Julie and Ricardo relished being back under the open sky.
The two ran, barely giving thought as they bounded each step away from the dark confines of Boni station. The claustrophobia of being inside the buried train segments was made worse by the horrors, both living and dead, that the two had encountered within. It was not the mad rantings of a nationalistic old man nor the sickening ministrations of an insane caring mother that made them run, however. It was not the toothless undead child that still hungered for human flesh and blood.
It was instead the presence of a living armed threat.
One whose cacophony of gunshots, screams, and curses filled the air behind them.
The night was the darkness of blindness. Ricardo realized as they ran that save for the fact the Guadalupe station itself was occupied and lit, he could not see any other sources of light in the vicinity. The billboards along the sides were murky shades of gray smothered by the lack of illumination. The bridge way could not even be seen and its existence perhaps even doubted had it not been for the sounds of water softly lapping against the stone.
As Ricardo’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, he began seeing the streets below better. The line was rising higher and higher than street level with each step. The side fences were no longer mere mesh partitions but actual concrete walls that rose to at least four feet high. Even if one were to stand at the very edge, one would be higher than the average zombie’s eye level.
The hordes were thinner in the area.
Ricardo noticed the things had been drawn to the sounds of battle and were ignoring the footfalls of two quiet runners. By the station ahead however, the zombies had gathered in numbers again, drawn by the presence of lights and sounds. Guadalupe station, even at that distance, could clearly be seen. Rising like a castle above the river, it was alive with lit torches along its corners. There were people present who watched over the station with light and gun. The station was situated atop a massive bridge way that hung over EDSA as well as the Guadalupe river below.
But before one could get to the station, Julie and Ricardo knew they had to clear The Wall.
Back before everything fell into hell, there were raised concrete walkways that existed between Boni and Guadalupe stations as well as between the Guadalupe and Buendia stations. The walkways, typically painted a gaudy blue and unexpected pink, were actually frequently used being the only way one could navigate across both EDSA itself and go over the MRT line without having to enter the MRT line itself. One of the walkways, ironically, gained some notoriety in the past when a man attempted to commit suicide by walking up the bridge walkway, and threatening to leap onto the MRT line below. In a futile attempt to keep it from happening again, chicken wire fences were set up as barriers to separate the two. The wires were wrapped around the middle portion of the walkway which stood directly above the line.
When the zombies arrived, many of the walkways became temporary shelters and hiding places along EDSA. Unable to access the MRT stations, due to the tight security and selfish grasp of safe territory practiced by others, many found refuge in the bottleneck staircases of the walk ways and the fact that some had an odd niche between the first level, and the higher middle level of the walkway. With some careful navigation and good balance, one could hang by the side, clamber to the niche and remain out of sight from any of the undead.
Others, however, were not content with such a hiding place.
For others, the walkways presented an “easy way” for those out in the street to find a way into the safety provided by the MRT line. The term “easy way” of course, was merely the popular belief. People who were denied entry in the nearby stations would fight their way to the walkway, find some route to the portions of the walkway above the MRT line, take the risk of hanging over its sides to climb along the chicken wire barriers, then eventually climb or jump down to the MRT line.
Climbing was rarely the option, however, with the walk way typically over twenty feet above the line. Who ever had taken most of the ropes and climbing gear from the malls during the earlier part of the looting days did not bring them to the walkways to climb down to the MRT. Others who made makeshift ropes with clothes, curtains or even bed sheets eventually found them unraveling as too many people rushed to use their creations at the same time.
Jumping eventually became the usual action of choice, as dangerous and dumb as it was. When faced with utter extinction, one tends to believe a stupid choice may still provide hope.
A few would land safely, barring a broken ankle or if luckier, a sprained foot.
Most, however, began a vicious cycle instead.
In the beginning, the people who were already safely on the MRT line who felt sad for those along the walk ways would find it in themselves to help those who landed painfully. They would rush to those who failed to land safely, with their makeshift stretchers and gathered first aid kits, hoping to somehow help these people survive the injuries of their own making. They would care for them, or nurse them back to health, telling them of their luck. Or bravery. But never of their stupidity. They would help them leave the dangerous area and find shelter with everyone else.
But as the hours passed, the frequency of the ones who attempted to leap into the MRT line and landed badly began to irritate the ones already safe.
Some who fell would make matters difficult, and would accuse those already safely in the MRT line to be at fault for their mishaps. Others were worse, and spoke offensively and insultingly towards those who would come to aid them. Their spite and anger was redirected to the ones trying to help them for the simple fact they were not as unlucky as the other. When the limits of patience of others were finally crossed, some of the unluckier ones who fell bad were left where they fell. And from that much feet up there, some began to mistakenly believe that a human body was a softer landing spot than the rocky floor of the line. They were damned to be seen as possible landing spots for others soon to come. More and more people dangerously leapt, only to land into situations that reminded them of their stupidity and ignorance. And with that, more and more people became uncouth and too carefree with their tongues. They were abandoned to die slow agonizingly painful deaths from exposure, shock, and loss of blood.
And the cycle actually grew much worse.
A few of those left behind would perish, but their deaths would not allow them to remain dead. With their brains still intact, they would begin to twitch. To move. To return into the world as one of the undead.
And like the hordes outside, they would be hungry.
Along the line, survivors began to realize the security lapse the walkways posed to those already safe. They began to realize some of the walkways merely provided a new way for the hungry dead to find their way to the living. Different groups approached the problem in different ways. One of the farther northern stations opted to create a deep hole just below the walkway. Any jumpers would find themselves falling down all the way to EDSA far below. A station near the very end of the line was said to have set up an ingenious way to deal with jumpers. Or at least stop them from jumping in. Creating a small landing zone that was fenced in with barbed wire and screens, the survivors populated the zone with a few hungry zones. Any jumpers were to realize jumping down only threw them into a tinier prison with the zombies, making finding instead somewhere else in the city to hide a much more attractive option.
Those who were safely within the walls of Guadalupe station realized they had to make a decision. And the decision that was to come was a decision that barely took an hour to make. They decided to destroy the walkway and no longer let it have access to the line. Two teams were charged with the duty. The first team made use of explosives to weaken their side of the walkway. They hunted down for any military vehicles that were in the area, and searched them for any grenades or similar explosives. Another member proposed making a run to the nearest mall to ransack the supplies of fireworks that were already growing in secret numbers. Those survivors, however, did not return alive. The malls were teeming with zombies, being formerly the hordes of customers that used to aimlessly window shop.
The military run proved successful, thankfully, and soon a few explosions rocked the city as one side of the bridge was made to collapse.
The second team was forced to become much more creative.
Knowing the reinforced walkway would require a lot of effort to damage, the second team decided to look for a vehicle that would serve their needs well. At first they considered finding any sixteen wheeler truck and drive it fast enough to smash into the other walkway. But contrary to popular belief, the streets were not cleared of the rush hour traffic that was still ongoing when the zombies first came to the city. If not cars that smashed into each other, there were cars that had been abandoned in the middle of the street with their doors left open for eternity to see. Driving a sixteen wheeler truck down such a road, in hopes of getting enough acceleration to hit the walkway with sufficient force was never going to happen.
They were going to need something bigger.
And capable of bringing down that staircase without needed to crash into it
The group found one of the tanks that had been brought out from Camp Crame during the start of it all. The tank was one of the many tanks that were deployed to go to major intersections and thoroughfares. In hopes of intimidating the people into a placid state of obedience and order, the military had the tanks park at such corners and become the platforms of the military aides who reminded everyone not to panic and to remain safely inside their vehicles and homes.
Zombies, however, never felt any fear.
And it was only a matter of time before the hordes were able to break into the trains as well, and attack the soldiers hiding within. The zombies would crawl into the view ports or bite their way past the soldier keeping watch atop the vehicle.
The team, however, wanted to gain control of a tank.
They traveled quickly and quietly, hoping to avoid any direct confrontation with the hordes. Some reports claimed the larger part of the horde was currently stalking the survivors that hid along the winding roads of San Juan.
They found the tank parked at the corner of Aurora and EDSA. The zombie within was the sad remains of a soldier who had tried to kill himself by shooting himself in the head. The bullet had glanced his skull and ripped open instead his throat, for what would have been a much more painful messy death. The team did not hesitate a single second. They blew the zombie soldier’s head away and took charge of the vehicle.
While they succeeded in getting it functional, they took some time learning to actually drive the darned thing.
The team drove to the walkway and shot it down. Debris littered both the street and the line. And after shooting down the second walkway they could find, the team discovered they had run out of ammo and the zombies were now surrounding them in a thick packed horde. Wet brittle noises popped all around them as the tank crushed the zombies under its tracks. While it seemed the team was safe from the horde’s touch, they did not anticipate how the masses of zombies would complicate driving in the right direction. Blinded by the corpses that were piling on top of the viewing panels, the tank veered to the side of the road and drove headlong into a nearby gasoline station. Metal groaned as the treads tore through the standing pumps in seconds. The tank and the gas station blew up in a massive explosion. With the fire and heat came the sudden onset of an unexpected silence as the charred remains of zombies crumbled to the ground.
On the Guadalupe MRT line, survivors gathered the rubble that had fallen from the different walk ways that had been destroyed. While many mourned for their friends, most understood that their sacrifice was not to be in vain. The debris was quickly carried towards the northern side of the line and used to form a barrier at the mid point of the bridge like portion that hung over the Guadalupe river. Survivors of Guadalupe station were aware of the fragility of Boni station and of the possible threat of zombies lumbering into Boni station and eventually making their way to them. The barrier was quickly reinforced and manned to become what was now known as The Wall, a perimeter gate one had to cross before reaching the station itself.
“Once we get past The Wall, we have less to worry about those people behind us,” Julie told Ricardo as they continued to run down the line. She wiped her hair back, and her sweat kept it from flying back towards her face. “There would be enough armed men at The Wall to remind our noisy tail that they have to behave themselves.”
Ricardo shot a quick glance behind them and heard the rat-at-tat of an Armalite being fired. He looked at Julie and slowed down as she began to slow down her own pace. “An Armalite,” he muttered as he gasped for air.
“And yours, I bet, you got from-“
“Shaw,” Ricardo nodded, now struggling to steady his breathing.
Julie did not look amused. She looked ahead and motioned towards Ricardo to hand her something. He did not have to ask to know what she needed. Slinging the binoculars off, he handed them to her and held his breath for a few seconds in an effort to force his breathing to slow down.
She peered through the binoculars and wondered why Guadalupe station had lasted this long. The Wall’s guards had lanterns and makeshift torches burning bright on the wall itself. Did they not realize all this really did was made themselves visible to those who were coming? Like performers on a stage, the men at the Wall were blinded by the very light that illuminated them. Was it the fact the station was that high above the ground that made the difference? Or was the sloping road below, which could have proven difficult for zombies to gather in larger groups?
“Amateurs,” she sneered.
“I was wondering about that,” Ricardo admitted as he received the binoculars back.
“They’re making themselves clear targets. If they were smarter, they would have had bonfires burning instead here along the line. That way, they-“
“How do you know all about these things,” Ricardo interrupted her.
“I read a lot,” came Julie’s practiced reply.
“Well, I watch Lie To Me, and I can clearly tell that you just gave me an answer you had rehearsed many times to give.”
“Or,” she countered, “Maybe it is just because I do read a lot. And I expected you would be asking me that. And now, I decided you deserved to know the truth.”
Ricardo was about to retort but realized she made sense. He quickly tried to remember all the other previous episodes of the television show and tried to find a possible similar instance. He looked at Julie and saw the smirk on her face.
Definitely not some micro-expression.
She was clearly smirking in amusement.
“I hate you,” Ricardo taunted her back.
“Good, cause I really don’t think it would be healthy if you suddenly developed a crush on me,” Julie teased as she reloaded her pistol. The two resumed moving now, walking towards the Wall.
Nonito screamed voicelessly as white searing pain blinded him. He tried to buckle, to move, to trash, but the strong arms held him down. Around him, there was laughter. The laughter was that of a man and a woman. But a third voice silenced them with a hiss.
The pain registered like a prolonged high pitched whine that resounded inside Nonito’s head. He could not feel anything. He could not hear anything. All he could do was feel the grinding deafening realization that he was staring at his outstretched right arm and where once his hand was instead was the bloodied end of his heavy sledgehammer.
Otaku looked up from the sledgehammer in her hands and stuck her tongue out at KaQoH. The man shook his head, reminding her to tone down her laughter. Doc too, for a brief moment, had broken into a loud booming laugh. Perhaps it was warranted, considering all the trouble that this old man had given them.
Just minutes earlier, Doc was tearing off the wooden beams that had sealed the train from the outside world. The makeshift metal gate that had been raised to block the entrance had proven to be much sturdier than they had anticipated. KaQoH had tasked the then alive cabdriver, Ando and the Japanimation cosplay addict Otaku to open it. But in their failure to do so, the zombies in the vicinity were drawn to their area, and the climbers that were among the walkers forced their hand into battle.
It took Doc mere seconds to realize Ando’s failure was the result of someone’s actions in the train. (Otaku’s failure, Doc realize, was something her own insanity perhaps deserved the blame). With his trusty meat hook, Doc began breaking through the wooden barrier at the windows in hopes of being able to strike within. The sledgehammer crashed through the beam, nearly battering Doc’s hook from his hand, just as Otaku found Ando’s other knife and succeeded in forcing open the second latch. While KaQoH dealt with the incoming climbers, Doc forced the old man to divide his attention between his hook and the door, until it swiveled open. The old man turned to find himself staring straight into Otaku’s shotgun. The old man dropped the sledgehammer and surrendered.
To her credit, Otaku did not fire.
Unfortunately, what Nonito mistook to be her showing mercy, was merely her wanting to be more poetic and use his own weapon against himself. She forced him to drop to his knees, had him place his right hand atop one of the planks of wood Doc had pried free, then asked him in a serious tone, “What a strange creature is man, who would cage himself so willingly?”
She slammed the sledgehammer on his hand before he could ask what that was about.
“Appleseed,” Doc remarked, “That was from Appleseed.”
KaQoH looked at Otaku and motioned towards the old man. Nonito was in agony and while one might have commended him for remaining silent, it was actually the pain that kept him from making a single sound.
“Ask him where they are,” KaQoH coldly requested as he walked up to the network of lightbulbs and admired the simplicity in its design.
“He’s had enough,” Doc suddenly spoke, “We should just finish him off.”
Otaku raised the sledgehammer again. Nonito crumbled to the ground, now feeling the numbness wash over him. His eyes focused on something on the ground nearby, its white body visible in the shadows. He realized it was a cigarette. He must have dropped it during the fight.
“Ask if he saw a couple. If they made it here.”
“Otaku,” Doc reached for the sledgehammer. She did not let go.
“I said ask him if-“
“A light..” Nonito’s feeble voice said. Otaku let go of the sledgehammer and leaned closer to Nonito’s head. “Just… need… a light…”
Doc dropped the sledgehammer against the metal door, propping it to keep the door from opening. KaQoH reached into his pocket and drew out a lighter. Flicking it on, he brought the flame within Nonito’s view.
“The couple,” KaQoH asked, his voice less harsh this time. “Tell me of the couple.”
“Did they have the keys?” Doc called out.
Nonito slipped his tongue out and tried to use it to reach the cigarette. Otaku giggled, amused as the old man nearly touched it, then gave up. In an unexpected show of kindness, KaQoH reached down, grabbed the cigarette, and slid the right side into Nonito’s mouth.
“The couple were here?”
The flame was brought to the cigarette’s end. Nonito inhaled deeply, and the cigarette was set aglow. The end burned and the red embers shone in the darkness.
“The stars glimmer as the hearts of people,” Otaku smiled.
Nonito exhaled. And mumbled, “Yes.”
“They made it to this station then. Are they still here?”
Nonito inhaled again. KaQoH plucked the cigarette from Nonito’s lips, then slipped it between his own lips. He took a deep puff and gently blew the smoke onto Nonito’s face.
“Are they still here?”
The old man closed his eyes, feeling lightheaded and weak from the loss of blood.
“Fuck,” KaQoH stood up, and threw the cigarette back down to the floor. It landed beside Nonito’s head. “This is useless.”
“I don’t even see why we have to ask him anything,” Doc grumbled. “They’re down the line. All we have to do is go down the line.”
“And what if they weren’t able to get through? What if they decided to find another way? What if they climbed down to the street level instead? Took their chances along Edsa? Or got here, made a deal, and are now sneaking their way to the Robinson Pioneer over there?” He stared at Doc as he argued, honestly hoping the man had something better to suggest. KaQoH was running low on patience, and lower still on his convictions he could do this. He was tempted to turn back. To head home to the safety of Shaw station.
Doc clamped a hand over his mouth. He inhaled sharply and made up his mind.
“I’m going back.”
“What?” KaQoH felt the blood draw from his face. He hurried toward Doc, stepped in front of him to block his way, and crossed his arms over his chest. “What are you talking about? I asked for my four best men. You’re one of them.”
“Three,” Doc grunted back, “There are three of us with you. Two if you count the fact Otaku here just killed Mang Ando for you.”
“Four,” KaQoH explained, “And the fourth wanted to work alone. He is travelling down Edsa and plans to intercept them once they get to Guadalupe.”
“Four?” Doc was surprised. “Who is the fourth?”
“The point of the matter is,” KaQoH switched topics, “You are not going back unless I say we can. This isn’t just about getting some bastard who insulted me. This is about the security of everyone else back there in Shaw station who are unaware of how much danger they are in. This is far too important. This is for-”
“For the keys,” Doc sighed, understanding.
“Yes, for the keys,” KaQoH sighed, thankful the lie he had crafted had worked. “Now let’s go get our keys back.”
“Julie,” Ricardo muttered to his companion as they approached the wall. She maintained her focus on the Wall, but cocked her head to the side towards him to suggest she had heard him. “I think we better play this my way this time.”
“Your way?” Julie smirked, wondering what exactly he meant.
“My way. No telling them we’re recently married. No talk about being partners or lovers or what. Just… Just let me tell them need to get to Paranaque and you’re travelling with me. We don’t want any trouble. We just want to get through.”
Julie was amused with Ricardo’s naiveté. She wondered how he had really lasted this long. She suspected he was one of those guys who never crossed a red light even if it was three thirty four in the morning.
“You really think this is the better way to do this,” Julie challenged him, but Ricardo did not answer. He knew better now than to allows himself to be goaded into another argument with her. She was a crafty one with words and Ricardo realized the best way to deal with her was to leave her in the air, waiting for an answer.
He was right.
She hated seeing him simply move on without an answer to her last question. Julie was never comfortable with someone else taking lead. She had enough of that all those years before when she was still receiving military training. Having lost her father in some unspoken secret military operation in Mindanao, Julie had enlisted the moment she was old enough and hoped to follow in his footsteps. She was exceptional during the courses, picking up everything from first aid to map making, from survival to sharp shooting, almost as if she was born to be in the military. Many mused it had to do with her blood, being the daughter of a Captain.
In truth, Julie was simply the kind of person who wanted to make her father proud.
Ricardo approached the wall with his hands held up. His right hand held the rifle, keeping it pointed towards the sky. He swayed his left arm back and forth, opening and closing his hand in hopes of giving a physical display of conscious effort. He could have shown the L and V hand signals as he did before, but Ricardo wanted to maintain his hand on the Armalite. Better to have a weapon ready if things were to go south once more.
“Tao po!” he called out and waited, hoping the sentries set at the Wall would notice him there. He moved his left arm more rapidly, and worried that one of the men at the Wall might mistake him for a zombie.
A gunshot resounded in the air.
Light blinded Ricardo as one of those set at the Wall trained a halogen spotlight at him. A white curtain of brightness smothered anything else that the two would hope to see. Julie was forced to lower her hands to her face, and holding her gun that close, she could feel the still warm chamber just inches from her temple.
“Tao po! We’re human,” Ricardo called out into the blinding light. “We just want to pass through. We’re headed to… to Magallanes.” Not wanting to overcomplicate things, Ricardo decided to mention a destination just a few stations past this one. To mention Paranaque was to invite far too many questions.
Julie could hear the crunch of boots and shoes against the gravel. She turned to the side, favoring more the direction they came from, and shielded her eyes with her right arm. With the shadow of her hand over her eyes, she glanced down and saw the many feet gathering around them. They were surrounded.
The light was shut.
Ricardo struggled against the stars in his eyes.
Julie merely lowered her hand.
Six men were standing around them, each at a good cautious safe distance. Two had rifles, perhaps hunting rifles in their hands. The others held makeshift weapons instead. One even held a golf club and stood ready to smash it into Ricardo’s head if he tried anything.
“Tao po kami,” Ricardo mumbled again as he rubbed his hands to dispel the stars in his sight.
“Drop the weapons,” one of the men, a greasy looking man with three chins commanded. His bulk was made worse by the oversized shirt he wore. In his hands, he held a long pole that had been McGyvered into a deadly thing. Duct tape had been used to trap kitchen utensils, barbeque tongs and gardening spades into a dangerous looking urchin-like weapon onto one end of a long wooden pole. “Drop them slowly to the ground.”
“You mean place them,” Julie countered and Ricardo began to shake his head.
“We can’t exactly just drop something slowly,” Julie smirked, “Unless you actually think we have some power to affect gravity.”
“Christ,” Ricardo bit his lower lip, “We’re going to die..”
The greasy man giggled, then motioned to the one standing opposite of Julie. Julie turned to see a thinner woman with rake in her hands. Her arms were covered with bandages. The blood stains on them looked fresh. She walked up to Julie and held her hand out to receive the pistol.
Julie stubbornly did not surrender her gun.
“Drop them,” the greasy man again commanded.
“Hey,” Ricardo addressed the man directly, reaching his Armalite towards the thin woman as he spoke, “Let’s compromise here. Take my rifle. There. She keeps her pistol.”
The greasy man maintained eye contact with Julie. She took the challenge and maintained the stare down as well.
“Drop the gun, ma’am,” a third person in the group spoke. Shorter than Ricardo, the speaker had a build that suggested an interest in sports. Square jawed and dark skinned, his thick forearms and meaty fingers had a sprinkling of coarse hair. The five o’ clock shadow on his face made him look older than he actually was. His dark navy jeans were bloodstained, and the matching black shirt he wore had a bright pink letter O where the breast pocket would be. He trained his rifle at Ricardo. “We just don’t want any trouble.”
Ricardo glanced at Julie. His rifle was now in the thin woman’s hands. He held his hands open and outwards for all to see he was no longer a threat. “Julie. Come on. My way for now. Tuck the pistol in.”
“Drop it…” the greasy man hesitated. Ricardo mouthed to him the word, “please.” The greasy man considered.
“Fine, keep it, but switch it to safety first,” the third speaker suggested. When the greasy man threw him a look, the third speaker gave him a nod. The greasy man bit his lower lip in contained frustration. The third speaker stepped forward, sliding his own weapon away. “Okay?”
Julie slowly lowered her pistol.
“Thank you,” the third speaker said, before turning to the his companions. “Back to the Wall then. You two,” he motioned to the two furthest from the Wall, “Watch our backs.”
Ricardo saw the speaker glance at him a second time. Was that a smile?
“The Wall,” the speaker told Julie and Ricardo, “Let’s go.”
The fourth man was standing underneath the MRT line above the Guadalupe bridge when the halogen lights were used to blind the two. With the sudden burst of illumination from above, the fourth man realized the bridge way he was standing upon was no longer pitch black. Quickly surveying his immediate surroundings, he realized there were two zombies standing slightly past him just within arm’s reach. He noted three more ahead of him among the scattered jam of cars. His eyes caught sight of a fourth currently still trapped inside an SUV that had lost all its windows. That one must have been attacked while inside, and had never been able to crawl out to stalk the streets.
Knowing there was precious little time before the zombies registered his presence among them, he moved.
His right hand swung in a forward arc towards the closest zombie’s neck. In a graceful balance, his left shot outwards to crunch his left heel into the second zombie’s throat. With his full weight on his right foot, the fourth man maintained his extended pose for a moment, allowing both zombies to crumple to the ground and their severed spines failed to receive the brain’s signals to remain upright. Twitching like epileptic dogs, the two zombies struggled to find some way to rise back to their feet.
The fourth man knew the three had surely spotted him by now. Time was ticking. With the knife still in his hand, the fourth man stabbed the blade into the right eye of the first zombie, then twisted it for good measure knowing the blade was long enough to scratch the back of the zombie’s skull. He then rolled towards the second one, slammed his right leg onto its back to steady it, then crammed the knife into the back of its skull.
He could hear the voices above demanding for the weapons to be dropped and realized the two must have caught the attention of the Wall. There was precious little time to be wasted. He had to get to Guadalupe station before they did!
He moved, keeping low as he slipped between the abandoned cars, until he closed in on the first of the three that had spotted him. Sweeping his foot under the zombie’s legs, he stumbled the thing off balanced then followed through with a knife into its ear. He felt the blade break bone and tugged on it to free it from the thing’s skull.
A groan warned him of the second one, which revealed itself as it slumped against the corner of a stalled SUV. The fourth man quickly drew a second knife, then in a calculated motion, pinned the second zombie by the neck with his forearms. With a sudden reverse of direction, the fourth man slid both arms away from each other, with the knives sliding blade onto blade as they moved. The second zombie’s neck snapped against the blades and its head came tumbling down.
The third emerged from the shadow of a red Corolla.
The thing’s hands grabbed hold of the fourth man’s ankles. Jumping backwards, the fourth man dragged the whole thing out into the open. Before it could lunge forward to bite, the fourth man dropped down to his knees, timing it so they pinned the zombie down by the shoulders. He stabbed both knives into the zombie’s shoulder blades, then used his now free hands to snap the thing’s neck. The body ceased to move, but with its still intact brain, the zombie continues to bite and drool for the man’s flesh. Tired of destroying such a pathetic threat, the fourth man threw it a few feet upwards, then kicked it into the river.
Time was running out.
The fourth man knelt down to the ground, studied the options ahead, and decided he would have to make his return known. It was the only way he could get up there in time.
Guadalupe Station fared far better than others had believed.
Being high above street level, with the walkways that lead down having already reinforced gateways even before the zombie threat, the station was a very securable location. The river, while not as clean as would be preferred, still provided easy access to water whenever necessary. Like other stations, the Guadalupe station was positioned with bridge ways to nearby restaurants and eating places. But it too was close enough to the river to provide a third means of travel. By the water. And by going down Guadalupe, many have found the chance to access other places in the metro.
The station was not the best place to be at, however.
In the days that had passed, food had started to get much more scarce. While the nearby restaurants and mini malls were there, they were not the big ones like Mega mall or Robinson’s Galleria. Even Robinson’s Pioneer, which was somewhat close, was not as accessible. Teams were routinely sent out to try and find more sources of food. No teams that were to search for resources by taking the river ever returned.
Nicholas Sebastian was in charge of Guadalupe station.
Son of a preacher, Nicholas has long believed the zombies were a supernatural event. A punishment, perhaps, for the failings and corruption of the Church’s practices in the nation. Nicholas lost his mother at a young age, as she was taken away from them by a terrible disease called Lupus. The young man long questioned God why someone such as his mother would deserve to be punished so. His father gave only cryptic answers;
“The Lord has his reasons.”
“She is merely fulfilling her part in God’s plan.”
“Her sickness was proof that she lacked in prayer and sacrifice.”
“She did not believe.”
It was the last reason which always lingered in Nicholas’ mind. She did not believe, his father had said. She lacked faith and for this failing, she was punished.
Nicholas did not grow up finding himself hearing a calling to serve the Church. He did not grow up feeling the divine duty of priesthood waiting for him. He instead grew up like any other man, struggled with making sense of his feelings and desires while he tried to balance the yearning to find success, recognition and satisfaction in life with the expectations of his father of him as being a son of God. His father had hoped he would follow his divine footsteps. But Nicholas’ dreams of someday making a difference in the world was more political and economical than spiritual in nature.
Nicholas wanted to become a politician.
He grew up hearing the loud sirens and flashing lights of another police escort that was weaving through the traffic of EDSA, forcing civilian motorists aside so that their government officials may pass. He wasn’t aware of the fact that by law, only a select group of vehicles are permitted to have sirens and be escorted in such a manner. While the law only permits uniformed police and military vehicles, ambulances, fire vehicles, and the vehicles of the President, the Senate president and the Speaker of the house, far too many government officials abused the privilege and illegally applied it to themselves.
Nicholas wanted to make a difference.
He was exposed and sincerely believed in many of the political campaigns that would be broadcast on television each election period. He believed Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was merely a labandera in the past. He believed some of them really would ride a tricycle to work. He believed others truly would visit the poor and hand out relief goods on a daily basis. Nicholas bought into the hype and condemned the every official that was caught embezzling government funds, tainting and tarnishing the name of all other absolutely clean and incorruptible members of the senate. He wanted to be part of that.
He wanted to serve.
But as he grew older, the illusions began to fade. The belief began to wane. And with the slow coming realization of truth came the understanding of the power of religious blindness.
Nicholas grew up hearing his father speak of the word of God, preach the word of God, but make decisions based on the needs of man. He learned much of the scripture from hearing his father’s daily sermons, but understood the needs of man from watching him during those hours when no one was around. If there was anything he quickly learned, it was that the bible was a source of quotes and passages that could be twisted to serve one’s own needs when necessary. His father was a man of faith, however, and seemed quite unaware of his unconscious hypocrisy. Nicholas would hear his father speak to a pregnant young lady about the sins of the flesh and the need for her to seal the father in the bonds of marriage, but then would speak laugh with his kumpares as they would tell him of the latest sexy dancer at the nearby beer house. Though his father never indulged in such things, his evident lack of righteous anger towards his friends’ loose moral discipline was proof enough that the high standards he had held towards the young lady were purely of his own choice on the matter.
When the day the zombies emerged came to pass, Nicholas understood it to be an event of vast supernatural weight. It was not the apocalypse of the bible, though some passages could be reinterpreted to reflect it as such. It was not the ragnarok of the gods or any other such religious Armageddon. It was however, much to Nicholas’ personal belief, definitely an act of a greater being upon mankind. An act which far too clearly showed one’s disapproval of mankind.
Nicholas could not fathom anything else doing such a thing.
The zombies were our dearly departed. They were our family members. Our ancestors. They were our friends who have gone ahead. They were our neighbors who had befallen tragic events. They were our old schoolmates who found ill luck. They were our enemies who had it coming.
They were people who mattered to us.
And they were now out to feed on us.
Nicholas saw in that a very clear and personal show of disapproval and anger. No disease acted with such intimate hatred. No chemical ever expressed such emotional bile. No virus ever reflected such deep seated desire to strike back at another in emotional, physical and psychological ways.
Someone up there had to have decided we deserved this.
Back before the Metro Rail Transit gained such a pivotal role in the survival and locomotion of the living, Nicholas worked as a sales clerk at the House of Lamps. The massive store was located at one of the buildings that stood along EDSA, with a display window that dwarfed all other displays in the area. Everything from immensely massive glass chandeliers to simpler, elegant or modern lampshades were sold at his place of work. The vast variety of options that existed was mind boggling. In the four years he has worked in the House of Lamps, Nicholas has had clients who searched for all kinds of lamps. Few came with a vague idea of what they wanted. Most came with only a single word to describe what they desired. The list of words was in many ways amusing, but definitely reminded Nicholas of the vast array of options that existed for their clientele. Be it chic, grand, simple, sexy, modern, majestic, romantic, regal, religious, plain, colorful, tribal and at one point in time, gothic lamps, Nicholas would find a lamp in the three floor leveled store that would suit the customer’s expectations.
Working at this store had given Nicholas another view regarding the world:
Everyone who wanted anything would always prefer to want it in a special way. And hat special way was something so powerful and influential, that if it was accomplished, a form of loyalty and trust was immediately forged.
Nicholas used to wonder how the House of Lamps could last so long with such a massive overhead of expenses. The lamps did consume electricity, with some of the much more grand ones having so many bulbs, one could almost imagine the money that was being transmuted into light. But as Nicholas connected and found the needs of each client, he began to realize that this strong bond that forged actually stirred his clients to return in a later date, even if a new lamp was not necessary, just to buy something… anything.. that met that special way again. Nicholas sold more than just lamps at the store. He sold the feeling of satisfaction. He sold the sensation of being treated as someone special. And his customers quickly grew hungry to feel it again.
His first encounter with a zombie was much later in the day when they first began to attack. There were scattered news reports of people claiming to see their dead relatives walking about. There were rumors and text messages circulating that people were seeing friends and family they had long lost back at their homes. Jenny, one of Nicholas’ co-workers found it disturbing. She wondered aloud if it was “anything related to 2012” and reminded us all that the Mayan’s themselves predicted that year to be the end of the world. Jon jon, another co-worker, then teased that maybe they were just fans of the recent vampire flick Twilight, going around pranking people for some hidden camera thing. Nicholas ignored them both and continued to carefully polish the intricately cut faux gemstones that decorated one of the bigger chandeliers.
Jenny was adamant about the reports being true. She even cited her supposed fact that “If it was received via text messages from at least three different friends, then it was bound to be real.” She brought up Edsa Dos and Ondoy as other examples when reports that were circulating via text messages were worth being given some level of concern.
Jon jon laughed and reminded her that this was no different from the hoaxes that used to spread back in the eighties. “Does anyone recall the supposed threat of the coming Three Days of darkness? I recall getting a leaflet from someone at school when it was all the hyped thing to fear. There were even guides talking about sealing all the windows and doors from the inside with plastic or newspaper. There were warning to stock up on food and cancels. And to ignore any knocks one were to hear from the outside for they were supposed to be the sounds of demons and monsters mimicking the voices of our loved ones. During the supposed three days of darkness, the world would be smothered in darkness so horrible that only by our candles would be able to see anything.” Everyone was afraid of it being real, Jon jon reminded Jenny. “Everyone was so scared of looking up and seeing the burning cross in the sky, which was supposed to be the signal that the Three Days of darkness was going to start.”
Jenny crossed herself, “Malay mo! For all you know, Three Days of darkness did start, but since the whole country was in prayer that very moment, the Lord Jesus Christ almighty heavenly child decided to withdraw it and pull it back-“
“So instead we get to kill the family members and siblings who did not choose to but have been entangled by all the other existing lies. “Expose to them the truth, but know to do so only after requiring them not to touch anything they do not understand.”
“Instead,” Jenny turned her face away from him, not wanting him to look in his way. The man was annoying, more and more so each day. “Instead we get a chance to show the Almighty that were barring the doors and protecting ourselves rather than finding a way to cure them from this curse”
Nicholas did not share their views.
For Nicholas, the hungry dead were a curse. The Lord almighty was sick and tired of having to keep reminding people to stay the right path. And so the Lord cursed them, making them walk and wander about, hoping to remind people of how fragile life was.
It was only mid of the day when one of the customers came rushing into the store. Dressed in what would be considered as semi-formal, the customer fell down in front of Jenny and began mumble about needing help. His hands dripped with blood and his face pale from the outright fear that coursed through him. Jenny offered to get a glass of water for the guy. Nicholas quietly watched the man as he struggled to stay calm. The man pulled back his sleeves and the source of the blood became apparent. Two gristly bite marks were on his forearms. One had savagely torn the skin.
“They were like.. crazy… madmen..”
He struggled with his words. He struggled to breathe.
“Came out of nowhere. People... Screaming... The screams.”
Jenny spilled some of the water on the way back. Jon jon listened intently, fascinated with the story. Nicholas alone seemed to be concerned about the fact there was blood on the floor. Thankfully, the guy wasn’t bleeding as profusely anymore. Nicholas thought it meant the bites missed any vital arteries or veins. He didn’t quite get what the difference was, but he recalled many of the shows he watched mentioning it.
“People were running down the road… cars all delayed… jam packed…”
Jenny handed him the glass of water. He tried to smile, then began slowly sipping it. Jon jon saw Nicholas dragging the mop out of the nearby closet. He then realized the slick trail of blackened blood that the customer had tracked in from outside.
“They… they were just.. walking..”
“Walking?” Jenny wanted to hold his hand. To help him calm down. But the blood disturbed him. She never liked seeing blood. Especially when it was this close.
“Walking.. like they were asleep or something… just walking…”
Jon jon reached for the mop from Nicholas’ hands. Nicholas shook his head, worried about the story, and glanced towards the door leading to the stairs. He heard a distant sound of glass being thumped by something outside. He heard the rattle of the sliding door.
“They were…” the man suddenly ducked down between his legs. An eruption of vomit sprayed onto the floor, spraying over his shoes and pants. Jenny quickly took a step back, throwing the two guys a glance of concern. If the boss were to see this mess…
“They were rotting. They were decomposing. They weren’t human,” the man finally spat out.
Jon jon heard the sudden slam against the glass door. He looked up at Nicholas and saw from his expression he had heard it too.
Jenny inched away from the man, hoping to find the mop not knowing Nicholas had already taken it. She reached the side closet but found it empty. Movement caught her eye. She glanced outside the wall of glass that looked down towards Edsa below. There was a flurry of activity. It was like some rally was going on.
Not some rally.
It looked more like a riot.
A riot that had been broken up by the police. People were running around and screaming. Some people were clearly panicked, bumping into others as they ran. Others even slammed into cars that were stalled by the events that were unfolding. Jenny watched in horror as a bus slammed into two slowed vehicles, then tried to swerve as four people ran headlong towards it. The bus toppled to the side and hit a woman who was slowly walking towards the commotion.
“What the hell is going on down there!” Jenny screamed.
The man stared down at his vomit. He noticed the blackness of it. He noticed the coagulated blood in it. He noticed how it sickeningly looked so… delectable.
“It is the end of the world.”
“Get him up,” KaQoH growled at Otaku and gave them room as she pulled Nonito up from the ground. Doc was getting impatient . Unlike KaQoH and Otaku, Doc was not comfortable with the cruelty that the old man endured. Earlier, it was different, when the two were enemies divided by a wooden partition and a metal gate. But now, seeing him feeble and bleeding to death, Doc saw no joy in further beating him to a pulp. “Get him up. We need him walking.”
Doc wanted no further part in this. He cleaned his meat hook with his shirt, then began walking down deeper into the train.
“Where you going?” KaQoH made him stop with his words.
The big man turned to face KaQoH and gave a mock salute. “Going ahead to clear the path, sir. Just in case there are other zombies.”
“Oh okay,” KaQoH nodded, seeing the wisdom in that. The route ahead was soon to rise higher than street level, but that did not discount the possibility that a zombie climber or two had found their way up there. “Go ahead. We will just finish up here.”
Doc gave another mock salute, but just before turning to walk away, he caught sight of the old man’s eyes slide open. The poor fellow was still alive. Doc turned away and began walking.
“I am the Devil!” Otaku suddenly blurted. Both Doc and KaQoH slowly turned to see what the woman was ranting about. With her legs spread wide apart, Otaku was bent forward with her arms under Nonito’s armpits. With a jerk, she pulled him upwards to a barely standing position. “I will rise from hell time and again!”
“She is one fucked up girl,” Doc shook his head slowly.
“I know,” KaQoH grinned, “Ain’t she just… fantastic.”
Otaku propped Nonito against the wall, dusted her hands clean of non-existent dust, then checked her nails for dirt. “Jun. Of Devilman Lady,” she offered after seeing KaQoH and Doc look at her uncomprehendingly.
The Wall was a reinforced barrier of debris, bricks, and wire fencing all compacted into a sturdier fortification by recently laid cement. From the outside, Julie and Ricardo clearly saw how difficult it would be to even simply scale the thing without being noticed. The wire fencing that erupted out from the dried cement offered few useable handholds and the broken glass that had been set at the top made holding on to or pulling up to the edge a painful endeavor. The top part of the Wall was also constantly guarded, having a slightly lower walkway which permitted guards to keep watch without falling over.
Like the train, the gate system of the wall was a requisitioned door. Unlike the train’s door, however, the Wall made use of what appeared to have once been an SUV’s rear trunk panel. Heavy chains were added across the door to reinforce it from any possible attempts to ram it open. Pneumatic levels were actually installed to open and close the door. It was only once inside that Ricardo saw how they managed to power the levels. An old car battery had been jury rigged to provide just the needed energy to power the door when necessary.
“Pretty secure,” Julie openly complimented the securities systems that the Wall made use of. “The door can resist what? Fifteen? Twenty people pulling at it?”
“Enough,” the greasy man snickered, “Ain’t no one ever break into the Wall so far.”
“That so?” Julie nodded, “Guess it makes sense. Way up here where everything is safe and the zees can’t crowd up on you.”
“Not our fault you and your pussy boy here were rot fodder before you got here.”
“Hey Max,” the dark skinned man in the shirt with the luminescent O chided his companion, “No need for that. Insults thrown around now will only get us pointing guns at one another again.”
“Says you, Daniel, you like having guys pistols at your fuckin’ face.”
Julie threw Ricardo a knowing grin. Ricardo tried not to react.
“So what are your names,” the thin woman asked while she unconsciously fidgeted with her bindings. The pneumatic levels hissed and the gate began to close shut once more.
“Name’s Bonnie, he’s Clyde,” Julie smiled, “So now that you know our names, why don’t we all shake hands and sing a song like good neighbors.”
“You’re friend is just making things complicated,” Daniel nudged Ricardo with his elbow, “Maybe you can ask her to tone down the sarcasm.”
Ricardo knew Julie heard Daniel fine, but knew she was baiting him, waiting for him to call her attention. Ricardo just kept walking.
“Okay, you two can stop here.”
The area behind the wall was much wider than expected. Small tent shelters had been raised. A small bonfire burned inside a metal Fita can that had been set up atop the tracks. The fire provided warmth, light and a means to reignite the fires above if need be. A distinct large blue round water container for distilled purified water sat atop a folding chair just a few feet from the fire. Julie noticed just under the chair were two cardboard boxes, one contained instant noodles and the other, three in one instant coffee. She felt her stomach grumble.
“I’ll go get the boss,” Daniel motioned to Max, but Max had other ideas.
“No, stay here. You keep watch over this two. I’ll go call the boss.”
The thin girl raised a hand, almost like a student hoping the teacher would call her to speak, and yelled out, “Don’t forget to ask him, Max. You said you’d ask him for me.”
Max nodded and walked away.
“So,” Julie grinned, and Ricardo already knew he would regret this. “Do you really play for the other side?”
Daniel did not seem to hear at first. He was gazing upwards, towards the dark sky, and only realized he was the one being addressed when Julie had to repeat herself.
“Julie,” Ricardo tried to stop her.
“The other side. You like Hideo too?” Julie teased. Ricardo covered his face with his hand. It wasn’t shame though. It was to hide the guilty smile.
“Kojima? Of course. His work has always been introspective. Even when it is at its most foolish, there seems to be deeper meaning and significance behind them. Even when this all began, there was a guilty part of me that excitedly realized I could try being Solid Snake myself as I stealthily made… my… wait… you did not mean Hideo Kojima did you?” Daniel shied away like a spooked fish.
“And he’s a geek just like you!” Julie threw Ricardo a playful punch. Ricardo sighed audibly and sat down. He became painfully aware at how much his feet hurt. He felt a throbbing sharp edge somewhere close to his toes and wondered if it was an ingrown that needed being dealt with in due time.
“You should have at least asked him if he’s single,” Julie kept the joke going.
“Just because we’re both of such inclinations-“
“Gay,” Julie folded her arms behind her head and laid back down to rest.
“How about divas?”
“Sisters? No wait, that would be incestual.”
“You are hopeless,” Ricardo slid to face a bit more towards the far side. He was annoyed at being the focus of Julie’s jokes. But deep down he was enjoying the feeling of excited foolish joy, shyness and attraction. The last few days were all about fear, survival, anger and despair. This was as empowering as drinking a tall glass of water after a few days in the desert.
“I could ask him for you, if you’re too shy that is.”
“You’re name is Julie then,” the voice reminded the two they weren’t exactly alone. Julie shifted her gaze and found the speaker. The thin woman with the bandages was standing to her two o’clock, and was trying not to look too obvious that she was scratching her arms. Ricardo pulled his legs under him and tried to place his own weight on them. He yearned for a massage.
“Julie Santos,” Julie replied, already impatient about having to wait.
“Wait, Julie Santos?” Ricardo grinned.
“Now you get your revenge,” Julie anticipated his glee.
“Julie… Santos?” Ricardo smacked both hands together in a triumphant clap.
“Sure sure,” Julie rolled to her side, “Just tell me when you find someone who looks like Ryan Agoncillo and you get to have a great punchline to follow.”
“Actually I already have one. Well, I heard about it from a friend. It kinda goes like this… did you notice that the last advertisement Judy Ann Santos was endorsing was a feminine wash while Ryan Agoncillo was marketing a mouth wash?”
The thin woman giggled.
Another voice also giggled.
Julie turned her head and saw another man keeping watch trying not to laugh. His giggle gave him away however. He quickly walked away, holding his breath as he tried to keep from joining the laughter.
“You have to admit it is funny!” Ricardo nudged Julie. She turned back towards him and slammed her shin into his side. Grimacing in pain, Ricardo curled up into fetal position and tired to breathe.
“You didn’t have to be such a spoiled sport,” the thin woman scolded her.
“She was my cousin,” Julie spat back, sat up, then pulled her legs up to her chest. “She’s dead.”
The laughter quickly died as well after that.
Nicholas reached the lower level and saw the man standing by the side gate. Two of his men were keeping the new arrival by the far entrance, with their guns trained at him in case he tried anything. Nicholas had to take another step closer to see the person better.
“Ssh…” the man raised a hand towards Nicholas’ direction, “No names. I could have snuck in here but I decided it would be better to ask for you. Your men knew how to keep this entrance secure.”
Nicholas tried to maintain a composed attitude but seeing the very man who saved his life those many days ago at the House of Lamps affected him emotionally more than anything else ever did. The man looked tired, with sweat doting his brow. His body was built as Nicholas remembered, with broad shoulders and powerful arms wrapped in the darkness of a black fitting shirt. The man wore jeans, but the jeans were not the fashionable tight fit most yuppies had learned to wear. They were boot cut and had the shade of a darkening night sky. His boots concealed a knife strap around his left shin. His denim jacket covered the chest holster which held a pistol, and the strap at the back for the knife. He looked just as Nicholas remembered him, with his piercing gaze and his clean shaved mug. It was good to see he was still alive.
“Do you need to stay at the station?”
The man walked up to Nicholas and gave a slight nod. He glanced at the guards and cocked his head ever so slightly. Nicholas quickly understood.
“Everyone back to your stations.”
The two walked up the stairs leading back towards the station itself. Nicholas felt a growing outpouring sensation of joy that needed release. He stopped, turned around, and gave the man a strong tight hug. The man waited for Nicholas to calm down, then gently pried himself from the embrace.
“Sorry, I just could not help it. You did save my life.”
The man nodded. He however did not want to waste too much time. The two were already at the Wall when he saw them last. He had orders to fulfill.
“I will have a favor to ask of you,” he told Nicholas. The man who controlled Guadalupe station replied with a broad excited smile. “I was hoping you could help make something happen easier for me.”
“Of course,” Nicholas smiled and was actually looking around them for any curious eyes. He wanted to brag. He wanted to show them that he was affiliated with this man. “Let me know what you need. Is this life or death?”
“I wouldn’t say so. Not now. At least not yet.”
“For survival then?” Nicholas sounded relieved.
“Ah yes,” the man replied, “For survival.”
Doc paused at the dark opening before him and realized he would have to crawl to get through. The crawlspace was just big enough to allow him through with some effort. He did not like the idea of possibly getting stuck but knew he did not really have much of a choice. The darkness was the least of his problems, that was for certain. Flicking on his flashlight, Doc slid it into the crawlspace and scanned for any possible threats.
The light found the fallen body of a woman. Blood oozed out from her stomach. Her eyes remained open, staring lifelessly at the ceiling of the train. Her hands were stretched outwards, reaching for what seemed to be a bloody rag in the distance.
Focused on the light, Doc saw the telltale traces of flesh amidst the gore. He saw the tiny fingers of the now dead child and felt his chest tighten in disgust. The wasn’t anyone else moving about in the vicinity.
Doc decided it was safe enough to take the risk and slid into the crawlspace. With his hand on the meat hook, he entered the crawlspace, feet first. Crouched low, Doc then ran the light once more across the dark space. The sides of the train were still covered by the debris. The way out, however, was clearly further ahead.
A hand grabbed hold of Doc’s back.
With a scream, Doc spun around with the meat hook ready to slash only to find the hand belonging to Otaku who had squeezed half of herself through the crawlspace.
“Damn it girl I almost gut you!”
Otaku giggled and reached out both arms, like a child waiting to be pulled free. Doc ignored her and walked further in, carefully checking any possible blind corners where a zombie may be lurking.
“So, what’s with the anime fixation?” Doc decided to ask, hoping to make some sense of this woman who called herself Otaku, a Japanese word to define a fan of Anime or Manga. “You look old enough to have kids, but you seem obsessed with carrying yourself with overwhelming cuteness.”
“The fate of destruction is also the joy-“
“-Of rebirth. Neon genesis Evangelion right? Seele. I remember that cartoon.”
Otaku threw him a deadly glare.
“Anime, sorry. Cartoons only apply to Disney and the like for someone like you right? Anime then. I remember the anime. My son used to be terribly obsessed with them too. But he wasn’t an otaku. He hated the merchandise. He just really loved the stories and the way they were told,” Doc reached the end of the train segment and noticed the next one had flipped over to its side. The connecting portions were still intact, but some parts of the torn structure were dangerously sharp. With the meat hook, Doc tugged at the edges, folding them or breaking them away from the route. “His favorite was this one called Monster. Ever heard of it?”
Otaku nodded. “Dr. Kenzou Tenma.”
“Exactly,” Doc carefully navigated over the shattered glass and gravel. He saw one of the support bars from the train embedded against the ground, reached for it, and after testing its sturdiness, used it to pull himself back up. Otaku moved to follow but Doc waived her to wait.
“Dr. Tenma was a Japanese doctor in Germany. At one point in time he has two choose between saving his assigned patient, or saving a patient who arrived before the other did. The hospital he worked for wanted him to focus on the celebrity patient, but Tenma knew if he did as they wanted, the patient who arrived first and was under his care would die.”
Doc hoisted himself back to his feet and saw the remains of another zombie against the far side. The zombie’s head was half missing and the splatter of gore on the wall behind it revealed the missing pieces. Doc noticed the zombie wore a Lacoste green shirt and a silver chain around its neck. He wondered if the zombie, back when it was still human, was happy to at least had been dressed in nice clothes when it died.
“It is a simple formula. The greater the tragedy, the greater the emotional effect,” Otaku offered.
“Exactly. The writer of Monster wanted to push the idea that human beings can be cruel and monsters in their own right. And at times, we too easily try to value the life of a person as greater than another’s. We treat human beings differently based on a perceived value we have of them,” Doc reached forward and snatched the necklace. The zombie had no further need for it after all, and silver might prove useful for trading in the future. “Just because one is a celebrity, others consider him or her more valuable than another person.”
“We humans are just greedy I guess. But there are some of us who can resist the greedy temptations and desires of our hearts,” Otaku replied.
“That’s still a quote?” Doc looked surprised.
“Jing from King of Bandits Jing,” Otaku beamed.
“You’re really good at this.”
Otaku gave a quick curtsy.
“So why the quotes?”
Doc motioned for Otaku to follow. She easily bent forward and crawled underneath the sharper debris. Her fingers found the gaps between shards and with them, she navigated under with better ease than Doc had. When she reached the safer side, Doc was still waiting for her.
“If you want to know the truth, you must have the courage to accept it.”
Doc nodded. “Let me have it.”
“I am… actually, I’m a super-magical human. I have been hiding this fact for a long time. But I have-“
“Otaku,” Doc interrupted her. “Enough with the quotes. Tell me.”
She looked away. Even in the darkness, Doc could see her trembling. There was a great need for courage when finding words to explain one’s deepest fears. Otaku ran a hand to wipe her tears away, but she failed to notice the tiny shard of glass that had clung to her skin. The shard sliced a line across her face, drawing a needle thin line of blood.
Doc reached up and stopped her hand. Otaku tried to pull back, unaware of the wound she had inflicted on herself. That close, Doc saw the glint of glass and cooed Otaku to remain steady. She did, uncertain at first why he was suddenly so close. She began to gasp as he reached up carefully, and pried the tiny shard from her cheek.
“You didn’t even feel that, did you?”
Otaku shook her head.
“You don’t feel pain?”
Otaku shook her head. Her face crumbled into a pout.
“They.. they think it is something like CIPA. Congential Insensitivity to Pain.”
Doc frowned, “Sounds serious.”
“It is supposed to be some rare inherited disorder of my nervous system. I don’t feel pain. Or heat. I barely even notice the cold. Anhidrosis is the fact I don’t sweat.”
“How long have you had it?”
Otaku closed her eyes. She could still remember the doctor talking to her about her findings. The doctors themselves were confused. Such cases usually were detected at birth. Few children born with it live past their third birthday. Otaku was almost twenty two. The doctor was not even certain if it were possible for CIPA to have been repressed all her life, only to resurface this year.
“I have it,” she replied, “And it makes me something else. Something other than human.”
Doc worriedly looked at her. He touched the wound on her face. “Not feeling pain does not mean you don’t get hurt.”
“I guess we all do what we must to survive.” Otaku replied.
KaQoH stared at the crawlspace which Doc and Otaku had taken to follow the two. More and more, KaQoH began to doubt he would be able to find the woman and her companion. After the risky encounter with the zombies and the loss of Ando, KaQoH had begun to wonder if hunting her down was worth all the trouble. Now, with the nearly dead old man beside him, KaQoH considered his options. Guadalupe station was going to prove to be a big hurdle in getting the two. Even with the three remaining people under his command hunting them down, the survivors at Guadalupe station were certain to have their own opinions on how the two were to be treated. And somehow, KaQoH suspected none of the three would be willing to deal with the whole station just to get their hands on the supposed key stealing fugitives.
They would need a distraction.
Something big to give them more freedom to move.
Nonito moaned, still in agony over the torture that KaQoH had done to him.
KaQoH looked around at the hundreds of hungry zombies that stood motionless outside the fences. The things could sense them. The things could probably smell them. KaQoH had seen the crawlspace entrance to the next train segment and found himself forming a delectably devious plan. He remembered the little gift he had received from the soldiers who ran to Shaw station for shelter. He realized how he could hurry along the events that were unfolding to accomplish the ending he desired.
“Well old man,” KaQoH leaned against the dying Nonito. “Looks like after all your years of being the sick smelly bastard you have been are going to at least come to a Manny Pacquiaofic end.”
The old man begged for the release of death. Tears welled in his eyes. The words that spilled from his mouth were of apology and the beg for mercy but none emerged from his lips in any form that was comprehensible. How could they, considering how much of his tongue was callously burned with a cigarette.
“Oh yes, you, my friend are going to go out with a bang.”