The blackness behind Donovan’s eyelids began to give way to an orange glow, then a bright white light as he struggled to open them. He found the effort exhausting though, and quickly embraced the darkness again.
“I know what you think.” Jasper was saying somewhere in the darkness. “But I’m telling you there’s no way the old man’s up there. He wouldn’t wanna be here anymore than us.”
“You don’t know that.” Donovan was surprised to hear another voice in the attic. A woman’s voice. For a second he thought Vicky had returned, but when the voice continued on he realized there was no way it was her. This voice sounded like it was more used to speaking Mandarin, or Cantonese. The voice had mastered its new language well though, Donovan could only hear the dying remains of an accent on some of the words. “Why build the thing if he didn’t plan on being there?”
“He has other places to be, safer places.”
“Strange, isn’t it? Like they’re speaking in code.” If Donovan had the strength, he would have leapt up in surprise. This third voice sounded... demonic. Which was odd because it didn’t even really make a sound. It was just there. Everywhere, all around him, inside of him, like he wasn’t hearing the words he was experiencing them.
“And what if someone recognizes you?” The woman’s voice said.
“It’s not likely, I wasn’t there for long and I’ve changed since then.”
“She’s touching him, you know. You can’t see it but her hand is wrapped around his arm, fingers gently placed in the crook of his elbow.”
“I still don’t think it’s a good idea.” The woman was sounding less sure of her position now, what ever that position was. “If he is there, we lose, game over. You prepared to own up to that?”
“What do you think they could possibly be discussing?”
“We’ll be fine,” Jasper said, “Donovan’ll be fine. Trust me, I don’t wanna lose him and I’m not gonna. That’s why the tower is our best bet.”
“My, he seems like a passionate one. Only a matter of time before he’ll be dead too.”
“Am I--” Donovan coughed as the words escaped his dry throat in a groan.
“Dead?” The voice finished for him. Donovan could feel Jasper’s strong hands reach under his neck and shoulders to lift him up into a sitting position. Donovan coughed again and Jasper rubbed his back. “You might be. But then, what does dead really mean now? What about the passionate one? Is he dead? He might be, when you’re done with him.”
Donovan tried to speak, but his throat was hoarse. He grunted and groaned and felt the urge to pull Jasper close. He put his weak hands on Jasper’s body and fell against him. “The passionate ones are always the easiest. They refuse to let go. They refuse to accept the truth, and the truth is that the one they refuse to let go of is the one who will bring them down in the end.”
“Donovan, it’s okay, it’s me.” He could feel Jasper trying to subdue him, but all Donovan wanted was to be close to the man, to smell him and hold him. To press his lips against his neck and...
“I think you were wrong about this one, Jay.”
“No, I’m not.” Jasper spat back and wrapped his arms around Donovan’s body. “He’s just nervous, you would be too.”
“Jasper.” Donovan finally managed to speak. “What’s going on?”
“Well how interesting.”
The two men fell into each other, Donovan sweaty and weak while Jasper’s confident frame supported him. There was the hint of a smile in Jasper’s tone as he said, “I was worried I was gonna lose you.”
“Perhaps you’re not dead after all.”
Donovan glanced around the attic, but he couldn’t see the source of the mysterious third voice. The only people there were himself, Jasper, and a strange woman he’d never met before. “Who’s that?” Donovan looked at the woman, feeling pain shoot through his head as he moved his eyes.
“That’s Marion. She saw a candle burning in here the other night and came looking for food. I thought she should stick with us, safety in numbers and all.”
Donovan remembered what the voice had said, about how the woman was touching Jasper. As he inspected her doll-like features and compact figure he felt a jealous heat growing inside of him.
“Hahahaha!” The laugh in Donovan’s head echoed off into silence as a mental fog settled in. As soon as the voice was gone, so too was the memory of its presence. He smiled at Marion, genuinely happy to see another face and oblivious to the conversation he had overheard.
“Glad to have another friend for the end of the world.” Donovan said as he climbed to his feet. “I remember... being sick.” He looked down at himself, expecting to be caked with old vomit and sweat. “How did I get clean?”
“I did it.”
Donovan looked at Jasper, he could remember being mad at the man but now he could only see a gentle love brewing in his eyes. He tried to shake off his bad memories as he weakly climbed to his feet.
“Whoa, slow down!” Jasper shot up beside Donovan. “You’ve been out for three days, take your time.”
“Three days?” Donovan laughed, with every passing second he felt stronger and healthier. “No wonder I’m so refreshed.” He stretched his arms and arched his back. “Like, for real. I’m totally ready for anything! What do we got? What’s going on?” The sound of moaning drifted up on the warm summer air. “Oh right, the whole trapped in a dusty attic by a horde of zombies thing.”
“It’s okay,” Jasper said, “we’re safe up here.”
“No. No we’re not!” Donovan said as a gruesome image of dead hands climbing over old stairs flashed in his mind. It was as if he was there with the rotting undead, watching them struggle to make their way up to the attic. Then, they heard a crash from the floor below.
“What was that?” Marion quickly turned to look toward the stairs.
“They’re in,” Donovan said and Jasper sprang up to grab three bags that seemed packed to the breaking point.
“It’s time to go.” Jasper looked at Marion who was already reaching for one of the packs.
“Go where?” Donovan asked.
“Well, ideally out of the city,” Marion said as she glanced at Jasper with an annoyed look in her eyes.
“What’s in the bags?” Donovan asked.
“Food, clothes, camping gear,” Jasper threw the heaviest of the three over his shoulders. He handed the smallest to Donovan. “You’ll need to conserve your strength, just take this for now.”
“We decided we’d never get out of here in just one day. We’ll need to find a place to stay the night,” Marion said, opening the window and climbing onto the roof with a rusty hammer in hand.
“Where will we stay?” Donovan asked, flustered as he heard something slowly climbing the stairs to the attic.
“Look over there,” Jasper said as he pointed out the open window toward a red beacon that sat high above the city in the still billowing clouds of black smoke. Donovan could just see through the haze that it was perched on top of a moderately tall condo tower. “Power to the city has been out the entire time we’ve been up here, but that little beacon’s been flashing away. There are probably people, with a generator no less.”
“So what are we going to say when we get there?” Donovan asked, every muscle and cell in his body was quickly recovering--too quickly. He felt like his body was being healed by some extraordinary outside force. “‘Hey, could we crash for the night? I mean, I don’t know if you noticed but zombies have kind of overrun the place and we’re scared we’ll be eaten if we sleep outside!’”
“I tried to tell him it was a stupid idea,” Marion said from outside. Her voice took on a strange, knowing tone. “I mean, even if there are survivors, we don’t know their intentions. They could be just as dangerous as the zombies!”
“Look, I don’t think we have much of a choice. We’re smack dab in the middle of the city. There’s no way we’ll get out by nightfall and I’d rather travel during the day. If there are people there, I don’t know-” Jasper grasped for words. “Maybe they’ll have food? Medical supplies? They could share with us.”
“Or they could take our stuff and leave us for-” Marion’s eyes grew wide as she looked past Jasper and Donovan. Donovan turned around to see a dead hand reaching over the top step into the attic.
“Time to go,” Jasper said, bending down to pick up the old hunting rifle and a crowbar he had scavenged from the attic junk pile.
“You ready for this?” Jasper asked, handing the crowbar to Donovan.
“I’m gonna have to be, aren’t I?” Donovan replied as he felt the cold metal in his hand. He exhaled, glanced once more at the surfacing zombie and climbed through the window.
“Which way should we go?” Donovan asked, closing the window behind them.
Jasper pointed down the street. “There seem to be less zombies in that direction. Let’s use the roofs and climb down to the street over there?” Without waiting for a reply, he leapt onto the neighbour’s roof. “Careful,” he said as he tapped a soft spot with his toe. “God knows how long it’s been since any of these roofs have been replaced.”
Marion climbed onto the neighbour’s house while Donovan looked curiously down at the ground. A throng of zombies still clambered over each other to get into his house. Their persistence shocked him.
“Come on,” Jasper said, holding a hand out for his boyfriend.
“I’m coming.” Donovan stepped to the edge of his roof and grabbed hold of Jasper’s hand. He struggled to climb over but slipped. “Crap!” Donovan yelled as he hung over the edge of the neighbour’s roof, dangling in Jasper’s grasp.
“Give me your other hand!” Marion called out, reaching down for him. He grabbed hold of her and tried climbing the side of the house, to no avail.
“Okay, on three,” Jasper said, straining every muscle. “One... two... three!”
Jasper and Marion heaved with all their might and Donovan felt himself lift higher. He kicked with his legs, pulling himself over the lip of the roof. As soon as Jasper and Marion were no longer supporting his weight they fell backwards and Donovan, still grasping their hands, fell with them. The roof moaned and then collapsed with the sound of thunder, dropping all of them into the attic in a heap of splintered wood and debris.