"Where are we going?" I ask Mr. Drake.
He's quiet. He doesn't say anything right then and there. We went out the back and are walking towards a car.
Mr. Drake has always been cool. He's the laid back attractive teacher who got along with the jocks, had all the girls in school like him and was nice to the nerds. Right now he seems different though. The way he just stares out as though he has something very important on his mind. I don't know what it is. I don't know what the hell this is about.
I walk up ahead of him just a little bit.
"I told you. We're going to help Luna and Alaric."
"They are back that way."
"I know where they are..."
I'm confused. He keeps walking. We are walking in the opposite direction. He stays quiet. I lag behind a little bit and notice his eyes follow me. He slows down. His dark eyes pierce over at me. They just stay steady on me. He's scaring the fuck out of me. My heart is beating so fast.
I stop walking.
Mr. Drake stops.
"I want to head to back to the gas station," I tell him.
"That's not smart."
"The dead are back there," he tells me, "There's a swarm. That's what we call them. A swarm. You don't want to be near a swarm. A swarm keeps growing until it's a herd. That gas station won't stand against a herd of the dead. You know that right?"
I don't know what he was talking about. Swarm? Herd? All I knew was that my friends were back at that gas station and Mr. Drake was acting weird.
That's when I hear it. The sound of a phone. It's ringing.
It's in his pocket.
"You have a signal."
Mr. Drake ignores the phone. He looks at me behind is square glasses. That's when he takes them off and throws them to the ground as though he never needed them at all.
"You're coming with me Sunday. Whether you like it or not."
That's when he does it. He takes out a gun tucked in his carry-on bag! He points the gun right at me! My heart is racing. This is different from the gun that I had seen before. My heart is racing. I've never had a gun pointed at me before. The look in Mr. Drake's eyes isn't a crazy look. He's cool, calm, and collected. He hasn't temporarily lost his mind. No. He was right where he wanted to be.
And it was all becoming clear that Mr. Drake was no one's school teacher.
I can see it in his eyes what Mr. Drake was.
He was a hired killer.
The afternoon passes by relatively quickly. Mr. Drake finds a car on the road. The keys are still in it. Whatever is happening in the world is causing people to abandon their cars right on the road. I look on the side of the highway and see more of those things. Things like Austin. The dead have taken over the Interstate. They walk aimlessly and we move too fast for them to notice us. I don't know if I feel safer in this car with Mr. Drake or if I want to take my chances out of the car with them. The highway going towards Savannah is littered with abandoned cars, so much so that Mr. Drake has to take the service road.
He doesn't talk in the car. He keeps the gun pointed at me as though I am going to make a run for it. A part of me thinks maybe I should.
His phone rings again.
He picks it up.
"I got the boy," he states.
He puts the gun in cupholder for a minute so that he can drive with one hand and steer with the other. I can hear the voice on the other end of the phone but can't hear what they are saying. I look down at the gun. My heart is racing. I don't know how else to fucking say it.
There is a silence for a minute.
"We'll get to the rendezvous point. Yeah. Yeah. I understand. I'll keep him alive. I won't kill him. I know you need him."
I look down at the gun. My eyes stare intently on it.
"Don't think about it," he tells me all of a sudden.
I turn away. I don't have a choice.
It takes only an hour to get to the outskirts of Savannah. As we get there it becomes harder and harder to drive. So hard that we have to get out of the car and start walking.
"Don't try anything funny," Mr. Drake warns me.
His voice is deep and menacing. It's nothing like the man I met in class. He's done a complete personality change and I'm scared to death. My heart is racing when the car stops at that moment. I get out and every part of me is shaking.
We start walking towards the city. The highway leading into Savannah is littered with abandoned cars. And then there is the smell. The smell of death. It isn't' until we walk up on the side of the highway that I see my first body or what is left of it at least. All I see is an upper torso of what used to be a woman. She had to be in her late 40s or early 50s. Her lower body has been completely removed, ripped and torn off her body. That's not the scary part. The scary part is she is still moving. Her upper body crawls towards us. What's left of her jaw snaps hungrily at us.
She scares me to death.
We make it to the city. Savannah is an easy city. It's plotted out in a way that makes sense. You don't mind walking everywhere. When we get to the city however he seems to stop. Something has caught his attention and it isn't until I hear the loud moaning that I know what is happening.
"Fuck. The streets are littered with them."
He's right. We stand up on the side of the street and on the next street there are the dead. Some stand. Some pace. All of them are waiting. A city full of abandoned mind states craving one thing and one thing only: Something to eat.
He looks to see how many bullets he has. From the expression he gives right after I don't think he is happy by the number.
My mouth is dry. I'm thirsty. I'm hungry. I'm tired.
Overall though I feel betrayed, "If I'm going to die out here I should at least know who you are? Who sent you? Why were you posing to be a teacher?"
"Just shut up and keep walking."
"What if I don't?"
"You said on the phone that you won't kill me. Someone doesn't want me dead, otherwise I'd be dead already. I can see the look in your eyes."
"Dead and decapitated are two different things," he tells me, "I wouldn't mind shooting you in the legs if you try to run."
"I might die. You going to take the risk."
He really didn't know much about me. Not too far away there is a street that leads to my house. I can find my mother. I can stay safe out there from these zombies and whoever the hell Mr. Drake was. I start backing away slowly trying to see if he would hesitate or not. He looks at me threatening me with each stare.
Then I take off.
I take off and I don't hear a gun shot!
He does NOT shoot!
But then I hear the footsteps behind me. He's chasing me. He's fast as fuck too. We are running down the street. We make it to the next block where there the dead have packed in. The sound of our feet mashing against the pavement must have tipped them off. They are alerted to us.
That's when I feel him tackle me from the back.
I hit the ground hard. Real hard. My lip splits open almost immediately. I feel nothing but pain as he tries to pin me down with my own arms. He clutches my wrists up against one another. I squirm. I try to push him off and almost do it. I manage to push him off of me but only to have him quickly climb back on top of me and pin me down again.
That's when I turn to the right and see them. The dead. They are getting closer and closer. They march towards us. I am struggling to get Mr. Drake off of me. I don't have much time though. They keep getting closer and closer.
I can smell them first. Then I hear the crackling of bones. The dripping of hungry jaws. The squishy sound of drool as their mouths hang open ready to feed on our flesh!
They are close...so close!
Mr. Drake doesn't even see them until it's too late. Until they start to descend on both of us. They bite him first, taking a huge chunk out of his shoulder before he reaches for his gun and shoots one in the head. He shoots another and another.
There are too many. Way too many!
That's when they get to me. They bite me hard on the wrist. I try to kick one off as hard as I can. It only causes the others to try to get closer. The others are trying to bite me. A young man who has turned into one of them scratches me from the outside. Another comes up from behind and attempts to drag me away. Three start biting on my legs.
I squirm in pain.
Mr. Drake is shooting wildly at them but then I notice something. He's not trying to protect himself. He's trying to protect me.
But it's too late. Far too late. The dark figures come over me. I can see them snarling, threatening to not just rip me apart. They were going to eat me alive. Nothing would be remaining.
I lay on the ground. I close my eyes.
Who thought that I would die like this? I'm alone without any of my friends. Valentina and Ignacio wouldn't even be able to identify my body when they were done. I get still. I stop fighting. What's the point anymore? What's the point of fighting?
That's when I hear a voice.
Almost like an angel.
"DON'T GIVE UP!"
I think it's in my head. I think it's in my head so much until I hear gun shots ring out. The gun shots come from everywhere. They scatter over my head as quick as possible. I don't know what's happening but I see the zombies being bitten back.
There is a boy. He's shirtless. He has the body of some sort of Greek God. All I see is abs and arms like that of some sort of body builder. He looks familiar but at the moment I don't think I recognize him.
"DON'T GIVE UP!" he screams again.
He beats the zombies away from me. His gunshots ring out. Others come to help him. Before I know it I'm in this stranger's arms. I look up at his green eyes, his dark skin.
And I think it's a miracle.
"Alaric?" I ask right before I pass out.
I wake up. I don't know how much time has passed but it's not daytime anymore. It's night time. I don't know if I passed out from blood loss or exhaustion. All I know is that I'm in a bar. I look around weakly but even with half my senses I recognize the bar. Ol' Shirleys tavern. I'll never forget Ignacio snuck me in here when we were just 15. This is where I had my first drink. It was a shot of tequila. I damn near got drunk the first shot. Ignacio wouldn't stop laughing and he made sure to record every moment of it to share with Valentina when we got back home. I was so pissed. I wonder if memories like that were ever going to happen.
The world had gone to shit now. That much was clear. Maybe that was the last good memory I'll ever have.
"Why'd you bring them in here? They are bitten. They are going to turn."
"I didn't have a choice. They needed help."
I raise my head. I'm not being restrained but in the corner of my eye I can see Mr. Drake. He has been tied up and restrained up against a pole. He doesn't look so good. I get up at that moment and see the boy who I thought was Alaric. He is a more muscular, older version of Alaric. He has to be in his 20s. He has a goatee. To say that he's fine as fuck is an understatement.
He doesn't have a shirt on and if it was up to me he would die without one on. There is an older lady with him. Then there is a guy and a young girl probably around the age of 10 or something. I'm assuming he's her father because she sits on his lap. Then there is a guy about the guy who looks like Alaric. He's just as muscular. Just as handsome and has those beautiful eyes.
"He's up," the older lady points out.
The man with the daughter shakes his head, "We should tie him up. It's not safe. Not with my Mary Anne."
"I'm not going to hurt anyone," I state.
My head is aching at that moment when I get up. I look over at the boy who saved me. He walks over to me and hands me a bottle full of water.
"You got a death wish?" he asks, "You and your friend wandered right into a swarm."
"He isn't my friend," I state looking down at Mr. Drake.
Mr. Drake looks shitty to say the least. His skin is turning a slight bit gray. He is breathing loudly in the corner. He was bit, but then so was I.
"If he's not your friend then who is he?"
I look at Mr. Drake.
"I don't know. Ask him."
I could tell them about how he was posing to be my teacher. I could tell them about how he tried to kidnap me. Truth is I don't trust these people. They were strangers and from the looks of it a lot of them were probably strangers to one another as well. The guy who saved me is the only one who is even attempting to come anywhere near me. The rest of them keep their distance like I have been quarantined or something.
I notice the little girl. I notice how her dad holds her close. He's attempting to keep her away from me. I can see it in his eyes. He has something in his hands. I'm not sure what it is because he's hiding it behind his back but I know it's a weapon of some sort. I can just tell.
"He's out of it. He's infected..." the boy tells me, "But for some reason you aren't and we want to know why."
"I don't know..."
"He's lying..." the father states.
The father of the little girl gets up. He's a nervous looking man. He may be in his late 30s. He has pink skin all flushed with nervousness. His eyes are beady and red. At first I think he's sick but I don't think they would let him walk around freely if he's sick. No. He's exhausted. He has bags underneath his eyes. He hasn't had rest in quite a while. I can smell the coffee from here on him. I can see how nervous he is. His breathing almost rivals Mr. Drake's. I see what is in his hand now. He places his girl on the bar and he has an army knife. He clutches onto it while looking at me. He's ready to use it. I can tell he wants to kill me. He wants to stab me multiple times in the head.
"Mr. Quincy, don't do it," the boy who saved me says, "It's been 40 minutes since we found him. 40 minutes and he hasn't even shown one sign of being sick. Not so much as a cough. Don't tell me you aren't curious."
"I'm not curious. Not curious if my daughter is in this bar," Mr. Quincy states.
The other strangers stare at me. Even if Mr. Quincy isn't interested the rest of them are. I can tell by how they keep their distance however that they are still afraid. I haven't been tied up like Mr. Drake. Maybe they didn't have enough rope or maybe, just maybe they felt like I wasn't a threat to them.
And I was confused.
Was I a threat or not?
That's when the other muscular boy who has been quiet this whole time runs over and tackles Mr. Quincy. He and the boy who saved me secure Mr. Quincy to the nearest bar. They are strong. That part is clear. They outman Mr. Quincy easily. He didn't even stand a chance against the younger, more athletic boys. The two boys clearly saved my life.
"Daddy!" his daughter screams out.
She breaks out into tears as her father is being hurt.
"You're upsetting your daughter Mr. Quincy. You need to calm down."
"Fuck calming down. We have to kill him. We have to kill him before he changes and kills us."
"Please," I state realizing that these people had no reason to trust me, "I'm not a threat. I don't even know anything about those things outside."
The older lady who has been keeping out of the scuffle crosses her arms, "You been living under a rock or something?"
"Sort of. I've been in the woods," I tell them.
"He's lying..." Mr. Quincy says.
That's when it happens. Mr. Quincy has had enough. The man attacks me! He lunges forward.
"I've been bit before," I tell them, "By one of those things. I promise. Here. I still have the mark to prove it. This wasn't my first time being bitten. I promise. I got bit. Out in the woods. I was on a camping trip."
"How many hours ago..."
"Not hours. Days."
"Impossible," the old lady says.
"Listen to what he has to say Diane," the boy who saved me tells her, "Look at that wound. That's a bite mark. It's healing up like normal. It's not spreading. It's not infesting him."
"Why you defending this kid?" Mr. Quincy asks.
"I think he's telling the truth," the boy who saved me says.
"You're an idiot," The old lady responds, "That boy was bitten. Everyone that was bitten turns."
"Not him..." a voice says.
We all turn and see who has spoken. It's Mr. Drake. He's up against the wall. He is coughing so loudly after he speaks that we don't make out what he says after that. My eyes shoot over at Mr. Drake. He looks so bad. So fucking bad. My heart is racing. I'm scared to death wondering what is wrong with the guy.
"What did you say?" The old lady asks Mr. Drake.
"He's won't turn. And if you knew what I know you'd get as far away from him as possible... If you...knew what I knew. I'm not... the last ...one. They are... coming for him. They will kill ALL of you to get to him. They are...coming...they are coming..."
He squirms in pain at that moment.
The threat is loud and clear and he loses consciousness before they can get anymore out of him. Blood is spilling out of his mouth.
The old lady is the one who gets a gun, goes right up to Mr. Drake and shoots him in the head! She doesn't blink twice. She doesn't hesitate.
Then she turns her gone on me.
"Dianne! Wait..." the boy states.
"You heard what they said. We can't take the risk. We survived the herd because we didn't take the risk. You saw what happened to everyone else. Everyone else is dead. All our friends. All our family. We can't take the risk. We keep going. No matter what. We keep moving."
"You're right," the boy who saved me says.
"Nixon," the other boy argues, "You can't be serious..."
"I'm serious. We can't take the risk."
Mr. Quincy who is still being pinned gets released. I squirm at that moment realizing that Mr. Drake literally just doomed me. I can see these people aren't looking at me the same. I have no idea what Mr. Drake was talking about. All I know is that if I had an opportunity to live, he just completely ruined it for me.
I watch as the boy Nixon walks over to me. He grabs the gun that Dianne had. He points it at me.
"Any last words..."
"Please don't kill me," I state.
"Not here, not here in front of the kid," Nixon states.
Mr. Quincy nods, "You're right. Not in front of my daughter. We'll take him out back. It's easy out there. No one has to hear."
Nixon grabs me picking me up by the side of his neck. Mr. Quincy and the other muscular boy come along with us. The others remain in the bar with the little girl.
The sun is so hot. So fucking hot.
What a horrible day to die.
"I wish it didn't have to be like this," Mr. Quincy is tellinig me in my ear, "This is just how the world is now. We don't take chances. When you get bit you turn. You understand. Right kid? That's just the way it is. If I got to kill you to save my daughter that's what I'm going to do. You get it don't you? Don't blame me. You understand? Right Kid? I bet you understand. If you met me two months ago you would have liked me. I'm not a bad guy. I swear I'm not a bad guy. That's just how things are. That's how the world is now. You understand, don't you, kid?"
We get outside.
What a bad day to die? There are mosquitoes buzzing around. There are insects from every angle. What a bad day to die.
That's when I hear it.
The other muscular boy shakes his head, "Nixon we can't do this."
"Beric we have no choice. Bro...the group has already decided."
They were brothers. You wonder when you're about to die how your body is going to react. I don't think my body is going react like this. I don't expect to piss myself right in front of these boys. The wetness soils my pants. It's a relief in a way. It's a bit of moisture. That is until I start to stink. What a horrible day to die.
It's at this moment I realize what this world has become. I believed Mr. Quincy. I didn't even blame him. They were good people. We all were but it was clear that this world required something that none of us were ready for. Human nature took over. The instinct to survive. And I wonder what they had done to survive until now. I wonder how many others were before me, or Mr. Drake. I wonder how many will be after.
I wonder how this will all end.
I don't think I'll be around to find out.
"Please don't kill me," I tell them, "Please don't kill me..."
"Nixon we can't do this," Beric responds.
"We have to. We have to. We have to. We have enough dealing with the dead. If there are others looking for him. If they think will hurt us for him...we can't risk it. We have to kill him. I'm sorry Beric."
Beric looks away. He gives up trying to convince his brother. He joins Mr. Quincy on the other side of the alley. They don't want to look. It's up to Nixon.
"Don't apologize to me," is the last thing I hear Beric say.
Nixon turns to me, "I'm sorry stranger. You're going to have to die. That's just how it is. You're going to have to die."
That's when I hear it.
The bullet pierces my heart from the back.
It's painful at first but then nothing. I feel nothing.
I'm dead before I hit the ground.
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