This is #25 of Endangered and is titled It's Not a Small Word After-All. It is the premier issue of Volume 3 and was released January 13th, 2015. Two months after the previous issue, the mall is doing good for itself as a community. More on point, the lives of the inhabitants have changed. The issue, taking place on Christmas Day, will explore the changed lives of the inhabitants, especially that of Michael, while at the same time, McCoy and Dre head out for a supply run into the city, where they meet a different kind of 'survivor', and deepen their friendship during the ordeal.

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(Author note: This doesn't have to be played, but I listened to this as I wrote it, and it sounded quite nice, imo)

Author Note: Yes, Christmas passed already. However, if my laptop didn't go gay, I was gonna release this as the Endangered "Christmas Issue" near Christmas time. So...happy late Christmas from me ;D

It's Not a Small World After-AllEdit

Philadelphia. It was a marvelous city, and no one could deny that fact. Besides being stunning to look at (depending on the hour, of course), the city is the fifth most populated city in the United States, although now it was more like was. That is considering the fact that dozens upon dozens upon dozens upon a few fucking thousand people were, of course, turned into infected beast and prey onto people, and others are to busy fighting each other to even bother with uniting. To think this used to be called The City of Brotherly Love.

Despite the current conflict in the city, it still seemed at peace, when looked at from far away. From an angle it seems as if none of buildings were damaged, one could see the birds soaring through the bright, but yet deep sky like nothing has changed, and on city hall stood the statue of William Penn, founder of the great city. Philadelphia almost seemed at peace.

Of course, that was far from truth. The city is falling apart, as with everywhere else in the world. Instead of the people that once populated the streets they are now full of death and misery, with emphasis on both. There is no joy on the streets anymore, no happy smiles. The only things that roamed these streets were the slouched over, pale, ripped skin, bugged eyes ‘humans’ patrolled the streets. They would patrol all day, but as they found more people, they would tear them apart with nothing but their teeth and hands. Those things, despite what some may some, are no longer human.

However, while the disparity is great in the city, some hope still thrived. Around the city, and it’s surrounding areas, were stations that housed the non-infected people. These stations were shut off from any infected and safe for all: the term safe-zone applied well to them. They were a few scattered around, with some being better then some. There were, however, only two that really stood out. One was down in one of the lowest, most despised sections of Philadelphia, Frankford. It wasn’t the worst section in the city but it sure wasn’t near the best. It was filthy, always cluttered with trash, drugs, and was a known spot for crime. Due to the buildings being low cut and small there weren’t any larger buildings to hold people, except for a handful. The safe-zone down here was based in the Frankford Terminal, the largest station for the public transportation known as SEPTA. The terminal is split into two buildings, each a few stories high, both connected together by a skywalk. The old Septa buses have been used to block up all the wide entrances, while the train tracks, that are placed high above the ground, are being used for people to keep watch. Overall it wasn’t a bad set-up.

The other safe-zone is located far away from the terminal. Located in between the two suburban areas, Bensalem and Bucks County, while also being fifteen miles away from Center City, this particular zone was the Franklin Mills Mall, one of the two largest shopping malls in Philadelphia. The mall, despite the current dangers seeking from the outside world, hasn’t been really been extra fortified in the past few months. On the roof there are numerous lawn chairs and tables, and upon further inspection, people are seen keeping watch on the roof. Their job is to watch out to make sure no infected come close, and if they do, to take them out. However, they have also been told by Ethan Brash to watch out for large groups of people, just in case any prove to be dangerous. The guards are selected voluntarily, and no one is forced to do anything they do not wish to.

Adding to the minor security changes were how five of the six entrances have been sealed off by old cars, or whatever else they could get their hands on. The sixth entrance, however, has not been blocked off, leaving it wide open for all to come. It wasn’t a smart move, but Walsh refused to have all of the entrances blocked, claiming it would like “unfriendly”. Sure, it may, but it would be safer. If a massive group of infected come rolling through then the mall might not stand a chance.

This didn’t seem to cross the thoughts of one man who stood in the center of the parking lot, leaning against one of the many abandoned cars. The young man was all dressed up for the cold weather that controlled the area. He had a thick brown, winter coat, a patterned scarf wrapped around his neck and a decent looking ski hat. His hands, as well, were gloved, but kept them in his pockets due to the brisk cold.

A sudden, powerful cold brushed up against the man. He shivered loudly as his face began to lose more and more feeling. He let out a deep breath, where it turned into a mist and floated off into the unknown. Michael personally thought it would turn into an icicle and shatter into pieces, but mist worked too.

“How we looking back there?” Michael calls back to an unknown person on the opposite side of the car. “I don’t mean to rush you, but it’s pretty freezing.”

“Hold on, Dad.” Sarah calls over to him from the opposite side, kneeled down and trying to pick the lock to the door. “This isn’t easy, ya know.” She jokingly says back, managing a small chuckle to escape Michael.

Sarah, like her father, is dressed up ready for the damn force of nature that is cold air. She wore a pink winter coat, white pair of mittens, snow boots one would probably find in a teenage magazine, and a cute Adventure Time winter hat. Unlike Michael she was only a little bit cold; she has never been one to be affected by the cold.

“Where did you learn how to pick a lock anyway?” Michael asks dumbfounded at his daughter’s strange new ability.

“I made friends with this former car thief. Pretty cool guy.” Sarah looks over to Michael with a smirk, but he stares back confused on whether not she is joking or not. “Aka, I read a book from the bookstore that explained how to.”

“What kind of a book tells people how to pick locks?”

“You’d be shocked about the kind of books people write.” Sarah shrugs. “Have you ever even read a book?”

“What? Yeah, of course…..once or twice.” Michael pulls up his scarf more. Sarah laughs at his answer to herself. “Reading has never been my hobby. Or anything that involved school, actually.”

“You’re a real inspiration.”

“As I’ve been told.” Michael smirks under the protection of his scarf. The relationship between Michael and Sarah has grown in the past two months, and they’re now on a point where they can joke around with each other. Some may have gotten to that point years ago, like James, but it was a great achievement for Michael. Their relationship is growing better and better, and Michael couldn’t be happier with life. “You know, it’s really getting cold if you wanna try this another day…”

“No need.” Sarah stands to her feet with a prideful smile, and to Michael’s shock, she opens up the car door. “All done.”

Michael stares in pure disbelief. “Did you really just do that?”

“Did your daughter just break into a car?” Sarah asks, opening up the locked passenger seat door while doing so. “Because yes, she did.”

Once the door swings open towards Michael he wastes no time in taking a seat in the wide, warm car. Both quickly shut the door once in, allowing the warmth to take over. “I don’t know if I should be proud or worried.”

“You think I’ll become a car thief?”

“I’m thinking about it.”

“Well, I don’t think any cops will arrest me for stealing car in this current day of age.” Sarah reminds him, checking the car for a pair of keys as she does. “It could actually be mindful, mind you.”

“Whatever you say.” Michael remarks, until he spots an object hidden on the floor beneath his feet. Hidden beneath some trash was a small, metal, shiny object that caught Michael’s eyes. He scooped up the object his hand, tossing it over to Sarah upon doing so. “Got the keys.”

“Sweet.” Sarah exclaims with a wide smile, holding the precious little keys in her hand like they were some key to a whole new world. In a way, though, it actually was. Getting to drive a car is one of the transitions between childhood and adulthood. She takes a deep, satisfied breath as she puts the keys in, listening to the sweet sounds of the engine ignited.

Today, besides Sarah getting to drive a car, was a very special day. Sure, it was freezing cold out, and snow may be coming in just a few short hours, but that was due to the day it was. Today was a December morning, but not just any morning. It was December 25th, a day that almost everyone has melted into their heads. Today was none-other than Christmas Day, one of the best days of the year; it was the day of giving. Sure, that may sound useless considering the state of things, but it was actually just what people needed. A little hope to spread around is never a bad thing, especially when the hope is in the form of Christmas cheer.

Michael’s Christmas present to Sarah was to teach her the ways of driving. James wanted to, yes, but he wasn’t exactly the best driver in the world. If there was one thing Michael beat James at it was driving skills. Hopefully, one day, Sarah would be able to get herself a permit. Hopefully.

It’s been two months since the deadly outbreak that broke down the world as they knew it. In the blink of an eye the world fell before them, leaving only this sack of shit left. They always heard scattered radio messages about the army fighting back, although nothing has reached Philadelphia after the incident. Still, Michael held hope that one day the world could come back.

“So you remember what we went over? Michael reminded Sarah about her studying. She gave him an enthusiastic nod, a response that made Michael smile. “Alright then. Drive around the parking lot, let’s see what you got.”

Sarah nodded. Upon taking another profound breath Sarah began to make the drive of a lifetime. Right away Sarah got the perfect combination of pacing and cautiousness, making Michael impressed. However, Michael could still see the panic in her eyes. “Ease up.”

“Alright, alright.” Sarah breathes, slowly beginning to speed up her pacing. They began to approach the tight corner up ahead, a corner that very much put some fear into Sarah’s eyes. She slowly twisted the wheel, congruently bringing the car with her. Michael nodded, impressed with her skills, as she seemed to bring the car around with ease.

“Nicely done.” He applauds her, much to her delight. Overtime her fear of the wheel begins to ease up, giving her smile to come back and shine. “Watch out for the other cars parked around.”

“I know, I know.” Sarah navigated around the still cars with some ease, despite how afraid she was of hitting one. “You said driving was hard, pfft. This is a piece of cake.”

“You don’t have to deal with any dumbasses. You’ve got easier than we ever had it.”

“You’re just jealous of these skills.” Sarah settles into her newfound skills, much to the applause of Michael. It certainly was impressive in his eyes. His daughter was skilled at everything, apparently.

“Yes. I’m so jealous.” Michael patted her back with a broad smile sitting on his face. “So damn jealous.”

The inside of the mall, unlike the outside, has drastically changed, surprisingly for the better. Just a two mere months ago the mall could be mistaken for an emotionless graveyard, with a majority of people moping around with nothing but depression and agony. It made the mall feel like such a bummer, effectively bringing down the aura. It didn’t feel like a safe-zone, no, it felt like a morgue, full people dead inside.

Now, however, anything but sadness and agony could be found in the crowds that roam the mall. Smiles are thrown around the halls, tied together with laughter and cheer. Everyone felt happy and maybe that may have just been because of the Christmas spirit, but it was refreshing nethertheless. For once this mall felt like a community of people. This was no longer just the Franklin Mills Mall, this was the Community of Franklin Mills.

Christmas decorations hang around the hallways, adding much needed joy to the otherwise dull environment. Hanging from the roof were banners, most of them Christmas themed, with others being amazing pictures. On the walls there were Christmas decorations, such as simple ornaments and mistletoes. Someone might be asking to themself how the people did this, but truth is, not like they had anything else to do for the past two months.

The best part of the decorations, however, had to be what stood in mall’s center. Right behind the fountain stood a tall, wide, green, and most importantly, full Christmas Tree. Many ornaments hung off it’s sturdy branches. Basic ball ornaments, themed ornaments, and even voiced ornaments were there, pretty much whatever they could find. They somehow even somehow got some lights to go around the tree, as well as some ribbens. However, to top it off, was the Christmas Star that was hooked tightly to the top of the tree, with it’s light shining brightly throughout the mall. It truly was beautiful.

Currently, by the fountain, stood a young woman, watching the tree with amazement. To her eyes it truly was beautiful, and better yet, gave her a hopeful smile. The young woman certainly looked familiar with her scrawny body type, dark green eyes, and glowing skin. However, what didn’t seem familiar was the short hair she donned. The hair looked like it belonged to a boy, but yet, it seemed to fit her just right. This woman was Vicky, who definitely got some changes during the past two months.

She stares at the tree, more importantly the star, with her smile. For some childish reason it made her feel good. She chuckles to herself for that, but then proceeds to dig into her pocket, pulling out a spare coin. Now, naturally, she couldn’t really buy big, expensive gifts for people this Christmas, so she had plenty of change in there. “I wish that...everything will be okay.” She flips the coin up into the hair and watches it splash into the fountain, where it sinks deep down to join the rest of the coins in there.

“You know, I still can’t recognize you with that haircut.” The loud, remarkable voice of Lara pipes up from behind, much to Vicky’s delight. Vicky cranks her head around to see Lara walking up, hands tucked in her pocket, and the trademark smirk on her pretty face. “Like, for realz, though. I thought you were a dude, for a second.” Vicky gives her a ‘what the fuck’ look. “Hey, you looked like a hot dude.”

“Can’t recognize it? Girl, what the hell, you were the one who forced me to get it.” It was a long story about what happened…...okay, no, not really. Vicky and Lara placed bets on who could win in a race across the mall. If Vicky won, Lara had to go streaking. However, as awesome as they would have been, Lara won, which called for Vicky to shave her head. “And I do not look like a dude. But, I do like your emphasis on hot.”

“See? Take it as a compliment.” Lara gives her dear friend a quick hug. “Now, hurry your ass up, I wanna get a table at the cafe.”

“Alright, gimme a sec’.” Vicky looks back to the tree. “I was just looking at the tree here. Pretty, right?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty. Although I really wouldn’t know, I never celebrated Christmas.” Lara shrugs without a care, but Vicky takes great surprise to this, giving Lara a look of disbelief. “What?”

“What do you mean you never celebrated Christmas?!”

“I meant….I never celebrated Christmas. I thought I said that pretty clearly before.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I’m Jewish.”

“You’re Jewish?”


“Could you repeat that?”

“...I’m Jewish.” Vicky finds this amusing and can’t help but chuckle loudly for all to hear. “What?”

“I just….find it hard to believe it that you’re Jewish.” Vicky expresses through her laughter, not being able to find her amusing light on the situation.

“Got something against the Jewish?” Lara asks with a smirk. “You mothafuckin’ racist.”

“I got nothing against the Jewish. I just find it funny that you’re Jewish, that’s all.” Vicky says, finishing up her laughter, that would be offensive to anyone that wasn’t Lara, who never took stuff like that to heart. “You filthy jew!” Vicky says in her best interpretation of Eric Cartman, punching Lara in the shoulder as she does. The Cartman voice got Lara to ball out in laughter, despite the fact the joke was against her.

“Alright, c’mon, racist. We need to get a table.” Lara grabs her by the wrist and leads her off into the mall. Vicky, as she goes with her, takes one last look at the tree, but also takes one last good look at the coin she tossed into the fountain, the coin that promises hope. A hope that one day everything will be alright.


It wasn’t long afterwards that the pair of girls found themselves sitting at one of the mall’s many tables. The cafeteria was, like always, was a busy place, especially now during Christmas morning. The multiple food stores are each selling breakfast, with their marvelous meals consisting of cereal, pancakes, and fucking damn fine Bacon. People were scattered all over the tight cafe, with some hunched up on the floors, eating some of the...’fine’ meal.

Vicky and Lara were seated near the front of the cafe. Vicky sat there with a smile, devouring the pancakes, hot chocolate placed right next to it. She smiled at the breakfast. Sure, it wasn’t tasty like the ones her mom used to make, but it would do. She savored each bite. Sure it was stupid, but she tried to pretend that there weren’t man eating infected outside. It sure helped lighten the mood more.

Lara, meanwhile, ate a simple bowl of Corn Pops, acting like it was just another day. Still, she smiled and savored every bite, mostly in an effort to mess with Vicky, something that never got old. “Oh my God….this cereal….oh my God..” Lara moaned as she ate, mimicking Vicky’s sound effects of how she ate her Christmas breakfast.

“Are you trying to bother me, or something?” Vicky chuckles at her failed attempt to bother.

“Of course, it’s one of my most important purposes in life.”

“You pretty sad life, I fear.”

“Coming from you that doesn’t really mean much.” Lara takes a bite of her Corn Pops, much to Vicky’s disgust. In fact, it almost makes her want to gag. “What?”

“How the hell can you eat that?”

“What? Corn Pops?”

“Yeah. That shit fucking disgusting.”

“Wow. Wow, first you discriminate against me and now cereals. Like, who the fuck would even think about doing such a thing.” Lara tosses a Corn Pop at Vicky’s face, much to her absolute disgust. “You’re a cereal racist. A cerealist.”

“That’s not even a thing.”

“Said who?”

“Said me.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I guess I didn’t get the memo that you were God.” Lara sneers at her, taking another bite of her cereal, this time putting extra emphasis on her moan. Vicky rolls her eyes in response, simply going back to the breakfast at hand. “Yeah, that’s right. Go back to your food, mothafucka.”

Vicky scoffs her comments away, successfully blocking her out. Lara, taking notice of this, snickers to herself, before going back to her cereal. Not long after their daily mocking each other, the two girls spot a familiar duo walking towards them. Two young adults with wide smiles, laughing about who knows what, with each having a bag strapped around them. McCoy and Dre made their way towards them, dressed up in loose, but protective clothing. “Good morning, ladies.” McCoy greets them, taking the seat next to Vicky, while Dre takes his next to Lara.

“And Merry fuckin’ Christmas!” Dre exclaims with a wide smile, followed by a energetic jolly laugh.

“Merry Christmas!” Vicky and McCoy proclaim together in response to Dre.

“Happy Hanukkah.” Lara exclaims with a laughing cheer, giving her well-earned looks from the others. “Yeah, that’s right. Fuck yeah, Hanukkah!” Lara proclaims louder, gaining her an elbow to the stomach on Dre’s part.

Dre chuckles off her extradited pain and turns back to McCoy, giving his friend a nod. “So, in honor of the Christmas spirit, MC and I here got you guys some presents.”

“What?!” Vicky exclaims, both pleasantly shocked and surprised. “You shouldn’t have.”

“Of course we should have. We’re like a pack.” McCoy smiles to the girls, not in a romantic way, but a cheerful way. McCoy pulls out the two wrapped up presents from his bag, handing one to each of the women. Both women take their presents eagerly as the guys watch on, excited to see their reactions.

“Sorry about the shitting wrapping. We couldn’t exactly find any good one.” Dre excuses the shitty newspaper wrapping, although neither girl seemed to mind. Vicky opened hers up with the excitement of a child, acting more like one when she got to her prize, practically squealing in excitement. Inside were three larged sized notebooks, over 600 pages all together. The notebooks were finely made with a Hunger Games cover, Katniss Everdeen front and center. Beneath the notebooks packs of writing utensils, including pencils (with a pencil sharpener), pens and markers.

“Oh. My. God.” She says in pure happiness, placing the dear items neatly on the table. “This is amazing!”

“Thank you, thank you. MC over there picked it all out at some bookstore on our last run.” Dre nods over to McCoy, who quickly blushes.

“McCoy, you’re like the fucking best.” Vicky hugs him tightly, making him blush a little more, unknowingly to her. Dre noticed, giving a small chuckle, but said nothing.

“It was nothing, really.” McCoy scratches his head as Vicky heads over to give Dre a tight hug, which he takes like a champ. “You said you liked to write, so I figured why not.”

“I love it.” Vicky smiles at the present, happier than she could express. “Thank you guys, so much.” Vicky goes on to inspect the gifts further just as Lara finishes to unwrap hers. Upon throwing the wrapping paper on the floor, Lara was stunned to find inside were stunning, let her repeat, stunning clothing. In her hands there were beautifully made dresses, high designer clothing, leather clothing, and even some lingerie (as a joke). However, in between the stack of amazing clothing, were hair products, nail polish, make-up, and a whole lot more.

Dre watched the smile form wider on her face, and instantly he felt satisfied with himself. “These are amazing.” She says enthusiastic, her heart truly moved by the presents. Throughout her life not a lot of people have ever given her gifts, besides Vicky and...someone else. It truly was moving to her, and as such, wasn’t able to hold back the smile. “I love it.”

“You better. I risked my ass to get that stuff.” Dre smiles. Lara turns and gives him a kiss as gratitude, which Dre gladly took and kissed her right back. In the past two months Lara and Dre have entered a “fling” as so to speak. They weren’t in some deep, serious relationship, instead just wanting to fool around and have fun. As they broke apart Lara whispered something in Dre’s ear that had him smiling and nodding, like he was expecting a fun night. After that she stood to give McCoy a kiss on the cheek, something he also slightly blushed out. It is a little embarrassing for McCoy to admit, but Vicky and Lara were really the first two female friends he had. McCoy was never really the social one growing up, often hanging out by himself; the fact that he even has friends with now is a surprise.

“Dre and I are glad you two are entertained with the presents.” McCoy says. “Merry Christmas, guys.”

“Now I feel like an asshole for not getting you guys anything.” Vicky chuckles, but in reality, did mean it. She did feel bad about not getting them presents.

“Relax, we ask for nothing in return.” Dre reminds them.

“Yeah. We are like Santa Claus.”

“Except way more good looking and cooler.” Dre adds. “And, not fat as hell.”

“Wow. Rude.” Vicky chuckles, but as she does, takes notice of something weird in McCoy’s bag. Sitting in the front pocket was a recently shined, black, deadly revolver, next to some bullets and a knife. “You guys are going on a run?!”

Last month, after realizing that supplies wouldn’t last forever, Walsh asked people to volunteers to go into the city and collect supplies. Dre volunteered, being a track expert and knowing the city like the palm of his hand, while McCoy was like the protector, due to his gun accuracy. McCoy may have never had friends before the outbreak but he was a gun expert, always having been interested in them.

Ever since then, Dre and McCoy have made weekly visits into the dangerous city to get supplies, and other stuff people might want. Dre and McCoy were like their errand boys. “Yeah.” Dre confirms. “We were gonna head out after this.”

“Why? It’s Christmas! Stay here and relax.” Lara rests her head on Dre’s shoulder, tugging at his arm in an effort to plead with him. Dre kisses her atop the head, followed immediately by a chuckle.

“I’m sorry, but we promised people we would head out.” Dre says, stealing a sip of Lara’s water while doing so. “Don’t worry. We’ll be fine. It’s just the usual trip.”

“Yeah, don’t ya’ll worry. We’ll be back before you know even know it.” McCoy backs him up, much to the dis-pleasurable looks of Lara and Vicky. He knew where they were coming from, but to be honest, the trips were never dangerous. For the three trips they took so far they never ran into a single infected, always managing to sneak by if they do.

Besides, it was Christmas. Luck had to be on their side today.

She watched the mall from afar, a look of sadness in her eyes. She wish she could go there, settle down, and live a somewhat normal life. Where she could go to sleep, eat, and live normally. Of course that couldn’t happen. No after what happened to her. She would never be accepted.

Walking down in the streets, the woman wore battered clothing, especially the high heels, which were completely broken and worn out. Still, despite the shoe setback, she continued down the streets, not having anywhere else to go at this point. However, the more she walked into the sunlight, the more about her was revealed.

The woman’s skin was patchy, way to patchy for a normal person. The skin looked like it could peel right off, given the right force. She deprived of fat and muscle, her body mass being made up by her scrawny bones. The bones that stood out no matter the difference. The bonelines were visible behind her skin, while her fingers were even bonier. She was beyond starvation.

Her eyes were no longer human or loving as they once were. Instead, the virus she was infected with many weeks ago have transformed them into eyes of agony. Her pupils have turned a sickly yellow color, while her eyeball has turned blood red, turning even redder by the second. This woman was no woman. She was an infected, a beast to all the people of earth.

As the infected woman walked down the streets her boney, stretched fingers held hold of her head. Conflicting thoughts ran through her head. She thought of her old life, of her children….but these damned, dark voices slowly take over her thoughts, focusing her more onto killing then remembering. She lets loose one of the horrifying, infected screams for all to hear.

It was in that moment she heard a footstep. It was in the following moment her enhanced senses smelt the scent of a human. It was then that she ripped around, her demented eyes landing on a figure standing a few feet away by a car, just standing there. Haruka Saito stood by the car, waiting for the infected to see her. “Yeah, there we go.” She smiles, ushering the infected ro charge her. “Come to mama.”

The infected woman, letting out another screech, increases her speed toward Haruka, who in return, begins to descend backwards. “Keep coming.” Haruka ushers her. “Just a few more feet…”

Haruka backs up a little bit more, but wasn’t fast enough, as the infected woman pushes her to the side, banging her head right onto the mailbox. Haruka lets out a screech, holding onto her wound, but crawls back from the infected woman, who has set her sights onto another women.

Kneeling behind a trash can was Sandra, with a bat in one hand, handcuffs in other. She felt a cold chill speed down her spine as the infected locked eyes with her. It was almost like she could feel the former woman stare into her soul. Letting out a vivid grunt she charges Sandra, who despite her best wishes, finds herself frozen in fear. This was her first encounter with with an infected.

“Sandra!” Haruka lets out a yell that manages to draw Sandra out of her frozen. Quickly Sandra runs the other way, but the infected quickly turns her way, her feet moving quickly quicker than Sandra’s. These infected were too human like, far more human than Sandra could have imagined.

In a panic, Sandra swings her bat in a last defense. It smacks up against the infected’s temple, effectively stunning it and giving Sandra a chance to stand on her feet. She runs back toward Haruka, who herself had just gotten up after being decked by the beast “What do we do?” Sandra asks nervous. Neither of the women were strong, both to meek to take on the infected alone. Haruka doesn’t have time to answer as the woman charges both of them, vivid screams emulating from her.

“Screw it.” Haruka rips the bat from Sandra’s grasp, and in a move that Sandra would call incredibly stupid, charges the woman. Haruka tackles her to the concrete, knocking them both onto their stomachs. Before the woman could stand, Haruka sits on to her back with her bat, and presses it up against her shoulders, preventing the infected from moving her arms. “Get the handcuffs!”

Sandra jogs over with the handcuffs, looking down at the flimsy, boney hands. “Handcuff her!” Haruka says, struggling to keep the woman down. Sandra kneels down, grasping the handcuffs, and reaches towards her hands. She gets the handcuff around one wrist, but the woman was to flimsy and fidgety for her to get the other one on. “Hurry up here.”

“I’m trying.” Sandra ignores the vivid scream, focusing herself on getting the handcuff around the hand. Sandra, gripping the woman’s hand with her own hand, soon gets the handcuff on, finally handcuffing the infected so it won’t be able to attack them. “There.”

Haruka stands to her feet, taking a deep breath as she does. She scratches the back of her head with a prolonged sigh. “Well, that was easier than I thought.” She chuckles. “Good job there.” She pats Sandra on the back.

“Easy? We almost died.” Sandra reminds her, but Haruka quickly shrugs it off. Sandra chuckles, shaking her head with total disbelief. “Dying is nothing?”

“Of course not. Besides that thing couldn’t take us down.” Haruka yanks the woman up by the arm. “Nothing can take down the amazing Haruka and her sidekick Sandra.”

Sandra chuckles at her remark, but keeps her eyes focused on the woman, who struggles to escape Haruka’s grasp. She tries to wiggle Haruka away, swing her head back to bite her, and even run off. “It’s human like. Like, too human like.”

“Yes. The way it moves…’s freaky.” Haruka admits, staring at it with such curiosity. “I expected them to be...more slow and freaky looking. I don’t know.” Haruka’s curiosity grows of these beast. This whole outbreak may be a horrible event, but yet, it is the most interesting and greatest thing in her life. When she solves this mystery she will be the greatest reporter of all time. Haruka can’t help but smile at the beast. “Let’s get back to the mall.”


“Here we go…” Haruka mutters as she finishes up strapping the woman to the table, smirking as she watches the infected struggle to escape the straps. “We got you now.”

The two women stood in the middle of their makeshift laboratory, watching the infected squirm. The basement sure has come a long way in the past few months. Instead of being the abandoned basement full of boxes, it is now a place to study and work. A table covered in papers, pencils, pens, and supplies such as camera’s sit in the front corner of the room. Next to it is a wall with pictures and notes stapled onto it, in spider-web format, with the center being “the infection”.

In the middle of the room was the long, metal table where the woman was strapped up, surrounded by lights. A few feet from the table sat another table, just as deadly as the infected one. Bloody knives, scrapers, mirrors, hammers and even a live mouse sit. There was even a silenced pistol, just in case anything got out of hand, and some beds in the corner. Better then sleeping in tents.

Sandra looks at the infected with fear in her eyes. Like most people she was afraid of these beast, and this being her first time seeing one up close didn’t make it any better. The way it moved, screamed, stared into her soul…..Sandra couldn’t help but be afraid. Still, despite her fears, she was motivated to go on to solve this.

Haruka, however, was much different. Her eyes were full of wonder and amazement as she stared at this infected. So much wonder too this infected, so much mystery behind what this infection was, and she loved it. Her mind raced with ideas of what this infection was. Was it nature? A terrorist virus? CDC related? There were so many possibilities and she loved every one of them.

“So now what?” Sandra asked Haruka, but she gave no response. Instead she reached over to grab the mouse by it’s tail. “What are you doing?”

“I’m testing.” Haruka kneels down next to the infected, holding the mouse up to it’s teeth. She watches as it’s pupils grow at the sight, like it’s whole mindset just changed to focusing on the mouse. In only a mere second afterward the woman snaps her head forward, trying so hard to take a bite of the precious creature. Haruka, however, denied the woman her food and lifted the mouse up further. The infected tried reaching up further, but sadly couldn’t reach. She growled, she wiggled to escape, and she even let out a cry as the food went further and further away. Haruka, however, smiled at the sight. “Intresting.”

The woman tries harder and harder to get her treat, getting more desperate by the second. Haruka, however, plays with it. She swings it around, pretends to drop it, lowers it only to raise it higher. As she did this Haruka watched the infected’s every move. “I wonder if they starve.”

Sandra watches from next to her, worried. Worried about the smile on Haruka’s face as her curiosity of the infected grows.

Michael quickly shuts the mall’s doors behind them after entering the place of warmth, not wanting any of the demon cold to ruin more of his day. He takes a prolonged breath as he rubs his frozen face, having lost most of the feeling in his muscles. Michael wasn’t a cold person, and it was probably the thing he hated most about Christmas.

He sighed in agony as he turned back to Sarah, who was standing there like she wasn’t just in the horrible cold. She smiled, with her hands folded together in front of her, like a school girl. “So, how did I do?” She asks, giving an excited and enthusiastic smile. Having drove a car for the first time really pumped her up and made her excited.

“How did you do what?”

“How did I do mowing the lawn?” Sarah says sarcastically. “What do you think?!”

“Oh, with the driving?” Michael chuckles, with a smirk that showcased his bright white teeth. Sarah nodded, anticipating his response. “Oh. I mean...I guess you did good…”

“What? Guess?” Sarah’s smile dropped quicker than he expected it too. In one millisecond she was happier than a child to more disappointed than ever. “You were saying I did great earlier.”

“Oh, yeah. I guess I was.” Michael scratches the back of his temple. “I just had more time to think about it and it was really lackluster.”

“Lackluster?” Sarah seemed shocked and saddened by his words, and he couldn’t up but chuckle at her reaction. She quickly turned from saddened to confused.

“I’m kidding with you. You did great, kiddo.” Michael pats her square on the head. “You need some work on turns and parking, but besides that, you did great.” He expected her to smile again, but instead she gave him a light punch to the side, followed by a smile.

“You scared me for a sec.” She chuckles, much to Michael’s delight. Michael laughed at her response. In the past two months, as his relationship with Sarah grew, he began to smile and laugh more in life. It was a surprising, but pleasant, twist in his life. “Now c’mon, James is waiting for us at the restaurant.”

Michael nodded, following Sarah’s lead down the halls. James, despite wanting to spend Christmas with Sarah, allowed Michael to take her out for a bit. He was a bit more reluctant on letting Michael teach her how to drive, but he soon agreed.

James and Michael, while not openly fighting every time they see each other, still don’t hold a good relationship; if anything, right now it’s more like an uneasy truce. They don’t exactly like or trust each other, but they put that aside for Sarah. It’s what she needs, and frankly, what she deserves.

Sarah and Michael head down the halls, side by side, while Sarah thinks of what to say. “You know, there are plenty of pretty girls around the mall. Single ones, too.”

“I bet there is.”

“Ones who wouldn’t mind a good looking guy like yourself.” Sarah nudges him in the hip, but he just shrugs her off with a chuckle. Sarah has been trying to convince James and Michael to start seeing new people for the past two months. She loved both of them and was saddened to see them both alone, not having anyone to confide in, except for Sarah. She was the main girl in both their lives, and it was great, but at the same time, sad.

“Thanks for the compliment, but I’ll pass.” Michael was never interesting in seeing anyone after one after Zoey. He tried once, but he ended up just using her for sexual relations. That’s all Michael ever used girls for. Sex. For years that’s all he cared about, and the same could be said for today. He hasn’t slept with anyone in two months, but he still gets the cravings. The lust is so strong, and he doesn’t know if he can shake it.

“C’mon Dad. You know you want a nice girl to cuddle up too.”

Yeah, sure. “Cuddle”. Michael chuckled in his head. He was going to say it out loud, but soon remembered she was only fifteen and shouldn’t be making sex jokes with his daughter. “I already had the perfect girl, Sarah. Why get another?”

That, and look how well it ended with Zoey. Michael still hasn’t gotten over Zoey, and frankly, he doesn’t know if he ever will. She was the perfect person, the person who understood Michael better than anyone else, and he killed her. It would end the same with any other girl. He would ruin their lives or end their lives. He didn’t deserve anyone else, nor neither did he want anyone else. Refusing to move on from Zoey may have been holding him back in life, but he was okay with that.

“Mom may have been great, but there is always somebody out there.” Sarah reminds him. “Maybe you should just look around.”

“I’ll pass. Hey, thanks for the advice though.” Michael pats her shoulder. “But don’t worry ‘bout your old man, alright?”

“Old man? You’re barely ten years older than me.”

“Okay, let’s not talk about that.” Michael quickly shuts down her comment, not even wanting to get onto that conversation.

Sarah rolls her eyes with a chuckle. “I swear, you and James are so stubborn when it comes to girls.” Michael found that comment amusing. Despite all the differences between the two men, James and Michael were both hopeless romantics.

It was in that moment that they reached the diner James instructed them to meet him at. It wasn’t a bad place at all. Michael believes he ate there once or twice. Opening the door for Sarah, Michael heads in afterwards to find it full of people. People at every table, all full of smiles and joy. It sure was a surprise. He scans the crowds, looking for the older, caucasian man who is probably bored out of his mind. Almost immediately he spots James over in the corner booth, in a normal outfit and not one of the suits he usually wears. Michael points him out to Sarah. “There he is.”

“Aright.” Sarah begins to walk in that direction but stops upon seeing Michael isn’t coming. “You’re not coming?”

“I think I’ll just head out…”

“No, come on. Just stop over.” Sarah ushers him to come along, but he is reluctant. “C’mon, James won’t bite.”

Michael sighs, knowing full well Sarah will bug him until he complies. So, he saves all that work and nods, following her lead. The two scooted across the crowded diner until arriving at James, who smiles at the sight of Sarah. He stands to his feet, quickly embracing Sarah. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, Dad.” Sarah embraces back, while Michael just looks away awkwardly. He never understood why Sarah calls them both ‘Dad’, it must get confusing. Sarah takes her seat as James looks at Michael, the natural smile having turned forced.

“Merry Christmas, Michael.” James extends his arm. Michael takes it, with no hesitation but with an awkward smile.

“Merry Christmas, James.” Michael greets back, but does not sit down afterwards, while James does. “Everything went okay out there.”

“That is good to hear.” James smiles at Sarah, still in denial of how old she is. He turns back to Michael. “Will you join us?”

“Thank you, but I’m good.” Michael politely denies them, much to Sarah’s dismay. “I’m meeting up with a friend of mine.”

“Who?” Sarah asks. She didn’t know Michael knew anybody there.

“A friend of mine named Tate. He’s a good dude.” Michael gives them both a charming smile. “I should get going, actually. Don’t wanna keep him waiting.”

“Bye, Dad.” Sarah gets up to give him a quick hug, to the joy of Michael and awkwardness of James. She sits back down, while Michael gives James a nod.

“Merry Christmas.” Michael wishes them as he departs, heading out to find Tate. While he departs James hands Sarah a menu to the diner, which she happily takes.

“How did the driving go?” James asks with a smile. He was reluctant to let Michael take her out for her first driving lesson, but James wasn’t exactly a good driver, so he soon gave in.

Sarah immediately smiles brightly at the subject of her driving, completely enthusiastic in telling James of the story. “It was amazing! Alright, so what happened was…”

The streets were polluted since before the outbreak. People would throw their trash on the streets for no reason, except that they were to lazy to find a trash can. Dre remembered seeing McDonald’s bags, half eaten food, cans, and one time a condom laying on the sidewalk before. Now, the streets were much worse. Broken glass, blood, severed limbs, useless items, and sometimes bodies lay on the streets. It seemed much worse than last time the duo were in the city.

Dre and McCoy made their way cautiously down the streets, crouching and moving silently. They were dressed in winter clothing, complete with jeans, boots, three pairs of shirts, jackets and hats. Dre suggested wearing gloves, but McCoy denied, saying they ruined his grip on his revolver.

The duo stopped cautiously at the block’s end, McCoy providing a lookout on both streets. He held his gun close, and his blade even closer. He was a peaceful person but McCoy was ready to take out infected. They simply weren’t human so he had no qualms. “We’re clear.” McCoy confirms.

Dre and McCoy walk over onto the next block, looking around at the ruined stores. Dre checks his bag, and peeks over at McCoy. They could fit a few more stuff. “We should hit one or two more places.” McCoy nods to Dre’s advice and looks for the best store.

McCoy points over to the old grocery store. “There looks good.”

“Alright. Lets get going.” Dre and McCoy jog over to the grocery store, hoping the food was still there. Once arriving at the store, McCoy looks in, gun in hand. He stares cautiously, letting loose a whistle while doing so, knowing sound attracts them. No infected come forth.

Tapping Dre on the shoulder, McCoy leads the two into the store. Much to their delight there was a surplus of food left. Vegetables, fruit, water, milk. The store was like heaven on earth to them. The two men smiled at the sight. “Get what you can.” Dre grabs the first tomato he sees laying on the floor. He throws it into his bag as he looks outside into the cold streets; much to his dismay, he sees some snow starting to fall from the sky. “Damnit.”

“What’s up?”

“Snow.” Dre points to the white substance falling from the sky with a deep sigh. McCoy, however, smirks at it.

“I freaking love snow.” McCoy smiles. “It’s a white Christmas.”

“Yeah, I used to love snow.” Dre chuckles. “But something tells me it’s gonna be a pain in the ass, now.” Dre sighs, giving a firm scratch to his head.

“Hey, you never know. Maybe this will slow the bastards down.” McCoy refers to the infected. Dre, however, doesn’t like to joke about them. Still, he finds it weird that they haven’t bumped into any infected.

“Do you find it weird that we haven’t bumped into a single one of those things?”

“Are you complaining?”

“No, just feels weird is all. Almost like one of those zombie film cliches.” Dre inspects a carton of milk before putting it in his bag. “Like ‘there are no zombies, then bam, there is a horde!’.”

“This is real life, bro, not some fictional story.”

“I know, I know. I’m just saying.” Dre chuckles. He makes his way around the store, making sure to get everything. “Do they scare you?”

“What? The infected?” Dre nods to his questioning. “Of course they do. I mean, hell, look at them. It’s unnatural.” McCoy grabs the last pieces of fruit off the counter.

“Then why are you so….I don’t know, laid back about confronting them?” Dre was very curious. In the past months Dre hasn’t killed a single infected, but McCoy has taken out some. Hell, Dre could barely confront them without freezing them. They were so unnatural, it was freaky to him.

“Because if I let that fear take over me, then I’m dead. Those things would tear me apart.” McCoy shrugs. “And, personally, I’d rather not die.” McCoy notices the fear in Dre’s eyes off the subject. “How do you feel about them?”

Dre scratches his chin with a sigh, thinking of how exactly to word his fear of them. Before he could say anything, however, the two heard noises from the outside. They heard footsteps, moans, mutters. Dre instantly freezes up upon hearing the whispering of the infected, while McCoy grips his pistol. He lifts his finger to his lips, ushering Dre to stay silent.

Dre nods, giving McCoy the chance to move to the door, taking a look outside. McCoy counts a dozen infected roaming down the street, each of them having a look of murder in their eyes. He cursed as he looks back to his friend, giving him a nod to confirm that the cliche of infected randomly appearing has indeed come true.

McCoy slowly backs away from the door, careful not to make a single noise or misstep. “What do we do?” Dre asks underneath the noise of the screams outside. McCoy scratches his head, thinking of what to do. “Where the hell did they come from?”

“I don’t know.” McCoy mutters. He attempts to think of what they can do. They got all the supplies they need, all they need is a way out of the city. “We’ll head out the back, and go from there.”

“Yeah, yeah. That sounds good.” Dre nods, following McCoy’s lead out into the back. The two boys sneak across the dirty, old kitchen, until they arrive at the backdoor. Dre takes a deep breath, trying to remain calm, while McCoy peeks around the back door. They were in the clear.

Cautiously McCoy heads out the back, revolver in hand, with Dre following his every move. They tiptoe down the alleyway, careful not to attract the intention of the infected that surround them. The two arrive at the end of the alley, carefully checking around the corner to make sure no infected wait for them.

“Alright, if we go straight through the other alley maybe we can…” McCoy tries to think out loud but the piercing scream of an infected gets the better of them. Both turn toward the source: a lone infected staring at them from down the street. The infected glares at them with his rage filled eyes. The boys stand absolutely still, not moving a muscle, hoping maybe if they stand still the infected will not notice them. That plan fails immediately and the infected lets out a vivid scream to inform his friends that he found them some food.

The infected bull rushes them, and not long after McCoy can see his friends running in from the background. Thinking fast McCoy raises up his gun and pulls back on the trigger. A loud bang emulates from the pistol, followed by the infected’s head exploding into a pool of blood, falling over dead a second afterwards. “We gotta move, now!” McCoy grabs Dre by the arm and runs toward the alleyway as screams begin to engulf them. McCoy can count dozens of infected coming from all around them.

McCoy turns around and fires two more shots at the approaching infected, hitting them both in the neck, before following Dre down the alley. The vivid screams of infected fill up the air, leaving Dre a wreck. He tries to cover his ears as he runs down the alley to no use.

The two run into the middle of the streets, in hopes of outrunning the infected that close in behind them. They run down yet another alley, with McCoy checking to make sure no infected get to close. The end of the alleyway is blocked by a gate. Dre attempts to open it while McCoy has his gun raised and ready to shoot. The gate, however, refuses to open. In a panic Dre notices a lock that sits on the gate. “Who the fuck locks a gate?!” Dre panics.

“Get it open!”

“The lock is on the other side!”

“Damnit. Damnit!” McCoy, in a last ditch effort, moves upward with his pistol, firing off a few rounds. He takes down a few infected until he comes to the inevitable reload. Dre, deducing there was no way to get the lock open on their side, takes a deep breath.

“Back up!” He tells McCoy, who complies, watching curious as Dre backs up as well. Before another question could be asked Dre sprints forward, leaping toward the brick wall. He jumps onto the brick wall, and using his leg, leaps higher into the sky, managing to parkour right over the gate. He slams down onto his feet, quickly grabbing a rock off the ground and smashing the lock.

McCoy runs through the now open gate, allowing Dre to close the gate once he’s through. It won’t keep the infected out, but it will buy them time. McCoy has no time to admire Dre’s parkour skills as infected run down the street. McCoy grabs Dre’s shoulder, pointing over to the open store nearby. “Follow me!”

Dre follows McCoy down the street, who finishes up reloading the revolver. Dre, sliding over cars with ease, while McCoy runs around them, takes panicked looks around. He struggles to keep that smooth, charismatic masque up. The duo are quick to run inside the deli, managing to outrun the infected outside. McCoy, taking no chances, knocks a shelf over onto the door, blocking it off to the outside world.

They were safe, for now anyways. McCoy takes this as a minute to wipe the sweat off his forehead, but Dre couldn’t help but panic. He leaned up against the wall behind him, quickly sliding down in into a anxious position. He lets out a panicked cry as he grips his forehead in fear. Despite his best efforts Dre lets out repeating cries of panic. Of fear. McCoy watches, slightly shocked. He only saw Dre like this once. Back when his parents died. Ever since then, however, Dre acted as if nothing was wrong. There must be more to Dre, after-all.

McCoy heads over to him, lowering himself down to his level. “Hey, man. Hey, it’s alright. We’re safe.”

“T-those fucking things, man.” Dre says in a panic. The image of the infected can’t escape his mind. The way they moved, the way they screamed, attacked. It was more horrifying than he imagined.

“Dre, man, look at me.” McCoy grabs his friend by the shoulders. “We’re safe now, man. They can’t get in here.” Dre looks at him, fear having taken over his eyes. “Just take deep breathes. In and out.”

Dre follows his instructions but to no avail. He can’t deal with these infected. “Dre, listen to me. We’re gonna get out of this. But I need you.”

“I c-can’t…” Dre cries. “I c-cant do this.”

“Yes. You can.” McCoy taps him on the shoulders. “Listen to me. The only way we can get out of here is if we do it together. Alright? I need you, Dre. I need you to get it together.” Dre looks up at McCoy in the eyes, dumbfounded about how McCoy was remaining calm. “Can you do that?”

Dre takes one more profound breath to calm his nerves. Once calm he gives McCoy a nod. “Y-yeah. I can do that.”

“Good, good.” McCoy grabs Dre’s hand and helps him onto his feet. “We can do this, alright?”

“Yeah. Yeah.” McCoy smiles at his response, giving his friend a pat on the back of the head. “What now?”

McCoy looks around the small deli. There were no supplies in there that could be off assistance to them; leaving only one option. Wait out the infected. McCoy looks back to the infected, watching as they now bang on the window. It wouldn’t take long until they got in. He looks back to the meat locker. “We wait it out.” He points over to the meat locker. “In there.”

The two head over into the dark, cold meat locker. Once in McCoy looks around the deli, watching as the infected almost get in. He sighs before shutting the metal door, locking out the infected.

“God, I hate the cold.” Anahi remarks to Lisette, who sits next to her on the mall’s rooftop. The two girls volunteered to do watch for a little bit. Not like they had anything better to do. They had no family or friends there, they only had each other. “If there is one thing I miss about Cali it’s the sun. The warmth.”

Lisette doesn’t seem to hear her, instead she stares off into the distance. She was to deep in her thoughts to listen. For some reason she kept thinking back to the conversation she had with Daniel months ago. The one where he exposed her for who she was. She was a crook. A thief who stole from the innocent for her own agenda.

“You can change your name. You can change your appearance. You can change almost anything about yourself, but you can never change who you are. So do yourself a favor and stop this whole ‘nice girl’ act.”

She ran from her past. It wasn’t false. She ran from Spain, from her home, from Alberto. But now, in this apocalypse, was the time for her to change. Her road to redemption started the night the outbreak. She just didn’t know how she could redeem herself for her past sins. “Hey, Lissette. You hear me?” Anahi calls over again.

Lisette shakes her head. “I’m sorry. What were you saying?”

“I was saying how I hated the cold.”

“Oh. Yeah, I hate it too.” Lisette says, but only has half her attention on the conversation. “I miss the sun.”

“Yep, same here.” Anahi looks at Lisette, seeing how she is barely attention to her. “You okay?”

“Yeah, fine.”

“You sure? You been sorta...I don’t know, distant recently.”

“Have I?”

“Yeah.” Anahi chuckles lightly at her response. “Is something up?”

Lisette scratches her head with a sigh. She doesn’t want to speak about her inner feelings, more importantly her past. It was bad enough that Daniel knew, she didn’t want her only friend knowing as well. “I’m just thinking that…” she trails off.

“Thinking that…”

“I wanna join up with that Ethan Brash.” Anahi manages to keep a straight face at the mention of his name, showing no signs of her knowing her. “See if he wants any help with the security department around here.”


“I wanna help out. Help the people here. What better way than to be a cop or something?” Lisette feels that protecting the people will certainly help her on the road to redemption. “It’s the best way to help out.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Anahi knows full well what being a cop was like. It wasn’t a fun experience and to this day she has nightmares of her experience. She doesn’t want anything bad to happen to Lisette like it did her.

“You were a cop, right?” The question catches Anahi off guard, but she doesn’t show any fear at the question.

“Yeah. I was.” Anahi reluctantly confirms. “I was a cop for a few years.”

“How was it? Like, the experience?”

Anahi struggles to answer the question. She doesn’t like to think about her cop experience, or much of her background actually. To much stress. She always ends panicking. Still, despite the question, Anahi keeps a confident face. She fights the urge to panic, and like her therapist always told her, takes a deep breath. “You okay?” Lisette asks.

“Yeah, fine.” Anahi chuckles, shaking off the suspicion. “It was alright. Kinda boring, actually.”

“Really? You never got into any of those wild police stories?”

“Nope.” Anahi takes a well-rounded breath. “Completely boring.”

“Ouch. Any advice, though?”

“Yeah, actually.” Anahi looks at her friend straight in the eyes. “Always take your shots carefully. Always.”

Ethan was never a fan of holidays. Not that he didn’t appreciate them or he didn’t like them. No. He just never had a reason to bother with them. For the majority of his life he spent alone. His family and him lived in the slumps of the city, where Ethan practically grew up with the wrong crowd on the streets. His mother ran off when he was only one years old with some rich man, leaving his already dead beat father to drift into alcoholism. Ethan’s older brother was no better. He was always off doing God knows what with his gang. So, pretty much, Ethan was always alone on holidays, wishing for a family that actually gave a shit about him. That never came, so, he just drifted away from it.

When the time came with Lynn, however, he had a good time. He was never a big fan even when he was with her, but she certainly gave him much needed company. Now, with her gone, he had no use for them. Sure, he had Vicky, but she was spending the day with her friends, and he was completely okay with that. This gave him time to walk around the mall, making sure no one fucks shit up.

He managed to convince Walsh to let him be the “cop” of the mall. So he walked around the mall, made sure everyone was alright, made sure there were no trouble makers, and was in charge of watch shifts. He even had his own base at the security office. It wasn’t a bad job and it kept Ethan busy doing what he was born to do; to protect and serve. So he had no qualms about walking around, doing nothing for most of the day.

Making his way down the halls Ethan found some joy in seeing the smiles of others. It was honestly heartwarming to see people enjoying themselves, as compared to crying about life. They were doing better than him.

It’s not that Ethan was head over heels about Lynn anymore. She died, and he accepted that. But, with her gone, he just has this emptiness in his life. He always had an apathy towards life, so it was nothing different. When he thinks about it, actually, his apathy helped him get used to the outbreak easier than most. So there was a plus to that, he guesses.

Walking past the food court he smiles at the sight of people enjoying themselves. He saw people give gifts, embraces, kisses. It was nice. However, what most caught his eye was the commotion in the back of the foot court. Over by the pizza counter he saw the employe arguing with two men. He sighed, but stepped in nethertheless.

Making his way over, Ethan got a better look at who he was dealing with. One of the people was a big, muscular man, who looked like he spent to much time at the gym before all this. The other, however, was a scrawny little fellow. The scrawny one had his pants sagged, his hood up, and wore gold chains. That, and the way he was throwing away gang signs, made Ethan laugh. It was just another wannabe.

“Boi, you best not be accusing me!” The scrawny kid, Damon, yells, in his best effort to make a scene. “Racist old fucka!”

“Who you calling racist? I saw you do it!” The employee yells at him. Damon laughs, tapping his big friend on the six pack.

“You believe this fag, Trevon?” Damon laughs in the employee’s face. “You think you can jus’ accuse me?”

“Get away from my store!” The employee pushes Damon away, knocking Damon right into a trash can. Damon grunts and comes back to the employee.

“You think you can push me? Mothafucka, you can’t touch me!” Damon turns to Trevon and taps him on the shoulder. “See my nigga here? He will fuck you up, old fag!” Damon laughs, but Trevon just glares at Damon. “Right nigga?”

“Don’t call me that.” Trevon grunts at him, and in an instant, Damon squeals.

“Sorry, sorry, bro.” Damon laughs. “I’m just joking around with you, T.” Damon turns back to the pizza employee. “Now, I think I deserve payment for my racist treatment here.”

Ethan slams his hand down onto Damon’s shoulder, making him stumble over in pain. He turns towards Ethan and stares down the much stronger, fierce Ethan. “And who the fuck you be?” Damon gets up in Ethan’s face.

Ethan only smirks and lifts up his badge for Damon to see. Damon’s facial expression barely changes. “What the hell is going on here?” He asks the three men, with his eyes glaring onto Damon.

“This kid here started acting up in line, right? So I told him to get out. He backs up, and steals food from one of my customers. I come out here, tell him to pay her back, and he tries fighting me, right? So I just give him a push.” The employee explains but Damon cuts him off not long after.

“That ain’t what happened here, offica’. This racist old fuck told me to get out of line, so I did, and then he come out here and try to fight me!” Damon accuses the employee, tapping his friend Trevon for support. “Right, T?”

Trevon grunts, angry that Damon got him into this pointless argument. “I got nothing to do with him, officer.”

“What?! C’mon, T!” Damon calls after his friend, who walks off to leave Damon alone with Ethan. Ethan smirks.

“So how is this nice man a racist?” Ethan asks Damon, who only shakes his head.

“This old white fuck pushed me, a black man. That is racist.”

“You ain’t no man, kid. You’re just a pathetic little boy.” Ethan laughs at him, finding Damon laughable.

“You can’t touch me, offica’!” Damon pushes Ethan, which proved to be a fatal mistake. Ethan quickly grabs Damon by the shoulder and shoves him into the wall. He is quick to handcuff Damon and throw him to the ground, much to Damon’s dismay, who keeps screaming ‘racist!’.

“Shut up.” Ethan lifts Damon up, and shoves him in the direction of the security officer. Ethan turns back to the employee and nods his head. “Sorry about this kid. Have a good day.” The employee thanks Ethan as he drags Damon away.


“Why the hell am I here?!” Damon demands to know as he sits at a table in the security office, handcuffed. Ethan sits across from him, glaring at the pathetic kid. “Hello?! I asked you a question!”

“Well, you stole from a citizen, caused disruptions, and assaulted an officer.” Ethan leans forward to Damon. “So, I can either do two things with you. A, I can lock you up here until I say otherwise. Or B, you can leave with a pardon.”

The way the security works is complicated, mostly due to Walsh’s interference. Anyone Ethan arrests can be held up until three days if they don’t comply, but if they do comply, Ethan has to let them go with a pardon. If they are let go they are put on the ‘watch out for’ list, and if they commit two more crimes, Ethan gets to decide their fate; if they can stay in the mall, albeit locked up, or if he can kick them out. “So, Damon, how do you feel about what you did?”

“I didn’t do anything!” Damon protests. “I am the victim here!” Ethan stares blankly at him, not taking him seriously at all. “This rachet ass place is the problem here, offica.”

“So is that a no?”

“Fuck you.” Damon laughs at him. “Fuck you.” Ethan couldn’t help but find Damon amusing, thinking how he had all the power here. “I am a citizen here and I won’t be mistreated like this. I got friends high up, mothafucka.”

“Is that so?”

“Hell yeah! And they won’t be happy to see that you locked me up.” Damon leans back on his chair, throwing his feet up onto the table with a smirk, thinking he is two steps ahead of Ethan. “You let me go and I’ll forgot that that all of this ever happened.”

“You wanna know what I think?” Ethan smirks. “I think you’re all talk.”

“Is that so?” Ethan nods. “Just you wait, then. My boys will fuck you up. And they’ll fuck up any family you got, too.” All Damon had to do was say he was sorry, but he was always one to try place himself above people, even when he had no power. He always thought he could talk his way out of situations. “You got a bitch? A boy? How ‘bout a daughter bitch?” Ethan’s disinterest turns into anger as he rises to his feet. “That a yes for the daughter? Oh boy! If you don’t let me go, she will be fucked! Maybe in more than one way if you know what I mean.” Damon winks at Ethan, but he wasn’t hearing it.

Ethan always took anything involving his family personally, so this piece of shit threatening Vicky threw Ethan for a loop. Ethan, while a good cop, had two flaws: he was to emotional and to aggressive. So, in anger, he walks over to Damon, listening to his threats. “So, offica’, I suggest you let me go before you get fucked.”

Ethan slams Damon’s head down onto the metal table, making the kid squeal in pain. He yells a horrible yell, and it only gets worse when Ethan throws him off the chair, knocking him flat onto the floor. He yanks Damon up by the neck, glaring straight into his eyes as the child cowardly changes his attitude from in charge to begging for mercy. “Hey, man. I’m sorry!” Damn yells. “I’m sorry, officer. I was wrong!”

“So now you’re wrong?” Ethan punches Damon in the face, before once again throwing him onto the ground. It is in that moment Ethan stops himself from throwing another hit, noticing the black eye and bloody nose Damon already has. Ethan looks down to his knuckles, finding Damon’s blood sitting there. Ethan sighs, staring at the blood, mesmerized by what he just did. He quickly comes to his senses, going over to help Damon off the floor. He ignores Damon’s cries, simply uncuffing him. “Get out of here.”

Damon waste no time as he books it out of the room, fear having filled his cowardly eyes. Ethan wipes the blood onto his shirt, muttering in anger to himself. He needs to start working on his anger before he gets someone killed.

It was finally beginning to snow outside. It wasn’t blizzard type snow but it was strong enough to stick to the ground. The snow, along with the already freezing wind, made being outside not very pleasant. Still, there he sat, being obedient.

In the woods behind the mall sat Gabriel Parker. Wrapped up in camouflage, he laid on the dirt floor, positioning himself in between the bushes to help avoid detection. Through his binoculars he watched the mall, right now focusing on the two women who sit on the roof. It was just two women on watch, nothing out of the usual.

Gabriel has been spying on the mall for the past month on Ryker’s orders. Ryker had made it clear that he wants all zones being watched, so he assigned two men to each to safe-zone. Gabriel had been chosen for the mall, along with his partner, Jason Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick leaned up against a tree behind Gabriel, playing around with the small blade in his hands. He twirls it, makes sketches on the trees, stabs the tree, or sharpens the blade with rocks. Fitzpatrick, unlike Gabriel, wasn’t patient. He hated doing stakeouts, but was loyal enough to Ryker not to say anything.

Gabriel and Fitzpatrick haven’t exactly talked much, as neither were the social kind. They only talked when they saw something out of the ordinary or were going to do something. All Fitzpatrick did, however, was play with his blade, or the rifle that sat next to him.

Gabriel was never one to judge, but something turned him off about Fitzpatrick. Maybe it was his strange appearance, his strange ticks, the way he acted, or just how he was. Gabriel was the silent, brooding, serious man who took his work seriously. Fitzpatrick was fidgety, eccentric, psychopathic man who took pleasure in dishing pain to others.

Gabriel turned to the strange man was not shocked to see him playing with the rifle. He would twirl it around, aim it towards the mall, check the ammo. It was distracting Gabriel and he found it very unprofessional. “How is looking?” Fitzpatrick asks in his usual quiet, high voice.

“Fine.” Gabriel grunts. “I think we’re ready to take over.” Gabriel tucks the binoculars away. “We should head back and talk to the boss.”

“Excellent.” Fitzpatrick gives an odd smile. Gabriel watches as he aims his trigger towards the mall, and Gabriel thought he was struggling not to pull the trigger. “It’s about time.”

“You sure love that rifle.” Gabriel points out. “Why do you wanna shoot it so bad?”

Fitz smiles at his question, like he thought it was funny. “No particular reason. It just feels...good.” Fitz lowers the rifle and stares over to his partner. “Nothing beats the feeling like pulling the trigger and...watching as the ever so beautiful bullet travels through their bodies,” Fitz smiles vigorously as he speaks, “followed by the amazing sounds of crying...and blood hitting the floor...and death.” Fitz smies eagerly, enjoying the sociopathic thoughts that run through his head. “Don’t you agree?”

Fitz was a sociopath who enjoyed nothing more than to hurt others. He was a sadist. Gabriel knew that full well. It was just another characteristic that he didn’t like about Fitz. Still, rather than speaking anything, he just sighs. “Sure, kid.” Gabriel looks back to the mall, thinking of how they could be useful to Ryker’s empire. “Whatever you say.” He looks back to Fitz, who smiled sadistically. Gabriel was weary about him, but held his tongue. He had to keep his eye on Fitz, before he goes ahead and fucks everything up.

3 Years Ago, 2010

It was a beautiful home, far more than any of the houses in Philadelphia. The large, white mansion was only one of many in the neighborhood. This neighborhood, located in Virginia, was lavish, expensive, and a place full of rich snobs. Just the perfect place in the world.

The large, white mansion that sat in the middle was home to a family of three, not including all the house staff they have. The two parents, two notorious celebrities who specialized in directing and acting, were among the braggarts there. They bathed in their riches, not caring about anyone else.

The two currently sat at the dining room table, which was bigger than most people’s living rooms. They sat there, dining on their lobster, with wine in their hands, talking about their ‘hard’ life. “So there I am, trying to strike up a contract with Leonardo DiCaprio. I told him ‘Mr. DiCaprio, if you work on this film, I can guarantee you an oscar’.” The man, a middle aged african american, drinks his wine. “And he tells me that he didn’t like my previous films, and so he was unsure. After that I told the little child to get out.” The man and his wife laugh. “No wonder that man hasn’t won any oscars. Am I right, son?”

He calls out over to his son, who sits farther down the table than his parents. The son was about sixteen years old and all dolled up with his shiny penny loafers, silk suit, and a patterned tie. Surprisingly, this spoiled rich child was McCoy. “Did you hear me, son?”

“Yes, sir, I heard you.” McCoy takes a bite of his lobster. “I can’t believe his nerve.” McCoy is disinterested in the conversation, and his parents take full notice.

“Oh let him go, Richard.” Mrs. Davis laughs. “Let him act like he doesn’t know us.” She scoffs.

Mr. and Mrs. Davis were even snobby to their child. Sure, they spoil him with riches, but McCoy knew the truth. They didn’t care for him. In fact, they only had a child for the publicity that came with it. They could care less for McCoy, as he could care less for his life here.

McCoy could care less about being rich, in fact he was defined by his money, that’s what he hated. People would refer to him as ‘The Davis Kid’ or ‘the Rich Brat’. It’s not that McCoy didn’t like the money, but he hated how he got it. He didn’t like this boring, rich life. His parents practically chose his life for him, limiting his freedom, and he didn’t feel right. People his age were out there starving while their parents worked hard, but he got to sit on top of the world because his parents made a few shitty movies?

He sighed, thinking about his life. In the next two years his parents would force him into ‘business school’, where they thought he would succeed. He hated business more than anything, but he had no say in his life here. Then again, it’s not like McCoy knew what he wanted to do in life. The only thing he knew is that he wanted to do what he wanted and earn money by working hard. He wasn’t satisfied with being babied like this. He sighed, watching his parents gossiped about celebrities. They were pathetic.

There was nothing he could do, however, so he just goes back to eating his meal, displeased with his life. “So, son, have you been looking at colleges?” Mr. Davis asks. “You still plan on going to Yale, like your old man. Right?”

Planned. That was funny. He didn’t plan on going there, but they did; and what they said goes. “Sure, Dad.” McCoy takes a sip of his drink. “Sure.”

McCoy paces around the meat locker, his head buried in his hands. His mind is racing on ways of how to get out of this situation. From what it sounded like, some of the infected have wandered off, but what about the ones who don’t? They can’t just stay here forever. Vicky, Lara, they would get worried.

He sighs. He doesn’t want to die, not yet. He still has things to do in life. His life isn’t over, not yet. These infected won’t deprive him of his life, the life he only got three years ago. When he ran away from his parents. Hell, even then he wasn’t living. Point being, he isn’t going to die yet.

He looks over to Dre, who sits up against the wall, knees pulled up to his chest. Dre, like McCoy, was thinking about his life. However, unlike McCoy, they have different results in their thinking. Dre didn’t want to die, but if he did, he wouldn’t care. Not like his life mattered anyways. His whole life people thought of Dre as this kid who had it all, like he was the coolest kid around. But Dre had his own demons. He doesn’t know what he wants to do his life, and at many times including now, believes that he doesn’t matter.

McCoy, seeing how Dre needs his help, walks over to him, taking a seat next to his good friend. Dre, however, doesn’t seem to notice him take a seat. “You okay?” McCoy asks to the unresponsive Dre. “I’m here for you, man. If you wanna talk.”

“Talk.” Dre chuckles to himself. “You wanna talk? What do you wanna talk about exactly? How there are dozens of those...freaks out there? Or about my feelings?” Dre scoffs the idea. “There’s no point. Those..things are going to get us, and they are going to kill us.”

“Don’t be like that.” McCoy tells him. “We’re going to get out of this.”

“Are we? Are we, McCoy?” Dre looks at him with pain visible in his eyes, alongside the already existing fear. “Stop being so hopeful and accept what reality is.” Dre wipes some snot from his nose. “We are going to die.”


“Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day they are going to get us. There is no escaping it. We’re either gonna get torn apart by those zombies, or get shot by some assholes, or who knows what else.”

“Dre, listen to me--”

“Shut the fuck up!” Dre yells at him, instantly forcing McCoy to keep silent against him. “There is no escaping this! We are already dead, just waiting for the final blow.” Dre nods his head, coming to terms with his fate. He looks over to the revolver that McCoy dropped over by the door “We should just end it now. Make it easier on us.”

“Really?” McCoy looks at him in total disbelief. “You wanna shoot yourself? Am I hearing you right?”

“Yeah, why the hell not? Why should we go on? To watch our friends die? Lara? Sam? Sarah? Vicky? Hell, man, the list can go on. Because’s it’s gonna happen.”


“It’s gonna happen, McCoy!” Dre yells at him. “They are going to die! Life isn’t fucking fair!” Dre shakes his head at McCoy, chuckling as he does. “Life ain’t fair, man. Just look around you.”

“So what? You just wanna shoot yourself?” McCoy looks at him. “Remember what you felt like after your parents died?”

“Don’t you bring them up.”

“That is exactly how they will feel when we don’t come back!” McCoy reminds him of the pain of his parents death. He remembers it all too well. How his parents got merciless killed, without Dre even getting to say bye. “You wanna hurt the others around you because you’re to afraid to go on? Is that it, Dre, are you afraid?”

“No shit, Sherlock!” Dre yells at him. “No fucking shit!” Dre sighs to himself. “What is the point of going on, anyways? Our lives don’t even matter. They never did. Not even before all this.” Dre looks at McCoy, saddened and full of pain. Finally Dre is dropping his chill attitude and revealing his true feelings. “It ain’t a small world, McCoy. It’s a giant ass world, full of billions of people. And who are we? We’re like fucking ants. Our lives, in the end, they’re not gonna matter. No matter what we do, we are going to die, and years from now nobody will even remember us.”

McCoy watches as Dre cries to himself. “They always say ‘be who you wanna be’ or ‘follow your dreams’, but it gets you nowhere. You should accept it, like I have long ago.”

“And when did you learn to accept this...depressing way of life.”

“Do you know what it’s like to not know what you’re meant for? To not know what you wanna do in life? To feel...worthless?” Dre can tell that McCoy has felt the way from his facial expressions. “You have, haven’t you? Then you know exactly how I feel. My whole life everyone praised me, said I was meant for great things. They expected so much out of me, but yet, I didn’t even know who I was. It was like they knew me better than I knew myself.” Dre sighs. “I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what my life means. Never did before, and I definitely won’t now.”

McCoy sighs, barely knowing how to respond to Dre’s speech. His depressing, heartfelt speech that wasn’t false. So instead, McCoy just nods. “I grew up a spoiled brat. My parents were rich, Hollywood people who spoiled me. Yeah, to some it may sound great, but they planned out my whole life for me. I was going to go to this college, do this for my major, become this, marry her. They were making my life, and for such a long time, I let them. Then, it hit me. I realized that the life I was living wasn’t a life.”

“So I ran away. I ran here. I was broke, lived on the streets for a while. But I worked hard, harder than I ever thought I could. I only focused on my job, my school work, and my bills. Due to all this, I never had many friends, or a girlfriend as a matter of fact. For the the past three years I tried to be a good student and a hard worker, and now the world has gone to shit. Some may say that I wasted my life, say that it was all for nothing. But you wanna know what?” McCoy looks to Dre, who is starting to pay attention.

“It wasn’t. Sure, grades may not matter now, but you wanna know what? Because of all that I became a better man, and in the end, I lived my life. I chose my own path, did what I wanted to do, and I don’t regret a single thing. Sure, I missed out on stuff, but I don’t regret a single thing. I may not make a difference in the world, but I chased my dreams, made friends, and chose my own life.”

“And you’re happy with that?” Dre asks.

“As a matter of fact, I am. As you said earlier, we are all going to die one day. Life is short. When I die I wanna be able to look back and say I was happy with my life.” McCoy makes eye contact with Dre. “Hate, depression, sadness, it’s all just a baggage. Life’s too short to be pissed off all the time. It’s not worth it.”

Dre nods, heading McCoy’s wise advice to heart. Dre refuses to respond, so McCoy finishes with one last thing. “You don’t just go on for yourself either. You gotta go on for your friends, your family. I am going to die one day, and so will Lara, Vicky, and the others. Don’t you wanna spend all the time you can with them before the inevitable end?” McCoy nudges him. “As I said, life is short.”

Dre finally takes in McCoy’s words at last, taking them to heart. He nods. “I’re right.”

“You guess? Of course I’m right, man.” McCoy smiles at him, but Dre can’t muster up a smile just yet. “You’re a good man, Dre, and you sure as hell mean a lot to people.”

Dre smiles at McCoy. He still has feelings of insecurity, but he is glad that McCoy has helped him for the time being. “Thanks, man.”

“Don’t thank me.” McCoy tells him. “We’re brothas, it’s what we do.”

As the two men smile at each other, they heard commotion outside. They both quickly hop onto their feet, McCoy gripping his pistol, while Dre stands ready for anything that happens, ready to go on.

On the outside they hear infected yelps, bodies falling, and the footsteps of a….human. They looked at each other confused, even more confused when all the commotion stops and someone begins knocking on the door. “Yo, it’s all clear out here.” A feminine voice calls to them. They don’t respond back. “C’mon, I know you’re in there. I won’t bite.”

McCoy and Dre nod at each other, ready to attack if this woman turns out to be lying. McCoy opens up the locker door, and to his shock, finds a twenty-something woman. She wore small green shorts, a pink tank top, a green jacket outer-shirt, and high black boots. Her eyes were sparkling green and her hair was dark and flowing. She stood there, bow in hands, quiver around her back, and a bloody machete tucked into her shorts. She was beautiful, or as Dre would say, hot. “Hi there.” She greets with a smile. “I’m Haley.”

2 Year Ago, 2011

Dre makes his way down the halls of Neshaminy High School, a wide smile painted on his face. He was dressed sharply, like always, with his cheap but good looking style. As he made his way down the halls he seemed to get all the attention, like he was the king of the joint. Guys would high five him with the words “Yo, what’s up bro?”, others would look at him wanting to be him, while the girls stared at him with lust, wanting to be with him. Even the teachers smile and nodded in his direction. Everyone loved this kid.

Making a stop at his locker, Dre enters his locking, ignoring all the countless praise he is receiving. He never did like to act all prideful. Taking out his textbooks and tossing them into his bag, Dre shuts his locker to find a trio of cheerleaders standing there, including the head one. Abby James She smiled at him. “Hey, Dre.” She blushes at him, much to his smile.

“What’s up Abs.” He smiled at her, trying not to look at her cleavage, which she obviously wanted him to look at it. “What can I do for ya?”

“I was just wondering..” she twirls her hair, while her friends giggle behind her, “if you wanna go to the movies tonight?”

“Yeah, sure.” Dre smiles. “Sounds great.”

“Okay, great! Pick me up at nine.”

“Sounds good.” Dre smiles as she leaves, while Abby and her friends already start talking about the date. Damn, this kid. Not only is he everyone’s favorite but he just got the most popular girl in school, in fact, she came to him. This kid had it all.

The rest of the day was the usual. He did great in class, had lots of friends to hang out with during lunch, got the game winning basket in PE, won a solo in both Choir and in Band for the piano, and came in first during Track practice. Just a normal day, nothing special. Now, after such a long day, walks home, listening to his Ipod. A long day and he could certainly use a rest.

Dre lived in a standard suburb neighborhood. It was often quiet, but that’s how he liked it. He didn’t mind at all. So, he smiles as he looks around the peaceful neighborhood. Until, finally, he arrives at his home. A two storied, blue house that was beautifully painted. The Ocean home.

Walking up the steps, Dre walks into his home, almost immediately tossing his schoolbag into the corner. He heads out to the kitchen to grab himself a water bottle, and to his surprise, saw his father out there, making himself a cup of coffee. Big, bulking, but friendly. Dion Ocean. “What’s up, Dre.” He smiles, patting his boy on the back. “How was school today?”

“It was alright. Boring old school.” Dre grabs himself some water and leans up against his fridge, curious on why Dion was home. “What you doing home?”

“Closed the shop earlier today.” Dion says. “I’m taking your mother out to that dinner tonight, remember?”

“Oh yeah. That was tonight?”

“Yes sir.” Dion nods. “You gonna be alright?”

“Yeah. Actually, I got a date.”

“A date?” Dre nods in response to Dion’s question. Dion lets out a mighty, soaring laugh. “Alright, alright! My boy is getting bitches!” Dion stands to his feet, giving Dre a good pat on the back. “I always knew you would be a chick magnet.”

Dre laughs alongside his dad. It wasn’t false. Dre pretty much is a chick magnet. Every girl in the school wants him. “Thanks, Daddio.” Dre chuckles. “Well, I’m gonna go get ready and rest up, sound good?”

“Alright. Go ahead.” Dion takes a seat back at the kitchen table, coffee in hand. “I’ll tell you when we’re leaving.”

“Alright. See ya later.” Dre heads back to his room, ready for some rest. Once inside Dre is quick to shut the door and collapse back onto his bed. He had such a great day, but at the same time, for whatever reason, Dre can’t feel happy. He doesn’t know what it is. Everyone loves him, he is going on a date with the hottest girl, and his parents are proud of him. Yet, he doesn’t feel happy with his life.

For one, it’s all the pressure. All of the admiration of others strains him out, and it honestly sounds selfish to say that, but it’s true. Everyone looks up to him, expecting him to be some amazing dude. But, the truth is, he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He has no idea where he wants to go, or do, or see. He doesn’t want to disappoint all these people who expect him to be apart of the greats.

He sighs, rubbing his aching head. “Just shoot for the stars, if it feels right.” Dre begins to randomly sing, smooth and slow. “And aim for my heart If you feel like, and take me away and make it OK.” It was an eccentric tick Dre had. Whenever he was depressed he would just sing. For whatever reason singing always made him feel better, no matter what it was. “I swear I'll behave.”

There the coolest kid in school, the kid everyone wants to be, lays down on his bed, resorting to singing to himself to keep himself happy.

It once was a beautiful store. A store where people would come in to shop with friends. To get clothes, make-up, perfume. It was a store that Lara herself shopped at many times. A shame what happened to it. Now, it’s just an empty room that only reminded her of the world that once was. Lara, looking down at all the clothes that now lay on the floor, sighs.

She kneels down, inspecting one of the fallen dresses. It was still in good condition. Not like she needed it, but maybe as a present to Vicky. She may not be a Christmas gal, but there was nothing ever wrong with giving presents to people. She smiled at the gift. It looked just about her size. There had to be hundreds of other stuff here too that Lara could use as well.

She looked around the store, wondering what she could get best for Vicky. There were perfumes, dresses. It could be like present heaven. She smiled.

However, before she could go looking for presents more, she thought she heard footsteps behind her. She ignored it, considering there were at least a hundred people at the mall. However, she soon felt a hand smack her on her rear end. She quickly turns around to see an older man standing there, with a wild smirk. He looked slightly familiar to her. “Hey there.” He greets. “Remember me?”

“Am I supposed to, creep?” Lara scoffs him, but the man only laughs at her response. This man was none other than Daniel Brown, the scum of the earth.

“You weren’t say that a few months ago.” Daniel reminds her, much to Lara’s confusion. However, after staring at him for a few more minutes, she finally remembers who he is. How she..slept with him. “Remember me now, sweet cheeks?”

“Ah, yes. I do.” Lara nods her head. “You were that guy at the nightclub. You payed two hundred, right?” Daniel gives a prideful smile as he checks her out again. Lara, however, only scoffs him off. “Yeah, I remember you. You gave up after six minutes.”

“W-what? No, okay, it was not six minutes. It was more like thirty.” Daniel continues to check her out. “I forgot how hot you were.”

“No. It was six.” Lara nods. She bites her lip and looks around awkwardly, wondering why he is even talking to her. “Look, I’m just gonna go. Nice seeing you….I guess.”

Lara attempts to walk past him, but before she could do anything, he kisses her. She was in to much of a shock to stop him as he kissed her, and at the same time, bought her up against the wall of the counter. He quickly lifted her against the wall, shoving her legs around his thighs as he does. “How about I prove it to you, huh? How much are you now?”

Lara, like Michael, was a girl addicted to sex. It wasn’t because she is a giant slutball, but it comes from a tragic accident from her past. An accident that turned her into the girl she was. So, instead of giving a straight answer, she remained silent as Daniel lifted up her skirt, pressing himself against her private part. Using one hand to hold her up by the ass, he shoves the other one up her shirt, even into her bra, to caress her boobs, and soon enough her nipples. “Yeah, that’s right.” Daniel moans. Lara knew she would regret this, but the urge overtook her. She began to kiss Daniel back, shoving his hand somewhere as she does.

Ethan sits inside the security room, still staring down at his now cleaned knuckles. He managed to get the blood off, but still, he can still feel it. Damon may be a punk, yeah, but Ethan could have seriously harmed him, if he didn’t stop himself in time that is. Letting anger take over him was always a fatal flaw for Ethan. He sighs.

“Mr. Brash!” He heard the brooding, fake voice of Walsh from outside the store. Ethan looks to the door, watching as Jonathan Walsh walks in. Like always Walsh dressed like he was better everyone else, with his fancy suit and his hair combed back. Even after two months Walsh hasn’t changed a bit. He is still in it for the glory. “Mr. Brash!”

“Walsh.” Ethan mutters. “How can I help you?”

“How can you help me? How can you help me?!” Walsh glares at him, trying to act like he was in charge of Ethan. “Well, sir, you could tell me why you beat up some poor kid!”

“Poor kid? He was a thug.” Ethan corrects him. “A thug who threatened me and my family. A thug who was harassing people.”

“And so you beat him down?!” Walsh asks, appalled at Ethan’s actions. Ethan grunts, ignoring Walsh’s comments. Walsh, however, doesn’t falter, tapping his foot in an effort to rush Ethan. “I am waiting, Mr. Brash.”

“I...did what I did.” Ethan stares up at Walsh. “I don’t regret a thing.”

“Y--you don’t regret a thing?”

“Of course not.” Ethan debunks his question, grunting with anger. “That kid is a punk, Walsh. A. Fucking. Punk. You let me take up this spot to protect the mall, and in case I’m mistaken, that is exactly what I have been doing.”

“Protecting them by beating them? Don’t matter if he is a ‘punk’ or not, he is a citizen here.” Walsh reminds him, crossing his arms in agony. Ethan, seeing that Walsh is to much of a stuck up prick, takes a deep breath, allowing himself to calm down. He rubs his head in his hands, before staring back at Walsh.

“Look, I got out of control, alright?” Ethan admits. “I got out of control and I’m sorry.”

Walsh glares down at Ethan, but soon enough just nods, instead of the usual over the top behavior yelling. “Look, on the anger, alright? This mall is doing fantastic right now, and I can’t have you ruining it.”

Ethan nods, much to Walsh’s pleasure. “Good. Now, if you excuse me, I must head out. Good day, Mr. Brash.”

“Good bye, Walsh.” Ethan greets Walsh goodbye. As Walsh walks away Ethan stares over at the mirror on the wall. Like expected he sees himself, Ethan Brash. There was something else in the same picture. Something Ethan could growing in his eyes.

Ethan turns away from the mirror and shakes his head. He stands to his feet with a deep sigh. “I need a smoke.”

“He shoots,” Michael throws the basketball from the three point line, watching with pride as it sinks right into the basket, “and he scores!”

The ball bounces over to Michael’s opponent, Tate, who takes the ball with a sneer. Michael, noticing the sneer, chuckles at him. “What’s a matter, mate? You jealous?”

“Of course not. You ain’t seen nothing, yet.” Tate passes the ball back to Michael, who catches one-handed with ease. “Bring it on, old man.”

“Old man? Pfft, I’m done taking it easy on you.” Michael checks the ball back to Tate, who in turn checks it back to Michael. They were playing some good old Basketball, the ‘you score, you shoot’ basis.

In the past two months they managed to make a basketball court in the shut down sports room, much to everyone’s delight. Nothing was better than some basketball to waste time with some friends. During spring, hopefully, people wanna try to set up a baseball field outside. Some others, as well, were working on a place to have some good ol’ American fashioned football.

Tate and Michael, both in sleeveless shirts and shorts, have decided to spend Christmas just playing some basketball and hanging out. Nothing special, just some good ol’ bro time. In the past two months Michael and Tate’s friendship has grown deeper, and the two practically hang out with each other all the time now. As they get to know each other more, Tate looks to Michael as a mentor. Sure, they are practically the same age, but Michael worked hard to make sure Tate won’t go down the same road as him. It was touching.

The road to rebuilding himself was moving very slowly, however. Tate has come to terms with Destinee’s death, but he still doesn’t know how to move on. She was his life ever since the high school shooting, and with her gone, he doesn’t know what to do. How can one blame him? Still, he has regained much of his old personality, except his ability to charm women. Sure, he is still charming, but he has no interest in them at the moment. Michael has been trying to get him to go on dates, which frankly, was a bit hypocritical on Michael’s part.

Michael’s flaws still remain pivotal as well. Besides his addiction or inability to forgot Zoey, Michael’s self-esteem hasn’t gotten any better. He managed to save Tate, rebuild the relationship with his daughter and James (for the most part), but he still feels like a failure. He still feels as if he is going to fail everyone around him, despite his best wishes. Maybe it is just apart of Michael that will never go away. Michael, however, has regained a love of...well, life. For years he struggled with apathy towards life, with depression, but he has rebuilt himself on that regard. He is an optimistic man who now wants to live.

“Heads up!” Michael brags as he shoots for another basket, but Tate jumps up into the air, grabbing the ball just an inch before basket. Tate is quick to dribble across the room, decking Michael out of his way, and making a perfect basket from the half court line. Tate’s smirk intensifies as Michael gasps in shock. “Since when can you do that?!”

“Since when can I do what?”

“Since when can I do what?” Michael mimics Tate in a sarcastic tone. “Since when the hell can you ball?”

“Since like...forever ago.”

“You told me you couldn’t ball.”

Tate shrugs with a wide chuckle at Michael’s response. “I guess I lied.”

“You guess?” Michael asks with the shake of his head. “You son of a bitch.” Michael chuckles, making his way over to the bench. He gladly takes a seat, drinking the bottle of water he brought with him. “I’m done, man.”

“I knew you’d quit.” Tate collapses down next to him, gladly drinking from his own water. The two friends laugh at the experience, whilst both glad to finally rest. They played a long game, and nothing is better than resting after a long game of sports. A comfortable silence enters as the two rest, drinking water and taking some breaths. “Good game, man.”

“You too, mate.” Michael and Tate handshake with smiles. “I just feel bad that I took it easy on you.”

“I bet you did.”

“I did.” Michael smirks, but that smirk soon twists into that of awkwardness. He scratches head, covered in semi-sweat. He chuckles at himself for a moment. “So...first off Merry Christmas.”

“Same to you.”

“And….I got you a present.” Tate expresses shock at the comment, having not expected Michael to get him anything. Not like there was anything he even wanted, to be honest.

“Really?” Tate was surprised, even more so when Michael reached into his bag and pulled out a wrapped up gift. “You shouldn’t have.”

“Don’t worry ‘bout it.”

“I didn’t even get you anything.”

“Like I said, don’t worry about it.” Michael holds out the present for the taking. “Take it, mate.”

Tate grabs the present with curiosity and excitement. He unwraps the present with a wide smile that falls once the present is open. Tate’s eyes remain fixitated on the present, not knowing what to say, in fact, he doesn’t even know how to feel. “I knew you didn’t have any I figured you would want one. I’m sorry if you don’t like it.”

In Tate’s hands was a framed picture of Destinee and him. Tate recognized it as the photo they took on the night Tate engaged to her, a night he remembers all to well. It was a beautiful Saturday night in June, and as a treat, Tate took her down to the Wildwood Shore. He walked the Boardwalk with her for hours, and as the sun went her down, took her to a picnic on the scarce beach. They ate, went in the ocean, and laid down on the sand in each other’s arms. A firework show went on in the sky, and it was then that Tate got on one knee and popped the question, underneath the sky flourishing with vast colors. He could still remember her tear filled eyes that accompanied the word “yes”.

The picture in his hand was taken only minutes afterwards. Tate stared into her eyes, which still held home to the joy filled tears. Tate didn’t even know how emotional he was getting until Michael pointed it out. “You okay?” He asked, prompting Tate to rub his eyes, home to fresh tears. Tate looked over to his friend with happiness that he couldn’t even express.

“I love it.” Tate smiles. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.” Michael patted him on the shoulder. “I’m glad you like it.” Tate continues to stare back down at the picture, using his thumb to feel the photograph of Destinee’s face.

“They’re late…” Reyes mutters to himself. He grunts in annoyance at the inconvience, but alas, there was nothing he could do. At least, not now. He sighs whilst his eyes gaze out into the city’s skyline.

Currently, Reyes sat on the rooftop, having relieved the volunteers off watch. Shortly after Ethan became in charge of security, Reyes asked if he could help out in anyway. So, to start his effort of redemption, Reyes became the manager of any volunteer activities, mostly, watch and supply runs.

Two of his volunteers, Dre and McCoy, were scheduled to return an hour ago. Naturally, an hour wasn’t that long so he wasn’t panicking and going out to search for them, but he still felt worried. He was responsible for the lives of his volunteers, so if something were to happen to him...Reyes didn’t know if he could handle that. He can’ take anymore death on his hands, he already has too much.

Reyes still kept running from his past, for good or for bad. It was sad, in a way. It was always depressing to see a man with two completely different sides of himself, struggling to become either one, in this case a bad or good man.

“They’ll be back….” Reyes mutters to himself. “They’ll be fine….”

“So….who are you again?” Dre asks the mysterious woman, Haley. Currently, the three walk down the streets of Philadelphia, with the boys following Haley to her apparent hideout. They were still confused on how this girl managed to take out at least a dozen infected without much trouble. Hell, she didn’t even seem scared, or on the other hand, like a soldier type.

“Geez, you guys ask a lot of questions.” Haley chuckles at them. “I told you, I’m Haley. Haley LaFontaine.”

“And how exactly did you kill all those infected?”

“By...killing them? How do you think?” Haley smirks, pulling out her machete while doing so. She swung it around for a bit with a smile. “With a little bit of this--”, Haley tucks away the machete in favor of the bow and arrow, “and a little bit of this.”

“But like….how?!” McCoy asks. “I mean you’re….”

“You think because I’m a girl I can’t be a badass?”

“What? No. You just don’t seem like the fighting kind of person.” McCoy explains himself with a panic, much to Haley’s delight. She couldn’t help but find these guys droll.

“Rule number one to life, kid. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Well, in this case a person, but you get it.” Haley looks over to McCoy. “You get it, right?”

“Yeah. Yeah I get it.” McCoy nods, looking over to Dre, trying to read on how he felt about Haley. McCoy, while grateful that she saved them, was put off by her for some unknown reason. Dre, meanwhile, seemed to have no problem with her. In fact he seemed to relish in having been saved a woman, or in better terms, a ‘hot’ woman. McCoy thought he spotted Dre staring at Haley’s rear end for a minute, which in all due respect, was not a bad thing at all.

Haley, meanwhile, had no qualms about the guys. She usually has a keen eye when it comes to spotting good and harmful people, and to her, the guys seemed like decent people. Luckily, she saw them being chased down the street by infected, and was able to help them. Most people probably would have let two strangers die by the infected’s cold hands, but Haley wasn’t like that. She always enjoyed helping people, no matter what it may be. “So, if you don’t mind me asking, where are we going, exactly?” Dre asks, his eyes still watching her with interest.

“I got a pretty good set-up a block or so from here.” Haley points north to their destination. “You guys look like you need some weapons and supplies, so figured I’d help ya’ out.”

“Really?” She nods. “Wow, thanks.”

“No need to thank me, young blood.” Haley looks back to the direction of her apartment. However, it was in that moment, she saw three infected come stumbling out from the next street, blocking their way. McCoy and Dre were quick to curse, ducking behind a nearby car to get cover. They expected Haley to do the same, but instead, she took out her machete with a wide smile, walking towards the infected with no fear.

Her walk transitions into a sprint, catching the infected off guard. She is quick to shove the machete right up the first one’s temple with ease. The other two, despite their close proximity, Haley shows no fear at either. She gives one of the former men a kick to the knee, knocking it useless while Haley swings in for a killing strike on the former woman. Once down, she presses her boot down onto the incapacitated one, until her boot sinks through the fragile skull.

Haley turns around to find yet another infected running full force at her. Without enough time to rip the machete out of one of the bodies, Haley simply backs up with a smile, much to McCoy and Dre’s shock. They were beginning to think she may be suicidal.

As the infected got close enough Haley flips backwards onto a car, landing on the roof perfectly, right on-top her two feet. Quickly she draws her bow, but before she can draw her arrow, the infected climbs onto the car. Haley jumps onto the ground, barrel rolling until she rolls right up onto her feet, arrow in hand. On one knee Haley pulls back a bow and lets go, without so much of an aim. The arrow flies straight up the infecteds nostril, ending it’s pitiful life.

Haley smiles at her work, retrieving her machete at simultaneously. She looks to the guys with an energetic smile, while they stare dumbfounded. “Come on!” She calls back. “We’re practically there!”


Apartment was a funny word to describe Haley’s place. She made it sound as if she lived in a crappy, two roomed apartment, which happened to be far from the case. She had herself a condo at the Parc Rittenhouse, a fancy place if McCoy had to say so himself. She secured herself a room on one of the top floors.

“Here we are.” Haley mutters as she uses her keys to open up the door to her home. “Voila! Welcome to my place, also known as Heaven. Either one works.”

The boys follow Haley in, and to their utter surprise, find themselves a...pretty badass apartment. To start with, the condo was big with five rooms and a balcony that overlooked a swimming pool. However, the interior was what turned Dre on most. She had a giant flatscreen television, with numerous devices set up below it. Besides a Blu-Ray player she had dozens of game systems, even the Xbox One and PS4, which never came out. Next to them, like expected, were piles and piles of games. Dre didn’t get a good look but he saw games such as Call of Duty, Halo, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Metal Gear Solid and Infamous.

All around the walls were posters of movies, games, comics, bands. Dre found himself growing a massive crush on her as every second went by. “Is this all your stuff?” Dre asks astonished.

“Hell fucking yeah.” Haley drops her weapons against the wall, instead choosing to plop down on her couch. “This is like my nerd cave.”

“It’s amazing.” Dre looks around with wonder. “Is that a signed Fall Out Boy poster?” Haley nods with a smirk. “And is that an Avengers poster signed by…all of them?”

“Almost all of them. Never got Samuel Jackson or Jeremy Renner.” Haley sits up on the couch, watching with a smile while the guys look around amazed. “You guys wanna play a video game or something? I got plenty of consoles.”

“Where the hell did you get all this stuff?” McCoy asks surprised at the quantity of stuff she had. “Some of this stuff hasn’t even come out!”

“I worked as a video game tester before all this went down. I got my hands on all the goodies.” Haley invites Dre and McCoy a spot next to her on the couch, which they gladly take. Dre was never one to deny a request to sit next to a good looking girl. “I got to work from right on this couch, just playing some games. The best part is I got payed for it! Paid good too.”

“You had yourself a dream job.”

“The best job ever.” Haley throws her feet up onto the coffee table, taking the time of leisure to kick her boots off. “You guys can make yourself at home, if you want.”

“You sure like to make us seem comfortable.” Dre smirks.

“I don’t exactly get a lot of house guest anymore.” Haley chuckles. “So I like to treat the ones I do get nicely.”

“Well we would love--” Dre starts off with his charming smile, but McCoy interrupts.

“--love to stay, but we gotta get going.” McCoy cuts him off, much to Dre’s disdain. “We got people waiting for us back at our place.” McCoy reminds Dre with a ‘are you kidding me?’ kind of stare.

“Where y’all staying at?”

“Franklin Mills Mall.”

“Oh, yeah. I heard about that place.” Haley stands to her feet, briefly stretching out her back. “Alright, well, let me get you stuff.”

“You don’t have to give us anything, ma’am.” McCoy generously offers, but Haley scoffs the offer away.

“Of course I do! We gotta look out for each other.” Haley guides Dre and McCoy out of the living room, until the backer rooms, which were cluttered. Mostly as she hung out her clothing for drying. “Hope you don’t mind the clutter.”

“Oh, we don’t mind at all.” Dre says as he eyes some of her lingerie. “Not at all.”

McCoy, noticing Dre staring, elbows him in the hip. “You have a girlfriend.” McCoy mouths to him silently. Dre, however, pointed towards Haley with a wide smile.

“Look at that.” Dre mouths back. “Look at that.” While McCoy and Dre bicker silently, Haley enters the kitchen, which she has turned into a den for her food supplies. From the looks of it, Haley has plenty of food to go around. Cans piled onto cans piled onto more cans were next to cases upon cases of water. She sure had herself a collection.

Throwing a duffle back onto the table, Haley heads over to her former bedroom. “You guys need weapons, right?”

“I mean, if you want.”

“Taking that as a yes.” Haley disappears into her bedroom, which she turned into her main supply room, complete with weapons, clothes, and any other supply she may need. Once gone, Dre and McCoy head to pack some food. They are grateful for her offer, and as such, make sure not to take to much.

“You are the worst wingman ever.” Dre tells McCoy while packing some cans up.


“Yeah, wingman. Look at that! She is like the perfect woman.”

“Don’t you have a girlfriend?”

“We are not in a serious relationship.” Dre lightly punches McCoy in the shoulder. “You are ruining my chances.”

“Dude, she was way out of our leagues.” McCoy reminds him. “And she’s practically ten years older than us, probably.”

“Whatever.” Dre chuckles, while McCoy laughs at his crush on their savior. Once done with the mocking the men go back to packing up the bag, until they stop about halfway full. They wouldn’t feel right taking to much of her supplies.

Throwing the supply bag around McCoy’s shoulder, the two approach the bedroom, where their jaws drop even more. There were at least two dozen weapons in the room, ranging from blades to powerful rifles. Haley turned around to find them staring in shock. “You guys speechless again?” She chuckles.

“Where did you get all of these?” Dre asks, eyeing some of the snipers she has against the wall.

“I’ve been collecting for years.” Haley tosses them a loaded AK-47 and shotgun. “And, once all this shit went down, there was plenty for the taking. So I helped myself.” Haley approaches the guys with a smirk. “That enough for you guys?”

“Yeah, this is plenty.” Dre can’t help but smile widely at their new supplies. “Thank you.”

“No need to thank me.” Haley leads them back into the main room, with the guys following her lead closely. “I wish you guys a safe trip back.”

“You can come with us.” Dre reminds her. “The mall doesn’t deny anyone.”

“Eh, I’m fine. I’m digging my set-up here.” Haley leans up against the wall as she speaks, while the guys stare at her. Before they depart, McCoy actually has a question left for her.

“I know this is sudden, but I gotta ask. Why are you so...okay with the infected?”

“What you mean?”

“Those things are horrifying, but you don’t seem intimidated by them. In fact, you looked like you were having fun.” Haley bites her lip, thinking of a way to describe how she feels to them. She scratches her chin for a brief moment.

“They’re weird, yeah, but scary? That is optional.”


“Tell me. How do you view this outbreak?”

“How do we view it?” Haley nods to their question. The guys look at each other, both clearly thinking the same thing. “It’s horrible.” Dre admits. “It’s terrifying. The worst thing that ever happened to us.”

“Yeah, I suppose it is, if you look at it like that. This outbreak is all about how you see it. If you believe it to be fun, exciting, adventurous, then you’re gonna have a fun time. However, if you look at it like some dreadful, boring thing, then you’re gonna have a horrible experience. Yeah, it sounds like a stupid ass thing, but it works for me.” Haley was in her own little world, for better or worse. She viewed this whole ordeal as an exhilarating adventure. Life, in the end, was just a big game for her.

“How...can this seem like fun to you?”

“Because there are no rules bounding us, anymore. Nothing to oppress us. No one that can look down on us. For once in our lives, we can choose our own paths, without something holding us down.” Haley looks at them in the eyes to affirm the statement the boys agreed on in the locker room. “We can be who we want to be, and in some cases, be who we were always meant to be.”

McCoy and Dre nod, taking in Haley’s philosophy. It sounded insane, but maybe a little insane was never a bad thing. “Well, if you guys are gonna go, you should head out now. It’s gonna get dark soon.”

“Alright-y then. Thank you for all the help.” Dre gives her another charming smile of his.

“Yes, thank you.”

“Like I said, don’t mention it.” Haley waves them goodbye. “And, you guys are welcome back anytime.”

She watches with a smile as the two men depart from her apartment. Once again, Haley is back to her usual, lonely life. Despite her charming exterior, Haley never did mind being alone. Growing up she was, for the most part, always was alone, as she was considered a nerd. Even through college she didn’t get much friends, that was until she blossomed into the good looking woman she is today.

“I’m in the mood for some games…” Haley speaks to herself. With that said she shuts and locks her door.

Lara sat up against the wall, hidden behind the counter, her head held in shame. She could see Daniel out of the corner of her eye, passed out, having exhausted all of his energy. Lara, however, wasn’t even the slightest bit tired. Not even weak. She looked like a mess, however. Her hair was sticking out all over the place, while she herself was slightly sweaty.

The only clothing to protect herself were a pair of pink, laced panties, otherwise being completely naked, without a care in the world. Lara, despite some may think, was conflicted. Yeah, she loved sex, so naturally she had a good time with Daniel. However, her expeditions have taken effects on her. For one, they stripped away at her dignity and integrity, for another she kept giving in to her weakness.

She sighed to herself. Lara, never wanting to think to deeply about her mistakes, shoves the thoughts to the back of her mind. Wiping off some substance off her face, Lara begins to gather up her clothes, remembering she was going to meet Vicky, Sarah and Sam soon. She stood to her feet, throwing on the remainder of her clothes. Once all in she turned to get Vicky’s dress….but found it underneath Daniel….corrupted. “Fuck..” Lara curses at the sight. That was a good dress too.

James sat in the PA room of the mall, thinking about his next actions. Since it was Christmas Day, James figured he should give some sort of announcement...or speech...or whatever. He wanted to do something special for Christmas Day, considering this may be the last Christmas he has for all he knows. He was happy, and really, he just wanted to help spread the cheers around. So if Walsh wasn’t going to do anything, James would, and since Sarah went off to hang with some friends, he figured he would.

He coughs to himself, before moving the chair closer to the PA system. Reluctantly, he presses. “Good evening, everyone.” James starts off, an awkward smile on his face. “And Merry Christmas! It’s hard to believe Christmas is actually here, right? After all that’s happened in the past few months I thought it would just pass bye, but here we are.”

“Christmas really is a special time. No matter if you celebrate it or not, it’s a holiday that reminds us of the importance of sticking together. It reminds us that, no matter what, we all need each other. After all, it’s a time for giving. It’s a time for being grateful. It’s a time for forgiveness. Now, I know what some might be thinking. Why is that stuff important? After all that’s happened why would a stupid holiday matter? Why does any of the crap you just said mattered?” James chuckles. “I know, I know. This is gonna sound really cheesy, but just listen up. I think it has to be said. Santa may not have visited us this year, but there is plenty of stuff that we can be grateful.”

“Since the beginning of time, forgiveness has been an important message to humanity. It’s a hard one, yeah, but it’s important.”

While James’s goes off over the PA, Vicky makes her way down the halls, Sam by her side. Both girls were laughing about who knows what, but they were happy, that’s what mattered. They were gonna get even happier as they were gonna meet up with Sarah and Lara, who were each respectively off somewhere.

“Most people, like myself, tend not to be so forgiving. Instead they kept grudges, holding onto their own feelings, refusing to see their enemy’s. Not forgiving, however, sometimes leads to results worse than the original conflict.”

Vicky, while in the midst of laughing, looked around the mall. She scanned the many different faces of the hall, curiously thinking about each of their stories. Everyone had a story. It was a subject Vicky found interesting. So, while talking with Sam, she looked around the mall.

There was a certain face Vicky recognized, however. She saw a blue-eyed, young man, walking down the hall. She immediately recognized him. He was a face she couldn’t forgot. Still, the sudden shock of seeing him there had Vicky freeze in her tracks. Right down the hall was Michael.

“I remember this one kid at school who had this one gift, something he valued above anything else. It was something that could never be replaced, in his eyes at least. Then one day this complete stranger comes out and takes it from him for no good reason. He stole it and he destroyed it. It wrecked this poor kid. Then, the day came, when he saw this stranger again. However, his anger had taken over him, leaving him with a lack of forgiveness.”

Michael notices Vicky staring at him from across the room. At first, he didn’t recognize her, assuming her to just be some random girl. However, after a better look, he too stopped dead in his tracks. Her name slipped his mind but he recognized her as the girl who tracked him down after they slept with each other.

Their eyes became fixated on each other, each spelling a different emotion. Michael’s spelled out weariness and fear, fear that the life he had been building on may just get another dent in it.

Vicky’s shocked eyes, however, slowly formed into that of anger.

“He ended up trying to hurt the man for what he did, refusing to listen that he has changed and was sorry. It ended badly, and both their lives were changed as a result. What I’m trying to say is that without forgiveness, we end up hurting ourselves and each other. With it, however...maybe we can turn this forsaken world into a better place.”

Vicky’s glare intensifies by the second as she is consumed by more anger by the second.

“Giving is just as important. Whether it be presents, or new additions to the family, or whatever it may be, giving was always an important part of the holidays.”

McCoy and Dre make their way up the highway, each tired and worn out from their day. They had a long day full of running, hiding, fighting, and meeting new people. All they wanted to do was collapse up onto the floor and nap, but unfortunately, they still had a ten minute walk ahead of them.

However, as the pair walked up the highway, they noticed something odd. Right up the highway, only a few feet away, was a man. He wore ripped up clothes, worn out shoes, and a small bag. They looked at each other and nodded, each thinking the same thing. Together they approached the man, who upon closer expectation, looked like a hermit. He had long blonde hair and a wild, long beard to go with it. His eyes were full of suffering and pain, yet at the same time, friendly.

“Hey, man you okay?” Dre asked, handing the hermit a water bottle. The hermit, staying silent, took it with no reluctance.

“Sometimes there isn’t a better feeling than when you give someone a good gift. I don’t know, to me it always seemed nice. Either way, giving is what helps keep us, as humans, together. To give to a complete stranger is even better. We don’t know what each other went through, and most of the times, a simple gift can change someone’s day. Whether it be a hello, a smile, food, or some big present, try to give to the next person you see. It may change both your days.”

“What’s your name, sir?” McCoy asks as the man finishes up the water bottle. He looks up at them with his pain filled eyes. Very slowly he opens up his mouth.

“Joel.” He informs them. “Joel Ramsey.”

“There is only one way to get through this thing. It isn’t with guns, fighting, or anything along those lines. No. The only way we will get through this is if we learn to forgive and understand each other as human beings. The apocalypse doesn’t happen with the destruction of the world, it happens inside our hearts with the destruction of humanity. So, it’s only together that we can get through this thing. Hope is the gift that we can give each other.”

Ryker stands up in his penthouse suite, watching as his men carry boxes out the halls. They were currently in the process of moving from his penthouse to a new, more secure base. A base where Ryker can still hold a control center in the city and be safe from danger. It was a genius idea for a base, if Ryker were to say so himself.

In the next few minutes he spots Gabriel and Fitzpatrick walk in. He turns toward them as they approach, awaiting to hear their report.

“Personally, I am hopefully for the future ahead of us. If we unite together, then nothing can stop us. So, this Christmas, all I can give is hope. Hope to you fair people, that one day, everything will be okay. That, right there, is a promise. A promise that everything will be okay.”

“Anything to report?” Ryker asks them, hands behind his back and his back curved up straight, like the sophisticated boss he is.

“The mall is ready, sir.” Gabriel reports. “I think it’s about time we pay them a visit.” The report forms a smile upon Ryker’s face. Not a joyful smile. No, this smile was one that spelled evil. Wickedness.

Ryker looked out the penthouse window to his left. He stared out into the distance, in the direction of where Franklin Mills was stationed, his wicked smile growing by the second.

“Merry Christmas.”

Issues of Endangered
Arc 1
Volume 1

1 - Ruined 2 - Father of the Year 3 - Party Girl 4 - It's Been Over 5 - One Wrong Move 6 - Lost 7 - Reporter 8 - Lost and Found 9 - Talk 10 - Brown 11 - Confront 12 - Calm Before the Storm

Arc 2
Volume 2

13 - Chaos 14 - Old Friends, New Enemies 15 - State of Emergency 16 - Just Watch the Sunset 17 - Trust is Weakness 18 - The Riots are the Worst 19 - The Riots are the Worst, Part 2 20 - Not Even the Apocalypse Can Stop Us from Shopping 21 - The Sixth Sense 22 - A Game of What If? 23 - Pain is the Alpha and Omega for Addiction 24 - You Can Never Change

Volume 3

25 - It Not a Small World After-All 26 - Ghosts From the Past and the Demons That Follow 27 - The Coward, The Opportunist, and the New World 28 - Surrounded by the Unseen Foe 29 - Lost Souls 30 - City of Brotherly Love 31 - The Truth Will Set You Free 32 - A Sacrifice of Blood 33 - This Isn't a Video Game 34 - P.T.S.D 35 - A Helping Hand 36 - No Mercy

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