This is #22 of Endangered and is titled A Game of What If?. It is part 10 of Volume 2 and was released in June 27. In a centric issue focused on Michael, the issue will show what exactly happened to him following Zoey's death, and will also show that there are more reasons besides Zoey's death for why James keeps Michael away from Sarah. The present day plot will involve Sarah going against her father, Haruka and Sandra trying to begin their infected research, Lisette's group arriving at the mall and the college group exploring the mall.
A Game of What If?Edit
It took long enough for it to happen. About five days maybe, but finally, and sadly, the battery finally runs out which results in the Ipod’s screen to slowly flash until it’s black. That’s it. No life in it anymore and now it’s just a useless piece of junk, but yet there is still something inside it and maybe if she can find a charger she can bring it back to life. But as of this moment it’s just a piece of trash. “Dang it.” Sarah sighs, taking off her headphones and tossing both them and the Ipod aside.
She had nothing to do now, and frankly, she had no idea. Can’t listen to music, can’t watch TV, can’t hang out with friends, and can’t do any sports. Actually if she looked around the mall maybe she could find some stuff to help her, maybe an Ipod charger. Because, let’s face it, she can’t survive without it.
Standing up on her feet and throwing on her hoodie, Sarah makes her way out of her tent and into the crowded mall, where she is automatically an outcast, like many others. She’s always been shy, no denying that, but in a place like this and a world like this she feels like even more of an outcast. Everyone around her seems to be able to handle themselves if they ever needed to but Sarah...she’s just a kid. She can only imagine what would happen if she ever was in the presences of infected...oh God, she’d probably faint. Don’t even get her started on the presence of a hostile human….she’s still in shock about what happened at her house with that dude.
Seeing how these thoughts are bothering her she just shakes them away and looks away the halls, wondering where to go. However, before she can even decide on which direction she is thrown into the presence of James, who walks over to the tent with that good ol’ James smile on his face. “Hey sweetie.”
“Hey Dad.” The two give each other a high-five. “Where you been?”
“Just checking the place out. Wanna make sure this place is secure, ya know?”
“You were convinced this place was safe and know you’re checking it out?” Sarah asks, before shaking her head with a smile. “You need to make up your mind.”
“Pfft, we both know that’s impossible for me.” Truth was James was convinced it was, but then he saw that leader, Walsh. He didn’t seem right to James, and instead of this big powerful leader he seemed more like someone trying to be that. James saw through the lie. That dude didn’t know what the hell he was doing and James ain’t taking orders from a dude like that. “So where you off too?”
“Just wanna take a look around.”
“Look around where?”
“The drug ring.” James doesn’t looked amused at her joke. “The mall, jeez.”
“Mind if I come with?”
“Didn’t...you just look around?”
“Yeah.” Sarah gives him a suspicious look. “But, I wanna go around with my little girl.”
“Thats the thing, I ain’t little, daddy. I can walk around by myself, I do it all the time.”
“Is it that bad that I wanna come with you?”
“It would take away mega popular points if I was seen walking around with my Dad.” Sarah tries to joke around with James, who is acting oftly serious today. But, like the previous attempt, his face is straight and not a single smile falters. “You feeling okay?”
“Sure?” James nods. “Because you seem extra...overprotective today. I mean, you’re always like that but today it’s just turned up a notch, if you get what I’m saying.” For some reason it’s now that James chuckles.
“Look, sorry for getting all up in your business. I just wanna make sure you’re safe.”
“Of course I’m safe, why wouldn’t I be?” Sarah asks, but then in that moment, she begins to realize what this is all about. Just yesterday he was fine with her going off on her own, until he found out that Michael was in the mall, who Sarah happened to bump into and had a drink with. James was making sure that she didn’t go anywhere near Michael, and upon figuring it out, she only sighs under her breath. She can’t believe that it’s all about Michael, when in reality, Sarah is old enough to decide when she wants to see him. “Is this really all about Michael?”
Just like that his heart sinks. James just wants to keep Sarah away from Michael unless he contacts James and asks to see her, but he had a suspicion that she might meet him behind the scenes. “Really, Dad? Really?”
“Look, Sarah, I’m just looking out for you.”
“I get that, but I ain’t ten anymore. I don’t need you saying who I can and can’t meet anymore.”
“You’re under eighteen which means legally you’re a kid, and you’re my kid. So I think I can control that.”
“Yes because all the ‘legal rules’ are still intact.” Sarah replies, and while there is no sarcasm in her voice, it is clear that. “And don’t use the whole ‘as long as you’re under my roof….’ thing either, because we aren’t under your roof, so..”
“Since when do you want to spend time with him?”
“Since…..yesterday, I guess. I don’t know he seemed different.” Sarah shrugs while James just shakes his head.
“I already spoke to Michael and I told him that…”
‘And he can only see me if he talks to you and give you all the deets.” Sarah finishes the sentence for him. “And, yes, I heard you two last night.”
“I get that I’m the most important person in life, but your only? You gotta stop worrying about me so much and actually get a life of your own.”
“Not this again…”
“Yes, this again. You gotta let go of Emily and--”
“Don’t you dare bring her name up!” James snaps, causing Sarah to be taken aback. James does get angry but rarely with her; Emily’s name must really stick a nail in him. “And don’t you dare change the subject. I am your father and if I wanna decide who you want to see and why, then I’m damn going too.”
“You raised me and dedicated yourself to me, and I love you for that, but I’m growing up! You gotta learn to start letting me go.”
“Don’t change the--”
“If I wanna see my Dad then I’m--”
“I’m your Dad! I’m the one who raised you, not him.”
“And it’s his blood in me.”
“He killed your mom!” James snaps at her, going as low to bring up the Zoey incident. “Then he ditched you for eight, eight goddamn years.” Those sentences force Sarah quiet, but not in the sad way. Instead Sarah stands there, angry with her dad for bringing those memory ups, and forms her hand into a fist, before releasing it. For the next few hard seconds the two just stare at each other, with neither having been in a fight like this. Sarah usually followed James’s rules, never going against them, but she’s been thinking. What has James done to keep her safe? He might have started that fight with Michael, and while she wasn’t sure about that, him trying to keep him away from her made it clear in her mind. He’s killed too, she can't forget that.
“You think I don’t know that? For years you always used that against me when we talk about Michael, but every time, you only use it to push me away from him. You never once asked me how I felt about that! Every time you bring it up you don’t care if it hurts me! You’re so wrapped up in this...anger against him that you don’t care if it hurts me!” Sarah lashes out on him, and for once, gets James to shut up. Sarah wasn’t done.
“So lemme ask you, do you even know what it was like for me?” She goes on. “One minute I was in their arms and the next they’re both gone! Then some random dude in a black suit tells me that my mom’s dead from my dad’s hands. It wasn’t grandpa or grandma, it wasn’t you, it was a random person! For eight years I had to go on like that, and not once, did anyone ask me how I was feeling. I was in so much pain, and then once Michael came back, you told me that he was a monster! Not for my safety but because you didn’t like him!” Sarah harshly says, letting go of the feelings she’s held for so long. James just stares aghast at her actions and for the first time in a long time he feels regret for his actions. So, in a gentle act, he reaches his arm out for Sarah but she pushes it away.
“Sarah…” James starts, trying to calm her down, but doesn’t know what to say next. She was right. Sarah, luckily, got back to her senses and took a deep breath; it was very unlike her to snap out.
Their conversation turned arguments dies for a minute until Sarah perks up. “I remember her. My Mom. I remember her soft brown eyes, her warm hugs, and the way she would sing to me….but I also remember Michael. He was so happy and loving, he always had a smile on his face. He loved her….he loved me. For years I only saw him as a screw-up, who took my mom from me, but guess what James, Zoey was a screw up too.”
“Don’t you dare say that about your mother.”
“And don’t you dare lie to me. Not anymore.” James looks away from his daughter. “What if Michael was the one that died that night? Would you act this way toward her?” James doesn’t reply once more.
“For years you always told me lies so I would stay away from Michael, but last night when I looked into his eyes, wanna know what I saw? I saw the same loving eyes from when I was a baby, but I also saw pain...so much pain. Did you ever stop and think what was going through his mind?” Sarah’s question lingers through the air but James refuses to allow it into his ears, much to the displeasure of Sarah. “If I can forgive him, then I think you have to too.” Sarah says before walking off, done with the conversation, while James remains standing there, wondering how that just happened.
Sitting on a random bench in the giant mall is Haruka, and just from taking one glance, is obviously different. Usually Haruka would be giggling in her own world, entertaining others, or even trying to adjust to this weird American culture, but today, she sits still. She’s silent like a fox, nervous like bride on her wedding day, and sad like that bitch from Titanic who pretty much let her boyfriend drown.
Haruka, who is in her own little world right now, sighs to herself and scratches her head, wondering what to do. She can’t believe it, she’s been postponing this for days. Why did this day have to come? Ugh, life must really hate her.
While the completely different Haruka is sulking, she fails to notice the figure that sits down next to her. It’s none other than Sandra, who puts on a smile (a weak smile, but nethertheless, a smile) and holds out a small box for Haruka, who fails to notice. “Hey.” Sandra softly says, to which Haruka snaps out of it and looks at her friend.
“Hi.” Haruka weakly says, before noticing the box Sandra has. “What’s in the box?”
“Open it.” Sandra encourages her, and although hesitant, Haruka takes the box from her hands and takes off the lid. Inside the box was a small object that made Haruka go still. It was a cupcake, a chocolate one to be exact. But, written with frosting on top of the cupcake, were the words ‘Happy Birthday’. It was Haruka’s birthday. The big day. October forteenth. The day she turns forty. “Happy birthday.”
Haruka doesn’t reply at first, instead just staring at the words. “I saw at some store and just thought it looked good. If you don’t like it--it’s cool.”
“No, no. It’s fine, really.” Haruka takes the small chocolate snack out of the box. “Thank you.”
Sandra’s reply is a mere nod and she watches as Haruka takes a bite of the delicious treat, which despite the circumstances give Haruka a satisfied smile. She hasn’t had any snacks like that in a while so it tasted like a small strip of heaven to her. However upon finishing it she found herself now back into reality where she is forced to deal with her birthday. “Usually someone’s a little happy on their birthday.” Sandra remarks. “You still down about forty?”
Haruka nods. “I feel so old. Ugh, I can already feel the wrinkles growing.”
“They’re just not showing yet.” Haruka sighs. “I thought I would have done something with my life by now. Solve mind-blowing cases, go down in history, have a family, and all that. Instead I’m a single woman who never had a serious boyfriend, and clearly haven’t gone down in history.”
Haruka waits a minute for Sandra to say something, but truth was, Sandra wasn’t the best when it came to this stuff. Heck, she was the kind of person who needed someone to talk to, not the other way around. She was a good listener, not a talker. Yes, she gave Haruka a slight word of advice yesterday, but that was barely a pep-talk. “My one friend told me the older I get the less I’ll be able to do. I mean I know it’s sorta true…..ugh, I just don’t want it to be. I used to be able to sneak through vents and seduce people, now I probably can’t do either. I think I was a year or two ago when he told me to start thinking about a desk job. I just can’t do that, I love being in the field. I--want to prove that I can still do stuff like that.” Haruka sighs, before looking over to Sandra, who was listening patiently. After that a brief silence sits between them.
“Dang, I’m a debby downer, huh?” Haruka restarts the conversation, something that Sandra chuckles lightly at. “Sorry about all that, just had to get it out there.”
“It’s fine.” Haruka smiles at her simple response. Whether Haruka likes it or not she’s forty now, so she should probably stop moping around.
“Alright, so forget forty, lets talk business.” Haruka turns the conversation over to business, no longer wanting to explain her problems of being forty. “We gotta talk to Walsh today.” Sandra nods. “So do we just go up to him or…” She leaves the or to dangle, as she had no idea what to do. Neither did Sandra, who just shrugs.
“Go up to him, I guess.”
“Great, great. I guess we’ll go find him in a few minutes.”
Making his way down the hall, Tate remained indifferent. He finally feels...free, he doesn’t really know the word to describe it. But after holding in those feelings of darkness and pain in for years they’re finally gone. He feels like a new man, but on the other hand, feels so empty. He doesn't blame himself for what happened to all his loved ones, but he can't help but think about the alternate outcomes. What if Destinee lived? He was going to have a child...and now he isn't.
Making his way down the hall he soon spots someone familiar walking down. It was Michael in the flesh, and Tate saw this as the perfect time to apologize for his little outburst last night. “Hey Michael.” Tate calls over, to which the man turns immediately toward Tate. Now most people wouldn’t look at Tate or would curse him out after the way Tate treated them, but Michael, goddamn Michael smiled lightly.
“Hey man. Is that a smile I see on your face?” Michael remarks friendly, to which Tate smirks a little bit wider. Upon approaching, Michael can obviously see a difference in Tate. Just last night he was a miserable young man who wanted to kill himself and possibly other people, but now he seemed relaxed. Yes, Michael can still see some sadness in him but he’s miles better. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, I just wanted to say--sorry for last night. I was a--”
“Relax.” Michael waves off the apology. “It was nothing.”
“Nothing? Dude, I was a complete asshole.”
“I said it’s fine.” Michael brushes it off once more out of the kindness of his heart. Michael isn’t one to hold grudges anymore and he’s been yelled at enough times, so it wasn’t a big deal to him. “So what happened to you?”
“Well…..it’s sort of a--long story.” Tate honestly wouldn’t know how to explain it. Imagine if he just said ‘Oh, you know, I saw ghost of my friends and family and they helped me pick myself back up’, or, ‘saw my dead fiance, made out with her and she encouraged me’.
“According to my ‘very busy schedule’, I got time.”
“Trust me, it’s that long.”
“Alright, whatever you say.” Michael smirks, backing off his case. “But it’s good to see that smile back on your face, no matter what happened.”
“Yeah, and I feel better, so yeah. It’s all good.”
“Yeah, sure looks it. Well, I’m gonna go look around so see ya later.” Michael says goodbye and turns around to leave, but as it turns out, Tate had a question. A big question even though it sounded so small.
“Michael, I got a question.” He calls after, to which Michael turns around.
“Did you like--see Zoey? I mean, after she died, like ghost, or visions. I don’t know how to put it.” Tate’s question sounds weird to most people, but to Michael, it sounded perfectly normal, especially coming from the man who almost went down his footsteps. Michael, in response, shakes his head.
“I didn’t...luckily. That probably would have killed me.” Michael looks down for a brief moment. “I saw her in my dreams, though, and no, they weren’t the good dreams. It was never that face of hers when she saw something artistic, or her horrible dance moves. It was always the same nightmare.” It was a true story. Whenever he would dream of Zoey it was always the car crash, that damn car crash. He was getting tired of remembering her, but it were the only dreams he had of her.
“Oh, sorry for bringing it up, man.”
“No, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” As Michael says that, he can’t help but think back. Yes, he wasn’t haunted by her ghost but he still was haunted in so many ways, and how he did so much bad shit after her death. He never really thought about it but he came a long way since her death, he was nowhere near perfect but he came far. “Just stay yourself and it won’t happen to you.”
Tate nods, but there was one question he was gonna feel bad for asking that he had to ask. “You keep telling me not to end up like you but you never told me what exactly you did.”
“What you mean?”
“Like, after her death. You keep saying that you did horrible stuff but you never exactly said what.” Tate’s question prompts Michael to look at him straight in the eyes.
“Stuff I regret to this day.” Is his only reply, but he could tell it wasn’t the answer Tate was looking for; if he wanted to help Tate and show him a good path then Tate would have to know Michael’s mistakes. “It’s a long story.”
“According to my ‘very busy schedule’, I got time.” Tate repeats Michael’s words from earlier, giving Michael a small smirk.
“Well, let’s find a place to sit first, shall we?”
The streets of Philadelphia were never the best place at night, especially for someone his age. Police sirens blasting, broken street lights, druggies on every corner, and he couldn’t even count how many prostitutes he passed. He was a young kid, an adult but young, and shouldn’t belong out here this late, but he had nowhere to go. Lucky for him he was intimidating looking with his muscles, dark hoodie with the hood up, and knuckles with dry blood on them. He looked like a mad-man, and most certainly he was.
Michael kept straight, only turning when he had too, while trying to find a place to sleep. He had no money, no family that cared for him, no friends, no anything really. Just the clothes on his back and his self-loathing. Maybe he shouldn’t of ran away but he couldn’t take it anymore. Everyone looked at him with looks of disappointment and anger, even his own daughter looked at him funny. He just...couldn’t stand the looks which made him feel worse about himself and he needed a fresh start. But where? He had no fucking clue.
While walking down the dark and empty streets, Michael heard a familiar sound nearby. It wasn’t the sound of gunshots, talking, or explosions. It was the sound of...young lovers. Not talking but young, dumbass lovers performing a certian activity. He could hear the moans and screams. Turning his head he saw as a young couple were just doing it in an alley with no care for the world. He just had her pressed up against a wall and was going at it. They couldn’t be older than 16, 17. It made him angry and this Michael already had so much rage in him, so he couldn’t control himself.
“Hey!” He shouts over, but his words don’t go through their systems. “Hey!” The young man, not taking his eyes off his prize, simply points the finger over before going back at it.
Without a fuck given Michael walks over and grabs the kid by the shoulder before yanking him out of the girl and into the wall behind him; the sudden yank causes the girl to scream while falling down onto the ground, making sure to cover herself. “Fuck me? Really? Fuck me?!” Michael screams at the kid who pulls his pants back up before swinging at Michael. Michael is quick to grab his hand and smash his elbow down into the middle of the kid’s arm, causing a snapping sound and the kid screams. Michael lets go of him. “You’re ruining your life! You’re young, don’t you fucking ruin it already.” Michael yells at him, but the kid doesn’t pay attention and gives it another go. Michael pushes him back up on the wall, where he gives a roundhouse kick into the kid’s testicles, and the girl, still on the ground, screams in horror.
“Shut up!” Michael screams at her before turning back to the kid, whom he gives a punch to the face. Followed up by another punch, then another. This kid’s nose was already bleeding. “You wanna listen now?” Michael asks like a monster, but the kid can’t even speak. Yes, he was being violent, but he was trying to help them. He didn’t want them getting pregnant at a young age.
Suddenly the girl punches Michael’s temple, and without hesitation, Michael turns around and punches her in the face, knocking her right on the ground. Seeing as how the kid’s learned their lesson Michael adjusts his jacket and walks off, leaving them to roll on the ground in their pain. Michael’s knuckles now has a new pair of blood on them.
“Bugger off mom!” Michael screams from the center of his room and listens as it echoes downstairs to his bitch of a mother. He awaits for her to scream back at him, but thank the Lord she doesn’t. She was the. Most. Annoying. Mom. Ever! He swears that if she wasn’t his Mom then he would have beat her ass a long time ago. She’s been giving him dirty looks ever since he was 13.
It’s been two days since Michael returned from…..that hell on earth. After the crash his parents sent him to this military school for nine fucking months. Apparently military school’s didn’t take too kindly to daft cow’s like himself. It was fucking hell. First they took his hair and then they took his dignity, but it did give him one thing in return: anger. No matter how much he tries all he can feel is anger, he feels like he could kill anyone in a heartbeat! Especially his mom, who's been giving him more shit since he returned. She looks down on him, he can see that fully well. She hated Zoey, calling her a slut, hated Sarah, and wanted nothing to do with her, and hated her son for being a fuck-up. The only reason Michael is staying with her right now is because the government needs him nearby due to the trial coming up soon.
Following Zoey’s death and Michael being sent away, Sarah’s custody was transferred to her uncle James Benjamin, a recent college graduate. Michael never knew if James liked him or not, but considering Michael got his sister killed, he probably hates Michael. It ain’t gonna be an easy court. The court would determine if Michael will get full custody of his daughter or if he would lose it. But Michael, this Michael, was a stubborn little bastard. He just assumed that he would get custody of her anyway, so he doesn’t bother making appeals, or even getting a lawyer.
Michael, as stubborn as he was, had some feelings behind his anger, however. He was filled with regret, so much regret. He was filled self-loathing. He was filled with loneliness, because everywhere he even glanced he saw people looking at him and judging him. But, last but not least, was love: although the only people he currently loved were Sarah and Zoey, even though Zoey was dead. Hell, he loves her so much that he wakes up some mornings expecting her to be next to him, before being reminded otherwise.
“Michael!” His mother shouted up once more, causing the young man to moan in anger.
“What do you want?!”
“Someone’s here to see you!” Usually no one good, or in other words no one Michael likes, comes to see him.
“Ugh. Who is it!”
“That nice young man James!” That was a lie. James was a thug, a very smart man, but a thug nethertheless. Despite that he knew when to be nice so he always got the trust of adults. Before Michael can tell him to go away, his mother shouts something nerve racking. “I’m sending him up!”
He groans before facing toward the door, where after a few seconds, James walks through. James was not the classy lawyer he is in the future, but was on the right track. He had shaggy blonde hair and an aftershave while wearing jeans and a button up white shirt. Upon entering James closes the door behind him and takes a seat in the chair across from Michael. “Help yourself.” Michael scoffs, although James thinks he’s joking so he smiles.
“Hello Michael. How you doing?” James speaks like a caring person, but Michael dismissed it. It had to be an act, so he didn’t respond, instead opting to look away from James. James sees this, and just sighs. “Mike, I just wanna talk.”
“Sure you do. Here to badger me about Sarah? Or to tell me off for Zoey?”
“Neither.” Truth was James was angry at Michael for her death, but his sympathy came more. He didn’t blame Michael for her death, because like it or not, Zoey would have done the same thing if she was driving. That and he knew how much Zoey loved him, so he’ll give him a chance. “Mike, I don’t blame you.”
“Yes you do.”
“Zoey was a screw up too, I ain’t afraid to admit it. That situation could have been the other way around.”
“But it wasn’t.” Michael reminds him.
“Look, I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to help you.”
“Sarah.” The one word made Michael freeze up like a snowman. This time he finally looks up at James.
“And why do you wanna help me with her?”
“A kid needs their father, I know that; and she misses you.”
“So...you’re just gonna give me full custody?” Michael asks, but James just shakes his head. Truth was in the past nine months he really grew close to Sarah, he was almost considering her as his own child. He has a hard time letting go.
“No. Not yet. I don’t wanna sound mean, but I think once you attend therapy sessions, and once I see you’re ready, we can talk about that.” James’s answer didn’t sit well with Michael, even though it was a perfectly good solution, since most people would lost complete custody. “I wanna try and help you get a few days a week.”
“You have custody of Sarah right now, right?” James nods. “Just you?”
“No, my girlfriend, Emily, helps out.”
“Well you two won’t have to worry about Sarah anymore. Because I’m gonna win that court case and I’m gonna get my daughter back.” Michael speaks confident, although the anger was obviously in his voice. He was gonna take take Sarah back from James; the response causes James to sigh.
“Michael, that is very unlikely.”
“It’s going to happen. I don’t need anyones damn help, especially yours.” Michael’s words were harsh and he meant every damn word.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“You think I can’t see through you? I know that this meeting is all just a game for you.”
“A game? Honestly, what kind of game would I be playing here?”
“You’re trying to get on my good side, so tomorrow I won’t expect you to fight hard for Sarah. I see right through your game, Jimmy, and I ain’t playin.” Michael really was cheeky toward James.
“Mike, listen to me. I want to help you.”
“The fuck you do.” For some reason Michael honestly thought James was against him. James just sighed. He grew up without his father so he definitely knows that kids need them.
“Mike, I don’t know why you’re mad at me, but--”
“Listen to me. I don’t know who you think you are, but you are not my friend. So do me a favor and get stuffed and go back to that whore--”
“Excuse me?” James interrupts him, letting go of the cool he had on him a few minutes ago. “Don’t bring Emily into this and don’t you dare call her a whore.”
“You’ll be saying different when you’ll find her sleeping with another dude.” Michael doesn’t even know this Emily but, being the asshole he is, he just wants to make low blows at James.
“Who the hell do you think you are? You think you’re tough because you can make low blows at me? I’m trying to help you.”
“Don’t bullshit me.” Michael leans forward so he can give the message to James more directly. “I’m fucking done with people bullshitting me, you get that? So you and your little ‘deal’ can show yourself out.” James’s friendly face soon turns into a glare of disgust at the young man he thought he could help. “And I’ll see you tomorrow when I get what’s mine.”
James, giving one last glare at Michael, stands up onto his feet. “You know I thought you were an okay kid.” James snickers at his old thought. “I tried helping you, but there is no helping you, is there?”
Michael puts on an asshole smile and flips off James. “You can say goodbye to Sarah, because you ain’t getting those rights tomorrow.”
“Love you too.” Michael teases as James walks out, shutting the door behind him, ending any kind of friendship that could have been formed between them.
Well, things certainly didn’t go as a planned, that’s for sure. It’s been two weeks since the case, and instead of winning like Michael kept bragging, he lost. Badly. Due to him denying a deal with James he went full-out, and he didn’t need a lawyer since, well, James was one. He got full-custody of Sarah and Michael was only allowed to see her every other weekend; under supervised visits.
Today happened to be one of those visits. Sitting in the living room of James’s home Michael was playing with Sarah in the middle of the room, while James was at work and the man supervising their visit watching from the next room. It was bullshit that he had to be supervised, but at least he got to see little Sarah. Right now the two were playing with Legos, one of Sarah’s favorite things. “And look at that, we made a ship.” Michael smiles at Sarah, who doesn’t smile like him. “Do you not like it?”
“No. I like it Daddy.” Sarah says with that innocent voice of hers.
“Good, because this is our best work.” He picks up the ship and plays with it, pretending that it’s sailing across the mighty blue seas of the Atlantic. Hell, he even begins making pirate noises, giving little Sarah a giggle. “Here, you try sweatie.”
Sarah takes the ship and plays with it on the carpet, having a little fun. This is Michael’s first time seeing her since….the day it happened. It started off great with Sarah jumping into her Daddy’s arms, but it’s been getting a little awkward. Michael was never the one who was best at playing, instead that position was taken up by Zoey. Michael could see something was wrong with Sarah, however, so he gently lowered his hand onto her shoulder “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”
“Honey, you don’t gotta be afraid to talk to me.” Michael smiles warmly. “Talk to me, baby.” He wanted her to talk to him but never did he expect the following question to hurt so much.
“Where’s mommy?” Michael felt like time just stopped around him, as Sarah’s big innocent eyes stared at him, expecting an answer.
“She is….on a trip.” Michael’s words sound truthful to the child Sarah but he refuses to look at her, his shame rising upward. “It’s gonna be a long trip.”
“Oh.” She’s obviously sad. “I miss her.”
“I do too.” Michael misses her more than his life. Most people in his life never understood him but Zoey saw the real him. She always see the good in him, even when Michael was a complete asshole; and the girl who always saw good in him died by his own bad hands.
Michael finally looks up at her, into her eyes, but freezes. Sarah had Zoey’s eyes, those big brown eyes. While looking into them for a moment, a brief moment, he thought he was looking into the eyes of Zoey. It was a touching moment for him but it stung like a wasp sting. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry!” Michael’s sudden scream caused him to fall on his back, and little Sarah to get scared. The supervisor quickly stood to his feet and watched as Michael began to cry; Sarah watched as her Dad began to ball on the ground like an animal. The supervisor simply took out his notepad and wrote it down, while Sarah got scared.
“Woah,” Anahi looks around in slight awe, “place is bigger than I thought.” Anahi, having only been in Philadelphia for a few months, never been to this mall. It was great to see people here too.
“You never been here?” Lisette asks. “I thought you been in the state for a few years?”
“Lived in Harrisburg.” Anahi replies. When she first arrived in the state she received her police training in Philadelphia, before moving to Harrisburg, before ultimately moving back to this hellhole.
The two, including the still silent and stubborn Daniel, just arrived at the mall. For once in the past few days they were safe, actually safe. They had food, water, and shelter….it was great. Currently the three were on their way to some main center where they’re scheduled to get tents, food and all that. As they turn down the hall the three feel a slight, but refreshing breeze hit them. “Oh my God is that air condition?” Anahi asks in excitement. “This place is amazing already.”
“Give me some good food and I’ll call this place heaven.” Lisette remarks with a smile, already loving how safe it is. But in that moment she noticed Daniel just lurking behind them with his head hanged down, trying not to make eye contact.
The moment they walked in Daniel took a look at the photos of the residents, most importantly their names. He recognized a few names like James Benjamin, whom Reck Thum was supposed to fucking murder (looks like Reck gone and fucked up), and Reyes Young, another man who was supposed to be dead but the hitman fucked up. Luckily the two never saw his face, and since he’s under the name of Daniel Valentine, he should be good. He’s just gotta keep a lookout on that wall to make sure no one else arrives that might know him.
He’s also hoping to meet this leader Jonathan Walsh soon. Maybe if Daniel becomes all buddy buddy with him then Walsh might give Daniel some power of the zone….and oh God does Daniel miss his power. “How do you like it, Dan?” Lisette asks him. Lisette didn’t have a mean bone in her body, and despite Daniel being a total jackass to Anahi and her both, she kept trying to be nice to him.
“I’ve seen better.” He shrugs, not even giving her the respect of looking at her while talking
“I bet you have.” Anahi mutters. Anahi is a nice person, wanting to be nice to everyone, but Daniel just got on her wrong end. Daniel, hearing it perfectly well, decides to ignore it and keep walking, tired of the constant bickering with her. Lucky for him he will never have to see her again.
“You have any goals?” Lisette asks him. “Anything you wanna make-up for?”
“Nope. Don’t got a single regret. And goals? Wait until this outbreak shit is over.”
“Really? No goals?”
“You’re really fucking persistent.”
“I’m just trying to have a conversation.”
“Then talk to blonde.”
“I wanna have one with you.”
“Well, sweet cheeks, that ain’t happening.” Daniel rejects her, much to her displeasure. Why can’t he just accept kindness for once? She didn’t know but it was certainly bothering her.
None of them had any more conversations until they reached the center, which was filled with plenty of supplies. It had almost everything in there. “Hello.” A woman at the counter greets. “Welcome to Franklin Mills.”
“Thank you.” Lisette thanks, making her way up to the woman, with Anahi and Daniel right behind her. “So is where we get supplies?”
The woman nods and walks over to the table where boxes of tents lay, some large and some small. “So are you guys all sharing a tent or…”
“No, no.” Anahi interrupts, “One for us two, and one for that.” She speaks nods toward the thing, Daniel, who smirks.
“What blonde said.” He adds, to which the hostess looks at them weirdly before taking out two tents, handing one to Lisette and the other to Daniel. The rest went pretty like that. The hostess gave them their supplies, Lisette was being the most mature and talking to the hostess, while Daniel and Anahi shoot insults at each other. In about five minutes it was all over and the hostess wished them good bye while the three exited into the hallway, ready to finally to relax.
“Alright, so...I guess we’ll go find a spot?” Lisette suggests outloud.
“I guess. I sorta wanna look around though.” Anahi says, and while Lisette and her go back and forth, Daniel interrupts one final time.
“Well, you girls have fun.” Daniel says, walking past them with with his tent. “I’m out.” He doesn’t even attempt to say a thanks, instead just walks by without a care.
“Wait, that’s it?” Lisette calls after him, and Daniel was nice enough to stop.
“You’re just gonna walk off?”
“Is there….anything you wanna say to us?” Lisette’s question hangs in the air, but Daniel doesn’t answer, even though the girls wait for an answer. Danie knows what they want, and it’s word he barely says anymore. A few seconds in and no response, Anahi rolls her eyes, as does Daniel.
“Ugh, fine. Thanks.” Daniel spits out, to which he groans before walking off for good this time, leaving the two girls who saved his life with an half-assed thanks. Lisette and Anahi watch him disappear in the ground, and it only takes five seconds before Anahi makes a insult.
“Dick.” She smirks, thinking Lisette would make an insult too, but she does the opposite.
“What? Not my fault he’s one.” Anahi shrugs while Lisette stays silent. “Why you so nice to him?”
“I don’t know. I just like to be nice to people.”
“Yeah but still….it seemed like you trusted him.”
“Nice doesn't’ mean trust.” Lisette counters. “I ain’t naive, I know people will ditch you for themselves. I said I like being nice to people, not trust.” Lisette makes a good point, and Anahi can’t help but smile slightly.
“You don’t have a mean bone in your body, do you?”
“Not that I know of.” Lisette takes a look around the mall. “Alright, wanna go set this thing up?”
Michael once more finds himself sitting on a random street of some random city--he thinks he may be in Richmond, Virginia--and ignores the heavy rain that is currently falling from the heavens above. Since he only wears a simple hood as cover, Michael is doused in water, but he doesn’t seem to care.
Sitting against the building with his head held downward in shame, Michael is an obvious lone wolf at the time. He’s been gone for maybe a year now, traveling from place-to-place in hopes of starting over, at least that’s what it was like when he began. Now, he just goes around taking out his anger on anyone he deems unworthy. In fact, judging from the bandages he has wrapped around his hands, it seems he does that often. He just has no other way to take out all the anger and pain he feels.
He isn’t doing so good anymore on the other hand. He obviously looks like a wreck with his long uncut hair, beard, bloodshot eyes with bags, and scratches scattered around his body. It’s been two days since he ate a decent meal, oh and he’s also been chased by cops a few times. His numerous beatings of people have dubbed him as a some sort of “Hooded Monster” who goes around beating people. Luckily, he never got caught yet.
After sitting there for a few minutes, with people just passing by and not caring about the young man left alone in the rain, Michael finally heard the sounds of another human being sitting down nearby, but he doesn’t bother to look over, instead staying in his own shell. That’s what he’s best at anyways, staying to himself.
Finally he looks to his right once he feels a pair of eyes watching him, and correct he was, as a little bit older man, maybe 24ish, was watching him. The man wore ragged clothing, wore sunglasses, had a beard and long hair, a bandanna, and sandals. “What?” Michael asks impatiently and angry, but the man doesn’t reply at first. “Yeah, you, Jesus.”
“What, man?” The man asks with a calm voice, almost soothing. He seemed legless.
“Why you staring at me?”
“Did I stutter?”
“You just...remind me of myself, man.”
“Really now? And what in what possible way is that?” Michael asks jokingly to this hippie like dude.
“You’re doing the same thing I did, man. Searching for purpose in this...crazy world.”
“I’m being for real here, man.” The hippie stands to his feet and walks over to Michael, stretching out his hand. “My name’s Rain. You know like the rain.”
“Cool.” Michael doesn’t shake his hand, and Rain just then plops down right next to him, which causes Michael to laugh in an insulting way. “You’re off your trolley.”
“Those bandages are to cover up your hands, right? Helps them when you’re attacking people, helps them not get scared, unlike your face.”
“I used to do the same thing, man. I ran away when I was eightteen because I wanted to start over man, find out who I really am, you know?” Rain asks, but Michael doesn’t reply. “I can see right through you. We’re both the same. We’re both trying to find ourselves.”
“We ain’t the same. Not even close.” Michael rejects him. “And how do I remind you of yourself?”
“Because I used to take the pain out on others too, man. But then….I found a better way to feel at...ease man.”
“Yep. You sure did.”
“Let me show you how, man. You’re life will become like….so much better, man.”
“I don’t think so.” Michael snickers. “And why exactly do you wanna help me, man.”
“I can’t just leave people like us out on the street. I gotta take them in and show them the right path, man.” Rain looks at Michael and can immediately tell that Michael doesn’t believe a word he’s saying. “You don’t believe me, man.”
“Hell no. I heard smarter things coming from a four year old, who doesn’t even speak english.” Rain nods and stands up onto his feet before extending his hand down to Michael, who would still rather sit in the rain then go with him.
“Come with me, man. Let me prove you wrong.” Rain asks but Michael still doesn’t take it. “What you got to lose? And do you really wanna stay here?”
Michael sighs, knowing he couldn’t just stay out here. Maybe if he goes with this due, finds a place to stay for the night, then tries whatever his thing is, he can just leave. Maybe with some decent food in his stomach?
Reluctantly Michael grips Rain’s hand, who in turn pulls Michael onto his feet. “You better not be fucking with me.” Michael mutters, to which Rain only laughs.
Guided by Rain to some random house, Michael began to doubt his choice. Yes, he was desperate for some food and a place to sleep, but to follow some random druggie? What the hell was he thinking? Hell, if anything, Rain seemed like a molester.
Rain guided him up the stairs and to the front door that had a simple “Welcome” message hanging from the door. “This is it, man.” Rain speaks to him, turning his head back toward him. “Ready to have your life changed forever, man?”
“Sure.” He shrugs, giving Rain a wide smile, before knocking on the door. At first there was complete silence, making Michael slightly uncomfortable, before a voice comes from the opposite side of the door.
“Who's there, man?” The voice speaks, causing Michael to groan. Another druggie like Rain. He turns and prepares to leave but Rain stops him by grabbing him by the arm
“It’s me, Rain.” Rain announces himself and the door swings open, where another man dressed similar to Rain stands. “I bought a friend, man.” Rain’s friend looks over at Michael, who keeps his head down, refusing to look at them.
However, unlike what he thought, nothing bad happens. Rain simply guides Michael inside the house while his friend shuts the door once more. Now the house was definitely not a normal house, by far it was not. Peace signs hung on the green walls, there were weird pictures, it smelled like pot and weed, and most importantly, there was a giant crowd of people there. They were partying, but not the kind of party Michael was used too. There were no flashing lights, dancing, slappers, or even loud music. Instead all that was replaced with people with guitars (not even electric, just normal), people talking normal, and calm environment, but still kept the drugs and some drinks.
“Why are people staring at me, funny?” He asks Rain, noticing how people are giving him glances, even glancing toward his feet.
“Oh yeah, I forgot, man, sorry. No shoes.”
“What?” Michael asks but his answer is confirmed when Rain slips off his sandals. “No shoes.” Rain repeats to him.
“I’m not taking off my shoes.”
“Man, just take off your shoes.” Rain pleads. Michael, while clearly annoyed, takes off his boots, muttering a few curses at it. Once off Rain and him put them in the ‘shoe area’, before making their way back to the main room. Once in the main room Michael takes a look around and notices that a decent amount of people are there. Most are sitting on the ground listening to some dude playing the guitar while singing a dumbass song, others are socializing, and others are taking drugs. “Excuse me, everyone.” Rain calls out. “Does everyone see this man here?” He puts his arm around Michael, who quickly pushes it off. “I found him on the street today--he’s like us. He’s trying to find his place in the world and he’s full of pain, like us. But, he thinks the only way to make himself feel….at ease, is with violence towards other living things. Shall we show him a better way?”
The crowd snaps and Rain is handed a vaporizer of marijuana, which he proudly hands to Michael. “Inhale it.”
“I’m not gonna take drugs. You crazy?”
“Man, it will help you, I promise.” Truth was drugs were the one thing that Michael never took. When he was eight his favorite aunt became a drug addict and died, and the incident in turn scared Michael into never taking them. He’s only about nineteen and he’s had alcohol, sex, had baby in teens, got someone killed, but never took drugs…..until that moment. With all the eyes on him expecting him to take it, Michael just gave in. What could go wrong? So he inhales the marijuana filled air, thinking nothing bad would happen. However, much to his surprise, the first whiff made him suddenly feel…..good. All that pain on the inside he was feeling just stopped and it felt fucking amazing, so without hesitation, Michael began to inhale more. He began to feel like he was in damn heaven soon enough.
Who knew that just smoking marijuana would get you so many friends? It’s been about an hour maybe but Michael already feels at home with these people. These strange group of people. Here Michael is, high on marijuana, just relaxing with a group of strangers. They go from talking to playing the guitar to taking more marijuana--it was damn great. He knew now why Rain said this would change his life, because in one whiff of a drug, all his pain is gone.
He was gonna find himself alright, but fuck all the stuff he was doing before, he’s gonna do it with Rain and his group.
“I’m starving, man.”
“Yeah, I am too.”
“What we got in the fridge?” Rain asks Michael, who sits in the passenger's seat next to him. Both men were obviously hippies from a first glance, especially Michael. Michael is no longer a angry young man but he’s now a man hooked on drugs for happiness. Marijuana he does daily, and he’s done crack and pot more than a few times.
Michael’s appearance here is similar to that of James McAvoy in X-Men: Days of Future Past. He has long hair and is bearded, but it goes beyond that too, with his clothing. Despite it being hot out Michael wears long clothes so he can hide his rashes, drug injections, and because the heat can hurt his now sensitive skin. His personality, on the other hand, isn’t that semi-respectful Michael in the future. Instead he’s this care free drug addict who claims he’s trying to find himself but is instead just separating himself from the world’s problems. “I don’t know.” He answers Rain’s earlier question.
“Go check.” Michael groans and stands up from the seat, making his way back toward the fridge. Currently the two were driving in Rain’s “hippie van”, which was pretty much an RV with it’s beds, couches, tables, TV, small kitchen, bathroom, and hidden closet for drugs, of course. The two were in the midst of driving toward Virginia, where there is this big get together that they just have to attend.
Arriving to the fridge Michael opens it up and scans through it. “Sweet fanny adams.” He calls back to Rain.
“It’s a british saying.”
“Speak english, man.”
“Fine. There’s nothing at all.”
“Damnit, man.” Rain sighs and searches the road for any places to stop at, hoping that his stomach doesn’t eat him apart until then. “I think I see a place up ahead, man”
Michael and Rain were now seated at one of the bar’s many booths, after being lucky enough to find this place--even luckier is that they managed to get a seat right away, and got their orders taken right away. Rain got a basic salad with iced tea, while Michael got a bacon cheeseburger with fries and a soda, it’s been forever since he had one.
However, the two are obviously getting some strange looks from people, considering the way they’re dressed, but they don’t bother, they’re used to it by now. Instead they just opt to relax and enjoy their meals, which they’re obviously doing. Rain was always into his salads, being a vegetarian of sorts, while Michael always enjoyed his burgers. “This is fucking amazing, man.” Michael moans, enjoying every bite, until he devoured the thing.
“You eat fast.”
“It’s a Philly thing. We eat faster than the Flash.” Michael shrugs before moving onto his fries, while Rain just shakes his head.
“You city peeps are weird, man.” Rain says in between eating his healthy salad. “You gotta be like me. Suburbs.”
“No thank you.” Michael says, but still feels eyes watching in him, so he turns around, but the moment he does it seems like everyone that was glancing at him looked away. He simply sighs, but instead of turning back to Rain, notices a very fit girl sitting up at the counter. He couldn’t see her face but he saw her long brown hair, leather jacket, short black shorts and tall leather boots Michael only saw her back side but she looked very fit; and she had a nice ass, for Michael’s taste. He hasn’t really flirted with girls since the accident, and hasn’t had the ol’ ‘Hows Your Father’ in forever. “Be right back.” Michael tells Rain before standing up and making his way over to the girl, where he sits down on the seat right next to her.
She had bright brown eyes, pretty face and a bandage on her forehead, but Michael saw something else about her. Yes, she was like him. Full of anger and on the run searching for her life. How did he know? Well because she had the same look and body language he did. “Hi there.”
“Fuck off.” She simply tells him before drinking her beer, but Michael doesn’t move, instead just staring at her. “Did I stutter?”
“No, actually. I heard it perfectly clear.”
“Then I’ll repeat myself. Fuck off.” Michael keeps staring at her. “Would you stop staring at me? If you’re here to ask me hot because you think I’m hot then the answer is no.”
“That’s not why I’m here at all.” The woman sighs, clearly annoyed with him.
“Then why are you here?”
“Because you remind me of myself.” Michael’s words sound funny to her and she laughs, similar to how he did with Rain a year back. “It sounds funny, don’t it?”
“I bet it does, Miss…., you know this would be easier with new each other’s names.” Michael extends his hand. “Michael Nicholson.”
“Zoe Snow.” She rolled her eyes but said her name nethertheless. Zoe. The same name as Zoey, minus the y of course. Still, her name caused him to freeze up for just a brief moment, and she notices that. “Does that name bother you?”
“No, no. It’s just a very beautiful name.” Michael puts on his smile, but his mind begins to think of the thought of him riding this girl. She reminds him of Zoey and...it just feels so good. Dirty thoughts began to come to his head with this girl. “So, Miss Snow, I bet you wish to know how we’re similar.”
“Yes, please. Enlighten me.”
“I used to be just like you.”
“Really? And what is that like?”
“You have a bad past and you’re scared to accept it, right? So you ran off to start over, but it’s just not that easy. You feel all this anger and pain inside and it’s just eating you up, so you just wanna take it out on others.” Snow doesn’t reply like an ass this time, instead she adjusts her seat awkwardly. So far the stuff Michael said was right. “That bandage on your head is to cover up an injury from fighting, no?”
Snow doesn’t reply, so Michael does for her. “We’re more similar than you know.”
“I’m guessing you did the same?” She finally asks, to which he nods. “Why’d you run?”
“I loved a girl, she loved me back. It was like happy relationship. But, I fucked up her life, and she died because of me. People looked at me like I was a disappointment and I couldn't take it anymore, so I ran.” Michael only tells part of it, leaving out Sarah, who he couldn’t bear to to talk about. “And you?”
“I...don’t really feel comfortable saying.” Snow says reluctant. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine. Don’t gotta be sorry.” Michael brushes it off. “The point is, though, I can help you.”
“And how’s that?”
“This violence and anger isn’t gonna help you, trust me, I know. There is a better way.” Michael proceeds to point over to Rain. “See that dude? His name’s Rain, he’s the one who helped me. Right now we’re traveling the country to become at peace with ourselves, and the world, and shit like that. You, should come with us.”
“Travel with two strange men? I’m good.”
“It’s not like that. Just...come. Let me show you.” Michael extends his hand to her. “What do you have to lose?”
“My dignity.” She thinks about the offer. “Why do you wanna help me?”
“I can’t leave people like us on their own. I gotta show them the right away.” Michael keeps his hand out. “Let me help you.” It takes her a moment of hesitation but Snow takes his hand, and he smiles. Truth was, that whole conversation, Michael just wanted to get in her pants and was acting as some wise dude. Michael was simply on the pull, desperately wanting to have it again, and now that she’s coming with them, he’s gonna get his way.
Michael stares down at Snow, unable to hide the look of excitement on his face. She, while excited, doesn’t seem to notice as her eyes are closed from it. Sweat forms on both of them but it doesn’t stop Michael from going to the best of his abilities on poor Snow. However, judging from Snow’s loud moans and screams, Michael only estimates that this amazing fun will only last for a few more minutes
Snow moans as Michael goes faster and gripped her thighs. “Mike….I can’t..”
“No, just a few more…” Michael could stay like this forever, wrapped inside her, but alas she was in pain and they had already reached climax, so he exited and collapsed back onto the bed, while Snow did the same, breathing heavily. They proceeded to just lay there in comfortable silence, neither of them bothering to get dressed.
It’s been three months since they met and Michael finally got what he wanted, but through his selfishness, he doesn’t realize what he turned Snow into. Snow was now like him. She was now addicted to drugs, drinking, and her fashion sense has went down a lot. Hell, he even convinced Snow that he loved her, but that wasn’t true at all. He loved her body but couldn’t give a fuck about her.
Snow, having got her breath back, moves over and rests her head on Michael’s shoulder, snuggling with him. “I love you.” She says happily, to which Michael turns toward her, and smiles.
“I love you too.” He lies, then to top it off, gives her a fake romantic kiss, when in reality, he was just thinking of the next time they’ll do this.
“I was such an bastard back then.” Michael speaks to Tate, having just finished telling him some of his story. “There were people out there honestly trying to help me, and I just pushed them away because…..fuck, I don’t even know why.” Michael sighs. “I just thought anger was the only way to feel good. Then damn Rain came along.”
“Hey, at least he sort of helped you, right? Got some of that anger away.”
“It never went away.” Michael corrects him. “Never. It was always there, I just began taking it out in different ways. Drugs, drinking, sex….it was only recently that I realized how much I probably ruined Snow’s life. And Rain’s.”
“Wait...wait...wait. You had sex with Rain?”
“What? No.” Tate’s thought gave him a small laugh. “Fuck no, dude was ugly. I sort of...fucked his fiance though.” Michael refuses to look at Tate. “Kid, this story gets worse, alright? If you wanna stop and leave it’s fine, just don’t look at me differently.”
“No, I wanna hear the rest. And, no, I ain’t gonna look at you differently.” Tate assures him, to which Michael nods, before rubbing his hands through his hair, wondering where to begin next.
Walsh makes his way down one of the mall’s many halls, a smile on his face as he greets people that walk past. It felt great to him, seeing as how he protects all these people from the dangers outside, and how in turn, they greet him with smiles and thanks. It was great to see people actually like him for once.
Turning down yet another hall, while adjusting his fancy shirt, Walsh turns to greet another pair of people, who just so happen to be Sandra and Haruka. “Good afternoon.” He greets, and plans to keep walking, but they stop him.
“Mr. Walsh, right?” Haruka asks, to which Walsh turns around and nods, stretching out his hand.
“Haruka.” She accepts his hand and shakes it. “Haruka Saito.”
“Lovely to meet you.” Walsh, being a gentleman, kisses her hand, causing Haruka to slightly giggle and blush, before he moves onto Sandra. Sandra, being the more shy girl that she is, is reluctant to accept it, but she soon enough does.
“Sandra Dufraine.” She weakly smiles, but nevertheless, Walsh plants a kiss on her hand.
“What a lovely name. Is it short for Cassandra?” He asks, to which Sandra nods. “Had a cousin with the same name. Truly lovely, as is the name Haruka. Japanese?”
“Yes sir. Born and raised there too.”
“Oh, very interesting. Now, is there anything I could help you girls with?”
“Yes, actually, Mr. Walsh.”
“Please, call me Jonathan.”
“Okay, Jonathan, we had a question.” Haruka speaks to which Walsh listens in intently.
“Well, you see, Sandra and me have been working on a case for some time now--”
“Case? Are you two police officers?”
“No, not even close.” Haruka giggles, lightening up the mood and trying to get Walsh to relax. “Ms. Dufraine’s a private investigator, and I’m just a simple reporter.”
“Ah, okay. Sorry go on.”
“Anyways, we’ve been working on a case about the infected.” Walsh’s smile begins to slip. “We been watching their movement, and well--”
“The infected?” They were truly horrifying creatures, especially to a man like Walsh. Lucky for him he never saw one in person and instead only had seen the images of them on TV. “Have you--studied them? I mean, as in, got your hands on them.”
“Well, actually, that’s pretty funny because that was our question. We wanted to--I don’t know how to put it, uh, bring infected into this fine mall and study them.”
“Absolutely not.” Walsh is taken aback by their question, seeing it as absurd. Who would deliberately bring those things into a safe location? Crazy folk according to his mindset. “That is a crazy question, may I add.”
“Actually it’s not that crazy if you really don’t think about it.”
“I have a good thing going here, ladies, in case you did not notice. I shield people from the dangers outside, not bring the dangers inside.”
“I mean, in our defense, they would be locked up tightly.” Walsh doesn’t the slightest convinced.
“Jonathan,” Sandra finally speaks up, thinking she can negotiate with him, “we can find a solution to this outbreak. If we just find out what this virus is exactly, then a solution should be easy. But, to do that, we need the infected themselves.”
“You aren’t going to do that here, however. Be my guest and set up a place outside the mall but here is off limits. Imagine what people would think of us--of me, if I allowed that to happen.”
“Jonathan--” Sandra tries to negotiate once more, but Jonathan waves her off. He could only imagine what people would say if they found out that he let people bring infected inside. They would lose their respect for him, talk bad about him….and no way can he let that happen. Unfortunately for him, Sandra and Haruka weren’t dumb and they both know how to get a feel for a person. Both girls look at each and other and could instantly tell they’re thinking the same thing: this guy is all about his reputation.
“Jonathan, listen to me.” Haruka steps back into the game. “Yes, it’s a risky bet, but you got to think of the outcome here. Lets say we find the solution to all this? Imagine what people would think of us then.”
“Yes, we. If you give us a place to work, you’re just as involved in it as we are.” Sandra assures him.
“Now, John, can I call you that?” Haruka asks, to which he nods. “If we all found this cure, you wouldn’t just be the savior to the people of this city. No, you--we--would be the saviors of the whole world.” Haruka smiles and pats his shoulder. “Now imagine that, John. The whole world claiming us as their saviors. Imagine it.”
Walsh takes their words to both heart and head, seriously thinking about this. The whole damn world looking up to him. The world. It sounded like a dream come true, he couldn’t even comprehend it. Oh the things his parents would say now. “So John, what do you say?”
“Would you keep them secure?”
“Very secure.” Haruka assures him, and Walsh nods.
“Alright,” Walsh takes out his keys and goes through them, “I can give you the basement, it should meet your expectations. But you keep this between us, no one else knows.”
“Of course.” Haruka and Sandra smile, and Walsh takes out the basement key, but doesn’t give it just yet.
“Bring it in at night, so no one sees you.”
“Okay.” Walsh hands them the key. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me, ladies. Just get the solution.” Walsh says, giving them both a nod as a farewell, before heading off, leaving the two to their business. Once gone, the two girls smile, accomplished after tricking this dude into helping them.
“Good job.” Sandra congrats Haruka. “Tricked him good.”
“Wrong. We got him good.” Haruka corrects her and raises her hand up in a high-five fashion, but Sandra doesn’t return it at first. “Come on girl, you know you want too.” Haruka shakes her hand, and Sandra soon gives her a light high five. “There we go.”
“Not gonna lie, this place is more boring than I thought.” Lara announces while laying down inside her tent, her hands behind her head. It’s noon ish and she still isn’t fully dressed, only wearing a tank-top and pajama shorts. Lara Drake was being her usual lazy self.
Across from her is Dre, who was listening to music in peace when Lara just woke up a few minutes ago Now, he sits there eating some Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, while keeping one earbud in still. “Don’t you think?” She asks, to which he shrugs.
“I don’t know. I guess.” He says while munching down on his chips, and the great smell of Doritos soon reach Lara, who moans and sits up, facing Dre.
“Gimme.” She reaches toward the chips, but is too lazy to move up and get them. Dre smirks.
“Since when do scrawny white girls eat Doritos?”
“Since when do black guys ask questions?”
“Racist bitch.” Dre smirks, before tossing over the chips, to which Lara catches instantly, opens them up, and starts munching down on them. They were amazing, definitely her favorite kind. “Oh my God. These are amazing.” She moans. “It’s like an orgasm--but in your mouth.”
“Yeah, you would know what that’s like.”
“Haha, fuck you too.” Lara flips him off with one hand while eating chips with the other. Dre laughs to himself, before taking out his Ipod and going through his songs again. “Whatcha listenin’ too?”
“Oooh, what song?”
“The Recipe.” Dre looks up to see the confusion in her face. “Never heard that one?”
“Don’t think so.”
“Yo, it’s like one of the best songs. Get over here.” Dre commands, and despite Lara’s total laziness, she gets up and takes a seat next to Dre, taking the Doritos with her. Dre then hands her an earbud. “Listen up.”
The two sit there for a few seconds, and once the song starts, Lara takes a liking to it. “Not bad.”
“I know.” Dre smiles. “Hand me the Doritos.” Lara hands puts the Doritos in the between them, and the two begin to eat them down while listening to them. Once the song was done Lara liked it. Kendrick Lamar was always one of her favorites, and Dre’s.
“I got a song.” Lara takes off the earbud and retrieves her Ipod from across the room, and puts Dre’s earbuds into them. “One of my favorite songs.” She scans through the Ipod.
“Who's it by?”
“Paramore. Song’s called Misery Buisness.” Lara says. “Alright, found it. Listen up.” The song soon plays, and while it wasn’t Dre’s type of music, he still liked it. Lara, on the other hand, loved it.
“Whoa, I never meant to brag.
But I got him where I want him now.
Whoa, it was never my intention to brag,
to steal it all away from you.” Lara sings to the song, forcing a laugh to come out of Dre.
“But God does it feel so good.
‘Cause I got him where I want him now.
And if you could then you know you would.
‘Cause God it just feels so…
It just feels so good.”
“Girl, you can’t sing.”
“Shut up. You probs can’t either.”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Alright, what you wanna bet?”
“I’ll bet….the rest of these Doritos.” Lara picks up the bag and waves it in the air. “Deal?”
“Deal.” Dre shakes Lara’s hands, and put his earbuds back into his Ipod. “Alright, I will sing….Thinkin Bout You by--”
“Frank Ocean. Yeah, I know it.”
“Alright here we go.” Dre coughs, then plays the song.
“A tornado flew around my room before you came
Excuse the mess it made, it usually doesn't rain
In Southern California, much like Arizona
My eyes don't shed tears, but, boy, they bawl”
Well fuck, turns out Dre can sing. Lara briefly remembers him singing back when she bumped into him at a club early in the year, but she doesn’t remember him being this good.
When I'm thinkin' 'bout you (ooh, no, no, no)
I've been thinkin' 'bout you (you know, know, know)
I've been thinkin' 'bout you
Do you think about me still?
Do ya, do ya?
Or do you not think so far ahead?
Cause I've been thinkin' 'bout forever
“Just take ‘em.” Lara stops him, already seeing how good he is. Dre smiles and takes them gladly from her.
“Thank you.” Dre begins to eat them, while Lara watches, certainly impressed.
“You’re pretty good. Did you take lessons or something?”
“Pops was into music, taught me how to play instruments and sing.”
“Well, he did a good job. So what instrument he play?”
“He liked a mixture of everything really, but he was best at piano.”
“Really? My Dad used to play that.”
“Oh, so you grew up in a music family too?”
“Nah, it was more of a hobby for him. He was more about education than any.”
“Education? You? I think I’m shocked.”
“Yeah, we don’t really mix. Which is exactly why I like music better. When I’m down and shit it just makes me feel good, I guess.”
“Same here. I remember one time I was just sitting there, all depressed and shit, and I just….started singing. I felt so happy after that.” Dre laughs a little bit. “I know it sounds stupid--”
“Doesn’t sound stupid at all.”
“Wanna know why pops used to say about music?”
“Pops used to tell me that life was like a song. In the beginning there is mystery, in the end there is confirmation, but it's in the middle where all the emotion resides to make the whole thing worthwhile.”
“Sounds about it right.”
“Yeah, he always had some good quotes.” Dre says, before leaning back more, listening to the song that’s currently on his Ipod with Lara, which he thinks is Violet Hill by Coldplay. It is then that he takes out another Dorito and hands it over to Lara. “I think you deserve one.”
Instead of using her hands to grab it, the lazy Lara just eats the Dorito from his fingers, before listening back to the music. “I feel like we had this same exact conversation before, and it ended with me losing fifteen bucks.”
“Probably did. I’ve had so many conversations with white girls that I lost count.”
“And, back to shut up phase.”
“Man, I love the beach.” Rain exclaims while laying back on his beach blanket, with a pretty blonde in his arms. The blonde wore a simple bikini with dark sunglasses to cover her mesmerizing gray eyes. This is Roz Crane, Rain’s fiance. He happily met Roz at a party with his stoner friends, where they fell in love within the moment they shared marijuana together. Yes, not gazing into each other eyes, or falling in love other time, the fell in love because they shared marijuana. A damn true american love story.
“Me too, man.” Michael says on his beach chair. Michael’s appearance only gotten worse. Yes, he finally got a haircut and went back to his short hair, but he lost all the muscle he gained from military camp, he is way skinner, and he is slower. But hey, look at the bright side, at least his skin is tanner.
Currently, Michael was the third-wheel. Snow, his “serious girlfriend” was at home sick and she told him to go have fun with Rain and Roz. Michael and Snow have been dating for about three years now, and while Snow takes the relationship very seriously and even wants to get married, Michael is still his playboy self. Sexual intercourse just filled the void that Michael felt in his heart, but he got bored of just having Snow, so he moved onto other girls over the past two years, behind Snow’s back. Of course with these other girls all he did was fuck them and move on, it was his own little code.
“Although I hate the ocean, man. Gives me the creeps.” Rain shrugs, and in Michael’s mind, it was pretty ironic. His name is Rain, rain is made of water, and he’s afraid to go swimming. “Why don’t you go swimming?” He asks Roz, who simply shrugs.
“I wanna get a tan.”
“We’re already tan.” Michael corrects her, and it was correct alright. All three were tanned great.
“I wanna get more tan.”
“Any more tan and you’ll be a oompa loompa, man.” Rain jokes. ‘Man’ was pretty much his catchphrase at this point, so male or female regardless, Rain would call you a man; it’s just how he rolls. Rain, closing his eyes, begins to just lay there in peace. He felt peaceful just laying down the beach since a kid, especially with a good friend and girlfriend. As he closed his eyes, Michael and Roz connected their eyes, and Michael winked.
“Well, I’m gonna go get some pizza on the boardwalk. You guys want any?”
“No.” Rain and Roz said together, to which Michael nods and makes his way toward the boardwalk. It was only a few minutes later when Roz spoke up. “Ugh, I really gotta go to the bathroom.”
“I think there’s a port-a-potty nearby.”
“Ew. I think I’ll go find a real bathroom” Roz says, exiting Rain’s embrace and heading off to the boardwalk to find a real bathroom.
“Fuck. Fuck! Oh my God.” Roz moans while being pressed up against the boardwalk’s pillar by Michael. “Oh fuck.”
The two were in the midst of going at it. Yes, going at it. They were fucking under the boardwalk, where almost no one can see them, since barely anyone goes under the boardwalk. Michael and Roz have been having sex for a few months now and neither seem to care about Rain or Snow. Rain was the man who helped Michael get rid of his anger but he just betrays him right away without caring, Snow was the girl who fell in love with him and he just doesn’t care. So right now, with her bikini bottoms down to her knees, Michael does her without a care.
“We don’t..have long.” She manages to say while wrapping her legs around Michael’s waist, who only grunts and goes in for another thrust.
“I don’t need long.” He grunts, causing poor Roz to yelp and grip his shoulders, as he only thrusts more. Harder and faster, harder and faster, until Roz is close to climax. They could do this forever, but suddenly, a voice calls out from nearby. An old voice for sure, but one that made Michael freeze up slightly.
“Michael?” The voice calls and Michael, still keeping his testicles inside Roz, turns around to see a little bit older man standing there. He had short blonde hair, blue bright eyes, a beard, and a slight build. He could tell who it was right away. James goddamn Benjamin. Michael curses under his breath. James just had to find Michael with his John Thomas up a girl’s fanny in public. Quickly Michael leaves Roz and covers his John Thomas, before turning around, putting on a smile. What he was best at.
“Jimmy boy!” Michael exclaims, while James notices Roz pull up her bikini shorts. “What brings you here?”
“What brings me to the beach in summer?”
“Why this beach though? I always thought you were an Ocean City guy?” Michael asks. Him and his group came to New Jersey, the state right next to Pennsylvania, and went to the Wildwood beach. Michael never even thought about bumping into James.
“No, I’ve always gone to Wildwood.”
“Well, ain’t that convenient?”
“I think a better question is why were you fucking a girl in the middle of public?”
“Pfft...we weren’t fucking. We were just…..hugging intensely.”
“Do you honestly think I’m that dumb?” James asks, to which Michael sighs. This is gonna turn hostile any moment and Michael knows this full well. James, completely shocked and angered to see Michael, notices how different his stature is as well. “Have you been taking drugs?”
“I don’t know. Have I?” Michael brings out his smart ass. “Let’s talk about you man. How you been?”
“Well, for one, you should be happy to know that Sarah is seven now.” The mere mention of Sarah causes Michael to lose his smart ass smile, and instead have it replaced by a look of sadness. He’s done his best to forgot about Sarah over the past few years. “Did you forget about your own daughter?”
“What? Of course not.”
“Ouch. Because she seems to have forgotten about you.” Michael’s heart just sank. “Yeah, she no longer mentions you. In fact, she just started calling me Dad recently. Can you believe that?”
“You’re…..not her dad.”
“Really? Sounds funny coming from you.” James counters. “It’s been five years, Michael. Five years and she hasn’t heard a word from you.”
“She cried herself to sleep some nights because you abandoned her.”
“Stop what? I’m just telling you what happened.”
“You ditched your daughter for...for what? Drugs and sluts?”
“Hey! Roz is not a slut. We happen to be in a very loving relationship?”
“Yeah, I could tell.”
“Look, is….is Sarah here?”
“You must be fucking high on drugs if you honestly think I’m gonna let you anywhere near her.” James laughs, before looking at Michael seriously for once. It’s a shame. James used to feel sorry for this dude, but now, he feels nothing at all. “It’s funny. I used to feel bad for you, honestly.”
“Now? Frankly, you can go fuck yourself.” Those are the last words James says to him before proceeding to walk away, not even giving Michael a formal goodbye. Michael wasn’t worth his time, he was worth no one’s time. Michael only watches him go without saying another word.
5 Years Ago, 2008
“Ah, I love good ol’ marijuana.” Michael moans while sitting up against the wall with his vaporizer sitting peacefully on his lap. Once again, Michael was high, judging from his red bloodshot eyes and pale skin; and once more he returned to the long hair look. “Makes me feel so…..calm.”
“You and me both.” Snow exclaims while sitting next to him, a cigarette in her hand. “I like Coke more though.”
“Cocaine? That shit’s good.”
“Fuck yeah.” Snow takes a smoke out of her weed filled cigarette, before taking a deep exhale and watching as the smoke goes in the air. “I’m in the mood for some now.”
“Eh, maybe later.”
“Hopefully.” Currently, the two were at a private bar, which Rain rented out for a private event. He invited all his “soul searcher” friends to join him and together they’re all doing drugs and drinks. Although, it’s weird because Rain hasn’t been seen for a while, neither has Roz. Probably went to go fuck, they did just get married a few months ago. And, considering this was a rare moment where Michael and Snow were alone, she wanted to talk. “You know, I’ve been wanting to talk.”
“Settling down.” Snow says, to which Michael groans and goes back to absorbing drugs. “I’m serious.”
“Why settle down, Zoey? Ask yourself that.”
“I wanna start a family.” The phrase that Michael never wanted to hear. Start a family. He in no way, shape or form wanted to start another family. He tried that once and it went downhill so he’d much rather live his life traveling the world than settle down. “Don’t you?”
“Not at all.”
“C’mon. Just imagine it. Living in a big house, holding an adorable little baby in your arms, and watching it grow. Don’t tell me you don’t want that.”
“I don’t.” His response makes Snow sigh. Yes, she loved her current life but is it bad that she wanted to settle down? “If this is about your old girlfriend…”
“Zoe!” Michael suddenly snaps, much to Snow’s surprise. “Don’t mention...her.”
“Sorry. I just thought...you would be over it by now.” Much to her surprise once more, Michael turns toward her, angry, and looks right into her yes.
“I will never be over that, hear me?” Snow nods. “So don’t bring it up.” After that an uncomfortable silence fall between the two, as Snow gives Michael looks of nervousness. Michael never snapped at her.
“Doesn’t mean we can’t try to start a family.”
“You can start a family all you want, but I ain’t going near one.” Michael turns back to his drugs in ignorance, and before Snow can respond, a piercing scream echoes through the bar, that gets Michael out of the conversation.
“Michael!” He can hear Rain yell, and Michael smiles, getting out of the family conversation. However, as he sees Rain approaching, he can see he is visibly angry. Confused at first he then sees Roz following him, crying, and pleading for him to stop. He puts the pieces together quickly and curses under his breath, standing up onto his feet just in case Rain attacks him.
“Hey, man.” Michael smiles, stretching out his hands in a bro-hug motion. “How you doing?”
“You son of a bitch!” Michael’s smile is erased by a punch in the face from Rain, knocking Michael up against the wall. Snow quickly screams in shock while Michael feels the bruise on his cheek.
“What the fuck?! Rain?!” Snow screams, while Rain doesn’t falter, looking at his best friend in anger. The scene of a fight is causing attention.
“Baby, just stop--”
“Shut up!” Rain yells at her, before turning back to Michael. “You fucked my wife!”
“Hey, let’s not throw accusations out.” Michael says, putting his hands up in a peace motion.
“She told me.” Rain simply says, and for a brief moment, Roz and Michael meet eyes. All Michael can think of is ‘that fucking bitch’, before turning back to Rain. However, next to Michael, Snow only looks in denial and shock. “So come on, tell me I’m wrong.”
Michael doesn’t reply. “Mikey,” Snow steps in, putting her hand around him, “tell him he’s wrong.” Michael still doesn’t reply, causing Snow to get a little teary eyed. “Mikey, tell him he’s wrong. Mikey--”
Michael finally looks over to Snow in the eyes and Snow can see that he can’t. So with a quick motion she slaps him across the face, echoing a loud snap sound across the room and a red mark left on his face. The next thing he knows Rain has him tackled up against the wall, punching his friend repeatedly in the stomach. Rain seems to think that he’s tougher but let’s not forget Michael went to military school. Quickly lifting his knee up in between Rain’s legs, Michael then gives a nice hard punch to the face, breaking free of his hold and getting out into the open. The crowd around them, minus Snow and Roz, cheer at the sight of a fight.
Rain makes the first move by attempting to rush Michael, but Michael duked him out and kicked his back, knocking Rain into the wall. “That’s right. Come at me, man.” Michael mocks his friend, and during his prideful mocks, Rain connects his fist into Michael’s stomach, then without remorse for his former friend, tosses him onto one of the tables. Michael lands sharply on his back and rolls off the table, while Rain makes his way back over.
Michael tries to get up and tackle him but Rain kicks him dead in the face, knocking Michael back on his ass. He quickly kicks Rain’s knee before springing back up and pushing Rain into the bar. “I tried to...help you.” Rain says with anger, but Michael doesn’t say anything back. The life he had for the past six years is falling apart and he doesn’t care, and why? Because he wanted to fuck a girl.
Both high men just glare at each other for a moment, before Rain tosses a beet bottle at Michael, shattering it all over his head. The glass and beer fly everywhere, distracting him for a brief second, before Rain tackles his friend to the ground. Rain gets a few punches in before Michael headbutts him, knocking Rain off him, and getting onto his feet. With Rain on the ground Michael kicks him in the stomach, before grabbing him by the arm and yanking him up. Rain, not giving up, tries to punch Michel, but he quickly smashes his elbow down into the middle of Rain’s arm, causing a snapping sound to echo across the room. Rain screams, but Michael quickly puts his friend into a chokehold, and with all his power, begins to press back.
Rain tries whacking Michael but Michael keeps his pressure onto his neck, seriously choking his friend to death. He was just in the moment and he just keeps choking, that is until Snow runs over. “Michael!” She yells, but her words don’t seem to phase him. “Michael stop it!” She tries to pull Michael off, and in the heat of the moment, he quickly turns and punches Snow in the face, knocking Snow back into the wall. This seems to be the moment Michael comes to his senses because the crowd goes silent, and Michael releases Rain from his punishment.
For a moment Michael stands there for a second, looking at the damage done. Rain was on the ground, still trying to regain his breath, and Snow was across the room covering her bruised eye. Taking a deep breath Michael looks around once more, and sees the looks people are giving them. Looks of disappointment, anger, fear. The looks. The damn looks, the same looks he used to get after the crash. He couldn’t take it anymore.
“Stop staring at me!” Michael screams at them, and in the next second, he makes a book out the door. He just lost all his friends, and once again, ruined yet another life.
Michael can feel the wind blow through his hair as he stands on the edge of the bridge, looking down into the blue, dark ocean below. It was a beautiful sight for such an unbeautiful situation. He thought about jumping in those seconds, down into the waters of man. It would be painless. Then afterwards….he doesn’t know, but it would be better than alive. He screwed up his life and there was no unscrewing it.
Michael was high, sad, angry, and many more emotions. He couldn’t take it anymore. The looks people gave him were disgusting. With one simple jump he’ll no longer get those looks. He’d be free. So, without hesitation, Michael takes one foot off the bridge and is about to walk off, when out of nowhere he can feel a pair of arms surround him and yank him off the edge and onto the sidewalk of the bridge, where Michael hits the ground with a thump.
Michael coughs, before looking up to his savior. It was an older man with gray shaggy hair and a beard to go with it, along with shaggy clothes and a beanie. The man was definitely homeless, and at the moment, he looked angry at Michael. “What the hell are you doing?” He asks, to which Michael simply looks away. “Well? You think jumping off a bridge is gonna solve your problems? Kid, that ain’t gonna solve shit.”
“Hey, you don’t know me. You don’t know what I’ve been through.”
“I don’t need to know you to know you’re a dumbass.” The homeless man snaps back.
“You don’t know me!” Michael yells, refusing to get up still.
“Shut up.” The old man quickly tells him. “Listen to me, kid. You may have it hard but what’s jumping off a bridge gonna do for ya? Nothing, because you’ll be dead.”
“You think I care about being dead? My life sucks, gramps. Life fuckin’ hates me!”
“Because you made it hate you.” The homeless man tells him, and in a quick motion, he grabs Michael by the arm and pulls him up. “Listen up, kid. Life isn’t a person, get that? You make your life, not some damn force shit. It’s only been a minute and I already know you. You’re a damn selfish kid who takes life and the people around him for granted. Then it finally bit you in the butt and you’re to scared to accept the facts. You wanna know why life hates you? Because you made it hate you.”
Michael, knowing this random stranger is right, looks down in shame, while he goes on. “You want ‘life’ to like you? Man up and face the facts. You ruined your own life, so do yourself a favor, go fix it.”
“And how do you suppose I do that?”
“How do you expect me to know? Do that yourself, kid. Just go out there and fix it. Now go!” The homeless man pushes Michael toward the bridge’s exit, without allowing Michael to say goodbye. The old man barely said anything to Michael, but those words would follow Michael for the rest of his life. Who knew a simple strange could give Michael the facts. What that man said was the truth: Michael's been too scared to accept reality so he ran from it, but now, he's gotta fix it. It's the thing he has to do.
But now comes the hard part. How is he gonna fix his life?
“And that’s all you need to know.” Michael finishes telling his story, slightly teary eyed from the ending. He still remembers all of it like it was just yesterday. “After that I just began picking up the pieces. Went home and tried rebuilding my relationship with Sarah.”
Tate sits across from him at the table, getting a sense of why Michael didn’t want Tate to end up like him. “Did you--ever see Rain or Snow again?”
“Can’t say that I have.” Michael sighs. “They had their problems, but in the end they were good people, and I ruined their lives. I hope they’re okay.” Michael admits truthfully. He honestly hopes they had good lives after that. “I hope Snow started that family, and for Rain..hope he found a better wife.”
There is a brief moment of silence between the two, before Michael stats back up. “Tate, I hope you know now why I didn’t want you turning out like me. I….I ruined other people’s lives just to feel good about myself. Hell, for the longest time afterwards I still kept banging random girls. To be honest here, I wouldn’t be shocked if I had other kids out there….growing up without a dad.”
“Hey, don’t treat yourself like that.” Tate pats Michael on the shoulder. “You’re a different man now.”
“I’d like to believe that. Yeah, I don’t do drugs or drink but that I still fucked up other people’s lives.”
“At least you know what you did was wrong.”
“And I still did it anyways.” Michael corrects him. “Thanks for trying to cheer me up, but man, it don’t change shit.”
“Michael, you’re a good man.” Tate’s simple words make Michael smile, but he doesn’t believe it.
“I’m glad you think so.” Michael rubs his eyes slightly, wiping away the slight tears. “Tate, I’m a bad man, ain’t gonna lie. You, on the other hand, are nowhere near that. You can still move on with your life. So, my advice to you is move on, and live your life while you still can.” Once more Michael and Tate sit there in silence, but it isn’t an uncomfortable one.
“Thank you.” Tate finally says. “For the advice, and the story.”
“Yeah, anytime man.” Michael says, before standing abruptly to his feet. “Well, I’m gonna find a place to get some lunch or something. Wanna tag along?”
“Nah, I’m beat. Think I can use some rest.”
“Alright, well uh, see ya around.”
“You too man.” Tate stands and the two share an high-five, before Tate heads off to rest, while Michael heads off to find some food. He’s starving.
Walking around the mall alone, Ethan can’t help but feel like an outcast. He walks around alone with his head down for the most part, because honestly, he doesn’t know what to do with his life. His whole life was always simple for him, like it was written out for him. Get up, go to work, go home to wife, sleep. That’s pretty much all it was, minus days off or special occasions. Well now he doesn’t have a job, a home, or wife. It’s just him alone. What’s he supposed to do here? Just walk around endlessly full of bored until he dies. Hell, if he knew stuff would turn out like this, he would have appreciated his past days.
Making his way once again down an empty hallway, Ethan can’t help but notice a stay backdoor. It was just there, and while glancing at it, Ethan feels the box of cigarettes in his pockets. Well, since there are no designated smoking areas, a trip outside could do some good. Making his way over Ethan soon exits the mall’s safety and enters the parking lot, where he leans back up against the wall, and takes out his good ol’ lighter and cigarettes. Just like that he lights one up and takes a good smoke.
It was just that, a simple smoking of a cigarette, that made the world seem right to Ethan for just a moment. Just leaning across the wall, looking out into the distance and taking a nice smoke. It felt normal. So blowing his smoke into the air, Ethan smirks a little bit.
Taking a look to his left he can't help a snake just going about it's way, making a quick stare back at Ethan while doing so. "Freaky ass snake." Ethan mutters to himself, his smirk going a little wider.
That smirk quickly goes away though, because out in the distance, he sees a group of people walking over. But of fucking course they weren’t people, they were a group of infected, limping their way toward the mall, thus toward Ethan. Now most people would run away screaming, but Ethan wasn’t most people. Taking out infected felt great to him, so quickly putting out his cigarette, Ethan picked up the stray beer bottle off the ground and hit it against the wall, forming himself a short blade. With the small piece of blade Ethan walks off toward the infected and makes the first move. He swings the piece of glass into the nearest one’s neck, killing it on impact, and gives the next closest one a kick to the stomach, knocking it over. Holding his bloody piece of glass he then proceeds to kill the third one, and the one he knocked on the ground. Took out three infected in only ten seconds.
However it seems there are more than just three because Ethan heard their familiar screams echoing through the area, and cranking his head, sees a group running over. He curses, but doesn’t back down the fight.
Then just in that moment another man walks up next to him, with nothing but a mere pocket knife. It was none other than James Benjamin, who simply looks at Ethan and smiles. “Need some help?” He asks with a smirk, to which Ethan only grunts.
“Lets see what you got, kid.” Are the only words Ethan says before getting ready for the infected. They reach the two in a mere seconds, where the two men attack. Ethan strikes with his glass knife while James with his pocket knife, stabbing the infected in the neck and the head respectively. With their stabbing, punching, and kicking they managed to take down the small group of infected like it was nothing.
Once done the two just stood there for a second, breathing and wiping the sweat from their foreheads. “Nice job, kid.” Ethan remarks. “You’re stronger than you look.”
“I could say the same to you, old man.” James says, wiping the blood from his knife, before extending his hand. “James Benjamin.”
“Ethan. Ethan Brash.” He shakes it back. “Thanks for the help.”
“Yeah, was just walking by and saw them out the door. Couldn’t just let someone take those things head one right? Besides, feels good killing them.”
“Least I ain’t the only one who thinks so. Most of the people in there are too afraid to even talk about them.”
“You certainly got that right. It’s a shame too, only a few people willing to fight them, and this mall ain’t exactly security tight.” James speaks the truth. Besides walls and locked doors this mall got no security at all. All weapons are with Walsh, and he too chicken shit to give them out or use them.
“Not at all. Pretty sure if a big group of those things passed by here we’d all be fucked.”
“Sadly it’s true. This Walsh dude can’t lead this place for shit. He’s gonna run it into the ground if he goes on like this.”
“Truth spoken, Mr. Benjamin.” Ethan thinks to himself. He’s a former detective so he would make a hell of a security guy. Maybe he could talk to Walsh? Hell, it would give him something to do. “I wanna have a chat with this Walsh dude soon, talk about security.”
“Yeah, seems like the smartest thing.” James rubs some sweat from his forehead. “So what were yo doing out here anyway?"
Ethan lifts up his box of smokes. "Blowing off some stream. Want one?"
James shakes his head. "Don't smoke."
"Good for you." Ethan smirks while lighting himself another. "They're bad for you."
"Says the dude whose smoking."
"Force of habit." Ethan shrugs, while exhaling the smoke. "So what were you doing around?"
"Just walking around, trying to put my head around things." James shrugs. "Daughter's a young teenager, you know how it is."
"Better keep an eye on her."
"Oh, I am."
"So you get into a fight or something? Lemme guess, she wanted new shoes." James laughs lightly.
"Nah, I wish. She--she thinks I'm being an asshole."
"Well are you?"
"Don't think so. She was pretty much saying I'm giving people hell. I never gave anyone hell, I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."
"That's what I like to hear."
"Yeah," James pats some blood off his jacket, "well I’m gonna head in. Nice meeting you, Ethan.”
“Same here, Benjamin.” Ethan gives the man a handshake goodbye, before going back to finish his cigarette.
Vicky makes her way down the halls going about on her Iphone, trying to act like it was the good ol’ days where she would walk around the mall. Being the curious girl she was she often looked around at the people walking by, curious of to who they are, and tried getting reads on them. Just who she was.
However, while looking around, she couldn’t help but notice a young girl sitting on one of the benches, visibly depressed. She looked oftly familiar to Vicky, who moved up closer to get a closer look at her. Latina skin, ginger hair, about fifteen. Vicky instantly recognized her as the girl she met on the SEPTA bus sometime ago--Sarah Benjamin. “Yo, Sarah.” Vicky calls out, instantly taking a casual seat next to the girl, while raising her hand in a high five motion. Sarah, however, gives her a look of confusion.
“Do...I know you?”
“It’s me. Vicky Cummings. Name ring a bell?” Sarah still looks confused. “Septa bus, I saved your ass.”
“Oh, yeah. I remember you now.”
“Took you long enough.” Vicky cracks, and Sarah gives her a light highfive. “Glad to see you survived this….thing.”
“Same with you. How’d you get here?”
“Got here with some friends. You?”
“Dad and a few other people.” Sarah shrugs, but while shrugging, Vicky gets a better look at her. She noticed that she was sad but it looked like she was about to cry.
“Hey, what’s wrong?”
“C’mon, don’t play dumb with me. You’re upset. Talk to Doctor Cummings.” Sarah laughs lightly, before rubbing her head. She remember Vicky gave her some good advice before, so why not talk to her?
“I’m sort of...stuck in a position where I gotta pick between two men--”
“Time out, stop the bus. You got two men up your sleeve even with all this going on?”
“What? No. I meant my Dad and adoptive Dad.”
“Ooh. Choosing between parents, ouch.”
“Yeah, I know.” Sarah sighs. “I’ve been with my adoptive Dad, James, my whole life pretty much. He raised me, but he’s just...bad at letting go, especially when it comes to me. My real Dad has screwed up his whole life, but he’s trying to pick up the pieces now. They hate each other, they both wanna hang out with me. I mean, I love James, but I got a soft spot for my Dad.” She groans. “I’m just afraid I’m gonna have to end up picking between them, you know?”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. It sucks choosing between anything, really, because no matter which one you choose someone’s gonna get hurt.” Vicky thinks about Sarah’s situation for a second. “I got something similar going on. My one friend wants to travel around the country but I...don’t know if I want too. If I don’t go I know I’ll hurt her, but if I do go, I won’t like it. Know what I’m saying?”
“Yep. Decisions suck.”
“Fuck yes.” Vicky smirks. “Look, I don’t know about my situation, but here’s some advice for you. Don’t worry about choosing. Hang out with both, give them both a chance, and don’t let them make you choose. If you want both in your life than you have both in your life.” Vicky nudges Sarah in the arm. “Sound good?”
“Yeah, sounds good.”
“Good. Now I gotta get going, but I’ll see you around, and I mean it this time. Alright, girl?”
“Alight, girl. Sounds good.” Sarah smiles, giving Vicky one last high-five, before Vicky leaves, leaving Sarah to think about her words.
Sitting down in one of the many empty booths at some random pizza shop, Michael just munches lonely on one of his pizza slices. Due to the lack of supplies he only got two pieces of pepperoni pizza, but fresh and hot pizza nethertheless. While he was only on the first pizza, it was just so great. He wouldn’t give this pizza up for anyone. Anyone.
As he munches down, however, he notices Sarah come in with a smile, even taking a seat across from him. Caught with both cheese and sauce in his mouth Michael can’t say anything, so Sarah starts. “Hey.” She smiles, also noticing the second piece of pizza. “May I?”
“Yeah, yeah. Help yourself.” Michael smiles, to which Sarah takes the piece and begins to eat it, and she instantly moans. It was amazing. “Good, huh?”
“Good? This pizza’s great.”
“I know right.” Michael smiles, before getting back on track. “So what brings you down here?”
“I wanted to talk with you. Is that a problem?”
“Of course not. But--does James know or…”
“No.” His heart drops. Hopefully James don’t spot them. “But if I wanna talk with you, I’m gonna talk with you. I don’t need his permission. Besides, what’s he gonna do?”
“Honey, I think you’re underestimating James.” Michael smirks, and Sarah soon follows.
“Probably, but I do wanna talk with you.”
“Alright then.” Michael leans forward as Sarah finishes her pizza. “Let’s talk.”
“I just...wanted to say, that I’m sorry.”
“I haven’t been treating you right, for a while, so--”
“Hey, you don’t gotta be sorry for that at all. Trust me, I think I deserve it.”
“No, Michael, you don’t.” She knew fully well that Michael was prepared to argue with him on that, but she had to get her point through. “You didn’t just keep running. You came back to try and fix your wrongs, that was a great thing. But James and me--we treated you like crap.”
“I deserved it, Sarah.”
“No you didn’t, Dad, get that through. You’re a man who came to fix his wrongs, and I was saying, that makes a good man in my eyes. But the one problem you always had was you never had hope and I saw that in you yesterday. It’s nothing I never saw in you before.” Sarah explains. “And that told me what I needed to know.”
“And what did you need to know?”
“That you changed. You’ve been trying to prove to me that you changed, and I just wouldn’t listen. But this outbreak or apocalypse or whatever this is gave people second chances at life. You found me and I believe that’s a sign. Dad, I’m willing to list now, alright? This thing can be our second chance at...fixing our relationship. You and me, dad and daughter.” Michael smiles at this conversation. “I wanna hang out with you more.” Before Michael cans say anything, however, Sarah has more stuff to say. “But there’s one thing we gotta stop.”
“And what’s that?”
“We...we gotta put mom behind us.” This is where Michael’s smile fades. Sarah and him never really talked about Zoey. “You keep thinking ‘what if Zoey survived’, and I know because I do the same. We both may not want to admit it but mom’s dead and she’s never coming back.”
“Because of me.”
“Stop with that, alright? Yes, she’s dead, but if she heard you talking like that I know for a fact she would smack you.”
“She doesn’t want this between us, I know that. She would love more than anything for us to move on and fix our relationship, but first we need to move on, Dad. We gotta stop this game of ‘what if’ and accept that she died and there are no ‘what if she survived’. It’s time for us to move on, and I’m ready too.” Sarah grabs Michael’s hands. “Are you?”
It was a hard question for him, because honestly, he doesn’t think he can ever get that weight off his shoulders. But now, looking into his daughter’s eyes, he thinks that maybe he should at least try. So, biting his lip slightly, he finally says the words he thought he would never say. “I don’t know if I can, but I’ll try.”
It wasn’t a yes, not by any means, but it was a good enough answer for Sarah. They can finally repair the relationship between them, and Sarah smiles at Michael. “I...I love you, Dad.” It’s like a burst of heaven just shined on Michael. He...he never once heard Sarah say that she loved him. Never. So those words, those little words, cause Michael to smile more wide than he ever has, and he tears up slightly. His daughter loves him.
“I love you too Sarah.” Michael sniffles. “I always did, and honey, I always will.”