The Walking Dead: A World's Lullaby (Reader's Choice-Driven Story)
I'm not sure how popular these "forum games" are anymore, but I'd love to try one out. I really enjoy writing, particularly when it comes to characters (relationships with other characters, development throughout the story, etc.) I'm also very invested in the Walking Dead game universe.
When it comes to writing in general, though, I have a tendency to struggle to keep a steady storyline going. I have a lot of different ideas flowing around in my head, and I debate with myself over which direction to take it in. The end result is a poorly-paced story with a good but wasted concept behind it.
So, that's where you readers come in. I'm hoping we can help each other out. If there are still folks on this board that like to participate in users' interactive stories, then I hope I can entertain you, as that's my main goal: to tell a great story and entertain my readers. In return, by submitting your choices for what to do in the story, you'll be keeping my mind busy, allowing me to take different paths.
I'm not sure if this is the standard format for these posts, because I'm very new here, but here's the way I plan to do it:
- At the end of each chapter (there will be a varying amount of chapters per episode), a choice will be presented to the main character, Adrian.
- You can cast your vote on which choice you want to go with in a reply.
- Whichever choice gets the most votes will be the choice that occurs in the story.
- EVERY choice will matter (I have a loose idea of where the story will go, but the majority of the events will be decided by the readers), but the final choice of an episode will be more impactful than others. There will be an extra post that comes AFTER the final chapter labeled the "ending", which just shows the aftermath of the choice that was made, and the ending for that episode.
One last note: The Walking Dead has a LOT of characters. I don't plan to include any existing characters from the games in this series (and I don't like the show at all, so I certainly won't include any of those characters) so if you see a name that you've seen in the series before, it's just because there's very few common names that haven't already been given to a character. There's no connection. If I do end up deciding to include an already existing character, I'll make it fairly obvious that it's them through their description.
Without further ado, I'll get started with this story. I look forward to getting feedback, and I hope that you all enjoy!
The Walking Dead: A World's Lullaby
Episode One: Burden to Bear
"Adrian, there's...there's a lot of cars outside."
The voice came from Sophia, a 16 year-old girl with blonde hair, who currently donned her uniform. She found herself at her brother's place of work- a gas station convenience store. He'd aided her in getting a job there, and although she complained at first, she eventually learned to accept it, as there were no other places nearby that were hiring. Now, she stood at the glass door of the building, peering through the mountain of ad fliers pasted onto it at the vast amount of cars in the road.
"It's just a traffic jam, Soph." Adrian replied as he walked into the room. He'd been restocking the freezer in the back. It was currently 6:32 AM, and the store was meant to open at 6:45 AM.
"I dunno. Maybe we're finally getting nuked." Sophia giggled to herself with that comment.
"C'mon, Soph, I told you to stop joking like that. It worries me. It's too...y'know, dark."
"Everything worries you, man." Sophia turned around and punched her brother's arm playfully. He let out a sigh of faux annoyance as he picked up a remote from the counter, turning on the small T.V. kept in the corner behind the counter. It was his only real source of entertainment.
"So, is it just us today? I thought your boss was coming in." Soph had turned around again, staring out the window now for a better view. "What was his name again?"
"Malcolm. And he is coming in today. We're just early." The brother replied, glancing at a mirror he'd placed behind the counter for himself. He was a 6'2 Asian-American guy with a clean-shaven face. His hair was longer than usual, as he'd decided to grow it out shoulder-length out of curiosity. He wasn't exactly satisfied with how it looked, but he'd been putting off having to go get a haircut.
"Can't imagine why." The girl said sarcastically gesturing to the immense traffic jam outside. Adrian didn't look at it, though. His eyes were glued to the television. Concerned, his sister approached him.
"Shh." Adrian cut her off as he increased the TV's volume. "Listen."
The news anchor, an ordinary-looking man in a suit, read from a paper that had just been laid on his desk. "Okay, it seems we have confirmed at least 7 of the reports that came in this morning regarding the 'incidents' with seemingly ill individuals. We're told that exact details of the case are confidential, but that all citizens are asked to avoid contact with anyone suspected to be afflicted with this disease.
A woman and another man came on screen suddenly, crouching near the man and discussing something with him for about twenty seconds before walking away.
"Uh, yes, and we've just been informed that most areas of the city are blocked off due to traffic. Anyone listening should-"
"Adrian, someone's coming." Sophia's voice caught Adrian's attention. He looked towards the door, where she was now standing. Sure enough, a figure was approaching slowly.
Adrian grabbed his sister's shoulder, gently pulling her behind him. The figure moved closer...
The man seemed to be built fairly tough. He wore a brown collared shirt and a pair of cargo pants, held up with a black leather belt. His light brown hair was unkempt, as if he'd just woke up, but his hazel eyes were wide-open, giving him an expression of pure fear. Adrian recognized this man as his boss, Malcolm. He was the store's manager.
"Malcolm?" Adrian whispered to himself quietly, reaching out to unlock the door. Sophia grabbed his wrist.
Confused, he looked at Malcolm again, who was now standing right in front of the door. He noticed that his manager was clutching his hand- and that his hand was covered in blood. A lot of blood.
"A-Adrian, thank God you're here already..." Malcolm half-shouted, so that the siblings could hear through the door. He sounded a bit distant, and he appeared to be breathing unnaturally quickly. "Please, unlock the door."
"Adrian...?" Sophia whispered. "What were they talking about on the TV...? What 'infection'....?"
"Some kind of virus, or something, I..." The boy swallowed. "I'm not really sure."
"We should let him in, right...?" His sister asked, still whispering. "He's bleeding bad..."
"Adrian, please." Malcolm spoke a bit louder. "This hurts like hell. There's a first-aid kit under the counter, I just...need to clean this up, I think."
"Malcolm..." Adrian replied, also speaking up so that his voice would be heard through the door. "How did you get injured? Did it have anything to do with what they're saying on TV?"
"Man, I have no idea what's going on. I thought it was a hoax at first, but I had to hop out of my car to jog here, because of the traffic jam..." He wiped the sweat from his forehead. "This girl came out of the woods and tried to attack me. If there's really a bug going around, she had it. I swear, though, she didn't get too close. I just...I got hurt. That's all."
Malcolm winced a bit, clutching his hand tighter than before as he looked around. Behind him was the parking lot, and just outside of that, cars were still packed tightly onto the road in one of the worst traffic jams the town of Lexington had ever seen.
"Can...can we please hurry this up? You're a fantastic employee, Adrian, so please unlock this door."
Adrian looked at Sophia. She clung to his arm slightly, looking up at him with a concerned expression. "We can't just send him away..."
He closed his eyes and thought for a moment. He thought about how morally, he shouldn't turn away someone he knows that needs help, but at the same time, he was scared. On the off chance that this "sickness" going around was something more, something WORSE than what the news said, he needed to be cautious. Malcolm would fire him if he was wrong, and if he wasn't ill, maybe not letting him in would change that.
But letting him in meant endangering Sophia.
"B-behind you!" Sophia yelled. Adrian blinked, startled out of his train of thought. He watched his manager slowly turn around. A few more people were walking towards the door.
Well, not walking, really. Shuffling is more accurate. They each seemed to have some varying amount of blood on them, particularly around their mouths, and their eyes were a yellowish tint. Adrian stared in disbelief as they entered the parking lot, about 50 feet away from where Malcolm stood.
The manager turned around, still holding his wound. "ADRIAN, UNLOCK THE DOOR!"
Sophia began to shake. "W-what are those people doing? Are they hurt too?"
"Those people are infected, man!" Malcolm yelled. "You can't leave me out here!"
Adrian looked at his sister, then at his boss, and finally, at the door's lock.
[Let Malcolm inside]
[Back away from the door]
[let malcolm inside]
[Let Malcolm inside]
To be honest, I’m not really sure if I’m convinced Malcolm is infected. Perhaps he got some of the girl's blood on him when he was attacked, no harm no foul. If he is bitten, then I guess it gives Adrian and Sophia the chance to learn a bit more about the virus.
Only two people have responded, but given the inactivity of these forums nowadays, I doubt I'll get many more responses. As this story grows over time, it may increase in popularity, in which case I'll wait a bit longer between posts to make sure everyone gets to submit their choice. Since we're just starting out, I'll go ahead and continue this.
Also, thanks to cleminist and imighthavebrokenit for submitting the first choices of the series, I actually didn't expect any responses!
100% of readers decided that Adrian should let Malcolm inside.
Adrian acted as quickly as he could, unlocking the door and pulling it open. Malcolm rushed into the doorway as quickly as it opened, turning around once he was inside to watch Adrian close and lock the door again to calm himself a bit.
"Jesus...that should hold, right? They can't get in?" Malcolm asked, not breaking his stare at the walkers outside, which had now reached the store's door and front windows. They struck the glass, making some noise, but not doing any significant damage.
"I think, but..." Adrian closed his eyes, shaking his head. "Shouldn't we let them in, too? They're sick, they're clearly VERY sick, and I don't feel right about leaving them outside."
"C'mon, Adrian, LOOK at them." Malcolm pointed at the creatures. "Those people are...they aren't people. I don't know what the hell is going on, but I'm not going near those things until we get told how to deal with them."
With that, the manager walked behind the store counter, retrieving the first aid kit. He set it down on the counter and opened it up. Inside was a pocket-sized bottle of disinfectant, some bandages, and a few other instruments for suturing.
"I doubt this sewing stuff would be very useful." Malcolm commented to himself as he retrieved the bottle and bandages. "I wouldn't know the first thing about stitching someone up. You, Adrian?"
Adrian was still recovering from the shock of the situation, but he did his best to snap himself out of it and answer. "Uh, no, not really. At least there's stuff in there for your injury."
"Yup. This is going to sting like hell, though..."
The younger boy approached the counter to look at his manager's hand. The source of the blood was a single thin gash, cut across his palm. Sophia stood next to her brother, watching with a worried expression.
"Oh god, ouch." Adrian winced. Malcolm just nodded.
"Yeah. Hurts about as bad as it looks." He bit his lip, tilting the now-open bottle downwards and pouring some peroxide on his wound. After a few grunts of pain, he exhaled. "And that didn't feel much better."
"What happened...?" Sophia asked.
"Like I said, this one woman jumped out at me on my way over here." He thought for a moment. "Well, I guess 'fell out' would be more accurate. One of the infected ones. I called for help, but I guess everyone else had the same idea as me. Didn't seem like many folks were in their cars. So, I ran, but I couldn't get far with all of the cars in the road. Had to cut through the woods."
He bandaged his hand, clenching his fist lightly to see if it hurt any less.
"Turns out, there were a lot more of them in the woods. My clumsy ass ended up tripping. When I tried to pull myself back up, I grabbed hold of a busted bottle. I'm guessing it was beer."
"This is North Carolina, of course it was beer." Adrian joked. Malcolm laughed aloud.
"Good one." He put the unused materials back in the kit, placing the box underneath the counter once more. "Thanks, by the way. For letting me in."
"Well, of course, man. I don't wanna get fired." The brother replied, and everyone shared a laugh again. "In all seriousness, I'm sorry that I hesitated."
"Nothing to apologize for. It was a crazy situation. I woulda done the same." His boss replied, prompting a nod from the other, before continuing. "It's a good thing we have food here. We won't be starving to death in a convenience store, at least. I'm the manager of this place, and even I think that'd be the saddest possible way to go out."
"Uh...yeah, but isn't that...well, merchandise?" She tilted her head slightly, confused. "We can't eat any food here without paying for it.
"I get the feeling we're gonna be here a while, and...I don't think the law will matter much.."
When Malcolm said that, the siblings looked at each other. Adrian was the one to speak up.
"This is...serious, huh?"
Malcolm didn't say a word, he just looked at his feet and closed his eyes.
"Sophia, could you give us a minute?" Adrian asked, looking at the shorter girl. His sister hesitated a moment before nodding and heading towards the back of the store. Malcolm watched her walk away, then looked at his employee.
"First chance you get, you gotta get her out of the state."
"W-what?" Adrian stuttered. Malcolm's expression remained stern.
"I don't know what's going on, man, but...it's bad. It's really, really bad. On my way here I passed a lot of people who ran into those infected...things. They were talking about bites, like, getting bitten and stuff. People are saying the virus makes you a cannibal."
"Malcolm-" Adrian began. His manager cut him off.
"I'm serious. I want to say it's a hoax, but I've seen the way these things move. I mean, look at them..."
The two looked towards the front of the store. The crowd of walkers had grown, and were still trying to get in. Malcolm sighed.
"I think we need to consid-"
The sound startled both Adrian and his boss, as well as Sophia, who came running to see where the noise came from. Immediately after the sound rang out, the sound of groans from the undead outside amplified, and more and more shattering could be heard.
The walkers tore through the glass.
"CHRIST!" Malcolm shouted. Adrian stepped in front of his sister out of instinct. Tiny pieces of glass spilled onto the floor as the undead fell through the empty space where a window used to be, piling into the store.
"Guys, the back door!" Sophia shouted. Her brother nodded, and the three of them ran to the back of the store. They unlocked and opened the door to the alley outside, where two dumpsters were lined up for trash disposal. There was only one noticeable way out of the area, as the dumpsters were almost completely surrounded by a fence. In the middle of the right side, however, was a thin path that led out to the west side of the parking lot.
This path, of course, contained more walkers, which noticed the trio and began to move towards them.
"You've gotta be kidding me!" Malcolm yelled. The three of them looked around, panicked. The walkers in the store were now visible through the alleyway door.
"Where do we go?!" Sophia shouted through tears. Adrian frantically looked around. He felt like crying too, but he knew that for his sister's sake, he had to stay focused and find a way out.
"Over here!" Malcolm's voice was heard once again as he called out to the siblings. The two of them turned around, heading for Adrian's employer, who had relocated to the right corner at the back of the fence. "We never got this damn thing repaired. Thank God for that."
There was a small hole in the fence, just big enough for a child to fit through.
"C-can we even fit?" Adrian asked, shouting to be heard over the increasing sound of moaning. Malcolm was two steps ahead- he slammed his foot into the wood, making it crack and weaken. A second kick broke a few pieces off. A third kick smashed through the fence, nearly doubling the size of the hole.
"Now we can. GO!" He shouted. Adrian gestured to Sophia, signaling her to go first, and she crawled through without argument. He turned to his manager and did the same. Malcolm was reluctant, but he didn't hesitate, knowing there was no time to spare.
The walkers drew in closer. Just as Malcolm pulled his feet through the hole (aided by Sophia), Adrian tried to crawl through as quickly as possible. Malcolm grabbed his hands, trying to pull him out as quickly as possible, but a walker managed to grab hold of his foot, snagging its shoulder on the side of the hole as it tried to bite through his shoe.
"Shit!" The manager screamed. "Hang on, bud!"
Adrian felt panic once again- he'd lost count of all the times he'd panicked that day. Out of instinct, he shouted, raising his foot before stomping it into the walker's face. When nothing happened, he did it again. Then again. Then again. Finally, the walker let go, and Malcolm pulled him through. He stood up, taking less than a second to dust himself off before the three of them rushed away from the fence, heading forward to the street. They stopped just short of the cars that had, expectedly, lined up due to the traffic jam. That's when they began to hear the screams.
People were all around, panicking and running from the walkers. Some tried to hide out and stay in their cars, others tried to run. Most were caught, pulled to the ground or slammed against a car, and devoured.
"Oh my God, w-what are they...? Are they really...?" Sophia stammered. Adrian gripped her shoulder.
"Don't look, okay sis? We need to go, NOW. As fast as we can."
"Head left, a friend of mine lives around here! Lazy bastard never leaves home, he'll keep us safe!" Malcolm yelled. The siblings followed him, knowing there was no time to decide if that was the best move. As they sprinted down the street, staying on the side to avoid walkers, Adrian couldn't help but look around at the chaos unfolding.
People being eaten right before his eyes, some of them children. Eaten by other people, driven to madness by some disease. He felt like throwing up. He felt like crying. But he kept telling himself to stay strong, for Sophia. This internal, emotional struggle between his heart and mind led to his failure to pay attention. As he continued to run, he trailed behind Malcolm and Sophia. Once he faded back in reality, he noticed this, and called out.
"Hey, wait up!"
The two in the lead turned around, starting to head back, before stopping in their tracks. Two walkers had stumbled out from a house's yard to the left of the street. Adrian's first instinct was to climb over the car to his right, but a few more walkers were there, reaching out in a desperate attempt to grab some fresh food.
"G-get out of there, come on!" Sophia yelled, crying a bit more.
"Sophia, please, be quiet!" Adrian yelled, hoping she wouldn't yell back to point out his hypocrisy. "I'll be fine, I promise, you just can't attract more-"
Walkers were piling up now, coming between the young man and his companions. He swore to himself, not blaming Sophia, but himself, for losing track of her.
"Hang on, Adrian! I'll get you out of that, alright?" Malcolm yelled. "Some...somehow!"
"Don't worry about it!" Adrian shouted back. "I'll be fine, okay? Just get her out of here."
"NO!" Sophia screamed. "I'm not leaving you! This is my fault!"
"Sophia, I swear on my life that I will find you!" He yelled back to her. "I'm not sacrificing myself, you and I both know I'm too much of a wuss to do that!"
She made a faint smile through her tears. He was trying to lighten the mood, and the relief he felt when he saw her smile from a distance was incomparably beautiful.
"I'm just gonna head back and go around! The path behind me is clear! Get to the house, and I'll be there soon!'
"Alright!" Malcolm tapped Sophia, beckoning for her to come along, as some of the walkers were beginning to approach. "The house number is 392, okay? Blue mailbox!"
"O-okay!" The brother replied, beginning to backtrack. If he were to head back the way he came, he should be able to take a detour and loop back around. It would take a while, though, so it was risky...but it was also the only choice.
Right before he sprinted away, he looked back at his two allies, who were beginning to move themselves, to avoid the abundance of walkers. He called out to Sophia.
What do you call out to your sister?
"Stay close to Malcolm!"
Enjoying it so far. Only saw it today.
Thank you, I'm my biggest critic so it took a while for me to convince myself that I could even write well enough to do one of these. I'm happy for all the support I've been getting, from everyone
"I love you!"
Ah, I saw the story a couple days ago already, but haven't been able to comment on the first part in time. I really like what I'm reading so far, your writing is engaging and I look forward for more. I'm always happy to see a well-written Walking Dead story here
Thank you soooo much! I'm so excited to share this with you all. I've been thinking about it for a long time, trying to plan out each path the story can take based on reader choice. I haven't really had a chance to show it yet, but I want to emphasize the impact of choices, and the difficulty of choices. It'll be easier for me to write a more entertaining story now that I know there's some people who enjoy what I've already written!
So I want to let her know that we love her, but I also don’t want her to get any ideas and try to be bold and die because of it, so I’m gonna go with ”Stay close to Malcolm!”
[Remain silent, just to be safe]
Well this is an interesting story. The world of the Walking Dead has endless story potential.
50% of readers thought that Adrian should shout "Stay close to Malcolm!" to his sister.
Using the loudest voice he could muster, the young man called out to his sister: "Stay close to Malcolm!"
He heard his sister call out in response, but the walkers' groans drowned out specifics. He couldn't hear what she said, and the increasing volume in the area meant it was time to go. Unable to afford hesitation, the convenience store employee fled the scene, unaware that the homes he passed no longer contained live human beings.
He eventually found his way to a diner, where he locked himself in. The diner was surrounded by a herd, consisting mostly of his neighbors and friends. Not much had been looted yet, so he was luckily able to find a bit of food in the kitchen, just enough to last him until the herd moved on. After a few days of hardship, he finally found it: the blue mailbox, the one in front of a house with the number "392" on display. Adrian breathed a sigh of relief, and excitedly opened the door, only to be greeted by pure silence. Immediately upon entry, he noticed a table that seemed out-of-place. It looked as if it'd been moved in front of the door- not close enough to block it, but close enough to catch any visitor's attention.
A duffel bag was placed on the table. Adrian slowly pulled the zipper on the top, revealing its contents. After all, it must've been left for him, right? He took everything out one by one as his hands shook, fearing that he'd missed his sister and friend, and that this was some kind of parting gift. A bottle of painkillers, two bottles of water, a knife in a sheathe, and various snacks, the kind you'd call "junk food". There was a note under all of it, which he picked up and read, dreading what it was going to state.
We waited for days, but we can't wait anymore. I'm sorry, I really am. I know you, and I know you aren't dead- you're a tough guy, a SMART guy, so I know you're still out there somewhere. Sophia doesn't like this, but I'm doing this because I think it's what you'd want.
A man named Arthur showed up. He's another survivor of all this madness, but he's from the military. He's going to call in a helicopter to pick him and the rest of us (me, Sophia, and my bud Dave) up. I really, REALLY wish you were here, but we can't wait any longer. This will keep Sophia safe.
I considered letting her go without me, but in case something goes wrong with the pickup, I think you'd want me to go, too. After all, she refuses to split up. You told her to stick close to me, and she's...well, she's definitely doing that. She's taking your words very seriously- I think she's scared that it's the last she'll hear from you. No amount of comfort is changing her mind.
Forgive me, my friend. I owe you more than to abandon you like this. I hope that I'm right, though, about this being what you would want. If you found this note, then that means you found the bag of supplies we left you. It's mostly Dave's stuff.
Make sure you find the photo, too. Sophia left that for you.
Please be safe,
Under the letter, a teary-eyed Adrian found a photograph of him and his younger sister, and his parents (who'd passed away at different points, earlier in life.) He realized that she must have taken it from his desk at work- he kept the very same picture framed next to the register's shelf.
On the back of the picture a message was scrawled: "FIND US, I LOVE YOU"
Fourteen Months Later
The man walked down a quiet, dusty road, or what was left of a road. He passed by a couple of dead bodies- actual dead bodies, not the kind of "dead" that still moved. As he passed by an abandoned car (a common sight at that point), he paused as he came into the view of the left side mirror.
His name was Adrian. He was a 6'4" Asian-American guy with badly cut shoulder-length hair. He had to trim it himself every now and then, using his survival knife. His face was now adorned with a light goatee, the stubble wrapping around his lips. He wore a pair of jeans he'd found a couple of weeks back at an abandoned clothing store, and a thin purple zip-up jacket, as the Autumn temperature outside was beginning to drop.
His knife was kept in a sheathe, on his belt. In his hand was a Beretta handgun, with a few bullets in it. Extra bullets were in his backpack, alongside what little resources he had left.
For a moment, he thought about how he looked the day it all started. This led to him thinking about his sister. He immediately shook his head- he didn't want to think about her anymore. Despite that, he still kept a photo of her in his bag at all times.
Moving on from the car, the man glanced around, yawning as he scanned the area for a looting spot. He found nothing, save for a walker, pinned to the pavement by a fallen lamppost. Adrian promptly headed towards it, drawing his knife and planting it in the creature's skull, granting it a moment of sympathy before cleaning off his knife with his shirt and then sliding it back into its sheathe.
He sighed as he stared at the dead walker. Despite how long it had been, despite how many walkers he'd taken out at this point, he still wasn't entirely "used to it". It got easier, but it was never easy. As he pondered this, he felt his stomach ache from its emptiness. It'd been a day since he'd found any food, and he only had a bit of water left from a find a few days prior. He looked up now, trying to avoid looking at the walker or thinking about his hunger any longer than necessary, only to spot a building with a large, rusted sign hung on the front:
"Harris' Pharmacy & More"
He sighed once more- this time a mixture of relief and hopelessness. Finding a store was one thing, but finding one that hadn't been looted top-to-bottom was an entirely different situation, with much lower odds. He prayed for a second (though he wasn't sure who he was praying to) to find some resources in there he could use.
He heard the sound of a gun being drawn, a split-second before he felt the cold steel of the barrel press against the back of his neck. His body froze, petrified, as he swore to himself. Though he'd encountered bad people before (given the state of the world and the now-popular "survival of the fittest" mentality, a lot of bad people), he had always tried to avoid conflict. Hoping he wouldn't regret it, he was the first to speak:
"I don't want any trouble."
"I really hope that's true." The person wielding the gun quietly replied. It was a feminine voice with an English accent. "Because I don't want any trouble either, and I definitely don't want to shoot you."
"You don't need to shoot me. Nobody needs to get shot. I'm just passing through."
"Are you?" The girl questioned him now. "You seem to be eyeing up that pharmacy."
"I..." Adrian took a breath, still not daring to turn around. "Yeah, I am. I was going to search for supplies. If you were planning on it, though, maybe we could work something out."
"Nothing to work out." She said. "There's plenty of stuff in there, for both of us. I got a glimpse through the window before you showed up. If you're genuinely just out here trying to live, then you're not my enemy."
"Then why the hell are you pointing a gun at me?" He asked through gritted teeth.
"Because I need to be sure you're not with Spaniel."
"Spaniel." She repeated, her tone unchanging. "He's a man that runs a large group. Has a little "civilization" of sorts in a warehouse not too far from here. He's not a good person. So, how do I know you aren't one of his soldiers?"
"I don't know how to prove something like that." Adrian began to sound a bit more desperate, and his growing impatience contributed to that. "Please. I'm not with that group, I've never even heard of them until now. I'm just trying to make it out here. I'll give you my weapons if you want, I just need those supplies."
What seemed like an eternity passed before he felt the gun lower away from his neck. He heard it slide back into a holster, and decided to turn around, finally facing his captor.
She had bright blonde hair, tied up in a ponytail with a teal band. Her clothing was not at all what he'd expected: a dark grey tailcoat over a white formal shirt, and a slim pair of track pants (in a matching shade) that trailed down into a pair of black boots.
"Jesus..." He said quietly. "Little fancy, don't you think?"
"Yep." She said in return. "That's why I'm wearing it. Undead or no undead, It's my goal to be unique."
"Riiight." He scratched his head. "Well, uh...thanks for not shooting me."
"I'm sorry for threatening you." She spoke as she moved towards the building's door. Her voice sounded genuinely regretful. "I wish that I didn't have to do that. I just...can't risk things like that anymore."
"It's okay, really. I get it." Adrian replied. "In all honesty, most people would probably take a lot more convincing before they'd trust somebody."
"I suppose." The girl nodded without looking at him, as she was examining the door's lock. After looking for a bit, she finally turned to him. "Didn't catch your name."
The girl stood up, offering a hand and smiling. Reluctantly, he shook her hand.
"I'm Emily. Nice to meet you."
"Yeah, uh...you too."
"So," Emily turned back to the door. "Want to take a look around in here with me? Like I said, I saw some supplies in here from the window, but the door's locked. I'd rather not shatter a window, just in case there's a few of those demons in there."
"I'll take a look around, sure."
"Alright then. We'll split the supplies evenly." The blonde girl smiled. She reached into one of her coat pockets, pulling out a small metal pick and a tension wrench. "I think I can pick this lock, just give me a second."
"Huh." Adrian commented. "Didn't take you to be the 'lockpicking' type."
"Why is that?" Emily didn't look away from the lock, maintaining her focus.
"Thought you were religious. You were reluctant to threaten me, and you called the undead 'demons' a moment ago."
"Well, sorry detective, I'm not religious." She teased. "I'm just a pacifist. I'd rather not hurt anyone if it's not necessary, let alone kill anyone. As for the 'demons' thing, well...I've always called them that. I think I was reading a fantasy novel about hunting demons when all of this went down...the name just kinda stuck. What do you call them?"
"Walkers." He replied. "Seems to be the most common name. Can't remember where I first heard it, but same here, it just stuck."
"Gotcha." Emily continued work on the lock, gently moving her lockpick around and applying pressure with the wrench. "You alone out here? Got a group?"
"No, not anymore." He replied quietly.
"Might be for the best. I've been travelling on my own for a few months now. Staying in one place isn't my thing."
"You mentioned a group before." Adrian leaned against the wall next to her, folding his arms. "Some guy called 'Spaniel', right? What happened there?"
"Doesn't matter." Her words were followed by a minute of silence before the door's lock clicked. "Got it."
The two went inside, scavenging the place. It was a combination of a pharmacy and a general store, so a lot of the stuff was just useless toys or rotted food. There was, however, a fair amount of medicine and a bit of preserved food.
"Nice!" Emily enthusiastically spoke. "All things considered, this is a pretty good find."
"I guess it is, huh?" He nodded, smiling for what felt like the first time in forever. "So, are we dividing it up? 50/50?"
"Eh, no, more like 75/25, with you being the '75'. You need this stuff more than I do."
"What...?" He wasn't sure whether to feel offended or honored.
"I've got a stash of some supplies nearby," She began. "It's not a ton, but it's more than enough to last me a week or two. You can't really say the same, and don't try to. I've heard your stomach growling."
"It's been a little while since I've ate. I wouldn't feel right taking more than half, though."
"Too bad." Emily stuck her tongue out playfully, sitting the bag on the counter and beginning to divide up its contents. Nearly everything, including all of the food (what seemed to be about three or four days' worth, if he rationed it properly), went to Adrian. She put everything back in the bag, save for the few things she was going to grab herself. He was going to object, but he felt another pang of hunger, and he held his tongue for a second to reconsider.
"Are you sure?"
"Positive." Emily nodded. "Really, I've got enough on my own. I- oh hey, looks like I missed one."
The man looked towards where she was headed, spotting a bottle of water lying on the ground. She bent over to pick it up, holding it at eye-level to see how much was inside. "Not much, but still nice to-"
Everything went silent for Adrian. He heard nothing for a few seconds before his ears slowly began to function again, a sharp ringing noise greeting them before it, too, faded, and he heard Emily shout.
The girl fell to the floor, clutching her left shoulder, which blood was now trickling out of. Clearly, she'd been shot, prompting Adrian to hide behind the nearest shelf. This placed him in the center of the store. Emily was sitting now, leaning against the wall under the window where the bullet had come from. Both of them could hear the voices outside. How many were there, three, four, five, twenty? It was impossible to tell, but there was more than one, and they were not happy.
"Emily, are you okay?!" Adrian whisper-shouted around the shelf, kneeling to stay out of the view of the window.
"I...I think so, fff..." She winced, gripping her shoulder tight. "I'm bleeding a lot. It hurts, it REALLY bloody hurts..."
"Just hang on, okay? We can figure something out..." He said, although he wasn't very confident about it.
"Don't worry about me, just...grab the supplies!" Emily called out, using her good arm to draw her handgun, before biting her lip in pain. "I'm serious, okay? I'll...I'll be alright. It just hurts."
"You're bleeding a lot, what if they hit an artery or something?! You need help!"
For a second, the boy recalled a friend who was once injured, bleeding somewhat rapidly. In the end, Adrian's kindness kept that friend alive, despite the risk it entailed. He forced himself to stop thinking about it- it was a completely separate situation. A very, very dangerous situation. He needed to use his best judgement.
"Adrian..." She spoke just loud enough for the boy to hear her. "Just grab the stuff! You need it! You'll starve without it! I can handle myself, okay?!"
Time seemed to freeze. He'd only just met this girl, but he was already put into a situation like this. Whoever was outside was almost definitely attacking because they wanted the supplies, so leaving them on the table would be a huge risk. At the same time, though, he wasn't certain that Emily was actually very confident about defending herself. Then again, did he really even know this girl?
His head was spinning. Recognizing he was beginning to panic, he closed his eyes briefly to breathe and collect his thoughts. When he opened his eyes, he'd made his decision...
[Protect the supplies]
[Run to Emily]
[Run to Emily]
[Run to Emily]
Pls don't get shot.
[Run to Emily]
[Run to Emily]