The scream was enough to break the group, half of the members pushing past group from the City and pushing them to the side with little thought of their wellbeing. Once they had stopped being trampled, they had quickly followed after the group with their weapons at the ready.
“Rachel?” Several voices called out for the girl, but there wasn’t an answer.
“Oh god!” Charlie cried. “What if she’s been hurt? Infected?”
No one answered him because there weren’t any words of comfort to give him. In another world, they might have been able to comfort him, but they weren’t in a different world, and their words would be nothing more than empty promises.
The hallways were quite claustrophobic with the entire group trying to force themselves down it all at once but no one voiced their discomfort. It was obvious that Rachel meant a lot to these people, whoever she was.
Another loud cry echoed down the corridor, and the whole group surged forward with the sound. Elbows slammed into other people, but there was little concern for injuries.
“Rachel!” Charlie called, and after a moment of silence there was a returning call.
There was a collective sigh of relief and the anxiety from the group quickly seeped from them. Charlie broke away from the group, running towards the call and the group followed after, except there wasn’t as much urgency as before.
“Stay away from me.” A girl’s voice said, evidently Rachel. Her voice shook with the words. “Don’t come any closer.”
“Why? What’s wrong?” Charlie asked. “We’re not going to hurt you, Rach.”
They rounded the corner to see two bodies lying on the floor, motionless with death. They had been infected, obviously, but it didn’t make the sight any less confronting. A girl stood among them with her back pressed flush against the wall. Her eyes were wide and panicked, her hair a mess and her clothes askew. It was easy to deduce what had happened to her.
“What’s happened?” Chris asked anyway, and Rachel sobbed the slightest bit.
“They- They grabbed me.” She said. “Oh god. What if I’m infected?”
“You’re not infected yet Rachel, you might have a chance.” Chris said, stepping forward but the girl shook her head.
“No. Don’t come any closer. Not until we know.”
“You can’t just stay there.”
“Rach, please. We’ll get you somewhere safer than here.”
“No.” She said, shaking her head. “Just try to find the lab. Leave me here.”
“Rach-” Charlie tried, but the girl cut him off.
Her voice left no room for argument, and Chris backed off, respecting the wishes of the girl but Charlie shook his head and stepped forward.
“I’m staying with you.” He said and he ignored all her protests, walking over to her and grabbing her wrists when she begun to run.
“I’m not leaving you behind.” He said, and the girl gave him a sad smile and sighed.
“You always followed orders when you were younger.” She said. “What happened to that?”
“The world went insane.” He told her before turning back to the group. “Go on ahead. We’ll see you tomorrow.” Or not.
Ciara looked conflicted, unsure of what to do. Obviously, it was a fight between the loyalty of friendship and the loyalty to the camp. “Ciara.” Chris said, his voice low. “We need you.”
The girl bit her lip but nodded. She gave one last glance to the pair before taking a shuddering breath and walking away. Gwen wondered if the girl knew that she might never see her friends again.
Of course she knew though.
They all knew.
The group was separated into several different groups of four. Gwen had been put with Isiah, James and a woman who introduced herself as Leigh. Each group had all been designated a floor, and the group that Gwen was in had been assigned to the third floor.
“Stay on your guard.” James murmured, his hand wrapped around the hilt of his knife as they left the stairwell and cautiously stepped into the lobby of the third floor. It was silent and her skin crawled.
Sometimes silence was worse than noise, because in the silence, the sound of breathing got louder, and the footsteps echoed a little too much, and just because it was silent, it didn’t mean that there wasn’t any of the infect around.
“Split.” James murmured, catching Gwen’s arm and pulling her to the left while Leigh and Isiah went to the right. Gwen found a part of herself wishing that James had gone with Leigh, and Isiah had been with her. At least she knew that Isiah wasn’t upset with her.
“About last night…” She begun, but trailed off at the look James gave her.
“Don’t.” He said, his voice was a harsh whisper, but in the silence it almost like he had shouted it. “You’re sorry, I know, but that won’t change what you said.”
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
James hushed her as they turned around the corner, switching on his torch and shining it down a particularly dark corridor. After a few moments, he started to walk down it, the beam of light swinging from wall to wall. “I know.” He said eventually. “But it hurt.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“But you did. You were our best friend from the start of all this, and when you left…” He let out a bitter laugh. “I felt like a piece of me had just disintegrated, and Chris-” He shook his head. “I was so sure when they said that you had passed, that he would too.”
“I never wanted it to be that way.”
“Doesn’t change the fact that it was.” James told her, slowly swinging a door open and shining a flashlight into the darkness. There was a growl from one of the infected and Gwen froze. James didn’t.
He easily swung his knife, driving it into the skull of the infected, never once hesitating. He didn’t appear to look troubled; he didn’t look like he had just ended a life.
“How do you do it?” Gwen asked softly, and James looked at her.
“It gets easier over time. After a while, you just kind of have to forget that they were once people and accept the fact that they’re monsters now.”
“That’s the way it is.”
“I wish it didn’t have to be this way.”
That got her a harsh look from James. “Stop wishing. Unless we get this cure perfected, it’s the way it’s going to be.”
She fell silent, unsure of how to respond to that.
“James! Come have a look at this.” Leigh called when they found themselves in the same room as the other two. James quickly ran over to her side and leaned over her shoulder, looking at what she had found.
“What is this?” Gwen asked, looking around the room. It was large, and might have once been a staff room or office. Isiah nodded towards the pieces of paper on the desk, handing her his flashlight.
“Diary entries. We think they might be from the doctors that worked here.”
We don’t know what this disease is. It’s completely new to us, and it isn’t something that any of us could even begin to know how to cure. This isn’t like the flu, this is like the plague. This week, out of the hundreds that have come to us in the past month, over two thirds of them just went insane, like they had escaped from the psych ward, except they were ruthless. The writing smeared a little in the next parts, they took the lives of three doctors before we could finally get them locked away. Doctor Stevens, Doctor Edwards and Nurse Elaine were lost to us today, and may God rest their souls.
Doctor L. Noyes
“Wow.” She breathed. “This…”
“Read this one.” Isiah said, handing her another piece of paper.
I think I’ve been infected. I see the colours, and they are beautiful. It’s strange. I had expected the colours to be hideous, to be terrible, but they’re the opposite, but no matter how beautiful the colours are, I am afraid. Soon, I will be lost to the disease. In a matter of time, I will become like the monsters that had killed Doctors Stevens and Edwards, and Elaine, and I don’t wish to be like them. I know I must end my life soon, before I have to be put down by one of my co-workers - one of my friends - like a sick animal, but I am hesitant. I don’t want to leave the colours behind.
Doctor L. Noyes
She felt like she was reading about her own life. “Is this the last one?” She asked.
Isiah shrugged. “I don’t know. These aren’t in any order, at all.”
“We think that some of them might have theories from the doctors in them.” Leigh said. “There are hundreds of them. Seems like every doctor and nurse wanted to document everything that was happening.”
“It might be useful.” James said. “If we have half of the groups working towards a cure and the other half reading through these we might get some answers, or at least some pointers in the right direction. I’m willing to bet there’s a whole lot more of these on the other floors, too.”
“Even if we don’t find anything to work towards the cure, it’ll still be a good insight to what the doctors were facing. We might learn different techniques or something.” Leigh said. “These people were doctors, so they’ll at least have a better idea than we do.”
“Let’s hope that the others have been as lucky as we are.” James said. “Because we could use a little bit of luck right now."