This Dead World

CHAPTER ONE

I reach across the table for the blue tinted glass sitting in front of Jay. She wraps her hand around it, sliding it out of my reach, “What do you think you’re doing, Samson?”

Next to me, Felicity tries not to laugh and the small sound mixes in with the loud voices around us. I leave my hand extended across the sticky wood table, “Come on, Jay. I just want to try it.”

Jay shakes her head, “Not twenty-one yet, Sam. I mean, Felicity is closer to twenty-one so I’d let her have some,” Her gaze moves to Felicity, a big smile filling her face, “Do you want to try it?” Offering the blue glass of homemade alcohol.

I raise my eyebrows at Felicity, and she rolls her eyes at the two of us. She tucks a piece of her bright blonde hair behind her ear, “My stomach’s a little upset or I would,” Jay shrugs her shoulders and takes a drink.

I tap my fingers against the table, noticing the way her face scrunches together as she swallows the clear liquid, “You know, the legal drinking age doesn’t really matter anymore. What are you going to do? Call that idiot of a Sheriff?”

A group behind us erupts with laughter, and I glance over my shoulder at the table of men. The bar is full tonight which is likely because it’s one of three places open after five. They all have large glasses sitting in front of them, and one is waving his hands around enthusiastically, his words coming out loud and fast. He looks familiar to me, but I can’t remember his name. Maybe I’ve seen him at work.

“Still too young. I’d feel responsible if you got drunk and then ran into an infected. You’d be all off your game,” Jay’s glass clinks against the table as she sets it down, “And you just hate the Sheriff because he held you in quarantine when you came here.”

“Yeah. Because of some stupid tech issue with their machines and he kept me there for over a week. Which is longer than normal and they treated me like a criminal. I didn’t eat for the last few days they kept me in there,” The words spill out of my mouth and I can’t control how loud I’m talking by the time I finish. Memories of that week filling my mind and making my chest tight with anger.

Jay points her finger at me, a severe look on her face, “He kept you longer than normal because you were a smart ass.”

Felicity laughs, and I look over at her because it’s one of my favorite sounds. I let out a breath, the anger in my chest slowly releasing and wrap my arm around her shoulders as she says, “Never mind that. Jay, it’d be doubtful that we’d run into any infected. That’s what the wall is for.”

“True,” I add and lean into her, “We just finished all of the repairs and reinforcements to the walls. I don’t think anything is getting through,” The work was hard, especially over the last few weeks but it felt good to finish. It felt good to help strengthen the wall that is surrounding Mt. Smoke and keeping the infected outside.

Jay rolls her eyes at me and runs a hand through her short brown hair, “Go order one if you really want to try it, Sam.”

“He won’t give it to him. He knows that Sam is only eighteen and is abiding by the law from before,” Felicity says with a smirk on her face, leaning forward over the table.

Laughter roars out of Jay’s chest, and I meet Felicity’s gaze, “Really? You had to tell her that?”

Felicity shrugs at me and kisses me quickly on the cheek, “Come on, it’s funny. The world is over, and you can’t even get a drink,” She does a lousy job of stifling her laughter as I narrow my eyes at her.

I open my mouth to respond when a scream cuts through the air, and a deep voice yells, “What the hell,” The room erupting with more cries. I turn around, standing up out of my chair and my stomach drops.

Everyone is backing up, rushing over the mismatched tables and chairs. Past them, I see an infected with its hands grasping at a woman’s back. It jumps at her. Blood spurts out as the infected starts to bite into her skin.

How the hell did that get through the wall?

“Don’t move,” I say to Felicity, not stopping to look back.

I pull my knife out of the sheath on my side and push through the people rushing my way. Another infected steps in through the open door. My pulse is as quick as the blade in my hand. The infected stops moving when the knife slams deep into its brain. Its mouth falls open and dark red blood spills out from it. My blade is covered with the thick red after I pull it out and I look away from the infected crumpling to the ground.

“Get away from me,” A deep voice timbers through the bar, and it makes me turn around. My heart is pounding hard in my chest when I register what’s happening. The second infected is walking toward the bartender who keeps backing up. He has a look of panic on his face as the infected snaps it’s teeth at him. The infected is moving so fast that I almost don’t know how to come at it, not wanting to risk getting scratched or worse. The bartender meets my eyes, and his fear is dripping out onto his cheeks. I jump over the corpse on the ground and rush around the bar. It doesn’t turn toward me as I come behind it which makes it easy to grab the infected by the back of the neck and throw it into the wall. The infected’s head smashes into the glass bottles sitting on the shelves, and it starts to fall toward the floor. A sound erupts from the crowd behind me and the bartender bangs into the wall with his back. I crouch over the squirming infected and quickly slam the knife down into its head. The dead thing jerks and then the movements stop. I turn around quickly and look out at the crowd, everyone’s eyes on me, “Are there any more?”

Jay rushes toward the door, the crowd parting for her, and she quickly peeks her head out. Her hair is blown out of her face when she turns back to me, “I don’t see any.”

I take a step back, the pool of blood starting to grow too close to my shoes and I notice something about the now twice dead infected. Something’s off. They look clean. They look like they took a shower and put on clean clothes this morning. The one at my feet has blood covering just one of its arms, the fabric of the sleeve torn and through the scraps, I can see something white.

How long have they been dead?

My hands are shaking when I walk out from behind the bar, "Please,” A small voice calls out, and I see the woman who was attacked lying on her side with a growing pool of blood around her.

I don’t move closer to her. I know that I should but something keeps my feet from moving. The man I recognized from work steps out from the crowd and says, “She’s a goner.”

“Please,” The woman says again, her words strained, “Just do it,” The pain on her face makes me tighten my grip on the knife. Something like nervousness rises in my chest as the color starts to fade from the woman’s face. She’s going to turn. So someone has got to do it. Someone has to kill her.

Looking around the room, I see people holding onto each other, and some of them have their backs turned from the scene. Felicity’s face peeks out from between two people and meeting her eyes stabilizes me. I try to block out all thoughts from my head and force my legs to move. My muscles strain against the weight of whatever is trying to keep me in place, and I take a step towards the woman. Someone has to do it. I squat down next to the bloody circle and let out a deep breath. I force myself to look at the scuffed up wood floor next to the woman’s head as I try to steady my hand. It’s glossy like someone painted over the wood but underneath the gloss is a long scratch. My hand shakes but I don’t hesitate, quickly thrusting the knife into the woman’s eye. Groans fill the air, and I hear someone whimpering.

A moment passes, and I open my eyes, letting out a deep breath I didn’t know I was holding. My palms are sweaty, and the handle of the knife slides against my skin, “What the hell were those things doing inside the wall?” Someone asks from the crowd. I stand up, wiping the knife across my jeans and follow everyone else’s gaze to the man I recognized before.

Putting my knife back in its sheath, I open my mouth to speak, but a tall woman on my left says, “They don’t look like they’ve been dead that long.”

“You did a hell of a job killing those, Sam,” the man from work says, and I suddenly feel bad for not remembering his name. Mt. Smoke isn’t a large town by any means and I should know his name, “I guess I’m a little rusty. Damn walls are making me soft,” He says as he walks over to his table and picks up a glass of the clear homemade alcohol.

I guess it’s all homemade now. Since the outbreak, there aren’t any factories pumping out anything. Food. Alcohol. New clothes.

The sound of glass clinking makes me turn toward the bar, and I see the bartender pouring a drink into an old jar. He looks at me, and I can still see the drying tears on his cheeks, “Here you go, kid,” His hand shakes as he pushes the glass toward me, “You earned it.”

“They seemed different though,” Another voice calls out and then continues, “Faster.”

Felicity comes through the crowd but stays at the edge of it, her blue eyes stuck to the bodies crumpled on the ground. She looks up at me and says, “I think that’s Jax from the butcher.”

The tall woman takes a step forward and then looks around the room as the color drains from her face, “And the other one is his wife!”

A murmur starts to spread through the crowd and a single drop of sweat rolls down my back. I hold my hands up and say, “Let’s call the Sheriff. Okay?” Trying to make my voice sound stable and calm to combat the panic that’s sweeping through the room.

I turn around and see Jay walking around the bar to grab the radio hanging off the hook on the wall. The bartender frozen in place with his hands in his head. She holds the button down and speaks into it, “Sheriff. Sheriff, we have two -“ But the murmur in the bar has turned into a low roar, and she turns around to yell, “Everyone shut the hell up!” Sheepish looks are exchanged as people start to sit back down at the tables, avoiding the corpses taking up the floor, “Sheriff. We have a situation at Smokey’s Bar.”

Static comes over the radio, and I step around the infected body of Jax, moving closer to Jay as the distinct voice of the Sheriff comes through the radio, “Copy. What kind of situation?”

Jay meets my eyes, and I shrug my shoulders, holding my shaking hands together, “I mean, just tell him the truth?” My voice coming out quiet.

She holds the button down on the large black radio and says, “Two infected. Jax the butcher and his wife.”

Static fills the awkward space in the room, everyone behind us now quietly staring at each other. And then it stops, “Uh,” More static comes through the radio before his hard voice fills the silent air, “Okay. Nobody leaves until I get there.”

“Copy,” Jay responds and hangs the radio back on the nail.

I turn around and see Felicity still standing in the same spot, her arms wrapped around her stomach, the blue shirt she’s wearing makes her eyes seem so much brighter as I walk toward her, “Felicity?” She looks up at me and tries to force a smile on her face, but I put my hands on her shoulders and turn her around, “Why don’t we sit down?

Leading her back to our table, Jay comes up behind me and says, “What the hell was that?”

Felicity sits down, but I stay standing, wanting to be ready in case anything else happens. I look back at the two bodies on the ground and know that there’s only one way they could have turned. Which means that there are more of them inside the wall. I keep my words quiet as I turn toward Jay, “We need to check the wall. Something must have gotten through.”