Leaving Liberty: A Shore Haven Short Story

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1

“Damn it. Damn it. Damn it,” I shouted, tossing the stack of irrelevant memos and police reports I’d gathered from the chief’s demolished desk across the room. “How does no one know what the hell is happening on this island?”

In frustration, I propped my elbows on the desk in front of me and put my face in my hands. I couldn’t give up. I just couldn’t. From the moment the outbreak started…how many weeks ago had that been now? I didn’t know. I hadn’t kept count of the days.

I’d been strong. I’d cleared the hotel I was working in of the dead when it happened. I’d fortified it to make it a home for the only two other survivors in the hotel, Samantha and Maddie, sisters who’d come to the island at the wrong time for a vacation, and myself. I’d done all of that while still not believing in zombies.

Our world had suffered. Over a hundred years ago, meteors, tsunamis, and earthquakes had devastated our planet, leaving behind a world mostly covered in water and people suffering through genetic mutations and illnesses, so we weren’t immune to sudden devastation, but zombies? Really? Even in our world, they were the things of fiction…until they weren’t.

“It all happened so suddenly,” Samantha said, breaking into my mental rambling. “Yeah, you had sick people for a week or so prior, but no one expects sick people to suddenly turn into zombies, no matter what the movies say. Police or medical personnel wouldn’t have had much time to communicate with the outside world, once the outbreak started.”

The woman didn’t move from her spot on the other side of the counter to comfort me, thank goodness. I didn’t like the way she looked at me as if I was the helpless one, as if I was the scared one, or as if I was the one who’d needed coddling and taking care of these last few weeks. I wanted to strangle her, mostly because I was acting the part and didn’t like that she was seeing me that way.

Thankfully, Maddie was off exploring the bodies in the cells. Samantha’s younger sister trusted me. Had looked to me to take care of them. I couldn’t have her see me falling apart. Samantha probably didn’t like that her sister looked up to me and not her, but she wouldn’t burst her sister’s bubble by ratting me out either.

“True,” I said after taking a long breath to calm myself. I did have to admit that I was acting like the one on the verge of a meltdown when normally that was Samantha’s job. “But if someone survived either here or out there, wouldn’t they have sent word about what was happening?”

“By the looks of the places we’ve explored, we might be the only ones who survived the outbreak on the island. If it happened here first, with as fast as it happened, there wasn’t time for anyone to warn the outside world about the zombies. The sickness, yes, but not its aftermath, and even if someone had spread the word about those that turned into monsters, it was probably too late.

“Maddie and I hadn’t heard about the sickness until we got here. We boarded our plane and flew in with no problems. It wasn’t until we’d settled into the hotel that the city even mentioned closing the airports and it was a day or so later that they raised the bridges. My gut says it started here and spread outward. We might have sent messages to other cities, but everything was over before anything came in, and what was mentioned probably arrived in via the phone or email, nothing with a paper trail we can follow.”

Samantha’s too-calm tone and annoying rationalization of the situation wasn’t making me feel better. I was supposed to be the one keeping her and her sister calm. I was the one in control, but I couldn’t stop myself from overreacting. I wanted answers. I wanted off the island. I wanted a goal, a person to call for help, a place to take us that was safe so that I could stop being the one holding us together and forcing us forward.

I wanted Samantha to shut her fat face and go back to being the helpless one and not the one taking charge. The way she could switch from one mode to the next bothered me. In our new world, there should only be leaders and followers, not people who could be both. Samantha didn’t have it in her to be a willing leader, but she had the strength to step up and take charge if she had to, and with the way I was losing my cool, I was telling her she had to take control. I didn’t like it.

If I didn’t pull myself together, she’d be the one caring for us, which meant we’d go back to hiding from our world and waiting for help to come to us instead of us saving ourselves. I couldn’t be that person who sat by and did nothing. When help arrived, I couldn’t have them finding me cowering in a hotel like a three-year-old who has lost her mommy.

For the life of me, though, I didn’t know what to do. The hospital was gone. Most of the clinics we’d come across in that day’s trek into our newly infested world were in shambles and ones that weren’t didn’t hold any information just like the police stations. I hadn’t honestly expected to find the military setting up base at any of those places, but I had hoped that I’d discover something telling us of quarantine zones or somewhere we could get help and maybe some answers.

If I were telling the truth, I wanted to find a place to drop Samantha and Maddie off so that they were no longer my responsibility. They hadn’t been a huge burden, not like I had initially thought, but Samantha was holding us back.

When I’d searched the hotel in the days after the initial outbreak, I’d known I’d find the two of them still alive. They hadn’t been on the island long, and on the day of the outbreak when we looted the hotel’s kitchen and decided to hide out in our respective rooms until it was over, they hadn’t been sick. I’d also known that Samantha, at least, probably wouldn’t be much help to her sister and me when it came to trying to survive, but the fear of being alone had overruled the annoyance I felt at having to care for someone other than myself in the middle of the apocalypse.

Weeks had passed since then though, and whereas she was helpful with cleaning the hotel, and she hadn’t been that much of a hindrance in our search for help, though her being out of shape slowed us down, I was ready to unload my burden. Maddie, I’d gladly keep around, but Samantha… I should have just left her to cower and starve in the hotel.

Samantha broke me from my thoughts again by putting a hand on my shoulder and saying, “Sadie, let’s go to the bridge while we’re on this side of town. If we can’t get across or get it down, we’ll hit the other three over the next few days. One way or another, we’ll get off this island soon.”

I merely stared at her in stunned silence. I couldn’t believe she of all people was suggesting we stay out in a world crawling with zombies longer than five minutes and suggesting we go back out in it in the days to come. No, I couldn’t have her being the strong one. I had to get my shit together.

So what if there wasn’t any information, nor was there help. That was fine. We’d have to get off the island on our own somehow. We’d leave and find a safe place to wait out the new apocalypse. There had to be safe zones out there somewhere. If it’d happened here first and we’d managed to let the outside world know what was happening, then the government would have places for people to go where they’d be safe.

Taking in a deep breath, I nodded, pulled away from Samantha, and started for the door. Samantha called to her sister, and the two of them followed me out of the station without saying a word. Thank God. I don’t think I could have listened to Samantha’s voice anymore at that moment.

Yeah, I was acting petty. I knew it. Under normal circumstances, Samantha could be a great woman, but right then I was tired, scared, and frustrated, and if I weren’t careful, I’d take out all those emotions on her.

2

I knew fuck all about bridges, so when we got to the one on the west side of the island, after only encountering a dozen or so zombies, I just looked up at the raised, island-half of the bridge. There was no way we were lowering that son of a bitch.

Anger built in me. Frustration reddened my face. Fear had my body trembling.

We were stuck on the damned island: three women, all city girls. We wouldn’t survive long after the food went bad or if one of us got sick.

For a brief second, as I turned to look back at the city, wondering what we were going to do next, I glimpsed Shore Haven and thought maybe we should go there. Word on the street the first day or so into the outbreak had been that the virus started there. If it did, the compound might have answers, but we also might expose ourselves to the virus. I wasn’t willing to risk that yet. Maybe in another month or so if the government hadn’t rescued us.

Forcing myself to turn back, I took in another deep breath. I looked at the bridge for a long moment before walking to the median to the right where Maddie and Samantha stood gaping at multiple pillars of smoke coming from the small city of Edge Borrow nestled on the other side of the island.

“That doesn’t mean anything,” I said, knowing that the sight would cause Samantha to rethink leaving the island. “Anything could’ve happened.”

The smoke meant that the turned had infected the outside world. That didn’t change the fact that I wanted off the damned island. The site also told me that Samantha would want to stay right where she was, and if she stayed, Maddie would stay. I liked Maddie. She was a fighter. She could help me stay alive in our new world. The two of us had a better chance of finding others if we were together, but Samantha would hold her back.

Maddie loved her sister, but maybe in another week or so, and if I could find a way off the island, I’d pull her aside and talk to her about leaving. With the number of zombies on the island decreasing on their own through simple decay if they went long enough without feeding, though, Samantha might have a better chance of convincing Maddie to stay and let the infected burn themselves out or be killed off in the rest of the world before leaving the island.

Seeing the burning cities could almost convince me she might be right, but I couldn’t fight the need to get off the island. I couldn’t let fear of the unknown frighten me into hiding out on Liberty. I felt my expression harden with my resolve, and I turned away from the burning city, the bridge, and the two women. I couldn’t look at either of them at that moment.

I let myself wander off. I didn’t have a destination in mind. Warehouses lined the shoreline, so I aimed for them, trying to look as if I had a purpose. Samantha and Maddie didn’t follow me. Good, I needed time to think about what my next move would be.

“We’re stuck here, aren’t we?” I heard Maddie ask Samantha.

“For now. Even if we can get the bridge down, I don’t think we want to do it until whatever is happening out there settles. Remember, we don’t just have zombies to worry about. We have assholes to watch out for.”

I slowed my pace for a bit to listen to their conversation. Samantha’s words had made me curious. Zombies had been the main thing I’d worried about over the last few weeks.

“What do you mean?” Maddie asked.

“You know what I’m saying—men and women who are going to use the outbreak to their advantage. There are going to be people who revert to the raping and pillaging mindset because there isn’t a government to stop them. We don’t want those kinds of people on the island. We don’t want anyone whose goal is anything other than killing zombies and rebuilding humanity. You’ve heard some of the stories that came after the floods. Our world was seconds from imploding in on itself due to people like that. The three of us haven’t let this outbreak turn us into monsters, and if we can survive it without it doing so, we’ll be lucky.”

“Do you think people will turn that quickly?”

“If some men can turn into rapists after a couple of beers, they can turn into worse things days into a situation like this. There were plenty of people in the world before who were merely waiting for this type of situation to come along to allow them to become the animal they hid inside.”

“I hope we’re better than that,” Maddie said.

“I hope so as well,” Samantha replied.

I hope so too. I didn’t say it aloud.

I don’t know where the two women wandered off to after that, but I continued toward the warehouses. We had plenty of supplies back at the hotel to last a while. The surrounding homes, businesses, and the like would replenish what we needed as we needed it, but it would be nice to know if there were warehouses of stuff at hand as well, especially if they held canned items or things with which we could start a garden.

There was no way for us to know if we were the only ones left on the island, and we had to assume we weren’t, so we needed to prepare to ration what we could. The perishables were already gone. The boxed stuff wouldn’t last much longer once the rodents and insects got ahold of them unless we could get them to a secure storage area.

I hated mentally preparing to stay on the island. I hated thinking that Liberty would be my home for the rest of my life. The island was huge, but knowing I would most likely never leave it made it feel small and made me feel claustrophobic.

Ten years ago, being on the island with the bridges up wouldn’t have been an issue. The water level was high enough then that we could cross by boat, but now passing that way would involve lowering said boat hundreds of feet to the water, scaling down the side of a cliff to said boat, and sailing downriver to the nearest dock or across the river only to climb the opposite cliff. If we got desperate, that would be an option for later on down the road.

The first couple of warehouses I explored I either couldn’t get into or were full of stuff that we couldn’t use without electricity.

The further away I got from Samantha and Maddie, the more I started to think of ways of disappearing. On an island as large as Liberty, I could hide from them if I wanted. Samantha wouldn’t look hard for me. Maddie might if she could get away from Samantha. I could fake my death. But did I truly want to do all of that to get away from the last known two people on the continent? Samantha got on my nerves sometimes, yes, but not all of the time, and I knew most of it was because we were always on edge.

No, I wasn’t thinking rationally. I was more frayed than normal finding the police stations to be of no help. That was all. I’d walk around another ten minutes or so to make sure I’d cooled off enough then head back to the mouth of the bridge to find Samantha and Maddie.

3

 

Being as lost in my thoughts as I was, I didn’t immediately realize that the last warehouse I’d come upon was different from the others. I’d been able to walk through the building’s main office door and straight back to the storage area without any issues. There were no locked doors, no debris or bodies to stumble around, no crates or boxes stacked on pallets to catch my attention.

The gun barrel shoved into my back woke me from my musings and froze my steps. I tried to spin around to see who was behind me, but a deep, male voice told me not to move, so I froze mid-turn. I scanned the room the best I could without shifting my body in any way.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that a middle-aged, balding, black man was behind me. A young Asian woman was to my left, and a teenage boy of mixed heritage was in front of me. I felt more eyes on me, and I sensed movement throughout the warehouse, so I knew there were others. How many, I wondered. Were all of them armed?

“Well, I guess if I had your numbers I wouldn’t be excited to see another human being either,” I said. My voice shook with nerves, and I didn’t try to hide it. “Have you all been together since the beginning?”

“I think she’s alone, Don,” an older woman said from the front entrance.

“Are you?” the man with the gun on me asked. I took a leap and guessed he was Don.

“No.”

“How many are with you?”

“Three, including myself.”

“Where are the others?”

“Up by the bridge.”

“Why?”

“I wanted to see it. To see if there was a way off the island.”

You wanted to. The others didn’t?”

“One of us did, but her older sibling didn’t, and the youngest usually does what the oldest says.”

“They’re family, but not your family?”

“Right.”

“Why doesn’t the eldest want off the island?”

“She’s scared, overweight, a follower. She’d rather wait for someone to rescue her than do something to help herself.”

“Is that why you’re exploring alone.”

“Yes. I needed to get away. I knew when Samantha saw the fires in Edge Borrow that I’d never convince her to help me find a way off the island. I had to get away from them before I said something I would regret.”

“Were you leaving them for good?” the Asian woman asked. I would find out later that her name was Sayo.

“The thought had crossed my mind, but I don’t think I can until I figure out a way off the island. You guys wouldn’t happen to know a way, would you?”

I asked in jest, but the way the room went silent, I knew I’d voiced the right question. Of course, I had. A group that large, living so close to the edge of the island, would have to have a plan.

“You do, don’t you? Tell me,” I demanded.

The feel of the barrel against my back was the only thing keeping me from spinning around or jumping up and down like a toddler in my excitement.

“Take me with you. How can I help?” I asked.

“We might have an idea how to get off the island,” Don said in a flat tone. “Why would we let you go with us if we did and not offer the same chance to your friends?”

“Because I’m a survivor. Samantha isn’t, and she’ll take her sister down with her and all of you most likely. I’m a fighter. I’ve been killing these things since day one.”

“I don’t trust her. She’s too willing to abandon her people,” a woman from my right that I hadn’t seen yet said.

“I don’t want to leave them,” I said and meant it. “I truly don’t, but those two aren’t the kind of people you want with you out there.” I nodded toward the world off the island. “Samantha isn’t anyway. All she wants to do is hide and let others care for her. She’ll only slow you down if you have to walk far to find a quarantine zone. She’ll be another mouth to feed until one of those things gets her, which will happen sooner rather than later. Her sister, Maddie, isn’t that bad, but she isn’t going to leave Samantha. Maddie is capable of thinking and doing for herself, and she does on occasion, but mostly she does whatever Samantha does, and what Samantha does is hide.”

“Why should we believe you?” the woman I would come to know as Diana asked a she turned my head so that I was looking straight ahead and at her.

“You don’t have to take my word for it. Join us or follow us for a while. You’ll see what I mean. In a pre-turned world, Samantha was probably great, but in this one, she’s going to get someone killed. If we get off the island, find a secure place to stay, and can get her to it safely, I’m all about coming back for her and Maddie, but until then, I say let them wait out the apocalypse in the hotel.”

“Hotel?” Lucas, the mixed-race boy, asked, sounding a bit excited.

“I worked at the Liberty Inn on Iowa Drive. Samantha and Maddie were guests. They arrived a few days before everyone started turning. They’re from Ashlyn, I think.”

“I see,” Diana said. The woman watched me for a long time, contemplating what I said. She nodded to the man behind me, who lowered his gun and left the warehouse.

“Are the three of you the only survivors on the island?” Lucas asked while Diana continued to look at me.

Sayo along with a few others approached. None of them said anything.

“Since you all are here, obviously not, but until now I thought so,” I said, looking around at the group.

“Do you know anything about Shore Haven?” Sayo asked.

“I don’t. We haven’t inspected it. I’ve been too scared to go there. In the beginning, I heard that witnesses saw people in black hazmat suits carrying bodies out of the compound. Those same people said that they thought Shore Haven had created the virus, or whatever it was that caused people to turn. I haven’t been brave enough to venture to it. What do you guys know about it?”

“The same as you,” Lucas said. “If we can’t get the bridge down, though, we’re going to try to break in to see if we can make it a home. I’ve heard it has a power source, gardens, theater…” Before the boy could say more, Diana put a hand on his shoulder and gave him a look that told him to shut the hell up.

“You guys think you can lower the bridge?” I asked unable to hide my excitement and letting that possibility distract me from thinking about Shore Haven. I didn’t know if I wanted to follow the group to the compound or not. If it was safe, I could send Samantha and Maddie there, but I would wait to see what Diana’s group did first.

“Probably,” the woman said, motioning for me to follow her to another section of the warehouse that they turned into a living area.

“Have you been in contact with others off the island?” I asked, plopping down on a large sofa.

“We have. A man named Dominic and a large group of survivors is set up in Edge Borrow right on the other side of the bridge. He and Chuck, a man who isn’t here at the moment, are working together to get the bridge down. Don’t ask me how because I don’t know, but it’ll be a few weeks. Dominic said his side of the bridge needs a good bit of repairs first, but they both think they can do it,” Lucas informed me. “Dominic claims they’re building a nice little community over there.”

Sayo and a few other people had moved to the other side of the room to speak in private.

“What are all the fires over there?” I asked the boy though I watched the group converse.

“Mostly body dumps. Dominic said that even though Edge Borrow was a small town compared to Liberty, they had a lot of bodies. You know a small percentage does not turn. They simply die, right? Well, they have those bodies, the bodies of the people eaten by the turned, and the zombies they kill. I guess due to all of the action going on in the town, they’re attracting zombies from all over. Diana and Chuck have discussed doing the same here with the bodies littering the island, but since we plan on leaving they’ve decided doing so will be a waste of time and energy.”

I could tell that wasn’t all. It couldn’t be. The fires were too many and too large. Instead of pressing though, I said, “We’ve been doing it over by the hotel. Mostly we’re just piling them in dumpsters to get them off the roads and the like. I don’t know if we’d have enough bodies to make fires that large.”

Seeing my look of slight disbelief, the boy said, “They’ve also had a few minor skirmishes with other survivors who’ve wanted to take over their territory. Dominic was quick in getting his people together and into a working community. He was lucky. Most places are like the island where the zombies took over before anyone knew what was happening, so no one had time to fortify their homes or town. Dominic barely did with the sickness spreading from here so quickly.”

“You’d think it would be the opposite considering how quickly it swept the island,” I said, trying not to sound as worried about the group on the other side as I did.

Dominic had me on edge, but the group in front of me didn’t seem to feel the same way, so I kept further questions to myself. If he turned out to be a bad guy once we were off the island, then I could leave.

Lucas and I talked while the rest of his group conversed. All of us were waiting for Diana to come back with Chuck. She’d gone after the man once I’d settled into my conversation with Lucas to assist in investigating Samantha and Maddie. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long for their return.

“The new woman…” Chuck looked at me for my name.

“Sadie,” I said.

“Sadie’s correct.” Chuck continued. “I only found two more people. Both women. Obviously sisters. The older one is timid. I’m not saying she won’t be useful in a community like Dominic’s. For our purposes, though, she’ll only be in the way. I say we keep those two in the dark about what we’re doing and come back for them once we know what’s on the other side.”

“The hotel is stocked and fortified,” I said. “If I leave, they won’t venture out of the building until they run out of food. I’ll stay with them until you know for sure the bridge is coming down. If I disappear now, Samantha might panic and get them killed. I’ll help them stock up on supplies and teach them some survival tricks. I’ll do my best to meet with you every day just so that you know I’m alive.”

“That sounds like a plan. If you don’t go back now, the two women might come looking for you. If they find us, we’ll feel obligated to take them with us.”

I agreed.

No one said much of anything after that or asked me any more questions. Diana told me to be safe and that if I changed my mind and thought Samantha and Maddie could survive leaving the island to let them know. Dominic wasn’t picky. He’d take them all in if they wanted to stay with his people, but he didn’t want the numbers coming his way to surprise him, which I understood.

I told her I would, but that I didn’t see it happening.

I thought I looked calm when I left the warehouse and rejoined Samantha and Maddie at the entrance to the bridge, but apparently, I didn’t.

4

  

“What?” Samantha asked as I approached.

The woman looked like she wanted to hug me. What kind of expression did I have on my face to warrant such a reaction from her? I honestly didn’t know how I would feel if she did. I’d probably tell her all about the people in the warehouse and the bridge if she hugged me. I couldn’t take that chance.

I sidestepped her and shook my head in a gesture that said I didn’t want to talk about it, hoping that she would take that as a sign that maybe I’d stumbled upon the body of someone I knew or something equally as disturbing. Without saying a word, I started toward the hotel, hoping the two would follow me and not decide that they needed to examine the warehouse for themselves.

They started walking in my direction. Samantha wouldn’t do any unnecessary exploring. I was counting on that. I caught her glancing back at the bridge and the row of buildings that I’d come from a few times, but I could tell that fear would override any need she felt to find out what I’d seen.

Our trek back to the hotel was uneventful. I know they found my silence and disinterest of my surroundings unusual. I didn’t even notice when we passed a small clinic that looked relatively unscathed. Maddie told me about it later that night. I kicked myself for being so distracted. That clinic would have had plenty of things the two of them might need in the coming months. I promised Maddie that we’d go back to it during one of our next outings.

Once we were back in the hotel and had washed the day off our bodies the best we could, Samantha tried to ask me again what had happened to me, but I wouldn’t answer. I couldn’t. I couldn’t even open my mouth to lie. I feared I’d tell them the truth.

Samantha drove me crazy a great deal of the time, but she was a good woman, and Maddie…Maddie I was growing to love like a sister. She was strong, resilient, and understanding of our reality. She knew no one was coming for us. She realized that we were alone in the world and if we were going to live to see the end of the new apocalypse, we were going to have to do many things we never thought ourselves capable of doing. Samantha understood that as well, I guess, but she was in denial and too much of a coward to survive. She wouldn’t be able to withstand the horrors to come.

Still, I felt guilty that I planned to go without them. I felt ill at the thought of leaving Maddie on the island to die. For better or worse, we were the last remaining humans on the continent, we really should stick together, but I couldn’t risk Samantha preventing me from getting off the island. If I told her what the warehouse group had planned, she’d think of some reason why it wasn’t a good idea, and they’d probably be reasonable ones. I could think of a few myself if I were honest.

I didn’t know the group. They could be lying. Why lie? I don’t know. Possibly to enslave me, take my supplies, or worse. The island was theirs just as much as it was ours so they were welcome to whatever they could find, but perhaps they weren’t willing to risk their lives in search of what they needed.

Dominic was another unknown. The fires worried me. I believed Lucas when he said they were death pyres, but they were so large. Larger than I would expect, not that I’d ever tried to picture burning piles of bodies. Liberty Island had a decent population, but the towns surrounding it were small. The next largest city was Larkin, and it was at least a day or more’s walk from the island. Edge Borrow and Concord, the town next to it, were more like small suburbs of Liberty. Once you left them, you mostly came across small farming communities. Where was he getting enough bodies for all of those pyres to be as big as they were and to burn as long as they did?

To stop myself from talking, I shook my head again at Samantha and went to my room. I hoped my behavior expressed grief and nothing more. They would take it as sorrow over finding someone I knew and not over leaving them, but that was all right as long as they saw it as something other than relief.

I didn’t leave my room until Maddie knocked on my door to tell me supper was ready.

Conversations were random and short-lived while we ate. Maddie and Samantha watched my every move. I tried my best not to appear distracted, skittish, or relieved. Keeping my secret was turning out to be harder than I thought, especially listening to Maddie’s excited chatter over how they could turn the hotel into a proper home and even plant a garden on the roof for when the canned food ran out, or they wanted something fresh to eat.

Hearing her plans only slightly relieved me of my guilt. If Samantha listened to her baby sister, the two of them would be all right until I could figure out a safer place for them to go. I offered up bits of advice and tried to make sure I worded things in such a way as to include myself in the planning.

Maddie didn’t notice the few slip-ups I made or my slight change in demeanor, but I was sure Samantha did. She watched me closely all through the meal and clean up, and the more she watched, the angrier she got. I knew that I’d have to think of something to tell her, and soon.

Finally, that night, just before we went to bed, Samantha had had enough. She pulled me to a stop outside my bedroom door.

“Okay, what the hell happened in those warehouses?” she demanded.

Knowing her question was coming didn’t stop her actions from shocking the hell out of me. A part of me hadn’t believed she had it in her to be so straightforward and commanding. If she would grow that temperament, she might survive.

I quickly masked my surprise with annoyance, pulled my arm from her grip, and snapped, “Nothing.”

“Something happened. You’ve been an entirely different person since you came back from exploring them,” she all but yelled, getting Maddie’s attention.

“I haven’t.”

“You have,” Maddie said, joining the conversation.

Maddie wasn’t angry like her sister. She was mostly curious, which made me miss her already.

“I have?” I asked, trying to sound as if I hadn’t known I’d been behaving any different than I had since I welcomed them to the hotel the weekend of the outbreak.

“Yeah,” Maddie said, gently, knowing that if her sister continued to lead the conversation, Samantha and I would end up in a fight.

God, I was going to miss her.

Without realizing how emotional I was going to be about the situation, I burst into tears. Maddie and Samantha must have assumed the tears were from sorrow because they hugged me tight and didn’t press me anymore.

When they let me go, neither asked any more questions and went to bed without saying another word. I spent the entire night going over the situation in my head, rationalizing why taking Samantha and Maddie with us was a bad idea, and imagining what life off the island was like.

I understood that in many ways the outside world was probably worse. Liberty had a surplus of homes, businesses, grocery stores with food and other supplies to last us months. The bridges being up also meant that the island had a finite number of zombies that we could, over time, eliminate. Their numbers were already dropping. On top of that, the group in the warehouse meant that there were more survivors. With the zombie population gone, the others might come out of hiding, and we’d find out that we had enough people to start over again as we did the last time.

Thinking that almost had me deciding to stay, but then I thought about my family, all of who were not on the island. Logically, I knew they were probably dead, but I needed to know. I needed to understand how zombies were even possible and what our government was doing about them, and I needed to know that we weren’t stuck on the island. Being able to raise and lower the bridge would be a perfect solution to all of my problems.

Once we found answers, we could come back to Liberty and set up a home. We would lower the bridge only when necessary so that we could control who got on the island and who left. We’d need a way to communicate with each other when one of us wasn’t on the island.

All night my brain raced. I barely slept, but apparently, my thoughts and imaginings had calmed me enough that Samantha and Maddie saw me as my usual self the next day and in the days and weeks that followed.

5

  

Every day I woke pretending nothing had changed. Sometimes Samantha, Maddie, and I would venture out of the hotel for supplies, but mostly I would be the one to go scavenging. I was good at coming up with one reason or another to leave the hotel. Those were the only times I was glad that Maddie bowed to her sister’s wishes and only left when her sister did. No, I didn’t like fighting off the zombies alone, but being alone made it easier to go to the warehouse.

Maddie wasn’t a child. She was a grown woman in her mid-twenties, but Samantha was her only family. Her big sister. She would let Samantha take the lead, but only so far. I think Maddie’s reasons for not pushing Samantha were more for Samantha’s safety than her own. She knew her sister didn’t need to be out fighting zombies. She wouldn’t live long if she were.

As much as I wanted to show Maddie the island, most of the time I was thankful she wasn’t with me. Alone I could visit the warehouse without trying to come up with an excuse to do so. Any time the three of us ventured outside of the hotel and I made even the slightest move toward the bridge, Samantha would make up some excuse as to why we shouldn’t go in that direction.

I would sigh, but that was it. I didn’t have the energy to fight with Samantha anymore. She’d made it clear she didn’t want to go anywhere near the East Harbor Bridge or any of the four bridges for that matter, which made it easier for her not to notice that I no longer talked about the other bridges or of finding a way off the island.

Whenever I did go out, I spent a great deal of time making sure Maddie had plenty of ammunition for the guns I was leaving her. We tried to use swords and other handheld weapons as often as we could because most of our encounters with the zombies were in close quarters in a grocery store or apartment building, and we’d risk shooting one another.

I did my best to make my runs a daily occurrence. We wouldn’t always need supplies, but I would make up some random thing I thought we needed for the hotel as an excuse to leave. At least twice a week, I could talk Samantha into going with me. Most of the time, though, we didn’t do anything but wander around killing zombies. Maddie didn’t see that as a waste of time and seemed to relish in the kill. Samantha did. She thought it was a good way to get ourselves killed, but she came anyway because Maddie would beg and plead until she relented.

I wasn’t military. I didn’t come from a military family. I had learned basic self-defense when I first started working on the island. Our world wasn’t as violent as it was before the quakes and tsunamis that destroyed the planet and formed Liberty Island, but we still had murderers, rapists, gangs, thieves, and the like, and the larger the city, the more rampant the crime rate. I was surprised to learn that Samantha and Maddie hadn’t considered that and been more prepared when they came to the island. To be honest, I think if the higher crime rate on the island had occurred to Samantha, the two wouldn’t have even come, which in hindsight, would have been a good thing.

Neither one of them found it odd that I insisted on teaching them what I remember from those classes. I guess the lessons weren’t unusual for our situation. We even searched the library for instructional books about weapons, fighting, and surviving in a world without electricity.

Being stuck on the island was a blessing in so many ways. No matter how much we scrubbed our clothes, they seldom came clean, especially after a run-in with a turned (the turned were always dirty, even after a big rainstorm) or a night of burning bodies. The smell of smoke and death never came out of our clothes. Fortunately, for the time being, clothes were in abundance. So were shoes, blankets, soap, canned soup, and weapons.

Some days, due to Samantha’s arguing, the three of us didn’t venture out much past the block or so that surrounded the hotel, which was fine. We could make enough noise to bring the zombies to us, and Maddie and I did. Samantha initially got pissed at us when she realized what we were doing, but after a while, she merely scowled and killed the nearest zombie.

I wanted to yell at her. To tell her I was doing it for her. The fewer zombies left on the island with her the better, but I couldn’t.

On the days that I wasn’t able to get far from the hotel on my own, I’d sneak out at night to go to the warehouse. I didn’t have to go there every day for any specific reason, but I felt I had to reassure myself that the group was still there, that they hadn’t abandoned me, and that they were still working on a way off the island.

I tried to wait until I was sure Maddie and Samantha were asleep before I left the hotel but still had enough time to get to the warehouse and back before anyone woke. Samantha wasn’t stupid. Maddie might be oblivious, but Samantha had to have noticed those excursions if she noticed nothing else because I was always exhausted the next morning and sometimes I would stumble out of my room wearing the same clothes I’d had on the day before. She never asked questions though.

Every time I’d visit the warehouse, the group was always there. All of them were usually there. They didn’t seem to go on supply runs. They didn’t go hunting the zombies the way Maddie and I did. They stayed in or around the warehouse. I didn’t dare comment about that fact for fear of offending them.

Each time I asked if they were making any progress with getting us off the island, they gave me the same answer. No. They hadn’t found a way yet. Chuck knew some of the basics of the drawbridge, but without power, he wasn’t sure how to lower it or get electricity to it. Radio contact with the other side wasn’t reliable either. Dominic’s people seemed to have a hard time finding enough electricity to run their radio.

Dominic was sure there was a way to lower the bridge manually. In our world, things like drawbridges didn’t rely solely on electricity for fear of losing said electricity. The problem was that neither control station had a manual that told them how to do such a thing.

Chuck spent most of his time researching the problem. He’d been to every public building that he could think of to find the information and so far had only found a way to use solar power to operate it. The hordes on both sides had inadvertently destroyed those panels attached to the bridge and many other places as well, which was why the entire island was without electricity.

 

Weeks passed, and just when I was beginning to give up on the bridge, I returned to the warehouse to discover that Chuck had finally found the information he was looking for in a book he’d gotten from the library, and they were planning to lower the bridge and cross the next day. The news had floored me. I’d arrived expecting to get the same answers I’d been getting day after day.

From the looks of their packing and making plans, no one had intended on finding me to tell me, which pissed me off a bit. No one appeared apologetic about the fact either.

Samantha got aggravated with me, but she would have come and gotten me. At the very least Maddie would have made her.

Before I said anything though, I remembered that I’d opted not to stay with them. I visited nearly every day, but only for an hour or so. They didn’t know me nor I them. We weren’t family. Maddie, Samantha, and I weren’t either, but we had formed a bond over the last few months. The warehouse group felt no obligations toward me. Hell, I hadn’t contributed to their survival in any way. In all of my excursions, it never once crossed my mind that I could research information on the bridge or that I could bring them food and supplies. I’d merely gone there, asked if the bridge was coming down that day, and left. I couldn’t blame them for not wasting time worrying about me.

Instead of rejoicing in the fact that I was getting off the island, I spent the entire trek back to the hotel thinking about the two sisters that I planned to leave behind. I argued with myself about whether or not I should tell them to the point that that night at supper, I almost did a hundred times.

I watched the two women eat, laugh, and talk about their life before the outbreak, and I wanted to tell them that come tomorrow afternoon they’d be able to cross the bridge and head home if they wanted to do so. After we found my family, we could find theirs. But the more Samantha talked about the type of person she’d been, the easier it was to decide not to tell them. She wasn’t cut out for that kind of journey, and I wasn’t the one who could or wanted to care for her for however long the apocalypse lasted.

I had to go alone for my survival. The bridge was coming down the next day. Samantha and Maddie could choose to cross it if they wanted, but they would be alone. Our group…well, the other group I’d be traveling with couldn’t help them. What was on the other side of the bridge was unknown, and we couldn’t have someone like Samantha slowing us down, second-guessing our decisions, or getting us killed trying to save her.

Samantha and Maddie could wait in the hotel until help reached them. Maddie would try to convince Samantha to cross, but I’d put money on Samantha staying. She’d take the bridge lowering as a sign that help was on its way and make Maddie stay in the hotel and wait for it to come.

For all I knew, once the bridge was down, help would come. Dominic hadn’t said he was working with anyone, nor had he mentioned joining us on the island. Everyone in the warehouse group kept saying they were leaving for good. Perhaps with the option of moving on and off the island, the others would be willing to come back once they knew their families were all right and discovered what was going on and if there was a cure or vaccine to protect us from catching the virus. I’d already told them about Samantha and Maddie, so maybe in a few months, if help wasn’t coming, we could come back for them.

I joined in on Samantha and Maddie’s chatter the best I could as we ate, but I’d never been a big talker, and I wasn’t a member of their family, so neither noticed if my behavior was off or not. I’d tried to act natural, but Samantha usually had a way of seeing through that when she was paying attention.

Clean up was quick, and I sat with the two women for a bit longer since the conversation had turned to movies they had and hadn’t watched. That conversation was one in which I could contribute.

When I knew I could safely get away without drawing suspicion, I said my goodnights and went to my room to finish packing. I’d been doing that slowly over the last few weeks, picking out what I felt was essential to my survival, so that neither woman would know what I was doing. All three of us kept a supply pack for runs outside of the hotel. I used that pack to avoid suspicion. That night it would be bulkier than normal, but it would be something familiar if one of the women caught me. I never came up with a believable lie to tell them to explain my leaving, but luckily, I didn’t need one.

6

  

By dawn of that morning, I was at the warehouse. Chuck and one other man—I couldn’t remember his name—were gone, but the others were in the main lobby waiting for the sound of the lowering bridge before exiting. I thought we should be closer in case the sound lured the zombies to us, but the group had decided that waiting at the warehouse was safer on the off-chance Chuck didn’t bring down the bridge.

“Where’s Chuck?” I asked when no one acknowledged my presence.

“At the bridge,” Diana said. “He and Simon are going to lower it manually. I’m not sure how, but Chuck found a book on drawbridges made after the quakes, so he thinks he can use it to figure out how. The two men have been at the bridge all night. They told us to stay here until we heard the bridge start coming down. They said we’d know the sound when we heard it.”

I was both thankful I hadn’t been too late and peeved that they’d made no plans to wait for me.

Chuck was right. We knew the second the bridge started coming down. Two hours after I arrived, we heard a noise, almost like a mechanical humming. I expected something louder, not that the sound was quiet or anything, though, without the ding-ding of the sirens that usually went off with it to indicate further that the bridge was going up or down, it was quiet.

We left the building. The sound of the bridge lowering was drawing zombies, as I knew it would, and the group wanted to be able to get back to the warehouse quickly if something went wrong. Nothing did though. We got to the bridge before the turned could outnumber us, and those closest to us, we were able to dispatch easily enough.

The bridge was almost completely down when we reached its mouth and started to cross. We’d expected to see Dominic or some of his people on the other side, but all that was there was a large metal barrier of some kind blocking the exit.

“What’s that?” I asked, swinging my sword to decapitate a zombie that had stumbled onto the bridge behind me.

“It’s a blockade to keep zombies from leaving the island,” Chuck said. “Dominic warned us that they’d erected it to keep a swarm of zombies from crossing the bridge and attacking them.”

I looked behind me, and though I didn’t see a swarm of zombies, I saw enough to understand Dominic’s worry.

“Surely they can see that there are only us and a handful of the turned on the bridge,” Lucas said. “And those following us won’t be a problem.

“For now they won’t be, no, but their numbers can grow. You’re not looking at things from their point of view. We’re just as unknown to them as they are to us. They have no idea what’s on this island, just as we can’t know what’s on the other side of that wall. Both sides are going on faith that the other is telling the truth.”

“What if they plan to kill us once we’re over there?” I asked, fearing, for the first time, what lay ahead of us.

“Why would they? They’re survivors as well. As long as we don’t pose a threat to them, they shouldn’t be a threat to us,” Chuck said.

I hoped he was right, but the memory of what Samantha had said about people taking advantage of the situation surfaced and had me worried we were walking into a trap. I could turn back. The warehouse group wouldn’t care. I couldn’t make myself turn around though. I had come too far to give up.

Once we were on the other side, we stood and waited at the entrance to the metal door. We heard noises on the other side. Some of it sounded like zombie moaning and shuffling, but we couldn’t be sure we weren’t just hearing echoes of those stumbling toward us from behind. Those numbers were still low and would be easy to handle, but that might not last long.

“We’re here,” Chuck said into his radio.

A door that I didn’t even know was there opened on the left side of the barricade. A man with a rifle aimed our way stepped through. For a brief second, I thought about going for one of my guns but didn’t. We were the unknown stepping into their world. We would have to play nice until we knew what kind of people we were dealing with.

“Follow me,” the man said, motioning us toward the door. He didn’t look frightened of the zombies coming up behind us, but he was just as eager to get away from them as we were.

We did. We had to do it one at a time because the area behind the door was narrow and long. It was a makeshift corridor of some kind, made of metal sheeting, not an actual building. Dominic’s people must have built it, whatever it was, when they created the blockade. A second man stood at the other end in front of another door.

Once we were all inside, the first man closed the door behind us. I barely had room to stretch my arms out to my side; that’s how narrow the space we were in was, and it was barely long enough to hold us all. I gripped my gun in fear but didn’t say or do anything else.

Our group watched the two men, and they watched us. We all flinched when a zombie threw itself at the door. A second later, we heard a few gunshots. They had snipers scoping the bridge. That was a good thing, wasn’t it? Those people hadn’t shot us as we crossed, so chances were they weren’t planning to kill us now.

No one spoke. We remained quiet long after the sound of gunfire ceased. No one even commented on the odd fact that the metal box we were in had electricity. Even though Dominic claimed they had a hard time keeping the radio working, two dim lights were hanging from the ceiling.

After a long moment, the second man spoke.

“You’ll enter one at a time. You’ll relinquish your weapons and packs and allow one of our doctors to examine you for bite marks, scratches, and any other signs of infection,” he said.

A few from our group tried asking questions, tried telling the men that they wouldn’t give up their things, or questioned the reason behind what they were doing, but the first man shouted for them to shut up.

Stunned by the command in his voice, they did as he ordered. I knew then that we’d made a mistake. We couldn’t have known what was going to happen to us, but we should have been better prepared somehow for the type of situation in which we found ourselves.

“All right. As I said. One at a time. I’ll shoot anyone who tries to go against our rules. There are plenty of hungry zombies in the world we can feed your body to, so do as I say.”

Sayo was at the head of the group. She nodded her head and stepped to the second man. No one else made a move. Once the man was satisfied we were going to obey, he opened the door behind him and let the woman through.

I couldn’t hear what was happening on the other side of the door. Sayo obviously wasn’t fighting with anyone. That kind of noise would echo…wouldn’t it?

Not five minutes later, a knock came at the door, and the second man let the next person in line through. I was trembling so hard when it was my turn that I thought I would piss myself.

The room on the other side was a bit wider than the last one was and made out of the same metal sheeting. The same dangling light bulb hung from the ceiling, but the room also had a table, a chair, a box of medical gloves, and a trash can.

A woman waited in that room. She was sitting at the table putting on a fresh pair of gloves. I dreaded finding out how invasive the exam was going to be.

The woman asked me to set my pack and all weapons on the table and to take off my clothes so that she could examine me.

Reluctantly, I did so.

She turned me around in front of her, lifted my arms, felt around in my hair, and looked at the bottoms of my feet. That was it. The examination wasn’t in-depth, and the lighting in the room wasn’t bright enough for her to see every inch of me properly, but I said nothing.

Finding no signs of infection, she gave me back my clothes but told me I would get everything else once I spent three days in quarantine.

“But you just said you didn’t find any signs of infection,” I argued.

“I didn’t, but that still doesn’t mean you haven’t been exposed somehow. We’ve spent months fortifying ourselves against the zombies. We aren’t taking any chances,” she said, knocking on a door to her right. A large window opened, and the woman handed my things to another woman on the other side. After that, she opened the door behind her and motioned for me to go through it.

I’d hoped I would see the others, but instead, I found myself in another metal, makeshift corridor. The woman led me to a door about halfway down the hall. Muffled noises from outside the metal building echoed around me. I didn’t think I’d heard them back in the examination room. The woman didn’t react, but I could almost swear I heard the sounds of the dead coming from Dominic’s side of the bridge. Most likely, the noise of the bridge had brought some zombies out of hiding on their side just as it had on our side.

“This will be your quarantine room,” the woman said, opening the door to a metal framed room that reminded me of a prison cell except there wasn’t a toilet.

I wanted to argue. I wanted to run. I wanted to do a thousand things that I didn’t do as I walked into the room. Before I could turn around inside the cell, the woman had shut and locked the door on me. I rushed to the door to try to stop the lock from catching, but I was too late. I should have made a fuss. Maybe banged on the door and demanded they let me out, but I knew that was fruitless, so I took a seat on the slightly dingy cot to wait out my confinement in the semidarkness of the room.

A minute or so later, I heard footsteps out in the corridor and the door beside me open.

Who had been behind me, I wondered. How many of us were left?

I was sure I was close to the end of the line, so maybe two people.

I heard muffled voices—probably the same woman who led me into my cell, ushering someone into the next. The person—I’m almost sure it was Brandon, another teenage boy in the warehouse group that I’d had minimal contact with—argued for a second, but it was only half-hearted. He, like myself, probably understood that we would do the same to someone new entering the island.

For that matter, their group should have done it to me every time I showed up at the warehouse. A zombie could have bitten me or I could have contracted the virus at any point between the hotel and the warehouse. I guess they thought that with their numbers if I turned, they’d be able to put me down easily enough.

A minute or so later I heard the door on the other side of Brandon open. I was sure Chuck was in that one. I was almost positive he’d been the last of our group. I couldn’t tell if he put up a fight.

I laid back on the cot, thinking I might as well rest. We were in for a long three days. No sooner than I started to get comfortable, my bladder let me know that it was full. I sat up on my elbows and looked around. No toilet as I already knew. No bucket either. The floors were metal. I couldn’t just pee in a corner.

I lay back down and tried to forget about my bladder. Maybe someone would come along in a bit to give me something or take me to a restroom. I wouldn’t be an annoyance just yet. The few people we’d met didn’t seem like the kill ‘em at the slightest aggravation type, but I didn’t want to test that assumption.

I counted to fifty in my head before I heard a faint noise way down at the end of the corridor where Sayo was. I was sure it was the sound of a door opening. Hopefully, Dominic’s people were bringing us food and a bucket. My kingdom for a bucket.

I heard another door open and what I was sure was a scream. The metal framing of the makeshift corridor and quarantine rooms shook. Only slightly, but they shook. I heard another scream. That one was much louder.

I’d never heard Sayo scream, but I was almost positive the sound came from her. I wasn’t the only one who thought so because I heard what I was sure was Chuck call out from his cell, asking if the woman was all right. She didn’t answer. No one answered.

A loud metal sliding against concrete noise was the only reply.

Were they opening the door to the bridge? It sounded like it. Why? Were their people going to the island? That made sense, though I was sure Chuck said Dominic had no desire to explore the island. Dominic said he wasn’t going to let his people get trapped on it as we were if something happened to the bridge.

Obviously, he changed his mind, or some of his people had volunteered, knowing there was a chance the bridge might not stay down forever. I couldn’t fathom that happening. If Chuck could control it now, that shouldn’t ever be a problem again.

I decided that wasn’t the case when our cells shook again. Harder that time, and with it came the sound of zombies. I’d only thought I’d heard it earlier, but at that moment, I knew I had. The noise was so clear, so loud that I would have sworn the creatures were right outside my door.

Were zombies overrunning Dominic’s people? If so, why weren’t they letting us out to help them?

All around me, the group I’d come across the bridge with started yelling for someone to let them out, to tell them what was going on, to give us our weapons so that we could defend ourselves.

The calls were ignored.

Within minutes, the shaking stopped and the sound of zombies nearly faded. A door down the hall opened, and I heard Diana’s voice. I couldn’t make out what she was saying, asking, but I knew it was her. No one replied. Her voice grew louder as she demanded to know what was going on and where they were taking her.

I heard a door open and shut, and then the woman screamed out in pain. Seconds later, she screamed again, but that time it was out of fear. The spine curling sound of zombies followed her scream, and my cell began to shake again. My bladder let go. I was too scared to be embarrassed that I was lying in my urine.

“What the hell is going on out there,” I screamed coming off my bed and rushing to my door. I banged on it, jerked on the handle, and threw myself into it to no avail.

7

 

I continued to scream and throw myself at my door as I heard each door before me open, followed by the screams of someone I knew. The makeshift containment area was growing fragile with each hit I gave it and with every horde that bumped into it as it passed through the opening to the bridge. Their numbers sounded like they were getting bigger each time someone from Dominic’s group pulled one of us from our cell.

When the door opened to the cell two people down from me, I heard screams coming from Edge Borrow. An explosion followed the screams. I heard the woman who examined me call out from somewhere close to my door.

“What the hell was that?” I assumed she asked the person who was pulling us from our cells.

I couldn’t hear the reply. The screams of panic and fear grew worse from the town behind us, and gunfire filled the air.

“How the hell did that happen?” I heard the woman ask. She was closer to me that time.

Again, I couldn’t hear the reply.

I’d stopped screaming and throwing myself at my door when I’d heard her speak. From the confusion in her voice, I knew something had gone wrong with whatever their plan had been for us.

“What’s going on out there?” I asked, trying to sound like I hadn’t heard them first injuring then siccing zombies on my friends.

“Paula? Paula? Wherever you are, run,” I heard a male say. By the way the voice sounded, I could tell it’d come over a radio.

“Jaylen? Where are you? I’ll come to you,” the woman outside my door, Paula, said into the radio.

“You can’t leave,” I shouted. “You have to let us out. At least give us a fighting chance to survive what’s going on out there.”

I don’t think she heard me. Those in the cells on either side of me were screaming for someone to let them out as well.

I didn’t hear another word from Paula or any of the other people who’d brought us here. All I heard were screams, moans from the dead, and bodies hitting the metal container.

The contraption we were in shook, rocked, and every so often slid along the concrete road on which Dominic’s people had built it.

I resumed throwing myself into the door. By the sounds of it, my neighbors were doing the same. None of us seemed to pay any attention to the back end of the container, or at least I didn’t until a loud bang came from that direction. A dent, almost in the shape of a body had formed in the metal. A second later, another body hit the wall, and then a third. That time the container lifted off the ground a foot or so.

The zombies were attacking from all sides. I don’t think that was what Dominic intended. A part of me did a little happy dance that his plans had backfired, but the part that was stuck in the cell was freaking out.

I couldn’t do anything but stand in the center of my cell and listen to the war going on outside. The air filled with the sounds of creaking, moaning, bending as the metal container slowly gave way under the pressure of human and zombie bodies and smooshed in around me.

Never in my life had I had a panic attack, but I started having one then.

There was no air in the room. All of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe. The room couldn’t be losing oxygen. The metal was bent open in places. Air was coming into my cell. Why couldn’t I breathe? I rushed to one of the cracks, gasping, sucking the air in rapidly, but my panicking wasn’t helping me take in the proper amount of oxygen. Tears rolled down my face.

More and more bodies pounded into the back of the container. Bullets that barely missed me flew through the metal. I think one got the person to my left because I heard him scream then hit the floor.

Had it been Chuck? I knew he was the last in our group, but had I been next to the last in line? I couldn’t remember. But Chuck was strong. He was our leader. If he was dead, then we were all dead. It was just a matter of time.

Another bullet flew by my head. The hole it left in the back wall filled with blood and brain matter that ran down the wall. The lights in the room flickered. They hadn’t been bright to begin with, and I’d assumed they were solar powered.

No, I thought, looking at the light bulb hanging from a wire in the ceiling. No, you can’t go out. You can’t leave me in the dark.

The lights flickered again before going out completely. I threw myself into my door, and that time I felt it give a little. Or at least I thought I did. It had to because the back wall of my cell was caving in from all of the bodies pressing against it, and if it gave all the way it would spill zombies in on top of me, and I would be trapped.

I hit the door, again and again, not paying any attention to what was happening on the other side of my cell. My eyes stayed on the slowly bulging frame of the door. More bullets flew by me. One even grazed my arm, but I didn’t feel it.

The last time I hit the door, I felt something push back as if there was a person on the other side trying to get in the room with me. I froze. I watched the doorknob, what I could make out of it anyway, to see if anyone was trying to unlock it. No one was, but someone was pushing on the door, trying to get inside.

“I’m in here,” I screamed. I twisted and turned the doorknob, but didn’t have the strength to break the lock. “I’m here,” I screamed again to keep the person from giving up on getting to me.

Not once did it occur to me that the person wasn’t trying the knob either. Nor did it occur to me that there was more than one person on the other side of the door or that they might not be a person at all. I just kept screaming and pulling on the door.

I’m not sure how it happened. I don’t know if the flimsiness of the hastily put together structure had finally had enough, but almost simultaneously, the back wall caved in, and the door to my cell gave way.

I fell flat on my back, my head aimed toward the back wall as they did so. My skull cracked when it hit the metal floor. The bones in my ribs, legs, and feet shattered as the door came down on me along with the weight of countless zombies. The fall had knocked the wind out of me, but the punctured lungs were what kept me from screaming.

For a brief second, I thought about Samantha and Maddie. Not once had I regretted leaving them until that moment. My last thought wasn’t of the two women, though, it was a prayer that Dominic was dead and that I died before the zombies that were coming down on top of me realized that I was still alive. More metal and bodies fell in around me. The last thing I saw was broken, bloody teeth coming toward my face.