Pain roared through him. He had seen suffering, usually at the hands of his new family. He had even dealt out more than his share. But he had always felt distant, removed. Now that he had become the man being hurt, everything changed.
Normal things like watching the ants move along the floor of the stifling shack, seemed light years away from him. The pain owned him, made him remember his parents and how they had always seen such promise in him. It reminded him of school and that nice older woman at the convenience store. All that was dead now. Everyone was dead. He knew that, but they still loved him. They would never hurt him. They were his new family.
A slap across the face caused Haeds to look up at his capture.
“Earth to crazy-ass loon. Are you going to answer me or should we go to finger number three.”
Haeds looked from the grizzled face of the evil shitkicker, down at the stumps of two of his bleeding fingers.
Brown spoke again. “Listen dumbass, I don’t have time to screw around and it’s all your fault. If you think you can still enjoy being king of the zombies without fingers I guess that’s your choice.” The clippers moved over the middle finger of his left hand.
“No! Wait, stop!” He panted. He didn’t want to tell these losers a thing. He was the king of these wastes. But one thing Brown said did make sense. He didn’t want to be a king without fingers. He would tell them. What would it matter? They would all be dead soon anyway.
He spit out some blood that had been lingering in his mouth. “I got bit, okay. But instead of the bite killing me, like it did everyone else, I survived.”
Brown became dead serious, but at least didn’t look like he was about to hurt him anymore. “So what happened?”
“I got sick—you know the fever, like everyone else. But I got better. It didn’t kill me.” He rolled up his sleeve. The twisted bite scar had been a mark of pride for him. I badge of honor that always reminded him that he was better than everybody else. He began to enjoy his role, despite the pain. He would teach this low-life who he was really dealing with.
“But why did it happen? What makes you different from everyone else?”
“I’m just better than-”
After grabbing him by the collar, Brown yelled in his face. “Knock it off or we are back to the clippers. Why… are…you…different? Something must have happened to you when you were younger.”
“Looking up into his eyes, Haeds said, “When I was a kid I got real sick.”
* * *
Spencer was just about to try to force his way into the shack, when Brown beat him to the punch and opened the door. Sweat and grim covered his upper body and large sweat stains had pooled under his armpits.
“So how’s shit stain in there?”
“He’s going to have to give up the piano,” Brown said, while reached for a water bottle that Wart handed him.
Spencer wrinkled his nose. “Huh, did you learn anything? Come on man, the shit’s hitting the fan with Godzilla force around here.”
“I think I figured out why the zombies don’t attack him, but that isn’t going to do much to help us fight off four hundred Walkers.”
“You don’t know the half of it. Like everyone’s leaving.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
Spencer pointed toward the rides a Brown took in the sight of the frantic packing. Brown opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by the appearance of Mel, Flinch, and Rollie. Flinch pushed Rollie’s wheelchair through the clinging desert sands and was just able to make it to them. It looked like Mel had scavenged some gear along the way. An extra rifle hung over his shoulder and he had a few bags filled with other supplies.
“Nice to see you have Devon’s shotgun,” Spencer said, addressing Rollie.
“I pretty much gathered everything I thought I’d need. Not being able to walk puts a whole new perspective on an army of undead heading your way.”
As if coming out of a daze, Brown looked over at Kimberly. “Weren’t you with Ann? How is she? Is she safe?”
“Alexander was with her. She’s more hurt up here,” she said, while pointing at her blonde head. “He’s a psychiatrist and right now that’s what she needs.”
“But everyone is leaving. How do we know if she’s being loaded into a car right now.” Shooting a glare at Spencer, he said, “Has anybody tried talking this people out of this. Devon wouldn’t want this. I’m sure he has some plan or something brewing.”
Two people jogged toward the growing group. Spencer knew them just enough to remember their names. James and Ditch. James had a lanky body. He kept his curly hair short, and tended to play with his thin mustache when he spoke. His buddy Ditch was from Germany and favored a sledge hammer for a weapon. He had the body for it and only wore a tattered blue vest over his giant muscles.
“Gentlemen.” Brown said once they have drawn near.
“Are you guys bugging out like the rest?” James asked.
“We haven’t really decided what we’re doing.”
Ditch spoke up. “Yah, if is all the same to you, ve vould like to, ah…” He looked over at James, “Ve would like to do vhatever you’re doing.”
“Well… as soon as we figure it out we’ll let you know,” Spencer grumbled.
* * *
Devon stared at the ladder reaching up to the score-box twenty feet over their heads. The zombies had been cleared from the room, but this left them with only a handful of bullets left. The gymnasium doors were locked behind them, but Devon knew that wouldn’t help if they still had to fight their way out of town.
“So are you ready for this?” he asked Emily.
“What, I can fight my way through a ghost town filled with the walking dead, but I can’t climb up there?” She looked at him and then back up at the elevated room. “Honestly, I’m a bit worried about what we could find.”
“I know the feeling. I’ll start up first. If we run into trouble, my pistol will work better than your rifle in close quarters.”
It was the longest twenty seconds of his life, but Devon made it to the smashed out window that the top of the steel ladder rested against. Before his head had reached the opening, he was already hearing muffled noises. Grunting.
“Slow down, it sounds like that freak might be hiding zombies up here too.”
As he drew near the lips the sounds changed. They were more urgent. He could almost make out words. “Oh the hell with it,” he mumbled, but then louder said, “I’m coming up. Please don’t blow my head off.”
At first, he could see nothing in the stygian room. For a moment, he balanced awkwardly on the ladder while he fumbled for his flashlight, all the time trying to keep his gun pointed into the room.
The sounds, he could call them voices now, grew more frantic. They still sounded like they came at him from under five layers of blankets. What’s going on in there?
Finally his light pierced the darkness and he almost tumbled off the ladder when he saw what the room held.
“Emily, there’re people in here! From the looks of it, two men and a girl.”