Page Fifteen: PreparingEdit
David found his spot among the family members in the living room, having donated his room to the young girl and her family. They were either so tired they were completely knocked out while the rest appeared to be suffring from horrifying nightmares. With no way of telling what these people have seen, he was sure their dreams were of the same catastrophe they have all come to know.
As he laid down in the corner of the room near an elderly man who was wearing some God awful colonge, David rationalized he would not have to be too comfortable, as Matt wouldn't be but two more hours on watch outside. His best friend had become their leader in those earlier days, as the democracy among them all had diminished when he killed the first series of undead. They had all planned for this kind of thing for years, including Josh, Eric and Murphy... Murphy, God rest his soul.
After trips to the shooting range, scenario training with paint-ball guns and even some mixed martial arts training, the group of weekend warriors set poised for any threat to society. Nuclear fallout, global attacks, space invaders... hell, even a fecal holocaust from too much fiber in America's diet wouldn't stop them. However, the disorganization following a massive worldwide epidemic of living dead seemed to put a stint in their survival tactics. It was planned from the beginning of their weekend treks and meetings that Eric would supervise and potentially lead the entire group, starting off with having the primary go-to location when things got too harsh. This location, his family's Summer home here in Natural Bridge was an ideal place for everyone to meet up at. So far, only Matt, David, Josh and Murphy had made it, though no one but Matt had been able to account for his loved ones.
David thought long and hard about this sentiment, horrified for the life of his wife, kids and his parents. Despite having no way of even helping them anyway, he hoped they were all safe in his parents home in Florida... maybe, it wasn't hit too bad their. "Can't sleep, amigo?" asked the smelly old man nearby.
"Nah, I can't." David replied. He felt that he had more to say but came up short handed. "It's Ok, we appreciate you're hospitality." the man said warmly. "But, if your people hadn't come here, then---"
"Please son, don't give me that. We've been losing our loved ones since the beginning of this entire thing. Besides, that kid was a punk anyway." David couldn't help but chuckle at this as he stared up at the ceiling fan. "Anyway you can tell me this isn't God's work?" he asked the old man, seeking his wisdom. "I mean, the bible spoke of the dead walking, but this is just... this is just ridiculous."
The old man had fallen asleep, snoring loudly as David searched for more words.
Suddenly, David's eyes were captured by lights from outside. Jumping to his feet, he grabbed for his AR off of the wall and hopped over the huddled family across the floor to the front door. He stopped to peak out of the window, moving aside the threaded curtains to get a clearer look outside. From behind him, he heard the rustling of movement and shushed them into sheer silence, everyone inside now perfectly quiet.
From what he could see, Matt was approaching the car carrying his shotgun. David went for the front door knob and slowly opened it, shifting his way over to the gape. Outside, the lights turned off and Matt lowered his shotgun, watching as Eric Mason and a young girl, possibly his sister, stepped out of the car. David finally stepped outside all together.
"JESUS MAN!" Eric exclaimed, his arms open to hug Matt who did the same. "I didn't think anyone would've made it... this shit just happened so God damn FAST!" Matt embraced Eric for another moment before letting him go, looking over to see his sister Brooke approach him for a hug as well. "Thank God you're OK Matt... if you're mother here?!" she asked. "Yeah, a bunch of us were able to make it here." Matt looked into the extremely bloody backseat to see that no one else was inside before looking back to Eric, his gaze sadder than he'd ever seen before. Eric shook his head, knowing full and well what Matt wanted to know.
"Eric!" said David, approaching the friends and giving him a hug of support, "It's good to see you, REALLY!" Eric released David and began to wipe his eyes before stepping past them. "I-- I've gotta go wash my face."
As Eric stormed for the front door, Matt followed along with David, trying to slow him down. Brooke followed behind, noticing the concern in keeping Eric from going inside. "Wait, Eric, there's something---" before Matt could finish, Eric was inside of the house.
After turning on the lights, Eric wiped his eyes as a result to the brightness, his vision becoming clear enough to see that the room was filled with dark, dirty and horrified faces. "What the fuck man?" he asked, looking back at Matt and David who had entered the house as well. Matt shook his head, trying to explain when from another room, Anna stepped out followed by Heather Dennis.
"Eric!" Anna exclaimed, running over to hug the confused man who half-heartedly returned the embrace. "Anna, hey, glad you're okay, Matt, what's this? South of the border?!"
"No man. It's just that bad. This is a FAMILY whose been through this, just like us." David finally said. Eric dropped his guard, realizing that his friends had taken in a family in need before heading into the kitchen. "Oh man, whatever..." he said as he immediately went for the refrigerator and opened it, grabbing for a beer that was not there. "Shit... oh well..." he muttered, shutting the door back and leaning his head against it. While Anna talked to the family, telling them everything was OK, Matt reached into a nearby cooler and withdrew a cold homemade brew that he proceeded to bring over to his exhausted friend. "Figured you'd want one..." he said, Eric happily taking the bottle cracking it open with the designer bottle-opener on his key chain. After taking that first swallow, Eric finally felt like he could breathe again. "So guys," he began, his tone oddly casual, "what's new?"
After having calmed down and starting on his second beer, Eric went outside with Matt, Brooke, Anna and the other members of their group still awake, including the family's patriarch Ceasar. He decided to make use of a fire-pit his mother had bought for the cabin on Winter nights while telling his story and smoking on a cigarette from a pack of Cherokee slims given to him by Matt's mother Heather. Standing near the woods, he continued to talk while the others sat and listened.
"...so, after being stuck on the elevator for probably two hours, I was able to open the doors and slide out into the second floor. Someone else helped me out of there too, though I lost him in the shit we went through before getting to my car. I've never been so happy to see that piece of shit car."
"I was at the school in town," Brooke spoke up, "everyone was running and screaming so I ran with my boyfriend to the T-hallway near the band room. We saw Sheriff's deputies getting attacked and--- and--- EATEN... Julius picked up one of the guns a deputy dropped and shot at them. I tried to make him stop, make him come with me to the other hall but... he wouldn't stop." her words were calm but shaken, the young girl remembering every single moment again.
"That's when I showed up." Eric included, "I'd gotten back into town and was passing the school. I thought it would be where people would go, you know? I parked across the street and ran for the door but, uh... yeah, those things were EVERYWHERE!" Brooke regained herself and continued the story, "I'd made it outside just in time to see him... whether or not that's good, lucky or something like that, I'd made it far enough to see my big brother fighting one of those--- THINGS across the street! So, I ran over and helped him!"
"Where are your parents?!" asked Ceasar, concerned. Eric and Brooke just looked down in shame for a long moment. "We made it home," Brooke began, "it was quiet."
Eric interrupted, "I told her to stay downstairs while I went up to check on mom... she was dead under her bed sheet, she was skinned alive and I couldn't move. I, I couldn't believe it! She was... dead."
"I heard something upstairs and went to go check, but then... they started banging on the front door..."
"While I cried for mom, I didn't notice that her latest fling, Derek, was right behind me in the bathroom..."
"I didn't know what to do, so I just leaned against the doors to keep them from getting in..."
"Derek tackled me to the floor and we fought... fought until I looked up to see my, my---"
Everyone was silent now. Eric took a moment to himself, Brooke rubbing his back as he tried to explain the rest. "I saw a, a fifteen pound weight under the bed that mom kept after dad had left. I just picked it up and started wailing on him."
"They got inside," Brooke continued, "I called to Eric, and he came to me! He ran down and jumped over the bannister, covered in--- in---" Eric had finally sat down next to his sister to hold her as she continued the horrible story.
"Mom and Derek's blood. I killed them myself. I heard her scream and came back out. We ran for mom's car in the garage and got away. We did make it to grandpa's and picked him up, but he turned along the way."
"Eric," Brooke pleaded, "you didn't kill him... it's Okay!" The two siblings held one another as Eric cried into his sister's shoulder.
Matt looked over to David, both realizing that the Mason family now only consisted of the two before them. "I'm so sorry guys..." said Anna, full of concern and worry for the two. She grabbed onto Matt's hand, his other one busy holding onto the shotgun as usual.
Eric wiped the tears from his eyes, moving forward with the group, "What about you guys? How'd y'all make out?" he asked. Matt turned to Dave, allowing him to take this one with his adorable gift of gab, "Well Eric," he began, "like you, we sought out who we could and followed the 'plan' just as we'd agreed too... my family is out of state, like Josh's, Matt's family is all here and well... Murphy, he uh---" Eric interrupted David, asking, "Where is Murph?! I'm sure Josh is still asleep, but---" before he could utter the next word, he saw the now common grim look in everyone's eyes. "Jesus... his family?!" Eric asked. No one spoke a word until David continued, breaking the tension. "We waited things out at my place for a few days before loading up and heading this way. We'd initially had three trucks, but one of em, well, yeah... that one had Murphy and his family in it. He was the only one who made it until we got here."
"How'd he die?" asked Brooke out of nowhere, "Did he just, die?" Matt answered this one, "No. He got bit trying to save his girlfriend and son." Ceasar then said, "The bite is what kills you, makes you one of them."
After a tense moment of silence, Brooke and Eric shared a glance before looking back at the group. "Grandpa... he'd made it all the way here with us before he, he---" Brooke said before Eric finished, "died. His heart gave out and he traveled with us dead for almost fifteen miles. We thought we could bury him here but then... while I was driving. You come back no matter what."
Realizing the terrible truth of this ordeal the world had found itself in, no one said a word as the fire slowly burned into the air of a Summer sunrise.
The morning came and passed, as everyone prepared for the day ahead of them all. Reinforcing the cabin and scouting the area, Josh had lead a small group into town to scavenge for supplies after waking up to meet Eric and Brooke. Having also slept through the deaths of the young hispanic boy and Murphy, he'd had a rude awakening needless to say.
The Romano's family had finished dividing things with the other survivors while Ceasar spoke to Eric, Brooke, David, Matt and Anna outside with his wife and daughter Consuela. The young girl was still in shock as she held onto her mother, terrified of the journey they were to continue following. "Please man," Eric told Ceasar, "Stay another night. You guys don't need to be on the road after dark."
"It is Okay mi amano, we each have enough to sustain, and what you've brought from town will surely get us to the coast now." Ceasar replied. Eric looked to Matt and David, both of them nodding back before Eric handed over his grandfather Desert Eagle. "It's loud, but it'll do the trick six times over. Be careful."
The Romano's family proceeded with their goodbyes before heading back to their vehicles on the road below. Eric had noticed them earlier when they arrived, but hadn't thought the passengers were all hoarded into his mother's cabin. For years, this place had been a way his mother would try to get back at his father for leaving, having kept it after the custody battle. In his last year of highschool before dropping out, Eric had used the place more than his mother for not only survival training with his friends, but for loud and fucked up parties. His life had truly gone to shit now that he was in his twenties and preparing for an apocalypse he was sure would never was the only escape he'd had. At the very least, he was thankful to have the place sought out by so many for a light comfort given the world's current situation. According to Matt, there were far worse people out there with way more desire than a place to rest their heads.
As the family prepared to leave, Ceasar noticed that his uncle Enrico was arguing with the others in spanish. Anna approached the conversation along Ceasar, his wife and Consuela, the latter turning to cry even further into her mothers busom. "Enrico," Ceasar called out, "Uncle Enrico... why would you want to do that?!" The old man, drenched in swear and wreaking of perfume turned to his nephew with intense eyes and spoke aloud in english, "I MUST, stay here, at least in the area... I like it here. It's peaceful. It's where I want to be when my time comes."
Matt approached Ceasar, placing his hand on the man's shoulder to relieve him of the tensions he was packing inside of himself. "He can stay. Trust me, fulfilling a living wish is better than no wish at all." Though this sentiment was half-way thought out before he spoke, Matt saw that Ceasar understood. He turned around to shake the hand of the man who not even twenty-four hours earlier had aimed a loaded shotgun at him and his family and said, "Thank you, mi amigo..."
The Romano's family filed down the long, dirt road leading to and from the house back down to the main road, carrying their packs of personal items and supplies. Enrico had said his goodbyes and watched with hope that his family may go onto live another day without an old man who could possibly die at any given time. "I have cancer, you know?" he spoke to the others now standing around him, "I thought the last request I'd ever have was for a steak or something... thank you guys."
Eric swallowed deeply at this revelation, knowing now that they all had a liability among them. He kept his mouth silent as he walked back to the cabin with the others, ready to prepare a full-scale plan. As he walked back for the house, he saw Brooke sitting next to Heather on the old swing that mother had made for the porch. He watched the entire way up as if the thing were going to fall though it never did and most likely never will. It's creaking sent a sound wave into the woods that made Eric turn back to actually seek out the echo, realizing the damn thing was also a liability. If these people were going to have any chance of surviving, they would definitely need to make some serious changes for the worst...
While Anna helped her mother, Enrico and Brooke clean the living room and kitchen, Heather halfway listened to the group of twenty-somethings in the now vacant bedroom that Matt had once claimed for himself and Anna. There survival plans were definitely more interesting than Enrico's interest in Anna's mother, who seemed to share the affection. It's not like Heather could understand all of the spanish anyway...
"So we make it for Canada?!" Josh complained, obviously disagreeing with the plan Eric had made. "Seriously dude, what's running to the cold going to help?" Eric, the groups planner and defacto leader of sorts, replied, "Cold man. These things are rotten to the core and DEAD. This means, NO facilities, NO thinking, NO bleeding. They're hollowed out, and if you think that this hot Summer sun is affecting them by just making them stink, then think about what the cold will do to them!"
"They'll freeze." stated Dave, thinking of the logic behind what Eric was saying. "We wouldn't even have to worry about them."
"How's ammo Matt?" Eric called to his commrade currently going through their supplies while the rest stood around the bed looking at a map of the higher reaches of Virginia into West Virginia. "Welp," he began, finishing the ammo count and reloading the AR, "We came up here and spilled some ammo in South Boston, leaving the AR with a hundred rounds even, so I loaded the magazines with what was left. My mossberg got used throughout this whole fucking thing so I'm down to forty-two 12 gauge shells. Josh's AR is loaded down the same as mine, but he has twice the stockpile I have. Your gramps' M4 is loaded with thirty rounds and an extra magazine to spare. As for pistols, we've got a ton of nine-mil's, probably around three hundred rounds... the forty-four's are down to about sixteen a piece if used evenly and you're snubnose has two speedloads total... dude, why the hell did you even bring this?! Ammo for it is going to be scarce as hell!"
"Sentimental. Plus, it never leaves my car." Eric replied. "Now, we know where we're at as far as supplies go, including the food which no one but us has taken but has indeed added onto, thanks to the very generous Romano's clan. The only thing we will need to scavenge is ammo and medical supplies here in town before heading to the highway, here..." As Eric continued to explain the groups method to reach West Virginia, Matt couldn't help but wonder why he chose the shitty thirty-two snubnose over the forty-four that once belonged to his grandfather. Out of the entire group, Eric was indeed the worst shot and he himself accepted this, but a thirty-two? THAT'S the man's compensation?!
Matt shruged off the thought and continued to put away the supplies and ammo into his duffel bag. He looked up to see his mother peeking inside, watching the men through the crack in the door. He couldn't help but laugh, realizing that his mother was always nosy and bored but this was just silly. Soon enough, he found himself thinking about how hard it was to not only get her to leave but convince her to allow him to grab Anna and her mother Maria. How hard it was too hook up with Dave, Josh and Murph while Eric was at work trapped in an elevator. How hard it was to shoot that son of a bitch who tried stealing their shit on the way into Virginia. Shit just seemed to be getting harder and harder.
"So, for now, we relax." Eric stated. "We relax, enjoy tonight. And tomorrow night. Thursday, we move out. My friend's house in Richmond was abandoned and welcome to us, as according to my last conversation with him before he left for a rescue station in DC. Any questions?"
"One." replied Josh, "Why don't we just go to DC too? Wouldn't there be more people there?" Eric looked the man over, up and down. He had known him all of one year while doing the survival training with Matt, Dave and Murphy, but he had never really liked him. Three years Eric's junior, Josh was certainly a whiny little bitch in Eric's who had something to overcompensate over and over again. It left Eric thinking that his story about his family leaving him behind was most likely bullshit.
"We leave at sun up Thursday. Take it or leave it Joshua." David interjeceted. Josh threw up his hands as he exited the room and huffed, "Whatever." Eric looked to Dave and they both laughed at the pouting Josh's immaturity when from behind them, Enrico pushed his way past Josh into the room after hearing this plan as well, leaving Matt's mother to be squished between the door and wall outside. "No, NO! Mi amigo's, NOT north!" he pleaded.
"What do you mean?" asked Eric, full of concern. "Where do you think we CAME from? Why, why we went further south!? We're from Phillie! North is HORRIBLE right now my friends! Highways are unpassable and, and things are TERRIBLE! Too crowded so, it got... overrun..."
Eric and Dave exchanged a glance of terror before looking back at the man. "Jesus Christ..." uttered Matt, standing to his feet. "What now Eric?!" snarled Josh as he entered the room once again, pushing his way past the concerned Enrico. "What's you're 'big plan' now? Huh?!"
Eric said nothing, all the while leaving Matt and the others waiting for an answer. He looked around the room and outside of the door, noticing that even Brooke, Heather, Anna and her mother were listening in as well.
Feeling the pressure, Eric began packing up the map before passing Matt to retrieve his snubnose from the stockpile before heading to the doorway. "We talk this over at midnight. I need time to think things over."
As Eric left the room and headed upstairs, an uncomfortable air filled the room leaving everyone nervous. Even Josh stopped his snide laughter at the thought they possibly had been screwed out of their plans, hopes and even their chances of survival.
- End Of Page Fifteen. To Be Continued.