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“Louise! If you’re going to break the glass, break it clean—we don’t want anyone getting cut!” They really, really didn’t want anyone getting cut. The transmission mechanisms for the zombie virus were still being charted, but fluid exchange was definitely on the list, and anything getting into an open wound seemed like a bad idea. “We gave you a hammer for a reason! Now smash things!”

The distant shrieks of children brought her head whipping around, the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end. Then the shrieks mellowed into laughter, and she relaxed—not entirely, but enough. “Damn dogs,” she muttered, a smile tugging at her lips. “Exciting the children and stopping my heart.”

“Mrs. Mason? I can’t figure out how to make the staple gun work.” The plaintive cry came from a young woman who had been Phillip’s babysitter several times over the summer. She was standing next to a sheet of plywood with a staple gun in her hand, shaking it helplessly. It wasn’t spewing staples at the moment—a small mercy, since the last thing they needed was for anyone to get hit by friendly fire.

Stacy shook off her brief fugue, starting toward the girl. “That’s because you’re holding it wrong, Marie. Now, please, point the staple gun away from your body…”

The comfortable chaos of a neighborhood protecting itself against the dangerous outside continued, with everyone doing the best that they could to shore up their defenses and walls. They’d lost people on supply runs and rescue trips, but so far everyone who’d stayed on the block had been fine. They were clinging to that, as the power got intermittent and the supply runs got less fruitful. Help was coming. Help had to be coming. And when help arrived, it would find them ready, healthy, and waiting to be saved.

Stacy Mason might be living through the zombie apocalypse, but by God, the important word there was “living.” She was going to make it through, and so was everyone she cared about. There was just no other way that this could end.

* * *

If you are receiving this broadcast, you are within the range of the UC Berkeley radio station. Please follow these directions to reach a safe location. You will be expected to surrender all weapons and disrobe for physical examination upon arrival. We have food. We have water. We have shelter…

July 27, 2014: Denver, Colorado

Denver was burning. From where Dr. Wells sat, in the front room of his mountain home, it looked like the entire city was on fire. That couldn’t possibly be true—Denver was too large to burn that easily—but oh, it looked that way.

In the house behind him he could hear the sound of shuffling, uncertain footsteps as his wife and children made their way down the stairs to the hallway. He didn’t move. Not even to shut the door connecting the living room with the rest of the house. He was lonely. His city was burning, his research was over, and he was lonely. Couldn’t a man be lonely, when he was sitting at the end of the world and watching Denver burn?

Daniel Wells lifted his scotch, took a sip, and lowered it again. His eyes never left the flames. They were alive. Even if nothing else in the city he called home was alive, the flames were thriving. There was something comforting in that. Life, as a wise man once said, would always find a way.

A low moan sounded from the hallway right outside the front room. Daniel took another sip of scotch. “Hello, darling,” he said, without turning. “It’s a beautiful day, don’t you think? All this smoke is going to make for an amazing sunset…”

Then his wife and children, who had finished amplification some time before, fell upon him, and the man responsible for Marburg Amberlee knew nothing but the tearing of teeth and the quiet surrender to the dark. When he opened his eyes again, he wasn’t Daniel Wells anymore. Had he still possessed the capacity for gratitude, it is very likely that he would have been grateful.

* * *

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. Please remain calm. This is not a drill…

July 30, 2014: Reston, Virginia

It had taken six of the Valium pills John kept hidden at the back of the medicine cabinet, but Alexander Kellis was finally ready. He checked the knot on his rope one more time. It was good; it would hold. Maybe it wasn’t elegant, but he didn’t deserve elegant, did he? He’d destroyed the world. Children would curse his name for generations, assuming there were any generations to come. John was gone forever. It was over.

“I’ll see you soon, sweetheart,” he whispered, and stepped off the edge of his desk. No one would find his body for weeks. If he reanimated, he starved without harming anyone. Alexander Kellis never harmed anyone.

Not on purpose.

* * *

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 30, 2014: Atlanta, Georgia

The bedroom walls were painted a cheery shade of rose-petal pink that showed up almost neon in the lens of the web camera. Unicorns and rainbows decorated the page where the video was embedded; even the YouTube mirrors that quickly started appearing had unicorns and rainbows, providing a set of safe search words that were too widespread to be wiped off the internet, no matter how many copies of the video were taken down. The man sitting in front of the webcam was all wrong for the blog. Too old, too haggard, too afraid. His once-pristine lab coat was spattered with coffee stains, and he looked like he hadn’t shaved in more than a week.