Boston Scream Die. IC.
Stennis threw his spade away; it rang sharply as it struck a rock.
He ran his hands down his face and groaned as only the weary and longsuffering can groan.
He stood, observing his work, tears running down his face.
Three graves he had dug, three graves he had filled.
Two friends and one stranger lay cold and dead, friends that had bleed and fought beside him, friends that had saved him countless times in this hostile world.
Friends that he had failed to save, friends that he killed himself so that they would not rise in horrifying undeath.
The sun burned low in the Kansas sky, or at least he thought they were in Kansas, it was flat there were rolling grasses waving uncaring of the fact that the world had, for the humans, ended.
They’d barely made it through the winter; they were running low on everything.
He glanced back at the graves; he felt that he should say something but what? There wasn’t anything more to be said. He’d said it all so many times over so many shallow graves.
Stennis wiped his face, grime smearing across his cheeks. He had to be strong, for the others. Weakness has no place in the world of the dead. He turned to go back picking up his spade and shirt, walking down the gentle hill to the few tents they had pitched, he smelled something cooking.
Most likely that was most of their rations.
He walked up to the cookfire and cleared his throat.
“There is a mall, some suburbs, probably a market, a few miles north of here. We should make for it and resupply. The risk shouldn’t be too bad, the bulk of that massive herd we saw is to the west and south.”
He sat down heavily, looking each of his companions in the eye.
He smiled crookedly.
“Maybe we’ll even find some more Spam. Mmm, mooore Sppaaamm.”
Even as he joked to lighten the somber mood his mind drifted to the events of the previous day.
There wasn’t even anything worth taking in that homestead. They found death, walkers and a dying man.
His words were what troubled Stennis.
He spoke of a colony that he had left.
A survivor colony.
Were they delusions?
Pipe dreams of a dying soul?
Could they afford to pass the chance?
There were a lot of walkers still in the northeast. The mega-herds of NYC had mostly migrated west and were perhaps still frozen. Much of the north still was.
Eater of Breakfast Foods
"Actually, I had never had Spam before the Outbreak." Lainey murmured, running her fingers through her long, unwashed hair before tying it back up again with her last remaining hairtie. If she lost this thing, then the world was really allowed to end. She could fight zombies all day long, but that was with her hair out of her eyes.
She'd started off out of her stepfather's house with a pack of 12 hair-ties in her backpack, left there from a trip to a supermarket weeks before. 6 had broken, 3 had plain been lost, 2 had been given away. 1 had just been buried with its owner (Lainey thought it might be poor taste to take that back, but the thought had definitely crossed her mind), and the other was wrapped around the hair of the girl sitting beside her, Lana.
If Lainey knew how to define it better, she would, but friend was the only word that came to mind when she looked at Lana. She'd been wandering alone for a while before she'd come across the other woman and found herself unable to stop talking to her, despite her survival instincts telling her not to. It had been a little over a year since she'd left that Costco she'd initially been camping out in for the first chunk of time in the Outbreak. It had only been a couple of months since she had nearly shot Lana, who'd wandered into a different Costco somewhere in Northern Colorado. They had spent a good amount of time just staring at each other before remembering that conversation was something that should probably be happening between 2 uninfected.
She cleared her throat, catching herself staring into the fire as memories floated through her head, "I don't think I would've liked Spam before."
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
Lana gave an inward sigh, it was the most sound she usually ever made. Quiet was safe. When it was quiet, you attracted no unwanted attention. When it was quiet, you could hear the shuffling and moaning that meant danger was coming. Quiet was better.
She passed a bowl to Sten and watched the jumbalaya she'd thrown together simmer in it. They'd long since lost any silverware and just ate with whatever was handy. In this case, it happened to be slivers of wood that had been carved out to be sort of primitive spoons.
Courtesy of the man who had just been buried. Lana didn't know his story, but his words rang in her head just as they did in Stennis'. A safe haven. In Boston?
She'd grown wary of big towns since the outbreak. They had more undead wandering around in unexpected places than Boulder had stoners, pre-outbreak of course. Looking at the rolling plains, Lana missed her mountainous homeland of Colorado.
She gave a small smile at the memory of almost being shot. Oddly enough, she was fond of Lainey and their startling meeting that had nearly taken off her head. Lainey could be a little trigger happy, but thankfully this had not been one of those times.
And the two women had grown close over time. Surviving together did that to people, she supposed. That, or it tore them apart. Still, she was certain that if it came right down to it, she and Lainey would have trouble abandoning one another in times of need. Which is how it should be, in Lana's opinion.
Just because the world was ending doesn't mean you had to lose your humanity.
She re-tied her hair back into the bun she'd grown used to wearing and stirred the food in her bowl one last time before eating. It wasn't her best, but it was hot and filling and, most importantly, used the last of their meat just before it went bad. They would have to re-stock soon.
So Stennis had been right to mention the mall. Lana sat quietly, composing a mental list of the supplies she wanted most.
Two Sides of One Coin
Connor turned his head to look as Stennis approached the camp before he looked away once more carelessly. He understood that the man was in pain after losing people close to him, but at the same time he wasn't going to lose sleep over it. Times were tough; they had all lost people they cared deeply for. Right now it was only the most adaptable that survived. He’d be lying if he said he didn't care for this new little... group he was in, but he’d also be lying if he said they were people he’d remember for the rest of his life, at least for now.
Then again he was the newest member of the group, what could he expect? He had only been with them for a few months and they hadn’t gotten off to the best start, mainly because he had found ways, advertently and inadvertently, to insult every single one of them. He looked to Lainey as she spoke but merely looked down. He wasn't afraid to voice his opinions, sure, but it didn’t mean he wasn't a quiet person. In all honesty, he didn't like spam. He thought it tasted foul. But complaining wouldn’t change the taste of the horrid meat.
In the end he intended to survive and he’d do whatever it took to do so, including eating horrid meat, and teaming up with complete strangers who didn't seem to fully understand the situation. His mind was still echoing with the words of the dying man, in his head he knew that, if he had spoken the truth; that was where his best chance of survival lay. However, another thing troubled him. If there indeed had been some kind of miracle salvation somewhere out there... why had he left?
Stennis ate the food, joked lightly with the others a bit and declared that it was a good idea to turn in early as they had a big day ahead of them. The others took the watches in turn.
He retired to his own small canvas tent, barely a bit of fabric to keep the rain off him as he supposedly slept.
He never slept anymore.
The voices of the dead kept him up. The faces of the lost, grim and unforgiving would not let him rest.
Eventually the sun rose and with it Stennis.
It only took about twenty minutes to break camp, they set off towards the mall area they had see in earlier scouting.
They trudged on for a few hours, reaching an area that looked like it had been a busy shopping area in the world before the walkers.
Stennis stepped onto the road, glancing between the packed cars for any of the undead that lurked.
His eyes drifted over the sedan he stood by and his blood briefly froze.
There was a woman in the driver seat looking at him.
No, not a woman, a walker who had turned while stuck in this traffic jam.
She struggled against the seatbelt, fingers brushing the windshield, the moaning doubtlessly emanating from her open jaws was lost due to the excellent soundproofing of the sedan.
Stennis gave a wry smile and pointed her out to his companions, gesturing with his ax.
"Keep an eye out for rolled down windows."
He hopped up onto the cars hood, surveying the area.
The packed road straightened and continued for about half a mile with shopping areas on both sides splitting at a T-junction where the multi story mall sat crouched like a fat Buddha of consumerism, a shrine to which the people had flocked to in droves before the Plague struck.
There were a few visible walkers shuffling around, Stennis did not want to be seen, once the moaning started all the others in the area would home in on it.
Just as he was about to jump down off the car he saw it.
An honest to goodness general store.
Thank God for Kansas.
Or whichever state they were in.
He could see that the windows, miraculously were intact; who knew what supplies there were inside?
Only problem was that there was about ten walkers milling about in front of it.
Maybe there is a back door?
He jumped off the car, crazy grin on his face.
He quickly described the situation and his idea to circle around behind the shops to break in.
"So, whaddya say?" He rubbed his hands together.
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
Lana crept along behind Stennis as quietly as was humanly possible. She didn't smile at the sight of the undead woman, instead taking the sight as a reminder of all the places one might find the undead. Usually, they were all the same places people frequented before the plague. It was only recently that they had begun to find undead in places where only survivors would have been.
Survivors being a past tense term in that particular case of course. Sometimes, Lana thought she might have a warped sense of humor now. Then she remembered that she'd always had a warped sense of humor. Paired with her study of engineering in a male dominated environment, she hadn't gotten along well with many people. She supposed that was part of the reason she wasn't so sad that so many people had died.
Sure, it was mildly depressing that the best conversation she had right now were three people who didn't seem to know anything about her chosen field, but hey. Variety was the spice of life or something like that.
Lana wasn't good at sentimental.
She slunk around the hardware store, keeping her movements slow and quiet, and made it past the undead with no problems. They had no intelligence and so long as they didn't sense you, it wasn't so hard to survive.
She found the door cracked open, the lock blown off by what looked like a shotgun blast. Well, someone else had either been in or been very desperate to get out.
Either way, Lana was put on edge by it. She toed open the door, hearing the slight creak that often accompanied door openings now that they'd gone two years without anyone servicing them.
Lana crept forward, loving the smell of hardware stores. The wood and metal and the sweat of people long past. Smalltown hardware stores smelled like home. "Looks safe."
At her voice, Lainey snuck in and turned a corner, running into a very small undead. A toddler, maybe 9 years old. With a slight strangled sound, she swung the crowbar she carried around in a downward arc, crushing the small skull with repeated hits until she stood, gasping slightly. "I thought you said it was clear?" Lainey hissed at Lana.
Lana shrugged. "I said it looked clear."
Eater of Breakfast Foods
"Glad we haven't lost our sense of humor." Lainey whispered, holding her crowbar over her shoulder and following the group into the store. Her eyes immediately began scanning for anything usable. Small weapons, camping supplies, ammo, and batteries. She hadn't come across good batteries in nearly a year, though. When the outbreak first started to spread and people realized what was going on, batteries were the first things to disappear, along with bottled water and toilet paper. God, how she missed toilet paper.
Ahead, the smell of rotten food, blood and who knows what else began to fill her nose and she scrunched it up in disgust. No matter how long she was around it, she never got used to it. Spending a majority of their time out in the woods away from it all definitely didn't help either and Lainey was almost glad they were running low on supplies so she didn't have much in her stomach to throw up, in case she did.
The store looked pretty much ransacked, but there was a small section of Kansas souvenirs, most of the glassware smashed already, but there were still a few keychains clinging to the racks. Apparently those didn't fall high on the list of priorities and Lainey smiled as she reached out, grabbed a keychain and sliding it off silently. She pocketed it and tossed a wink at Lana. Her state-themed keychain collection had only increased after the Outbreak. That had to be a positive, right?
Two Sides of One Coin
Connor followed on, eying the walker in the car. For a brief moment his eyes flashed with pity, before he quickly shook it away. There was no room for pity in this new world. Still, it felt wrong to leave it there like that. The least they could do was put it out of its suffering... or ‘make sure to protect themselves’. However none of the others seemed to care, and they were quick to abandon the car. When Stennis asked what they thought of going for the store, he was fairly quick to voice his opinion, as he usually was when it came to decisions.
“I think we’d be putting ourselves at a pretty big risk for what could potentially be another empty store.” There weren’t many stores that had much useful stuff in them these days. When the epidemic had begun most people had swamped the stores and taken what they could while they could. However, as usual, he was ignored. The girls were already making their way, Stennis close behind them. The boy sighed and rolled his eyes as he slowly climbed to his feet, following along. It was relatively dark inside however once they had gotten inside Connor immediately left them and made his way elsewhere.
He knew the store would be empty, but sometimes people forgot to check the storeroom. That wasn't to say that there were instances where they had, but failed to get in on account of it being locked. This, unfortunately, wasn't one of those cases. The storeroom door, like the back door, had the lock blown off and he sighed in frustration but decided to check anyway. He didn't hear the commotion with the child walker, so when he finally did return and the girls were splattered in blood and there was a dead kid on the floor he gave them both a look.
“Been... busy I see?” He stated, walking around the corpse. “I checked the storeroom, no luck. If it’s empty there won’t be anything useful in the rest of this place.” However, he knew the others wouldn’t leave until they had checked it out fully. And he didn't blame them. There was always a chance, however small, that there could be something good left behind here. So he sighed. “I’ll go outside and guard the door.” He said eventually, turning and heading back to the entrance. It was a nice day outside, all things considered. If it hadn’t been for the whole apocalypse thing he might have been out camping today.
Stennis stepped over the corpse, a year ago he would have been distraught at the sight of the twice dead kid but now he simply regarded it as an annoyance.
The thought came out of nowhere but Stennis had to suppress a mad snort of laughter.
There was nothing in the store. This was surprising, considering that the window front was completely unmarred.
He moved deeper into the store, there was gore and dried blood across the counter, he hopped over it, grabbing a few packages of asprin that were on shelf.
He was disappointed when Connor reported the state of the store room, was to be expected he supposed.
As Stennis rooted around the back of the store he noticed a door.
The door had been heavily fortified, the scratches on the floor spoke to the fact that it had been opened recently.
He walked up to the door and attempted to open it, it scraped along the floor.
Stennis looked up, momentarily confused by the tubes that hovered in front of his face.
His eyes focused on the man standing in the doorway, dressed in scavenger rags.
Stennis recognized the tubes.
Shotgun, sawn off, double barreled.
Day = Ruined.
The man was obviously malnourished, his hand shook, and there were bones on the floor that Stennis didn’t care to identify.
He man licked his lips and a grin began to spread, that was more than enough for Stennis.
He dodged his head to the side and swept his hand up, driving the gun against the wall.
There was a monstrous roar that deafened him as the buck shot shattered the doorjamb, sending ricochet and splinters into Stennis’ shoulder, a particularly jagged piece of wood digging into the flesh just below his eye.
There wasn’t time to raise the ax, so with a snarl he smashed the man in the face with the flat top of it.
The man’s nose exploded in a bloody crimson spray, the barrel of the gun slipped out of Stennis’ hand as the man staggered back, falling to the floor with a wail that Stennis couldn’t hear.
The gun swung in a slow arc towards his chest, second hammer cocked, the ax likewise swung but in a much faster arc.
The trusty steel parted the flesh easily, pushing the arm connected to the wall, the bone crunched and splintered as the blade continued when the arm met the sheetrock.
A good portion of the man’s forearm, along with the gun unwillingly left it’s lifelong master and flopped wetly to the linoleum floor.
The shotgun went off as the muscles convulsed in protest of their undesired liberation, scarring the floor and nearly claiming Stennis’ foot as a prize.
He wrenched the bloodied ax from the wall and raised it, back arching as the muscles and will aligned for the coming deed.
He could see, but not hear the man screaming, clutching his spurting and jagged stump.
He needn’t make such a fuss.
It wouldn’t hurt much longer.
The ax sprayed blood and gore across the ceiling and it was whipped downward.
It caught the man on the side of his face, digging deep, stopping when it shattered the collarbone.
With utter dispassion Stennis planted one foot on the man’s bloody chest and wrested his prized ax from the grasp of the meat.
He couldn’t hear hardly a thing but he knew from the look of dread on the face of the women that the walkers outside had heard.
Once one started moaning after prey the others were sure to follow.
“Wooo!” Stennis shouted, unaware that he looked positively savage covered in blood, ax in hand.
“Never choose door number one!” He said in that particularly loud voice of those who’d recently lost hearing.
He slid across the counter, took note of the walkers now clamoring at the window and jogged out the back, nearly bowling Conner over.
He looked down the wide alley behind the store just in time to see about ten or fifteen walkers shuffle round the corner back the way they had entered.
There was only one clear path.
Towards the mall.
Eater of Breakfast Foods
Hearing the commotion, Lainey rounded the corner just in time to see Stennis's arms coming down with the ax and instinctively grabbed for her crowbar. That shotgun blast was surely going to draw some attention and glanced over to see some walkers starting to try to climb through the glass window into the store.
"Shit..." She murmured, wincing inwardly as Stennis started yelling like a mad man, now readying her weapon in front of her and darting out the door behind him, shrugging lightly at Connor before catching the mob that was ambling towards them, picking up speed with each step.
"Come on!" Lainey yelled before taking off towards the mall, hoping to whatever powers that be there wouldn't be too many walkers between the street and the front entrance to the mall. Already, she raised her crowbar high above her head as she ran and almost grinned as a hobbling man rounded a corner at her, his eyes focusing on them and his arms raising in front of him to grab at her.
The crowbar came down, a sickening thud echoing in Lainey's ears. No matter how many times she did this, she never got used to that sound. She half-dragged the stunned creature with her as she kept running and began to yank the metal bar out of its skull, the curved part giving her difficulty. With a frustrated cry and half turning around, she shook the finally dead walker loose, watching it crumple to the ground as she turned back around, only to immediately bring her weapon down again on another one, the non-curved in catching this time and tossing the woman to the side.
Feeling like a bowling ball, she started to shove through the small crowd of zombies, jumping over the door frame of the long-smashed entrance to the mall, her eyes starting to adjust to the darkness from the sky-lit building.