The 1,200th Wave
Fawn yawns as she blearily reads the last sentence in her research book. The book snaps closed with a small puff of dust, and Fawn’s eyes flit over to the ticking clock hanging from the wall.
It was hard to tell when night fell, as every window in the mall was sturdily boarded up, with only a small amount of sunlight coming through the cracks. The only other light was one florescent in each room, casting shadows all the wall and far too often breaking.
The folding chair pushes back with a squeal as Fawn trudges over to the shelves, putting the book back in its proper place. Fawn reads the spine one last time. The Great Depression, 1929-1939.
The Great Depression must have been hard, Fawn thinks to herself as she grabs her notepad and pen, beginning the walk to Bedding. Oh, what I would give to have lived through the Great Depression instead of the Lame Apocalypse.
The first-ever settlers to stay in the mall had transformed an old storage unit into the sleeping area for their group. The large shelves now contained cots, the entire room filled with blankets and pillows.
106 survivors. Fawn reminds herself as she’s stopped by Rashi, one of the guards working the night shift.
“Name?” Rashi asks, clicking his pen.
“Fawn Rallow.” Fawn peers at the list, only small enough to cover two pages, as Rashi’s finger trails down until reaching her name.
“Head on in, Fawn.” Rashi smiles, and Fawn shyly smiles back. For someone with dried blood under his fingernails, he wasn’t that bad looking.
Bending over, she grabs a pair of nightclothes her size from the big table by the door, hiding behind a panel to change.
Throwing her clothes into the makeshift laundry shoot, she moves over to the cot she shared with Grace Johnson.
Grace was already asleep, her breathing slow and steady. Sleeping was the only time Fawn could say she looked relaxed.
Crawling under the well-worn out blankets, Fawn tampers with her pillow until she’s comfortable, curling close to Grace.
Slowly, she drifts off.
Fawn wakes as Grace lightly shakes her shoulder, the flickering lights temporarily blinding her, and signaling that morning had come.
“Good morning teacher,” Grace says softly, smiling at Livia, who pushes herself up into a seated position.
“Don’t make it weird.” Livia laughs, smacking Grace with her pillow and musing Grace’s already rumpled hair. “I’ve still got one more year before my official job assignment.”
The two girls hold hands as they go to the showers, getting their early, before the long line.
An emotionless guard hands Grace some soap, and she awkwardly gets out of her clothes. Fawn does her best to cover her from the slowly arriving crowd.
Fawn undresses, grabbing a bar of soap, and gets into the second shower. There were only three showers, which was why the guards had to get up earlier. Mainly so they wouldn’t be held up in line.
The warm water falls onto Fawn’s long hair. She tilts her head towards the spray and enjoys the warmth for a moment, then begins washing her skin and hair.
Fawn used to be uncomfortable about showering in front of everyone else, but that’s just how life is at the mall.
It was certainly more of an adjustment for Grace, who had come from the outside three years ago.
As she showered, Grace thought about her little sister Annie. She longed for the days when she, Annie, and their parents still lived in their home. Covering doors and windows with blankets to block out the wave, hiding in the basement. Grace had always liked its low, ominous hum. It had always felt like a victory when they got through a wave.
But then it was just Grace, Annie, and their father.
And then it was just Grace.
Tonight was the Wave, the 1200th, to be exact. Some civilians say it should be a celebration, exactly 100 years of surviving and thriving for the camp.
Some say it’s an omen.
Grace and Fawn change behind a curtain, walking to the old school supplies store, fittingly turned into a school for the twenty-nine children living within the mall.
Grace sits at her chair and opens up her workbook as the other children walk in. Grabbing her pencil, she smiles encouragingly up at Fawn as she sits down at one of the two chairs next to the chalkboard.
Verity peers around the corner, watching in disgust as the guard for the library, Reid, kisses his boyfriend Arlo.
“Get a room, you two,” Verity calls, making them jump. Snickering she walks up to them, attempting to pass into the library.
Reid holds out an arm to stop her. “Nice try, squirt. Pay up, or we tell Blaine.”
“My payment is not telling Blaine you were snogging your boyfriend instead of guarding the library from the person that already snuck inside,” Verity tells them cheekily.
Reid and Arlo hurriedly turn to look inside, and Verity ducks down through the gap between the two into the library.
“Fair.” Arlo sighs. “You win this round, squirt.”
Verity peers at the familiar shelves, sighing when no new books suddenly manifested with more stories to cure her seemingly endless boredom.
Pushing a stray blonde lock of hair behind her ear, Verity grabs an old favourite, plopping down on the floor and beginning to read.
Livia rolled over tiredly, squinting at the harsh sunlight that streamed through the cracked windows and holes in the walls of the abandoned house she and her group were staying in.
Her dog Wolf, a big brutish German shepherd, let out a loud bark when he saw she was awake, making Livia smile tiredly.
“Hey boy.” She whispers, holding her arm out from under the ratty blue blanket she had managed to find.
Wolf stands and trots over, happily licking her arm before moving up to Livia’s face, making her smile and gently push him away.
Sitting up, Livia stretches with a small groan and stands.
Grabbing her jeans, Livia pulls them on and heads downstairs, Wolf following after her.
Already awake and alert, Jacob sat on the green couch in the living room, watching out the window alertly as Livia came down the stairs.
“Hey.” Livia greets him.
“There’s a wave coming.” He mutters. The smile falls off Livia’s face and she sighs, looking down at Wolf who looks at her with concern before licking her hand comfortingly. Sitting, Livia grabs her boots and tugs them on, hurriedly tying the laces.
“I liked it here.” Livia shifts, “Couldn’t we find a house nearby to hide out in?”
“No.” Jacob shakes his head and stands, grabbing Livia’s backpack and handing it to her. “All the houses around here are ready to collapse at any minute. We need to find somewhere secure.”
Once Livia had taken her backpack he grabs his own and unzips it, taking out the map they had been using.
“The closest safe-house there is would be a mall, nineteen miles away.” He tells her. “So we have to leave in no more than twenty minutes if we’re going to make it.”
Livia nods. “I’ll get water.”
Heading into the kitchen, she grabs two non-broken bowls and fills them with water, placing one on the floor. Wolf goes to it, eagerly drinking.
“Good boy,” Livia says softly, grabbing everyone’s water bottles and beginning to fill them.
“Everyone awake!” Jacob yells, running up the stairs, “There’s a wave coming!”
As soon as he yelled the hallway upstairs burst into action as the rest of his group members all came out of the rooms they were staying in and headed downstairs.
Doll, Barrow’s dog, moves over to the second bowl, lapping up the water. Once finished, she moves back over to the small box carrying eight squirming puppies and laying back down.
Jacob watches Jordan worriedly as his best friend and the only boy in their group his age finally came out of one of the rooms, his hair wild and his arms wrapped tight around his skinny torso in a self hug as he shivered.
“Hey, buddy.” Jacob says softly, “How are you holding up?”
Jordan does his best to smile reassuringly, despite the burning pain in his legs and the freezing cold everywhere else. “I’ll be...f-fine.” He manages to get out.
Jacob nods and wraps his arm around Jordan protectively, helping him down the stairs but trying his best not to seem like Jordan needed any help.
“Hang tight buddy,” Jacob says softly. “We’ll get you fixed up soon.”
The boys finally reach the ground floor and Jordan sits on the couch while Jacob and the others frantically pack up all of their belongings, and search the house for supplies one more time.
Melody grins when she finds a sewing kit and some broken clothes hangers that she could use as arrows. Placing them all into her bag, she heads back into the living room, her nose wrinkling up at the smell of rotten flesh that was slowly seeping through the front door.
“Affected.” She mutters, pulling out her knife. Opening the door, she glances around wearily, before noticing a group of three Affected a small ways away from the house.
Grinning to herself, Melody sneaks up on them as quietly as she could. Once one of the Affected notices her, she quickly leaps at them, driving her knife into its’ skull.
The Affected drops to the ground and Melody quickly stabs the other two.
“Melody!” Tisha calls from the doorway, “Come back, please! Poppy needs some help with the puppies!”
Nodding, Melody sprints back into the house.
“Save your energy kid,” Barrow says gruffly. The fifty-two-year-old man was the oldest in the group, but he rarely gave orders, unless it was serious.
“Why?” Melody asks, “What’s going on?”
“There’s a wave coming.” Tisha’s hand moves to her stomach, protectively resting on her large baby bump. “Jacob says it’s quite a trek.”
Melody nods and moves over to Poppy, who was taking the puppies away from their mother Doll.
“C’mere Doll.” Barrow whistles and his adopted silver she-wolf stands and trots over to him. “Atta girl.”
Doll leans into Barrow’s petting eagerly.
Jacob takes out his leftover granola bar and takes a bite before handing the rest to Tisha.
“Thanks,” Tisha says quietly before finishing the bar. Livia smiles and gives Jacob a soft peck on the cheek.
“How’s our food supply?” Melody asks Barrow. He opens his backpack and peers in.
“Four cans of pears, eight cans of baked beans, three cans of corn, one can of peaches, three cans of mixed vegetables, one can of peas, a jar of peanut butter, a forty pack of granola bars, and twelve bags of assorted chips.” He notes, “That seems like a lot, but it’s not.”
“I know.” Jacob nods, a grave look on his face. “Hopefully we can find something at the mall. Let’s head out.”
Livia whistles and Wolf comes running.
“Hey boy.” She whispers, smoothing down the fur on his head, “We gotta go again.”
Wolf barks and goes to sit next to Doll by the front door.
“Good boy.” Livia checks her gun and sighs when she realizes it was empty.
Jacob notices and takes the gun from her, putting three bullets from his gun into the chamber and handing it back to her.
“Thanks,” Livia says quietly and Jacob gives her a quick kiss on the cheek.
Walking back into the kitchen, she grabs the two now empty bowls that she had put on the floor for the dogs.
Jacob finishes filling his flask with the brownish water from the faucet. He puts his mouth under the faucet, gulping the last drops of the water source.
He wipes his lips with his hand and heads to Poppy. “What do you see?”
Poppy tries harder to peer out one of the grimy kitchen windows.
“Six unknown things, probably Affected, from the groaning sounds I hear.” Poppy shrugs, “What do we do boss?”
“Probably just beds for some Phase 2 Affected. Let’s get moving.” Jacob orders, grabbing his bag and walking outside.
Poppy grabs the box of puppies and she, Melody, Livia, Tisha, Barrow, Jordan, and the two dogs follow him.
Looking out towards the vast land ahead, Jacob takes one step and slashes to his left.
An Affected, it’s pale, thin structure standing out against the bright yellow house, staggers backward at the blow.
Jacob stabs it once more, and the life, well if you could call it a life, was gone.
Jacob spits on the body and turns to the others. “Watch out.”
Livia nods worriedly, pulling out her gun and following close behind her boyfriend, Wolf obediently walking next to her. “Yeah, sure. I’ll try.”
Livia shudders a little at the sight of the Affected. She was unsure why it still bothered her so much, but still, she kept walking, on high alert. Her heart felt like it was pounding out of her chest.
“How long do you think until the next wave? I’m assuming we have just enough time to get where we’re going.” Melody asks.
Poppy stuck close to the back where Barrow, Doll, and her brother Jordan were walking. Melody was the only one that wasn’t too uneasy, instead focusing on walking.
“Well, it’s around 9:30. So about fourteen hours till midnight.” Jacob took a deep breath, moving one foot in front of the other.
“Nineteen miles in fourteen hours? How the hell...? Never mind, let’s just go.” Tisha picked up the pace, lengthening her stride. “We sure can’t afford to hit any setbacks.”
Barrow follows the group, taking his usual position at the very back.
Scanning the wasteland, he gives his input. “Given our usual mile speed of two and a half every hour, we theoretically could make nineteen miles in fourteen hours, but that walk is going to be a bitch.”
After his piece, he brushes his hand along Doll’s fur, before she darts ahead to check on the group.
“Yes, I know. I don’t doubt we are able to do it, but it might be difficult. Hopefully, the weather stays suitable.” Livia muttered. She crossed her arms, cautiously glancing at Jacob now and then. He seemed so...cold, much more than usual.
Jacob trudges along, shielding his eyes from the blazing sun. He looks at the vultures surrounding animal carcasses that varied through the deserted land. If they didn’t get killed from the Affected, they probably died from the heat.
Jacob’s eyes catch glimpse of a shimmer in the dirt, and he kneels to inspect the glint.
As he digs through the sandy dirt, he finds the source.
A dog tag.
He looks at the metal, the engraving of a name.
He starts to pull the collar out, and jumps back. It’s still connected to a skeleton. He shakes it off, walking away without a word about it.
Livia saw Jacob almost pull a dog skeleton out, but he didn’t say a word to her. Wolf yapped when he saw Livia’s discouraged face, trying to cheer her up.
Livia couldn’t help but crack a smile and briefly stop to pat him on the head and scratch behind his ear. Livia sighed and kept walking. She was feeling a little dizzy, but what was eighteen more miles?
Nothing in comparison to the full journey.
Melody takes a sip of her water bottle then looks over at Jacob. “You okay?”
“M’fine,” Jacob mutters. Poppy and Tisha share a look.
Verity walks to the cafeteria at noon with everyone else, eagerly watching as they were given their second meal of the day.
When she finally reached the front of the line, she passed her tray to one of the cooks. When she got it back her plate was loaded with carrots, mashed potatoes, steak, and even some gravy!
Verity hums in satisfaction and looks over at Grace and Fawn, who were both already eating at the table all the teenagers sat at.
Walking over, Verity sits at the open seat next to Grace.
“Harvest must have been really good this year.” Fawn comments, and Grace and Verity nod in agreement.
“They must be if the cooks were willing to use the power to cook all this stuff instead of just having us eat cold beans and stale chips.” Grace nods. All three girls shudder.
“Man...” Verity looks off into the distance, “That was only four years ago. It feels like forever ago.”
“That’s what happens during the apocalypse.” Grace comments and the girls finish the rest of their meal in silence.
After mid-morning classes, everyone was dismissed from school to do what they pleased.
Verity cautiously peeks her head over the corner to see if Reid was still guarding the library, wincing as her eyes slowly carried up to meet Blaine’s threatening figure.
Crossing his arms, Blaine stares down at Verity. “You had testing today.”
“Did I?” Verity feigns surprise, smiling with a shrug. “Must’ve forgotten.”
Blaine raises an eyebrow. “Because someone who’s forgotten they have testing would sneak around all day like a bandit.”
Verity stares down at the ground and Blaine grabs her shoulder, leading her back to her private room and gently tossing her onto her bed.
“You’re grounded,” Blaine tells her as he shuts the door.
Verity sighs, looking down at the small black and white cat laying curled up on the foot of her bed.
“Well, that went well, Peanut.”
Fawn hums as she re-shelves all the books the school had taken out that day.
In the quiet of the library, she felt her old fears returning as they did during every wave.
The wave will be here soon.
What if this time something gets in?
What if we don’t make it?
Nightfall had occurred, leaving the group with only the moonlight. They had flashlights but wanted to save the batteries. Jacob checked his clock, 11:49. With one more mile to go. “Eleven more minutes till the wave, and we’re a mile out. And we still need to set up camp before it hits.”
“That sounds impossible.” Poppy groans.
“We can make it.” Livia grabs the fourteen-year-old’s hand and starts walking a bit faster.
Jordan shivers as he walks. His hands wrapped around his arms in a sort of self-given hug as he jerks his head from side to side, almost cracking it.
Barrow speaks up. “We won’t be able to make that, better look for somewhere to wait the wave out.” With a pat on his thigh, he calls Doll over, his companion coming faithfully.
“No, we can do it.” Jacob snaps, before groaning, “Sorry, it’s just...the mall will come up soon.”
“Are you s-sure you’re all r-right Jacob?” Jordan asks, pausing to cough afterward.
“Something isn’t right. Too many Affected but none are attacking.” Jacob finally admits, looking to the stars above, before they disappear in a cloud of destruction in ten minutes.
“So Jordan. Excited to finally get some sleep?” He says jokingly to his best friend, though the entire group knows they should’ve killed him long ago.
Melody squinted. “Am I seeing things or are there lights in the distance?” She asks.
“It looks like a survivor camp. We haven’t run into one since Charleston. We’ve got to move fast to beat the Wave.” Tisha says excitedly.-
Suddenly filled with adrenaline, Poppy and Livia start running. “If we run we can make it!” Livia yells.
“A camp? I’m in, let’s go!” Melody cheers, breaking into a sprint.
Jacob looked at Jordan, his face turning paler and paler by the minute. It seems hope was almost lost in him. If it was a survivor camp, they may not even let Roamers in, surely not Affected. Their ways of life were already planned out, for them to stay inside with no cure, no hope, nothing.
Jordan was starting to feel faint and he was stumbling more than ever. He kept mumbling the word ‘help’ over and over again.
Then he freezes.
His eyes roll up in the back of his head and he crumples to the ground.
His upper body was up on a sidewalk while his bottom half was draped across the street. Barrow sighs and picks him up.
Knowing it was bound to happen, he didn’t panic as Wolf, Doll, and Jacob ran to catch up with the rest of the group.
The high-pitch buzzing sounds flood the land.
“Get to the camp!” Jacob screams to the others. “Run!”
He stops to look at the stars one last time before sprinting to the others, falling behind as the cloud of death draws nearer.
Barrow runs as fast as he can with Jordan in his arms, not wanting to leave Poppy’s brother alone yet. He couldn’t bear the thought of being the reason Poppy lost her brother without getting out everything she needed to say to him.
That seemed cruel.
The loud buzzing noises filled the air, and they realized the lights of the camp belonged to the “abandoned” mall they were trying to reach earlier.
“The fucking map was wrong!” Jacob laughs as they got closer to the mall, the buzzing sounds drawing closer. “We’re gonna make it!”