Silence and darkness surrounded him, sparks flew but only briefly and at random. Charles pulled himself together and set off deeper into the facility. He knew he wasn’t far from the tram station now, he just needed to push a little further. He examined the lobby, doors that lead to more review offices, each connected to more medical facilities. He didn’t know where to turn, but he knew the dogs would be on him soon. He came across a sealed door labeled “North Gate Service Entrance.”
"Shit…" He muttered, then, off in distance he heard a slight clicking. Charles ducked and held his breath to listen. Servos hummed, pounding the feet into tile, it was another guard dog. Charles carefully crawled behind the lobby desk and peered at the elevator, maybe he could sneak up into the shaft. He stealthily ran over and kneeled down inside. The ceiling of the elevator had a service hatch above, but it was bent in on itself and wouldn’t be easily opened. The clicks and clacks of the sleek beast grew closer. An office door creaked opened as the dog nuzzled itself through the gap, sniffing the air and scanning the lobby. Charles readied his pistol, he had only a few shots left, he’d have to make them count.
The dog paced towards the center of the room, cautious in its efforts, and came to standstill. It slowly lifted its head towards Charles and let out a low growl, sweat poured down Charles’ face. It then turn the other way and continued to search around the lobby, Charles noticed the dog had been wounded, limping and spilling fluid on the ground with each step. He looked up at the hatch and considered forcing it open, if he were to fire shots it would alert nearby dogs, or whatever else was in this facility trying to kill him. He inched over and picked up a heavy piece of concrete, taking one last look at the dog across the lobby. He swallowed a deep breathe, halfway expecting to be his last, and thrust the concrete into the hatch as hard as he could. The concrete shot straight up and through, creating his escape. The dog let out a loud piercing growl and tore off after the sound, Charles jumped up, grabbing the edge and hoisted himself up. Rail gun fire pinging and licking at his feet. He then grabbed the large concrete and watched as the dog slid into the elevator, slamming into the back wall. It lifted it’s head towards Charles as he threw the gray slab, smashing out the frontal cameras and knocking it off balance. The dog winced and limped away, in search of easier prey.
Charles examined the empty elevator shaft, It seemed to never end. To his right was a service ladder, he latched on and started his journey upwards towards the surface, and salvation.
"Do you remember the day he was born?"
“Of course I do…”
“That was the happiest day of my life”
“I know.. Mine too.”
“I love you so much”
“I love you too”
Henry sat with her, and their sleeping son, huddled around a campfire deep in the underground New York sewer system. There were other families there too, trying to scrape by. Trying to survive the onslaught happening above. The military was periodically firebombing the city in hopes of ridding the area of the virus. The only way to survive was underground, or to travel by day on the surface to escape the city. Travel with vehicles was no longer an options, the freeways were littered bumper to bumper with immobile two-ton coffins.
"We’d better try to get some rest" Henry gently uttered.
“Yeah… Yeah you’re right.”
"Our food is getting low, Ill head up tomorrow to see what I can find, you’ll be okay, right?"
She didn’t respond. She hated that Henry traveled alone to the surface, a part of her worried he wouldn’t come back, and a part of her just missed the sun shining on her face. He knew this and didn’t pursue an answer any further, he just kissed her lightly on the forehead and held her tight, drifting off to sleep. It was hard to get rest these days, for fear of lowering your guard. You slept because you physically had to. Running to exhaustion just to watch, and listen, for any signs of danger.
Dreams of how things used to be flooded Henry’s mind. That old house, the mornings before work, he dreamt of his old friends and family and everything that once was. In his dreams was the only place that reality existed anymore. Then he was ripped away from his mental vacation only to realize that this was reality now, sounds of shuffling feet and moans echoed from a distance. His heart began to pound through his chest, adrenaline filling his veins. He knew it was time to go and he honed and condensed his fear into something usable. He shook her awake, and covered her mouth as she sleepily opened her eyes, quickly realizing the threat.
“We have to go, right fucking now” he whispered. Her eyes softened with a mix of fear and bitter sadness, she was scared. She woke up their son as Henry packed what little they had left, fingers frantically flying over everything he could grab, struggling to see in the dimly lit tunnel. Just then, one of the other survivors let out a shriek that alerted every creature in the tunnel, living, or otherwise, to our location. This was the moment. Time felt to slow as fear overtook Henry, now acting on impulse more then anything. The surviving families awoke and screamed as well, and the footsteps turned to heavy fevered sprints.
“Go go go!” Henry yelled at his family, grabbing her hand, they took off into the black unknown. Moments later the undead closed in on everyone and attacked. Screams consumed the entirety of the tunnel for what felt like ages, minutes subdivided into days and weeks of agony. They ran and ran, rounding twists and turns, Henry knew these tunnels well enough to find the surface and soon they breeched out into a moon soaked concrete ravine. They made it, but only just barely.
They had to find shelter to ride out the night, they needed something to ride out the night. In his travels Henry had found a few safe havens, he made a note of these places in case his scavenging efforts grew hairy and he needed a place to hold out for a night, so they took off to the closest one. It was an old drug store just a few blocks over, the pharmacy area was well protected, warding off drug addicts in it’s time of creation. They hurried along empty streets, silent and sticking to shadows.
They arrive at the drug store and peer through dusty windows to find no immediate danger inside. Henry entered first, pistol outstretched into the void. The shelves lay barren and empty, ran sacked again and again, all that remained was the reminder of the will to survive in the face of complete dehumanization. Henry and son took to the heavy metal shelves and barricaded the door with them, they used the others to block and reinforce the windows. They just needed to lay low for a few hours before daylight struck. Once the store area was protected they moved to the pharmacy area.
“I found this place not long ago, it looks like it should hold for the night.” They entered and locked the door behind them. “You guys get some rest, I’ll stay up and make sure we’re safe”
Hours passed while Henry forced himself to stay awake, looking back at wife and son if he ever wavered in his efforts to stay awake. He knew he had to protect them, no matter what. Henry took stock of the supplies they managed to escape with: 6 cans of soup, 2 cans of fruit, 1 can of corn, 2 bottles of fresh water, a half empty first aid kit, one small blanket, his hunting knife, his pistol, 3 bullets and a compass. They’d be lucky if it lasted little more then a week.
When morning struck he woke his family and told them “we have to leave New York, it isn’t safe for us here anymore”
“Where are we going to go though?” She said. “I don’t know, somewhere south, there wasn’t as many people there when the virus broke out, there can’t be that many of them.”
“Well dad, we’ll have to travel on foot, what are going to do for food? Where are we going to sleep?”
“We’ll figure it out son, I don’t want you to worry, we always figure it out, don’t we?”
She looked at Henry with disapproval but knew he was right. It was time to go. Henry’s son smiles and nodded his head “yeah.. I guess that’s true, we’ve been doing fine so far”
“Exactly! I’ll make sure we’re okay, you guys have my word. C’mon bud help me move these shelves back so we can leave”
They opened the door and felt the warmth of the low hanging morning sun hit their face. Henry let out a long sigh, it had been so long. The air almost smelled fresh, beside the slight tinge of dead charred bodies that lay hidden like landlines scattered across downtown. They moved swiftly and quietly through alleys and back ways to Central Park.
“Shit! Get down!” Henry whispered and they ducked behind a trash can.
“There’s an orb up ahead, I don’t think it saw us though..”
Henry peeked around the corner and saw it. No one knew what animal become this abomination after contracting the virus, it looked not of this earth. Three long tentacles, five feet tall each supported a pink fleshy orb. He watched, holding his breath, as the orb lightly treaded the streets, as if it were floating. It drifted down the road, tentacles out reaching into trash cans and scouring walls, searching for food.
“What do we do?” She said. “I think it’s just one of them.. I’ll get in close and kill it”
“Are you sure? What if there’s more?”
“We don’t have much choice, we don’t have anywhere to go without it sensing us..”
And with that, Henry pulled his pistol from his holster and slowly walked out into the street. The orb took notice immediately, and skittered towards Henry on all three tentacles. Disgusting hairy mandibles dropped from the center of the orb as it approached. Henry lined up his shot and dropped it. “Come on, come on, we have to go!”
They ran the rest of the way to Central Park, and then heard the familiar sound of Pak Das shrieking across the sky. “Fuck! Fuck! They’re firebombing!” They ran and scrambled under a low bridge in the park. “They look like they’re just bombing east of here a few miles.. We should be safe, just hold tight and let me think”
But there wasn’t any time to think… The Pak Da shrieks were enough to alert every undead thing in the area, and they were coming towards the sound.
Henry and his loved ones stood solitary against the onslaught of curious undead acting only on impulse to follow sound. They would be on them soon, a sea of bodies crashing against the rocks. Walls of teeth and nails bore down closer and closer on Henry and his family.
She knew it too. She could feel it.
She lightly slid her arms onto his waist, and pulled him in close, tighter then ever before. A tear slid down her cheek and onto Henry.
“How many bullets do you have left my love?”
Henry took a deep sigh and held up two fingers.
“What’re we gonna do dad?” His son asked. “I… I don’t know yet bud, keep a lookout though okay?”
"I think it’s time for you to let me go again baby… Me and Joely, it’s time baby…"
Henry’s eyes welled up at the thought of losing her again and again and again. His whole life has been of loss.
“I just can’t.. I can’t lose you again, that’s all I’ve ever done is lose you.”
“I know baby, I know.. But at least this will be the last time.”
She slid her hand down Henry’s arm and wrapped her fingers around his hand, clasping the pistol.
Tears flowed down Henry’s face. “I am so grateful to have had you… I love you so much, I always will…”
“I love you too… Now is the time though, we have to go..”
Henry wiped the tears from his face and kneeled down at his sons side, putting his hand on his back, placing the muzzle of the gun on the back of his skull, where the spine meets cerebellum.
“I love you son”
“I love you too dad!” Joel said, and turned to look at henry, seeing the tears in his eyes, he uttered.
A loud explosive crack ripped through the tunnel and Joel’s body fell lifeless to the ground. “Oh god! Oh my god!” She shrieked in horror. Henry got up and turned to her, and hugged her tight. They kissed and the hammer slammed down, exploding across the walls everything that Henry has ever wanted.
Her body slid down and out of Henry’s arms and in the distance he could see the horde of undead stampeding toward him, billowing out of the woodwork.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Henry screamed at the top of his lungs. A Molotov cocktail exploded into the street and gunfire rained down on the horde, skulls shattering and raining down into the street. Another survivor.
Blood stained the walls of the decontamination showers, The sealed glass separating the showers from the medical room was shattered, and Charles climbed over and started to investigate. A cold steel table lay in the center of the room. A large machine hung over top of it. He walked over slowly, examining the tools dangling from its armatures. A sleek decal on the side read “SoFi” Underneath it read “Surgeons Operating Force-Feedback Interface” He wondered what this facility was used for, he looked around, checked in drawers but found nothing. He then saw a glass divider on the side of the surgery room, behind was a desk and some chairs with a whiteboard in the back, scribbled all over were notes, math equations, diagrams, all things Charles couldn’t make sense of. He took an office chair and hurled it through the divider and made his way through.
Taking a closer look at the whiteboard, one word in particular stuck out in his mind… “Cordyceps” He decided to press on, and went through the office door. He found himself in a circular lobby, with a rounded desk in the center. Blood smeared the walls, flooded the floors, computer screens melted by rail gun fire.
"what the fuck happened here" Charles asked himself. He scurried along the outskirts of the lobby, finding only doors that lead to the unknown.
A loud bang and the crunching of metal sounded behind Charles, the tones carried and hung in the reverb, washing around the lobby. He spun around quickly and heard pounding and painful moans on the elevator door. He rushed over to help, trying to push the elevator doors open, to no avail. He searched the floor and grabbed a piece of rebar that had fallen loose from the ceiling and pried the doors apart. Sparks flew in the mangled elevator, the buzz of electricity pierced the air. Through the sparks he saw before him a man in horrible disarray, he was badly injured. On his knees, holding his face with bloody hands. Charles kneeled down and the man’s face shot up, half of his skull exposed and badly burned. Charles lurched back, slipping on the bloody floor, he lay as the man slowly rose in front of him.
His torso was partially ripped apart by rail gun fire, his intestines hung exposed. Before Charles could react, the man sprinted after him. Kicking wildly to escape, his feet slipping on the blood, he instead reached for his pistol and shot the man in the heart. Unaffected, he continued. Charles shot two more times, once in the shoulder, and once in the kneecap. The knee exploded and let out a loud crack. His leg imploded in on itself and the man fell to the ground. He still inched towards Charles, closer and closer, but Charles managed to scramble onto his feet, he fired one more shot, shattering the man’s skull across the office floor. He no longer gave chase.
Eyes darting back and forth, scouring every inch, every curve. Cursing himself for the feelings he had, he gazed lovingly at her. Tears welled in his eyes, feeling the clammy hands of time stealing her away again.
"I have to go now" She said.
Trembling in her arms, he swore his beating heart would bruise her delicate chest if it weren’t for his rib cage. Just like this, this moment faded. As much as Henry swore up and down to himself that this, this was the time he’d finally make the clocks around him stop, if only just for a second, he’d take what he could get. One day though, things would change, he knew. They both said that within one another, was a piece of themselves, stolen away and held under safekeeping. She was his Fry, and he, the Seymour.
Ripping the pavement behind him, miles of expanse separated him from his past. He considered the prospect of flipping his car, just briefly. His intent was to force god to beg his forgiveness, and admit guilt, for the life he gave Henry. A silly idea he quickly shrugged off. He was making good time after all, why muck that up? He’d be in New York in just a few days time, hopeful of a new life, one of anonymity and the loneliness of being in a crowd.