I shove the end of my crowbar in between the great steel doors as deep as I can, pushing until I feel it lock into place. I lean back against the wall and throw my weight into it, grunting a bit as it starts to give. The door pops open and the momentum slams me into the building, creating a dull ache where the scars in my back are. Scout and Volkner grip the door and pull it wider, a long, ear-piercing screech digging into my brain as it drags along the ground. I step back and stare into the darkness, swinging my crowbar over my shoulder. Looker stands beside me, shifting uncomfortably.
"Is it…are we allowed to do this?" He stands on his toes and squints, attempting to see further into the abyss.
I raise my eyebrow and turn so I can see him properly. "Of course. It's not like anyone lives here." Scout steps toward the door, standing right at the entrance. Her tail is a quiet, anxious blaze as she carefully leans forward, glancing inside and to the right.
He looks away, still visibly uncomfortable. "Yes, but…but this is not allowed…." His voice drifts off and he begins nervously fidgeting with his hands. Volkner smirks a bit, crossing his arms and leaning against the worn brick of the building.
"It doesn't matter," I roll my eye in exasperation and follow my partner into the building. Scarlet starts to scamper after me, but Scout flashes her tail at the electric-type in warning. She hisses but obeys, retreating behind her trainer.
Once inside I slam my weapon against the wall, the sound echoing throughout the room. The echoes are followed by a stiff, pained silence. I narrow my eye and walk further into the darkness, past the dull pool of pale morning sunlight pouring in from the doorway. By Scout's light I can see a mass of boxes scattered about, spilling packing peanuts and bubble wrap across the floor. We're mainly looking for food, but any weapons or medical supplies will do just as well.
Each of my steps sounds deafening amidst the eerie quiet. I hold my crowbar out in front of me, poised to strike. Scout breathes heavily, the ragged noise mingling with the crackling of her tail and the boom of every footstep. We leave the outside light behind us, watching the shadows carefully for any signs of movement.
My body tenses, a low moan drifting like a cold breeze from deeper into the void. I suck in a harsh breath, trying to focus on everything at once. Scout begins growling, the sound dragging forth from her throat and wafting into the blackness. I feel something shift to my left, and swing my arm out instinctively. The shining steel cuts the frozen air like a knife, soaring frictionless through shadow. I turn almost completely so I can peer out with my remaining eye.
Low shuffling breaks the silence, coming from all around us. I step back so I'm just behind Scout, readying myself for a fight. The moans drift toward us faster and louder, filled with a new desperation and hunger. We can't see them, but we don't need to. Their steps are loud and clumsy, slamming harshly against the callous concrete floor.
Something suddenly and harshly grips my arm, and I try to swing around to strike at it. For a brief moment I'm suspended in fear, struggling fruitlessly to get my weapon-wielding arm free from my attacker's grasp. The hold tightens and I blink into the darkness, the light of Scout's tail creating long, flickering shadows across pale skin and harsh eyes.
"Hey Jay," Volker grins, light bursting forth from his hand. He lets my arm go, shoving something hard and warm into my chest. "You forgot your flashlight," I hold the new tool weakly and nod, his face far too close to mine for comfort. He steps back, the black fog of shadow reappearing over his face. Something thin and straight gleams in his hand, so long it comes almost to his ankle. I can see the silhouette of Jolteon standing just behind him, body sparkling with short bursts of lightning.
"Where did you find this?" I hiss at him, keeping my voice low. I glance down at the flashlight, examining its brilliant surface carefully. The battery in it must be incredible; I haven't replaced it in years. Though to be fair, I rarely use it.
"I went through your stuff."
"You what?" But I don't get an explanation. Scout cries out and releases a massive blast of flame into the darkness. Roughly a dozen shambling, decaying bodies appear, clumsily making their way for us. I hold the flashlight up and see straight into the eyes of even more undead. I shove it into my pocket and swing my weapon in front of me.
It makes contact, hard. I feel weakened bone give way, lukewarm blood splashing onto my hands. I see fire on my right and hear thunder to my left, bodies crumpling to the ground around us. Rancid breath warms my face, and I thrust the sharp end of my weapon into the rotting maw of a zombie. It stops moving immediately, its legs failing and causing it to drop heavily to the floor. I gasp as the weight pulls my arms violently downward, the corpse holding tightly to the end. I put my foot against it and push, putrid flesh sliding easily off the crowbar. The next creature lurches for me, and I force into its stomach, impaling it cleanly through to its back. I pull the flashlight out of my back pocket and hit it hard into the skull of another undead, smiling a bit when it shatters the skull with ease. The body falls toward me and I yank my crowbar free just in time to knock the limp weight away.
I hear a clean, metallic clang, and turn almost entirely to my left. Volkner is slumped over, his weapon just barely touching the ground. In the half-light of Scout's tail I see that he's wielding a long, blood-stained machete. He's in pain and panting hard. I see something move toward him in the darkness, and yell for him to look out.
A burst of brilliant light slams into the creature, knocking it to the ground. Jolteon stands over the body and kicks swiftly into its head, thick blood staining his bright yellow fur. Volkner pulls himself back up and holds his weapon defensively, smiling at his partner. "Well done." He brings the blade up straight through the head of another assailant, spilling its brains onto the ground.
Relieved to know he's safe, I turn back to continue my own fight. I aim for the head of one, but end up driving my weapon through its neck. It keeps struggling for me, and I hastily kick it away from me. It falls backward into another, and they both end up on the ground. I press my foot down hard into the first one's face and push my crowbar into the second. Something stirs the air on my left, and I swing my arm outward in its direction. Slimy flesh skims against my sleeve and I wrench my crowbar free just in time to slam it hard into the thing's head.
Jumping back, I easily take out the last one in front of me with a swift, calculated strike. It collapses and I stand over it, breathing in deeply. Sweat drips down my upper lip, and I wipe it off with the collar of my shirt. The heat of battle still courses through me, but I'm quickly growing cold and the sweat isn't helping.
"That was fun," Volkner walks to my side, weapons hanging limply toward the ground. I nod but don't look at him, too busy taking in the incredible vision of gore in front of me. Corpses surround us in stinking piles, flickering in the light like fire. I roll my shoulder back, feeling suddenly very worn. Volkner reaches out and snaps the strap of my eye patch hard, making me flinch.
"What the hell was that for?" I readjust it, giving him the best one-eyed death glare I can. He'd produced it for me late last night, having apparently made it himself out of whatever was lying around in the building. It's simple and seems pretty poorly sewn, but I can't complain. The black fabric hides my hideous scars from whoever we meet, and actually looks a little badass.
He grins and starts to walk deeper into the building. "I swear I saw something over here," He motions for Scout to come closer, and after looking back to get my approval, she follows him into the dark. "Ah, there it is."
My face splits into a wide, toothy smile as I take in the beautiful sight before us. The wall is lined with boxes, some spilling out invaluable cans of food. I flick my flashlight on and shove my crowbar through my belt loop, running toward the food without thinking. I hold the light between my ear and shoulder; examine the cans with uncontained and uncontrolled excitement. Scout runs toward me and starts to look through them as well, showing me her favorites.
"Carrots, beans, poffins…" I look at each one closely, as if they could be taken from me at any moment. "Volkner, this is incredible!"
He holds a can of chili, his face downcast in the flickering light. He flips the can over, reading the nutritional information carefully. Taking a deep breath, he looks up at me and shakes his head slowly. "Jay, none of this will be good to eat. At- at most canned food lasts about five years. That means if we're lucky some of the unmeat is alright. But otherwise…we can't use any of this." He stands there for a few seconds before suddenly hurling the can across the room and crying out in rage.
I slump to the ground and let the cans fall from my arms and my flashlight hit the ground with a thud. Scout sits down beside me, still holding a can of poffins. Volkner drops to his knees and rubs his eyes with his palms, shaking his head quickly. The momentary high of excitement leaves, and I feel worse than I did before. My stomach betrays me, yearning for food that isn't there. Scout pushes the can toward me and I try to explain to her that isn't good to eat.
She pushes it at me again, and I take it from her. I pull the tab back and then forward, tearing the can open with a surprising amount of strength. I grope into the darkness at my right, feeling the smooth surface of the flashlight just beyond my reach. I lean uncomfortably out for it and gently push it toward me using the tips of my fingers.
I flick it on and hold it over the can. Dark greens and blues grow out of the dry food, glaring angrily at us to put it back. Great colonies of rot grip each individual piece, selfishly consuming what should be ours. I hand it back to Scout and she rolls it toward the door, her eyes filled with disappointment. "I tried to tell you," I say softly, wrapping my arm around her shoulder as she curls up beside me.
Volkner and Jolteon come over to join us, and we sit in distraught silence for a long time. Looker, Croagunk and Scarlet come in eventually, Looker asking questions rapidly and seeming quite confused. "Shut up," Volkner groans, his face twisted in pain. "It's my fault. I knew we couldn't find anything worthwhile in here, but I let us go in anyway. I-I knew…I just…I'm sorry."
Then even Looker falls to silence, sitting cross-legged from us without another word. Croagunk disappears, only to return with a can of unmeat. He hands it to his trainer, who struggles a bit before opening it. The Interpol officer looks down at it in surprise, then holds it out toward Volkner and I. "It appears to be edible," he says, urging one of us to take it.
Volkner shakes his head and turns away. "I still wouldn't put that in my body. Sometimes canned unmeat can last longer than other things, but it's no guarantee. If anything kills me out here, it won't be food poisoning." I agree with him, but keep quiet.
Looker sits back in defeat, giving the food one last look before tossing it aside. He lets out a ragged, stress-filled breath, the sound echoing in the deathly silence of the room.