Blood and Ash

James Kiely has one messed up excuse of a love life. He wakes up one morning next to the reason for it, and suddenly realises life has taken a turn for the better. Unfortunately, he picked the worst morning ever to wake up after sleeping with his best friend.
He picked the apocalypse. This is my entry for the gaming fan fiction contest on the grounds that it is based on The Walking Dead PC game, which I love. Although I have decided to set it in another country, somewhere far away, so I have some of my own credibility. I wanted to write myself a lovely little story, a romcom, but also decided to mix it up somewhat. Unfortunately it isn't easy to do that, so I hope it works out. If it does, I'll ask Movellas to introduce Zombie Apocalypse Romcoms to the categories list.

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5. Ruins

The citadel was utterly destroyed. Smoke billowed from the rooftops, only adding to the scarlet haze in the air. Bonfires raged across roads, blocking whole streets. Torches danced demonically around these fires, burning and destroyed everything in sight. There were gunshots ricocheting backward and forward across the valley, and flashes of light as houses and buildings caught fire. Charcoal blooms of ash whipped up over the spires of the huge church, and the villages around it groaned and ached from the stress. The whole place looked ready to buckle.

Pitrille was a huge monastery situated in the slight valley between two impassable sections of cliff. It was originally just a abbey, but over time, more and more people came to settle around the church and the mountain pass, at which point the monks decided to encompass the rapidly expanding town into their walls. Ever since, Pitrille had been a bustling trading hub, as well as the gateway to the south of Tala. The problem was that this gate was now on fire.

"James," Amy breathed.

"I- I don't believe it."

"What do we do?"

It was amazing that this scene could be viewed with such clarity from almost a mile off. The elevation helped, James decided. He also contemplated briefly the idea of walking round the cliffs. What stopped him was the possible information that staying and watching could have. Maybe watching the events unfold in the citadel could shed some light on the unfolding crisis...

"We're staying put."

Amy wasn't sure what to expect, but that certainly was not a possibility for her. "You expect me to just wait for more of those," -she almost shouted the next word- "things pop up and try and take my head off?"

"More or less."

Amy was starting to get annoyed at James' recurring bluntness, but as he was the homegrown soldier with guns and knives, she decided that perhaps accepting the occasional blunt reply was enough. He definitely didn't know any more than she did, but he could pick things up faster. "Where are we headed, then?"

~

An orange crucible of light bathed the sky in a crimson glow as the sun melted into the horizon. The sky and rolling hills were an idyllic scene, only marred by the cigarette burn of Pitrille, a mile and a half away but still perfectly clear.

James was laughing to the point of nearly falling off the low branch of a large oak tree not far from the path. He had been sat up there for close to ten minutes, watching and laughing as Amy tried desperately tried to climb up to the lowest branch. She had taken a lot of bark off the tree in her attempt to run up one side, and as a result was now lacking any good holds. She was only angered further by this, and as a result was impeded from actual progress because everything she tried had become very flustered. This made James laugh more, until, after almost a quarter of an hour, he finally just gave her his hand and pulled her up alongside him.

There was a brief, awkward moment in which James and Amy found themselves both holding hands and staring striaght into each others' eyes, which was quickly halted by Amy nearly falling off again. James only paused to sigh as he began to scale the large, withered oak tree, Amy behind him by a few feet. James was clearly more adpet at this, and reaced the branch he watned within thirty seconds or so. Amy, however, took closer to three minutes. Every time she slipped, a surge of adrenaline hit her, and made her feet feel weak. It didn't really matter though, as it was hardly impeding her already slow progress. James decided in the end to jump down a few branches and help her. Within another minute, Amy ws up, sitting on the branch, with James behind her. Their bags were hanging from the next branch, although James still had his pistol and knives strapped onto his thighs.

Amy had only just noticed how dark it was getting, and related this to James. He in turn checked his watch, a small Skegg, the type of watch that comes with bells and whistles like the phases of the moon and and a compass.

"It's quarter past nine."

Amy didn't expect James to tell her it was that late. The riots, though distant,were clearly still in full burn,  and Amy slumped slightly where she was perched. James took that as a cue to wrap his arma around her stomach. She was warm to the touch. James slipped his arms under her thin cardigan, and locked his hands together just below her navel. His head was now resting on her shoulder. The scent of perfume reached his nose, and he took it in, embracing the sweet scent. He'd bought her that perfume last year, for her birthday, and was glad that she'd thought to put it on for last night. Last night...

"This time yesterday, we were at a ball," he remarked.

"So we were..." Amy allowed her voice to trail off.

"That was a brilliant night."

The Karem Ball was a very popular black-tie event that marked the first day of the traditional harvest, an important event for the city's ancestry. It had since become extremely well-known, and attracted not only dignitaries from foreign countries, but the luckier members of the city as well. Fashion in Karem and Tala as a whole had generally been pretty bland until the bright, startling colours and shapes that the elite of far-off countries brought with them found their way into the clothes shops of Karem. It was enough to spice up the city's clothing trade for a good month or so after the ball. James had managed to secure tickets for this year's ball months ago, but had waited until the week before to tell her of his success.

He remembered seeing her arrive at the hall, ten minutes late. Sweat was dripping down his forehead, more from his situation than the heat. James had told his friends that he had a date to the event, and had planned to arrive slightly later so that the toastmaster would announce both their names, and give James' already-present friends a chance to realise his success. When Amy did eventually arrive, she came round a corner of one of the grandiose pillars that stood sentinel in front of the huge main door. She came round that corner making apologies, but James was tongue-tied the second he saw her.

"How has all this happened in a day?" Amy asked.

She seemed very dreamy, her deep brown eyes gazing into the vivid horizon, the flames of the burning city casting a fiery glow onto her flawless complexion. Her pale skin was tinted pink from the sunset, and cast in crimson as though an artist was every second painting her into the world with a brush as delicate as a cloud, and a paint so thin that it washed away from mere contact with the air. James instinctively reached out to touch it, pulled by a force of nature he found himself unable to resist, and he felt his roughened thumb trace every contour of her perfectly sculpted cheek, coming to rest against her chin. It was framed against her silky hair in a divine contrast, the sullen, gentle waves falling around her shoulders like a frozen waterfall under the night sky. There was no way in hell he could ever let her go.

It took James a good ten seconds to reply. The memories of the previous night, and then the sight of her now, had made him feel off-balance. "I have no idea."

"This wasn't supposed to happen, James."

James perked up slightly at this. "How do you mean?"

"The ball was fantastic. We were supposed to wake up after last night and have everything worked out. Now we're alone, in a tree, ten miles from home, with a national crisis and a burning city to contend with."

That made considerable sense to James. He brought himself in closer to her, and then remembered he was supposed to be a hero. But what kind of hero was he?

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