his head and was about to call out when a gunshot broke the quietness around him, he watched in horror as the man’s head was thrown back as he fell to the ground. Rick stumbled and pain suddenly erupted in the back of his head and he fell sideways, his vision spotty and going black. A boy’s face looked down at him with wide brown eyes.

“Carl?” He asked deliriously before passing out.

 


 

When Rick came to it was with a slight headache. His shoulder however felt better, cleaner. Looking around he saw he was in a bedroom, the window’s covered so that light couldn’t get in or out. Candle flames flickered, making shadows dance across the room.

“Awake then?” Asked a bald black man as he entered the room. Rick tried to sit up but his wrists were tied to the bed frame. “Got that bandage changed out. It was pretty rank,” the man said, as he came into the room. Rick saw the gun strapped to his hip. “What was it from?” He asked.

“Gunshot,” Rick croaked, his voice hoarse. 

“Gunshot? Anything else?” he asked as he came to a stop beside Rick.

“What getting shot isn’t enough?” 

“Look I asked you a question the common curtesy is to answer, right? Now answer the question. Did you get bit?” The black man asked.

“Bit?” Rick repeated confused. 

“Bit, chewed, scratched anything like that?” He asked.

“No I got shot. Just shot as far as I know,” Rick answered and the man reaches towards him, Rick flinches.  

“Hey man, just let me,” he says as he touches the back of his hand to Rick's forehead. “Feels cool enough,” he says as he pulls out a switchblade. “Fever would have killed you by now.” He continues as he cuts the rope binding Rick to the bed. “Come on out when you’re able.” The man says before leaving the room. Rick rolls over on his side trying to compose himself. The day he’s had is like nothing he’s ever experienced before. Waking up from a coma, finding dead people walking, learning about his partner and now ex-wife, not knowing where his child was, and then waking up tied to a bed. He wants to lay there, to close his eyes and sleep; see if all this is just part of some strange coma dream. Finally he swings his legs off the bed, wrapping a blanket around his mostly bare body as he leaves the room.

The man is sitting at the dining room table with what is obviously his son, serving him some food as Rick looks around. He squints slightly confused. 

“This place,” Rick pauses and looks around a little more before heading towards the window. “Fred and Cindy Drake?” He questions.

“Never met them,” The other man answered.

“I’ve been here. This is their place.” Rick said with a little more conviction than before.

“It was empty when we got here.” He repays. Rick reaches for the dark sheet covering the window. 

“Don’t do that. They’ll see the light. There are more of them out there than usual. I never should’ve fired that gun today, sound draws them. Now they’re all over the street. Stupid; using a gun. But it all happened so fast, I didn’t think,” the man said shaking his head. Rick turned to look at him as he remembered what happened before he was hit on the head.

“You shot that man today,” Rick says. The man shrugs as he asks somewhat rhetorically,

“Man?”

“It weren’t no man,” the kid says. The father berates him for a moment before motioning for Rick to come eat. They say a blessing before the man introduces themselves as Morgan and Duane; and goes on to explain what they know about what is happening. After dinner they start to settle in for the night. Everyone tenses when the doorknob started turning. Going to the door to see whats going on, Rick pauses when he hears Morgan trying to quiet Duane’s sobs. Looking out the peep hole he sees a black women in a nightgown; when he turns to Morgan the look on the mans face explains everything. It was his wife who turned that was twisting the doorknob.

In the morning the three of them made their way to the police station. Rick surprised them with the hot showers; since the station had a back-up gas generator that hadn’t been used. After showering they raided the armory for weapons, although most had been taken there were still enough guns and ammo to split between them. They filled up one of the cruisers with gas for Rick as well as Morgan’s vehicle before they parted ways, Rick heading to the safe zone in Atlanta to find his ex-wife and hopefully his son, with Morgan and Duane following behind in a couple of days.

They each took a walkie promising to turn it on for a few hours every day at dawn, to save power, so they could meet up with one another when Morgan and Duane made it to the city. 

 


 

 

Rick ran out of gas thirty miles from the city. Seeing a sign for a gas station about a half mile up the road he pulled over. Grabbing the gas canister and his duffle bag -he decides to stuff all the guns and ammo from the police bag into his duffle so it’d be less to carry. Pulling down the visor he takes the picture of Lori, Carl and himself before folding it so only himself and Carl are visible. Tucking the picture in his front shirt pocket, he sets off. As he gets closer to the station he see the vehicles parked on the side of the road; some even on the grass going all the way around the station. He doubted that there would be any gas but it was worth a try. 

The buzzing of flies and the smell of rot greeted him as he moved between cars. As suspected there was no gas and he didn’t have the tools to siphon any. He began making his way back through the cars when he heard the soft sound of feet shuffling. He stopped and listened, the noise came again. He dropped to the ground looking under the cars in the direction of the sound. There, a car over were a pair of small feet in pink slippers. Rick got up and made his way around the car. The little girl had her back to him and was shuffling away.

“Little girl? I’m a police officer. Don’t be afraid, okay? Little girl?” Rick says voice low to sound calming for the child. He reaches a hand out as if touch the girls shoulder even though she is several meters away when the girl turns around; Rick notices the side of her mouth is gashed and torn. He stumbles backward from the girl as she shuffles toward him, snarling and groaning. Rick draws his gun keeping it pointed to the ground. The girl starts gaining speed the closer she gets to him. Rick backs up as he brings the gun up, he remembers what Morgan said; that it has to be the brain. She is less than two meters away when the bullet enters her skull and she falls to the ground. Rick stares for a moment, sadness blinding him.

He starts walking, backtracking a few miles to a farmhouse he had passed while driving. As he walks up the driveway he looks around, the place looks abandoned. Leaving his bag and gas canister on the front porch, he pulls open the screen door and knocks.

“Hello? Police officer out here, can I borrow some gas?” There is no answer. He moves towards a window. “Hello? Anybody home?” Still there’s no answer. He can’t see anyone in the window so he leaves the porch and moves down the side of the house to view into the living room window. Rick is horrified as he takes in the scene, flies buzz around two dead bodies the backs of their heads shot out, shot gun on the floor. Written in blood on the wall are the words ‘God Forgive Us.’ 

As he makes his way back to his stuff he sees a pick-up truck. Jogging over he searches for the keys but they aren’t inside. Moving to start back up to the house to search inside, he hears the nickering of a horse. 

Seeing the horse, Rick realizes that it might be better to ride to Atlanta than search for a car, since he can’t find any gas. Slowly he opens the gate to the pasture, and moves towards the horse taking the rope hung over the fence as he goes. The horse neighs as Rick approaches, “Easy now easy. I’m not gonna hurt you.” As Rick gets closer to the horse he gently he loops the rope around its neck, and leads it to the barn so he can saddle him.

A few hours later finds Rick on a two lane highway approaching the city. He rides over an over pass moving deeper and deeper into the city. Looking around at all the cars, trash, and wreckage that has befallen Atlanta since this all happened. Rick notices a few Walkers begin to follow, so Rick urges the horse to move a little faster while trying to reassure it as he passes an abandoned city bus. 

“It’s just a few nothing we can’t out run boy,” Rick says as he pats the horse on the neck. He turns onto another street. He passes an abandoned tank when he hears it, the sound of a helicopter. He urges the horse into a gallop as he tries to follow it, turning down another street. “Oh shit,” Rick breathes as the horse starts whining and backing up its eyes looking around fearfully. The entire street is filled with walkers. He turns the horse around and gallops back the way they came. He gets a little ways away when he sees that the amount following him has grown and he cannot escape that way either. 

“Oh God, oh shit,” Rick says breathlessly, as he scans for another escape route. He find nothing, no way out but it’s too late anyway. The walkers have reached them. The horse starts to panic as Walkers grab and pull at them, the horse rears up and Rick is thrown backward, his bag falls on the ground beside him. Struggling to get up Rick kicks a Walker thats bending toward him and shoots a couple that were too close for comfort. Seeing that he’s surrounded, he scrambles underneath the military tank trying to escape to the other side. Looking behind him he shoots a walker that grabs his foot. Quickly he checks the cylinder and sees he only has one bullet left. He begins to crawl again when a walker from the other side of the tank starts to crawl toward him. Out of options he raises his revolver to his temple, “I will not turn into one of those thing.” He thinks to himself. Before he can pull the trigger he sees a small hand in front of his face. Looking up he sees an opening into the tank, and a kids face starring at him. Quickly Rick pulls himself through the opening slamming it shut behind him. Catching his breath he looks over at his rescuer on the other side of the tank and settles himself beside the dead military officer. The boy is small and thin but not sickly so. He’s most likely younger than Carl, by at least a year putting him at maybe eleven. His hair is short and messy, and so black that it looks like he poured ink over his head. He has high cheekbones, pale skin, and delicate features; making him look as though he is from an elven fairytale. His eyes though, are the most stunning green Rick has ever seen. A vibrant forest green, clear and intelligent that are watching him warily. 

“Thank-you,” Rick says. The boy says nothing just watches him. Rick shrugs the silence off as he looks over at the dead soldier. Seeing the gun on the soldiers belt, Rick reaches for it. The soldier’s eyes snap open, he wasn’t as dead as Rick thought. Bringing his own gun up in fear he shoots, using his last bullet to shoot a hole through its head. 

The gunshot echoes through the tank making Rick and the boy both dizzy and deaf. Slowly the ringing starts to fade and they both hear the crackling of a radio.

“Hey dumbass. Yeah you in the tank. You cozy in there?” A male voice asks from the radio. Rick looks incredulously at the radio and then at the kid, who’s eyebrow is raised before moving to grab the radio.