Page 17

* * *

Please return to your homes. Please remain calm. This is not a drill. If you have been infected, please contact authorities immediately. If you have not been infected, please remain calm. This is not a drill. Please return to your homes…

July 26, 2014: Allentown, Pennsylvania

The people outside the prison could pretend that the dead weren’t walking if they wanted to. That sort of bullshit was the province of the free. Once you were behind bars, counting on other people to bring you food, water, hell, to let you go to the bathroom like a human being…you couldn’t lie to yourself. And the dead were walking.

So far, there hadn’t been any outbreaks in Brandon’s wing of the prison, but he knew better than to attribute that to anything beyond pure dumb luck. Whatever caused some people to get sick and die and then get up again without being bitten just hadn’t found a way inside the building. It would. All it needed was a little more time, and it would.

Brandon was sitting on his bed and staring at his hands, wondering if he’d ever see Hazel again, when the door of his cell slid open. He raised his head, and found himself looking at one of the prison guards—one of the only guards who was still bothering to show up for work.

“You’ve got a visitor, Majors,” said the guard, and gestured roughly for him to stand. Brandon had learned the virtue of obedience. It was practically the first lesson that prison taught. He stood, moving quickly to avoid a reprimand.

There had been other lessons since then. None of them had been pleasant ones.

The guard led Brandon through the halls without a word. Some of the prisoners shouted threats or profanity as they passed; Brandon’s role in the Mayday Army was well-known, and was the reason he was placed in solitary. As the situation got worse, his future looked more and more bleak. Outside the prison, he would probably have already been lynched. As if it was his fault somehow? That bastard Kellis was the one who built the bug. He should be the one getting the blame, not Brandon—

The guard led him around the corner to the visiting room. There were only two men standing there. One was the warden. The other was a slim, dark-haired man Brandon felt like he should recognize. Something about him was familiar.

“Brandon Majors?” asked the man.

“Yes?” Maybe he was from the governor. Maybe he had come to pardon Brandon and take him away from all this; maybe he understood that it wasn’t his fault—

“My name is Alexander Kellis.”

Hope died. Brandon stared at him. “I…you…oh, God.”

Alexander looked at Brandon—the little ringleader who had managed to bring about the end of the world, the one whose name was already dropping out of the news, to be replaced by Alexander’s own—and said, very quietly, “I wanted to meet you. I wanted to look you in the eye while I told you that this is all your fault. History may blame it on me, but neither of us is going to be there to see it, and right here, right now, today, this is all your fault. You destroyed my life’s work. You killed the man I loved. You may very well have brought about the end of the world. So I have just one question for you.”

“What?” whispered Brandon.

“Was it worth it?”

After five minutes passed with no answer, Dr. Kellis turned to the warden. “Thank you. I’d like to go now.” They walked away, leaving Brandon standing frozen next to the guard.

That night, Brandon’s cell was somehow left unlocked. He was found dead in the hall the next morning, having been stabbed more than a dozen times. None of the other inmates saw what happened. At least, that’s what they said, and this one time, the warden chose to believe them. It wasn’t his fault, after all.

* * *

If you have not been infected, please remain calm. This is not a drill. Please return to your homes. Please remain calm. This is not a drill. If you have been infected, please contact authorities immediately…

July 27, 2014: Berkeley, California

“Get those walls up! Cathy, I want to see that chicken wire hugging those planks, don’t argue with me, just get it done.” Stacy Mason rushed to help a group of neighborhood teens who staggered under the weight of the planks they’d “liberated” from an undisclosed location. At this point, she didn’t care where the building materials came from; she cared only that they were going to reinforce the neighborhood fences and doors and road checkpoints. As long as what was inside their makeshift walls was going to make those walls stronger, they could start tearing down houses and she honestly wouldn’t give a f**k.

Berkeley, being a university town in Northern California, had two major problems: not enough guns, and too many idiots who thought they could fight off zombies with medieval weapons they’d stolen from the history department. It also had two major advantages: most of the roads were already half blocked to prevent campus traffic from disturbing the residents, and most of those residents were slightly insane by any normal societal measurement.

The nice lesbian collective down the block had contributed eighty feet of chicken wire left over from an urban farming project they’d managed the year before. The robotics engineer who lived across the street was an avid Burner, and had been happy to contribute the fire-breathing whale he’d constructed for the previous year’s Burning Man. Not the most immediately useful contribution in the world, but it was sufficiently heavy to make an excellent roadblock…and Stacy had to admit that having a fire-breathing roadblock certainly gave the neighborhood character.