The camp is extremely close, but we take our time, not wanting to tire ourselves out. Teddy is quiet and I am afraid that he is scared, but he doesn’t seem like it - he is smiling a bit and he walks with a spring in his step.
We reach the camp, but we sense something wrong immediately. It is silent - much different from when we visited a little while ago. Usually there are either people outside or the hustle and bustle, the noise inside that we can hear from the open windows.
Nobody is outside, and the building is hushed, almost as if it’s on lockdown. It is terrifying, eerie, and gives me an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“We should…” Ebony starts, clearing her throat. “Maybe we should check inside really quick.”
Everybody in our group looks put off by the silence of it, the noiselessness.
We head into the building, me first, followed by Miles, Ebony, Mike, and Teddy. Mike is in front of Teddy, holding on to his hand.
The lobby of the building is completely empty, no life signs anywhere, which ups the creepiness factor a bit more.
“Mike, Teddy, stay down here, hold up the fort, okay? Miles, come with me. Ebony, you can come too, or you can stay here. Your choice.” I explain, taking charge. Ebony walks over to Mike and Teddy and bends down, talking to Teddy. His smile is gone and he’s nodding sinisterly as she talks to him. Hugging, she stands when they release and hugs her father, then walks back over to where Miles and I are standing at the base of the staircase.
“Stay safe, you three,” Mike calls over to us, giving us a light, reassuring smile.
“Same to you,” Miles responds, and he salutes calmly.
The three of us turn on our heels, getting ready to run up the stairs. Looking back at Teddy and Mike, Teddy gives us all a small wave, trying not to look too upset, and I feel a pang in my chest.
The moans can be heard immediately.
We reach the landing to the second floor and there is a barricade, wooden bars across the doorway. They seem thin enough to kick in and we start working, trying to kick them, pry them off, do everything we can to get through. A few of the boards come off easily, but the rest of them are stubborn and do not budge.
Ebony takes out her gun, clicks the safety on it, and starts using it to hit the nails away. This helps significantly, but I am afraid of the noise. I can hear moans and am positive that we will be greeted by the creatures as soon as the boards are off.
I bend down to look at the could boards that we were able to pry off and see many different shambling feet of all different sizes and conditions.
“Hey, guys,” I whisper to them, and they cease their banging, bending down next to me. Ebony nods grimly and Miles covers his mouth in shock, surprise, anxiety. I bring him over to the steps so he can sit and rest for a minute - the reality of the creatures still hasn’t hit him.
I walk back over to help Ebony pry the boards off. She is working one loose that is about eye level for both of us, meaning we will be face-to-face with the creatures.
She nearly has it off and looks to me, making sure I’m prepared. I nod to her again, pulling out a knife. She has her gun and will be ready.
“One,” she breathes, “two…”
She pauses for a second, looking more anxious every second.
“Three!” she nearly shouts and pulls the board off. I start killing immediately, stabbing them in the head before they can really react. Then, however, they start to realize that we’re there and reach their arms through, trying to scratch. This makes it much more difficult to reach them, and Ebony, after making sure I’m backed away, starts to shoot at the creatures.
Miles pulls out a gun and stands shakily, and I follow, pulling out my own pistol. The gunshots ring out loudly and more creatures show up, coming from around the corner, descending the stairs, everywhere.
It’s no use - the creatures are teeming, filling every space we can see. If we had a suit, we could possibly get in and get out, collecting a few supplies, before getting hurt.
I tell this to the other two, backing away. “I have some coverings. They might not hold for too long, but we’d have enough time to collect at least a few essentials.”
Miles looks to me eagerly. “I’ll do it,” he states, and I am taken aback. “I’ve already been Infected, and I know we have to get this cure. We can do it, but you two both are important. You have things to live for, people to care for. I don’t. I can do it, I promise.”
Consulting Ebony briefly, she tells me that she thinks we should let him if he really wants to. I’m not as easily persuaded as her, but I give in, allowing him to go.
We quickly help to cover him, using the ropes in Ebony’s bag to secure the coverings a bit better. Once he’s wrapped and ready, we work on the rest of the boards, killing enough creatures to pry them off. We count down the last board, one right in the middle keeping them back, and Miles runs through.
Ebony and I continue to shoot and kill, keeping them back. It’s relatively simple now, as they are following Miles, trying to get to him, infect him. He is so brave, checking many different cabinets. I glance at him when I have a moment, but I have to continue helping Ebony.
When he feels that he has enough, Miles runs back over to us, pushing creatures out of the way. He pushes the ones closest to us back, knocking two of them down, and we run down the stairs. I can hear a couple shambling after us, but I am able to turn and kill them when they get to be too close.
When we reach the bottom of the stairs, we turn back around to kill the creatures following us, standing to the side of the steps so they will not fall on top of us. Miles was able to gather a few IVs, a couple chemicals, and a few bottles of pills that might prove very useful. I’m only to make a cursory examination of the loot, but I know that it will be extremely beneficial to my research.
When it seems as if there are no more creatures heading down the stairs, I turn to Miles, starting to question him to make sure he isn’t starting to lose his memory.
“What’s your name?” I question.
“Miles Brooch,” he responds immediately.
“How many family members did you have?”
“3 - my father, mother, and older sister.”
“What happened on your seventh birthday?”
“I sprained my ankle at a trampoline facility and had to spend it in the emergency room.”
“He’s good,” I tell Ebony, turning finally.
Ebony nods and runs over to her family, her father.
Only her father is standing there.
He looks incredibly distressed, turning and sputtering. He keeps pointing with a shaky finger at the entrance and eventually sits down on one of the couches in the lobby, his face in his hands.
I hear a couple more moans and turn to kill the next couple creatures that head down the stairs. Both of them scream when they’re shot, meaning they were relatively newly infected.
“What happened?” Ebony is saying, trying to get some information out of her hysterical father. I wish we were safer, or in a calmer environment, but we are not. I wish I could get him what he needs, something to comfort him.
He is blubbering but finally is able to compose himself enough to speak.
“He got scared,” he manages to breathe out, and takes another moment. Ebony is instructing him to breathe in and out, compose himself, take deep breaths. She is so calm and sweet to him.
I’m afraid that if I were to try to talk to him at all, I might be too rough with him. I’ve never been great at comforting or keeping someone calm, and watching Ebony do it flawlessly shows her so much about her character. She is so steely on the outside but is shaped and molded on the inside by her friends and family.
Mike calms down enough to form coherent sentences and tells us, “He got scared when he heard the gunshots. And then there was a scream and he was afraid that one of you got caught, so he ran…”
His voice trails off, his head turning towards the door again. Teddy must’ve ran out the door.
“I don’t know where he went. He might’ve gone out the front door, but my back was turned - he could’ve gone down a hallway, too, and I don’t know! I’m so sorry!” Mike wails.
“Dad, it’s alright,” Ebony is cooing. “It’s not your fault. We can find him. He’s a tough little bug, he’ll be fine, and he can’t be far away. He won’t be far away. You know how he likes to say goodbye to everyone before leaving - he won’t be able to resist coming back to say goodbye, I promise you. We will find Teddy, and it’s not your fault.”
They are hugging, and I walk over to the couch, sitting down next to him. I pat his shoulder sympathetically and am pulled into the hug by Ebony. Miles comes behind me and joins in and here we are. Survivors, living people, sentimental people. Loving people. Facing problems that we used to face.
It is a moment when I realize that we are human, and we are together. We are alive and have each other, and we are able to experience these events with one another. It isn’t easy, or always fun or safe. It’s extremely difficult, especially seeing others dying, people you love, people you knew, even people you didn’t.
But then you look at each other and realize that you could be one of the creatures. You could be trapped, or dead, or suffering. While we are still suffering in a sense, going through these terrible and terrifying events, we are still together and alive.
For that, I am grateful. At this point, I wouldn’t want anything else.