Corrigan picked up his dented piece of pipe as he prepared to leave with Daryl and the others. The night was still young and he’d managed to convince Charles to let them leave. Charles had even decided that Brian would go with them as back up. Vicky, Noah and Lila were going to come with them too, only part of the way though. They planned on breaking off and going to Vicky and Noah’s hometown to pick up their families.
As Corrigan made his way down the hall to the elevator, he saw the others waiting for him. Eden and Donovan were there to see everyone off. Donovan had convinced Eden it would be in her best interest to stay behind. He told her that if Jacob really was in trouble, it might be better for her to stay safe in the tower.
“Everyone ready?” Vicky asked. She was well armed with a pistol on each hip, an automatic weapon slung over her shoulder and a large shovel strapped to her back, it’s blade had been sharpened like a knife to slice through zombie flesh at a distance. Lila and Brian were similarly armed, minus the digging implement. Daryl had taken Max’s rifle and had that slung over his back, along with his pistol on his belt. Noah had two hammers in his belt and a pistol strapped to his chest.
“I want you to have this,” Daryl said, passing his backup pistol to Corrigan. “It’s simple enough to use, just point and shoot. Remember to aim for the head.”
“Really?” Corrigan asked, looking back and forth between Daryl and his sister. “What happened to my being too young?”
“I think we’ve moved past age requirements,” Daryl said. “It was a mistake not to trust you with a gun from the start. There’s real trouble out there and you need to be able to protect yourself.”
Corrigan bounced on the balls of his feet, he could barely contain the excitement he felt at being trusted with a real weapon. “Thanks!”
“Now this doesn’t mean I’m sending you out there all willy-nilly, without any training, which we will be starting ASAP. I just want you armed. This is for dire emergencies only! Use that pipe, unless it can’t be helped.”
“Yeah, yeah of course!” Corrigan went to put the gun in his belt and Daryl stopped him.
“Safety?” he said and Corrigan fumbled to find the safety switch. Daryl reached out and pressed it, then made Corrigan turn it off, then back on again. “Remember that switch,” Daryl said as the teen slipped the gun into his belt.
Lila pressed the call button for the elevator and the doors slid open. The six of them piled in and Donovan and Eden waved to them all as the doors slid shut. There was utter silence as the elevator descended. Corrigan watched the red numbers count down each floor as they passed. He was growing excited, anticipating a large brawl when they reached the farm. Adrenaline coursed through him and he welcomed the rush.
“So we all know the plan?” Lila said as they grew closer to the ground floor. “You three will head to the farm and check out the situation there. We’ll collect Vicky and Noah’s families. If everything is okay with the farm, Daryl and Brian will come back to meet us and we’ll head back to the city. If there’s trouble, all three of you come right back to me and we’ll all head to the farm to handle it together.”
Everyone nodded in agreement. Corrigan muttered something about defending his farm and Lila turned on him, glaring down her nose. “Listen, if it were up to me, you would be staying behind,” she said. “You’re young and unreliable. I don’t like people like that on my team. If you mess this up, I’ll kill you myself.”
Corrigan gulped, nodded and then averted his gaze. The elevator slipped past the ground floor and Corrigan and Daryl looked at each other questioningly.
“Uh... what’s going on?” Corrigan asked, suddenly very aware of how little he knew about any of the heavily armed and highly trained strangers he was now riding in such a small elevator with.
“You didn’t expect us to get there on foot did you?” Lila said as the elevator dinged and came to a stop. The doors slid open and they were greeted by a terrifyingly dark void.
“What is this?” Corrigan asked. He wanted to reach his arm into the darkness, but he was worried it would never return. He narrowed his eyes and tried to make out anything past the elevator door, but it was just pure blackness.
Lila stepped casually into the dark, disappearing from view. Corrigan stared wide-eyed at the woman’s courage. She was almost more impressive than Daryl. There was an angry roar from the darkness and Corrigan lifted his gun as a bright light sliced through the void ahead of him. With screeching tires Lila skidded to a stop just before crashing into the elevator. Corrigan peered out saw her straddling a black motorcycle.
“Motorcycles?” Daryl asked.
“They’re fast, manoeuvrable and easy on gas,” Lila said with a nod.
Corrigan caught his breath and watched Vicky laugh at him. She pushed past and slipped into the darkness with Brian and Noah following close behind.
“What did I say about that thing?” Daryl asked Corrigan, an edge in his words.
“I know. Emergencies only but even you have to admit that seemed like an emergency.”
“I meant about the safety.” Daryl indicated the switch on the side of Corrigan’s gun. “If that was a real emergency, you’d be dead.”
“Oh.” Corrigan bit his lip. He felt helpless, like he needed someone’s hand to hold and it made something inside his stomach roar with rage. A heat spread through him and he tried to push it aside. He recognized it as the sensation that spurred his outrage earlier. Sure he was upset that he couldn’t be with his brother when Eden said he was in trouble, but where did the rage come from all of a sudden? He never got angry.
Two more motorcycles revved up in the darkness, the combined light from the three headlights was enough to push away some of the black void.
“An underground garage?” Corrigan asked.
“Well what did you think this place was?” Vicky raised her arms and gestured to the room. Corrigan noticed that Noah was sitting on the back of her motorcycle, gripping her waist. He started looking around the garage and noticed with a frown that there was only one motorcycle left.
“I don’t get my own?” he asked.
“You couldn’t handle one of these, kid,” Vicky scoffed.
“You don’t think?” Noah asked. “I mean, I hear you’re pretty good and you’ve only had two lessons.”
Vicky snapped her head back to glare at Noah and he went silent. She revved the engine of her motorcycle and pulled away from the others. Noah was so shocked by the sudden and quick movement that he almost fell off the back.
“You can ride?” Lila asked Daryl.
Shrugging, he said, “The force just bought a whole new fleet last summer. I mean, I never rode one regularly, but we all had to take lessons. I’m sure I’ll be okay.”
“Good, that’s the best we can hope for.”
Daryl climbed onto the motorcycle and struggled for a second to start the engine. There was a horrible choking sound and he tried again. This time the engine roared like the other three and the headlight blinked on.
Corrigan hesitated before climbing onto the bike. He looked at the small seat and imagined how close he’d have to be to Daryl, imagined his arms around the cop’s waist like Noah had his arms around Vicky.
“Come on, kid, let’s go,” Lila snapped and Corrigan swung his leg over the bike. He tried not to press his body against Daryl as he slipped his arms around the man’s waist, feeling his own skin tingle with excitement.
They bolted from the garage and veered towards the highway, sticking to the sidewalks to avoid the mess of cars in the street. A zombie stumbled into the beam of their headlights and reached for Corrigan. Luckily, they were going too fast for the creature to get a hold. They reached the highway as the night fell into its darkest part. The headlights cut through the blackness ahead of them and reflected glaringly off the segmented yellow line down the middle of the old road. They were heading north, half of them to homes that they partially believed would be in ruins when they arrived.
Vicky pulled up to Brian after about an hour of riding down the highway. She held her right arm directly out to her side and bent it up at the elbow. Brian nodded, lifting his left arm straight up into the air and bringing it down forward to point ahead with his fist. A moment later they came across an off ramp that led to Vicky and Noah’s town and the two of them, as well as Lila, pulled right while the other two bikes kept going.
As Daryl and Brian sped down the highway, Corrigan felt the vibration of the bike between his legs. He could feel Daryl’s hard body and tried not to hold on too tightly, he didn’t want Daryl to grow suspicious. They rode for about another two hours before Daryl motioned for Brian to take the next off ramp. They exited the highway together and Daryl took the lead. Corrigan felt an urge to move closer to Daryl. He slipped a little bit further up the seat and tightened his grip, throwing caution to the wind as he took in Daryl’s scent. He closed his eyes and imagined things that embarrassed him, things that made him feel the familiar shame he’d been dealing with for years.
They slowed down and Corrigan looked into the darkness surrounding them. He recognized where they were, but knew it wasn’t very close to the farm. As Daryl pulled off the road into the trees and turned off the engine, Corrigan removed his helmet and said, “What are you doing? We’re not there yet.”
“I know,” Daryl said as Brian followed his lead and pulled his bike off the road. “But if there really is trouble on the farm, I don’t want whoever’s causing it to hear us approach.”
“We should have just stopped to pick up my truck.” Corrigan pouted as he spoke. He’d received the truck from Jacob when he turned sixteen, just a few months prior to the zombies, and he’d quickly grown fond of the old beast.
“And we would do what?” Daryl asked sarcastically. “Just stop at the nearest gas station to fill the tank? That truck is a gas guzzler, we can’t take it everywhere.”
Corrigan mumbled under his breath but knew Daryl made a good point. “It has enough left to get back home at least...” He said as one last attempt to prove himself right, but nobody seemed to listen.
“Which way from here?” Brian asked as he and Daryl pulled large branches off the ground to cover their motorcycles.
“Just a little further down this way,” Daryl said, pointing in the direction of the farm. There was utter silence as the three of them walked side by side down the road. Corrigan fiddled with the gun in his belt--drawing it and holstering it in the back of his pants, hoping it would feel more comfortable. The cold steel against his flesh made him gasp and he saw Brian shake his head.
“What?” Corrigan asked, sick of the way that Brian and Vicky had been mocking him.
“‘What’?” Brian mocked him. “I’ll tell you what, kid. I can’t believe Lila’s sending me into a potential war zone with a brat like you. I guess she really doesn’t care about my life.”
Corrigan gripped his metal pipe and moved to hit Brian, who raised a handgun in defence. Daryl stepped between them and raised his hands. “C’mon guys, shut up. Remember what I said about not wanting anyone to hear our approach?” He looked at Brian. “Lila isn’t sending you into ‘a potential war zone’ alone. I seem to remember she said we were gonna double back and get her if there was trouble.” Then he turned to Corrigan. “And you have been acting like a brat, I’m sorry to say. You’re only proving that right now.”
Corrigan narrowed his eyes at Daryl. He felt the familiar heat of his new temper rising in his body as he turned away from the two older men and stomped down the road toward his family’s farm. Daryl watched him for a moment before shaking his head and taking off after him. After another quarter hour of silence, the sun began to slowly rise in the east as they came across the gravel road that led to the farm.
“Whose truck is that?” Corrigan asked as he noticed the strange vehicle next to his house.
“More refugees maybe?” Daryl said as Brian held out an arm to stop the other two from walking any further.
Brian raised a small pair of binoculars to his eyes and stared at the house. “There are men on the roof and they’ve got guns. You recognize anyone?”
Daryl accepted the binoculars from Brian and looked up at the roof. “No, I don’t recognize them.”
Corrigan grabbed hold of the binoculars and took a look for himself. He pointed the lenses at the windows of the house and saw one of the squatters moving around in his bedroom. “I see Gabby, she was a tenter, but what’s she doing in my room?” he asked, sounding like a petulant child.
“Corrigan, look.” Daryl pointed toward the plot of land where the squatters had been living. The entire area was a mess of scattered debris and ripped tents.
“They must have moved into the houses,” Corrigan said, his fury gathering momentum. “If the squatters moved into the house, where’s Jacob? Did they take over?”
Corrigan looked through the binoculars again. In the growing morning light he saw a dark looking woman in his parent’s bedroom. Her long dreadlocks were pulled back in a ponytail and she was smiling at a little boy who resembled her. Corrigan felt outraged. His body was hot and he shook with rage.
“You okay?” Daryl asked. There was a charged silence between the two of them and then Corrigan sprinted towards the house without even thinking. He pulled the gun from his pants and fired wildly towards the people on the roof. He knew he shouldn’t have, he knew the plan was to go back to get Lila if they expected there would be a fight but he seemed to have lost control of his body. Jacob had welcomed these strangers onto their family’s farm with open arms, they had accepted food and supplies from him and they lived peacefully together. But now Corrigan felt betrayed. They’d lost the farm that had been in his family for generations. He felt the shame his father would have felt in this situation, and his father before him.
One of the men on the roof turned and fired at the charging idiot. Bullets ripped into the ground, failing to deter the frenzied teen. Daryl finally caught up with him. The cop dove and took Corrigan to the ground, rolling into the bushes that lined the dirt road.
“What are you doing?” He hissed as another man from the roof fired at them.
“This is my farm!” Corrigan’s voice was animalistic and full of rage. “This is my family’s farm! People think they can come in here and mess up my family? Not anymore! I’m done being taken advantage of! I’m done with all of it!” Corrigan felt his body temperature rising, his skin felt like it was close to boiling.
“You need to calm down,” Daryl said but Corrigan pushed the man away like he was a mere child. He broke for the house and as he drew close the front door slammed open. The woman with the dread locks stood there with a sawed-off shotgun aimed at Corrigan. She squeezed the trigger and shrapnel tore at his arm, but he didn’t stop.
“Stay back!” The woman called.
Corrigan shot at her in response. Each frantic bullet missed. The woman fired again and this time Corrigan felt the volley in his leg. He stumbled briefly but kept pace towards the house. He knew his body was riddled with metal and he was loosing a lot of blood but that didn’t stop him. Corrigan fired again and again, quickly running out of ammo but he continued to pull the trigger. The woman was loading more shells into her gun as Corrigan slammed into her. They rolled into the house and Corrigan started viciously beating her with his unloaded weapon.
“Freeze!” A man yelled, aiming a handgun at Corrigan from the living room. The teen ignored the man and continued to pulverize the woman. Her eyes were swollen shut and she was screaming for help. The man with the gun fired at Corrigan and the bullet sank into his shoulder. He screamed with rage, pouncing on the man with the gun, leaving the woman to cradle her broken face as she screamed out in pain.
“Corrigan!” Daryl yelled as he reached the front door, “Corrigan, stop!”
He moved over to the teen and grabbed hold of his fist as it lifted high into the air, ready to slam down into the man’s face once more. Daryl pulled Corrigan to his feet, his breathing was heavy and irregular and the noises coming from him were completely inhuman. He was struggling against Daryl’s grip, not satisfied with the beating he’d given the two interlopers in his family’s home.
“What the hell is wrong with you, brat?” Brian asked as he followed Daryl into the house with his impressive firearm poised to hold back anyone else who might come at them from inside. “Get a hold of yourself!”
Corrigan turned on Brian and released an angry roar. His eyes burned green and his mouth was bleeding as sharp teeth punched their way through his gums. He could feel his muscles burning as they reformed under his quickly tightening flesh. “What’s happening to me?” He pleaded as his skin began to bubble. He could feel the anger in him fuelling his transformation. He screamed out loud as his ribs splintered. He pushed Daryl aside and took off out the front door, falling to the ground as his rib cage broke again, expanding inside of him, stretching and tearing his skin. He quickly scrambled back to his feet as he ran for the trees. He could still feel Daryl’s stare hot on his back as he lost hold of his mind and everything went black.