Lila swung open the door to the apartment assigned to Max, Corrigan and Eden. “This is it,” she said and Max pushed his way past her, grinning as he threw himself down on the couch.
“Not quite as nice as Charlie’s, eh?” He held his hands out for Eden and she melted into his lap.
“God, get a room,” Corrigan snapped as he went into the kitchen to find some food.
“Maybe we will!” Max chuckled as Eden’s long, untamed hair slid over his face. He kissed her and they smiled at each other.
“Hey guys!” Corrigan burst back into the living room with a bottle of vodka. “Look what I found in the cupboard!”
Max let loose a hacking cough from the back of his throat, wet and phlegmy. He tried to speak and coughed some more. “Oh baby, you sound like you’re coming down with something,” Eden said as she felt her husband’s forehead and cooed over him, clearly forgetting the argument from earlier. Max basked under her attention with a smile on his face.
“Don’t worry, it’s just a cold,” he said and Eden suddenly became quite serious.
“Just a cold?” she demanded and stood up, crossing her arms. “Just a cold? You know that phrase doesn’t exist anymore.”
“Look, baby.” Max moved closer to her. He lifted his arms and removed his shirt to prove that he wasn’t bleeding anywhere. “I wasn’t bitten.”
Corrigan’s eyes grew wide and he quickly turned away. He didn’t want to be caught with his gaze lingering on his brother-in-law. He opened the bottle in his hand and took a big swig, which he struggled not to promptly spit back out.
“Okay, okay,” Eden said as she inspected Max. He wrapped her up in a big bear hug, causing giggles to escape from her lips as he carried her to the bedroom.
Corrigan shook his head, taking another swig of vodka. He was starting to feel a little light headed and he hiccuped before replacing the cap and setting the bottle on the counter top. “What sluts.” He dragged out the final ‘s’ and laughed again to himself. The teen moved past the bedroom that the others had disappeared into, listening at the door as he did. He could hear Eden giggling while Max pretended to moan like a zombie.
“Gross,” he muttered and went into the other bedroom. He threw himself onto the bed and his eyes started to feel heavy. He hadn’t slept all night because they were on the move but now he was liquored up and comfy. Before he knew it, everything went black. He felt his body shaking and he started waking up. Panic slowly pushed out the cloudiness of deep sleep as he imagined a rotting zombie nibbling at his ankles. He flipped over, suddenly wide awake and saw Max pulling at his pants, a nearly empty vodka bottle in his hand.
“Max, what are you doing in here?” He lazily grabbed the waist of his pants, trying to keep them up.
“Come on, Cori,” Max said. “I waited forever for Eden to fall asleep.”
“Yeah, Eden, my sister.” Corrigan felt the familiar pang of guilt in his gut that he’d been dealing with for so long. “I can’t do this anymore.”
“Aww, come on!”
Max stopped pulling at the cuffs of Corrigan’s pants and climbed into the bed beside him. Corrigan could feel invisible sparks leaping between their bodies. He became excited but tried to hide it.
“No, Max, I’m serious.”
“No you’re not.” Max laughed and started to tickle Corrigan, who regrettably laughed. Max held his finger to his lips as he said, “Shh! Don’t wake up Eden.”
“I can’t keep doing this,” Corrigan said as he looked into Max’s eyes. He noticed they were no longer as enchanting as they once were. “It makes me feel bad.”
“Oh come on.” Max laughed and wrapped his arms around Corrigan’s thin frame. “How many times have we been over this? You know what happens when you start saying no. You don’t want me to tell Eden about all of this do you?”
“You wouldn’t do that.” Corrigan said, a little unsure of himself.
“You know I would.” Max responded and kissed him. Corrigan was suddenly feeling quite claustrophobic. “And it would tear your family apart. You don’t want Eden to hate you for keeping a secret like this do you? For betraying her?”
“All the more reason to stop!” Corrigan tried to push away from Max but the man was strong.
“Just one more time, okay?” The smell of Max’s breath was making Corrigan sick now. He wasn’t sure he believed the man but what other choice did he have?
“One more time, and you’ll never tell Eden?”
When Max was done, he threw himself on the bed next to Corrigan. Naked, sweaty, and drunk, they quickly drifted off to sleep and for a while there was silence in the apartment. Max and Corrigan lie sleeping side by side while Eden slumbered in the next room. Corrigan dreamed of his sister, of zombies and of Max. His dreams quickly turned to nightmares and he rolled away from Max in his sleep, pulling the blanket up around his chin as he did.
Max’s breathing became shallow and erratic while he slept. His eyelids began to flutter and he grunted as he strained to a sitting position. He slowly moved to stand but his knees wobbled and he fell back down onto the mattress. He stood again, this time more slowly than before and took a careful step towards the bedroom door.
The first step was quite uneasy. He stumbled but just managed to stay standing. His second step was even less coordinated. His arms flailed as he stumbled sideways and bumped into the dresser. Various personal hygiene products clattered to the floor and the sound roused Corrigan from his sleep.
“What’s going on?” he asked, sliding off the bed to help Max find his balance.
Max lifted his head to look at Corrigan’s face and the teen instantly knew something was wrong. His brother-in-law’s eyes had lost all of their glamour now, his jaw hung slack and a hungry moan started to rise from his throat.
“Crap!” Corrigan yelled and leapt backwards as Max grabbed out with an unsteady hand. His moan grew louder and Corrigan called for help.
“Corrigan!” He heard Eden yelling from the other room. He thought quickly enough to pull the sheet from the bed and wrap it around his naked body before she came bursting into the room. She stared at the apparently zombified Max and shook her head.
“Max--” she whimpered, “I checked you, don’t do this!”
“Look out!” Corrigan said. He held the white cotton sheet tight around him with one hand as he pushed discarded clothes aside to reach his metal pipe. Finally grasping the cool metal, he swung the weapon and connected with Max’s sweaty shoulder sending him to the floor again.
“What’s going on?” Eden demanded, tears in her eyes. “Max wasn’t bitten! He can’t be one of them!”
“Yeah, well, everything’s been messed up so far, sis,” Corrigan said as he bashed Max’s head. The pipe rang with a metallic echo and some angry part of him savoured the sound. “I can’t say I’ve seen a pattern to all this yet.”
“Stop it!” Eden cried. “Don’t kill him!”
“Why not?” Corrigan asked as Max struggled to get back to his feet between them. “So he can kill us?” Corrigan slammed the pipe into Max’s skull again making him feel a sickening combination of guilt and pride for ending the life of such a man.
Eden cried and left the room and Corrigan didn’t bother putting his clothes on as he joined his sister in the living room. There was someone knocking on the door but he ignored it.
“Eden, I’m sorry, but I had to do it. He was a zombie!”
“Why did he attack you?” Eden asked through her tears.
“What do you mean? He was a man eating monster. Attacking people is kinda what they do.”
“But why you? Why didn’t he attack me first?” Eden’s tone became accusatory. “I mean, why would a man eating monster get out of bed, leave a perfectly good meal lying behind and go find you?”
Corrigan gulped, he was suddenly very aware of his lack of clothing. “I don’t know.”
“More importantly, your door was closed.” She stood, balling her hands into fists. “He couldn’t have opened it like that so he must have been in there when he turned.”
“Eden--” Corrigan started to back up, shaking his head. “I didn’t, I never wanted to, it’s not what you think.”
“And just what do I think, little brother?” Eden demanded. Corrigan had never heard her voice like this, never seen this sort of anger from his sister before. “I knew it,” she said, her tears a mixture of sorrow and shame. “I don’t know how, but I knew he was fooling around. I just never thought it was with you!”
“Eden, no, it’s not like that!” Corrigan pleaded, inching away from her. “He said... I mean I was young! I just--”
“You’re my brother!” She said the word in a heavy tone as if to drive it home for him.
There was a loud knock on the door then. “Is everything okay in there?” Lila asked from the other side.
“I didn’t wanna do it, I don’t know, not really! Not at first, then I did a little, then I really didn’t want to!”
“Oh, really?” Eden’s anger filled every inch of her trembling body now, her eyes ablaze with wrath.
“I... I wanted to tell you sooner. He told me you’d hate me.”
Eden screeched and tackled her brother and they clumsily fought one another as Lila kicked in the door.
“HEY!” Her voice was naturally frightening, but when she yelled it was worse. “No fighting!” She easily lifted Eden off her brother with one hand and dropped her on the couch. Eden sprung back to her feet, but Lila held out an arm and blocked her attack.
“I do hate you!” Eden yelled, tears streaming down her flushed face. “I hate you, I hate you!”
Corrigan flinched under his sister’s words. “I’m sorry,” he pleaded, crying now too as he stood up again, still holding the sheet tight around his body.
“Don’t ever speak to me again!” Eden yelled. “You don’t get to speak to me!”
He pulled back, staring down at the floor as he turned to return to his violated room. He felt a hollow spot form in his chest. It began to grow, filling him with sadness and dread as he entered the room and looked down to where Max should have been, but the man was gone. “Lila,” Corrigan called, “we’ve got a problem!”