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Six Months Later - Part 1
Six months. Six months have passed since it happened. Only six? It's felt like ages.
You remember how fast everything went downhill. The infection spread faster than anyone ever thought possible. Doctors, scientists, no one could find how to stop it, and the only thing the virus could do, was spread.
That is why it was nicknamed Virus X. Once you were infected, you never came back. It started with a fever. Nothing too special. Then, the vomiting. You couldn't eat one bite without it coming back up again. Fatigue, dehydration, and the pain, all set in after that. Then? You died. Your body turned cold and all signs of life left your body forever.
But that is when the virus really showed it true potential. You came back to life, as one of them. Infected, that's what they called them. People who had been infected and came back to life. All they wanted was to satisfy their hunger for flesh, whether it be animal, or human.
Your wife was infected. She was on a business trip when the virus hit. She didn't make it. But your daughter, she could still be alive. You got separated from her when the military was testing for infection. They wrongly accused your daughter of having the virus, so they took her away. You tried to explain that your daughter was fine, but they wouldn't listen. They didn't know she was immune.
Now, as you sit by the fire with the four others in your group, you remember the plan you made. It seemed simple at the time. A Find & Rescue mission. You were supposed to find your daughter and rescue her from the military, who were rumored to perform experiments on people they thought were infected. As you warm yourself by the fire, with three miles still left until you reach your destination, you start to doubt you will ever see your daughter again.
"Hey, Layne, you feeling alright?" Jason asks, his hands inches from the fire. He's Hispanic and has a light tan. His shaved head and scarred face gave him a mean look, which countered his big brown eyes. You look away. You don't want them to see how you really feel. "Yeah, I'm fine," you reply. "Listen, I know this is about your daughter, but you don't have to go through with this. Who knows? Maybe she...didn't make it." Jason continues.
"She's alive," you say, getting up and walking out of the broken building you and your team holed up in. It was one of the taller skyscrapers, with a big fancy lobby on the bottom floor, now illuminated with an orange glow that danced on the walls. You take a deep breath. The smell of ash and death is something you've gotten used to; it no longer bothers you.
Destroyed buildings and dead wildlife are the only things to look at now. Rubble and concrete litter the sidewalk. You walk out to the middle of the street. Rusted cars with broken windows and decomposed people inside are no new sight.
You feel a hand on your shoulder. You turn around, half expecting to see an Infected trying to bite your face off.
It's Jane, a pretty city girl in her mid-twenties. You found her running from a pack of infected on one of your usual scavenging trips. You helped her, and she stuck around. She has black hair, and the most beautiful brown eyes you've ever seen. Her skin is a light tan, and her lips are always pink. She's more than pretty.
"Hey," she says, with a smile. Those were a rare sight in these times. "Don't listen to Jason. I bet your daughter is doing fine." You try to smile back, but it feels strange. You haven't smiled in so long.
"I hope you're right," you tell her. "She's the only person I have now. I don't know what I'll do if I don't find her." Actually, you know exactly what you'll do. You'll leave the group and go far away, where no Infected will find your body. One bullet is all it would take.
"Well, we'll be there by tomorrow night. Just keep your hopes up until then, okay?" Jane says. "Sure thing," you reply. She gives you a tight hug and goes back inside. You follow.
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The sun hitting your face wakes you up. You stand up and stretch; the floor is not the most comfortable surface to sleep on. Your team is still asleep, so you decide to go out for a morning walk before the big day ahead. You grab your preferred weapon from the duffle bag by the fire, now just hot coals.
A bow. Your daughter gave it to you on you birthday last year. She knew how much you liked archery. The rich mahogany wood and the sleek frame make it ideal for hunting. Or killing.
You grab the last fifteen arrows and put them in your satchel. You head out and walk East, towards the sun. The morning air lifts your spirits a bit. Maybe your daughter is still alive, waiting for you to find her. What if she's not? What if an Infected got her, and now she's just another mindless creature waiting for anything that moves to enter her sight so she can...
A marketplace up ahead takes your thoughts away. Those are always a gold mine for supplies. Tall weeds and vines cover the entrance. The once automatic doors no longer work, so you push them open and enter.
Stale air and a bad smell greet you. That smell is familiar, but you can't quite place it. You look around and see medicine bottles and pills scattered over the white tile floor. Past the check out counter are dozens of shelves, some of which might have something that might help you and your team.
You start to walk over to the shelves when a noise makes you stop. It sounded like something dragging across the floor. You tilt your head and listen for another noise, but it doesn't come.
You dismiss it and head over to one of the shelves. Its has regular household items: toothpaste, soap, and other useless stuff you don't need. You walk over to the second one and see snack items lining the shelves.
Jackpot! You grab as many energy bars and candy as you can and stuff them into your satchel. The next shelf brings rotten fruit and flies.
It looks like some energy bars and candy was all this place has to offer. You look around to make sure, and start to leave the shelves when the same noise from before stops you in your tracks. This time, the noise continues. It's sounds like something being dragged across the floor.
No. It can't be. An infected? The store was empty when you walked in, it couldn't have been here. Unless it came from outside, it could be a rat bumping into the medicine bottles on the floor by the entrance.
But it's not an Infected. You can see it from behind the shelf you found the candy in. The brown and black fur covered in blood. It's muscled legs built for running, with padded paws that make no sound when it walks. The sharp yellow teeth and it's black tongue that splits into two at the tip. Most importantly, you see the dead baby deer it's dragging across the floor.
A Hound. These are wild dogs that had the infection reach them. You've only ever encountered them once before, but that was when you were on the roof of the building watching them take down a full grown deer downtown. They always travel in packs, so seeing this one by itself makes you wary. It's pack has to be nearby, and with your team sleeping a few streets away, this could be bad.
This one hasn't noticed you. It's too busy eating the dead deer on the floor besides it. Unless you want to face this Hound the the other ten in it's pack, you need to look for another way out. You can't outrun them, they are too fast and they strategically take down prey when in packs.
You look behind you and see an exit behind a shelf. You press your satchel close to your body so the contents of it don't make any noise. You start to walk backwards, keeping your eyes on the dog. You're only a few feet away; you reach over to the doorknob when you step on a bottle.
It rolls under your foot and you fall, your back hitting the floor with a thump. You hold your breath, hoping the Hound didn't hear you. After a few seconds, you sit up and look through the shelf. Nothing. The Hound is gone. You give a sigh a relief and start to get up.
Suddenly, a huge force throws you back to the ground. You put your hands up to defend yourself from any sort of attack. In this case, a dog.
The Hound is on you, gnarling and flashing it's teeth. Your hands wrap around it's throat, pushing with all your strength. You underestimated these dogs, it's stronger than you expected. The muscles along it's neck ripple as it tries to rip your throat out.
You struggle to keep the dog from making you it's next meal. It's teeth are only a few inches from your neck. It's breath reeks and saliva drips onto your face, making you gag. If it decides to alert it's pack that you're here with a howl, you'll have at least five more of these on you in less than ten seconds.
Before it brings it's pack help it kill you, you try a risky move that might backfire. You remove your left hand from the grasp on it's neck and leave your stronger hand to push the dog away. You slide your hand into your pocket and feel the cool, metallic surface of your pocket knife. You pull it out and press the button to eject the serrated blade. Just as the Hound breaks free from your only hand holding it away, your left hand slams into the side of it's head, bringing the knife with it. The dog whines and it's eyes roll back in it's head. Black blood drips onto your hand and shirt. The dogs slumps to the ground. It's dead.
You push it off and retrieve your knife. You grab your satchel, which is on the floor a few feet away. You see that your bow is still intact, and you load it with an arrow in case you run into more Hounds on the way back to your team.
The back exit leads to a parking lot. Weeds and overgrown vegetation sprout from the cracks on the pavement. You make your way back to the main street and look around. There. The rest Hound's pack is busy feeding on a bigger deer right by the Market's entrance. You slide around a tree and quietly head back to the building your team is resting in. Hopefully no Hounds noticed you.
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Once you arrive to your team, you see them packed up and frantically talking and raising their hands up in the air. They seem to be arguing about something. Jane sees you walking towards them and sighs in relief.
"I told you he didn't run off!" She tells Omar, an African-American in his thirties. He has short black hair and round glasses. He's well built and the strongest in the group. He laughs. Jason just shakes his head.
Jane runs up to you and gives you a hug. "Where on Earth did you go?" she asks, looking at you. "I was just out for supplies," you tell her as she lets go. "You should tell us next time you disappear on us like that," Nicholas says, walking over to you. He's the nerd. He has brown curly hair and a band-aid over his nose. He's fair-skinned and has had trouble seeing clearly since he lost his contacts. "We thought you left us here."
"No, I would never do that," you say. "I just went out for supplies before we headed out. Besides, all of you were asleep, I didn't want to wake you."
Nicholas joins you, Jane and Omar. Jason hangs back.
"Well," you start, "We better head out. I ran into a pack of Hounds and it shouldn't take long for them to smell us." "Sure thing," Omar replies. Everyone nods in agreement. Jason stays silent.
"You coming?" You ask Jason. He stares at you, a pistol in his hand. "What's that on your shirt?" He asks, nodding with his head. You look down and see the black blood from the Hound you killed. It makes it seem that you got bit and bled heavily for a while. "I had to kill a Hound after it attacked me," you tell him. "I guess some of it got on me." Jason walks toward you, but leaves a good distance between the two of you.
"You sure you didn't get bit?" he asks, gripping his pistol tighter. You glare at him, surprised he would ever doubt you. "I'm telling you the truth. I can show you the pack of Hounds if you want, although it's not a good idea to head over there."
"Looks like a bite," Jason continues. "Listen, I just got attacked by a goddamn dog, I don't need this. Let's go," you tell your group. You start walking away when you hear the click of the safety being taken off a gun. You stop.
"Lift up your shirt." Jason's voice is a single monotone. You stand still, your back to him and your hands in your pocket.
"I said, lift up your shirt," Jason says. "Jason," Jane starts. "I will shoot you!" Jason shouts. "Lift up you fucking shirt!" You slowly slide your hands out of your pockets and shake your head. Jason made a bad choice.
You spin around and throw your pocket knife. Jason is taken by surprise and shoots. The bullet misses you, but your knife didn't. It hits Jason's throat and slices open his skin. Blood gushes out and the gun falls to the ground. Jason slumps to his knees, hands around his neck, trying to stop the waterfall of blood. You walk over to him and pick up the gun. He looks at you. "Bad choice," you say. You point the gun at his head and pull the trigger. He falls.
You bend down and remove the knife from his neck. The rest of the group is shocked at the events that just unfolded in front of them. You clean the knife on your shirt and put it back in your pocket. Nothing will stop you from finding your daughter.
"Well, we have a long day ahead, we better get moving," you tell them, walking in the opposite direction from the still rising sun, smiling from ear to ear. Jason was always an annoying brat.