At night the streets were as harsh and unforgiving as a desert; the first rule was; one wrong move and you were dead. The second rule of the streets was; safety in numbers. Nathan had quickly learnt both of these rules and found a group of kids that had taken shelter at Lennard’s Fish & Chips. They had barricaded the front entry with barbed wire and thick planks of wood that they had found out the back of the shop. As Nathan approached slowly, a boy about his age, stepped out from behind a small guard box.
“Come no closer or else.”
The boy was holding a revolver and aiming it at Nathan.
“Please let me in. I have no food or shelter but I can be of use to you, I know the town really well and some people I knew had crazy ideas about hoarding canned food and weapons before the disaster even struck.”
The boy’s arm wavered, only for a second but it was enough for Nathan to notice.
“I’m not supposed to let anyone in, we barely have enough food for ourselves and can’t take anyone in, I’m sorry.”
Nathan shook his head, “I’m afraid I can’t take no for an answer.”
The boy called for help as Nathan reached into his backpack. Three more teenagers appeared next to the boy, each on carrying a plank or bat with nails in the end. Nathan smiled at their crude weapons and finally pulled out his dad’s AK-47. The kids gasped, their faces were masks of fear.
“Please let me in, I don’t want this to get messy.”
The boy regained his composure and angrily raised his gun again,
“Who do you think you-” He didn’t get to finish his sentences as a spray of bullets ripped through his middle body, showering the other kids and the side of the shop in his blood.
“Is there anyone else who wants to leave me
out here or do you all agree that I can come in?”
It didn’t take long for Nathan to establish routine and order to his new group, he used fear to control them. If someone broke a minor rule, they missed out on food for the day, but if they broke a major rule like taking extra food or trading with other groups that weren’t part of Nathan’s allies, they were executed in front of the whole group. Nathan had ordered makeshift gallows to be constructed; any who objected would be the first to test it out. Eventually everyone learnt to stop disobeying the rules and they formed a better team. They ruled the streets around the shop and were scavenging plenty of food for everyone. One night, Nathan was having a shower when one of the younger boys walked in on him. The boy screamed at the sight of the gleaming pink scar where a grown-up had bitten his side.
“GET OUT!” Nathan roared.
The boy ran, tears running down his face. Nathan sighed and took a look at his scar, it was looking worse; veins bulged around scar, it looked badly infected. The day after, word had got out about his scar and Nathan ordered that he’d execute anyone who spoke about it; a snobby kid called Clinton laughed and said Nathan was just a little kid that didn’t like being bullied. Nathan smiled at Clinton then rushed forwards with his army knife and slashed at Clinton until he was just a bloody, sobbing mess.
“I’m sorry!” he cried.
Nathan laughed, “I know you are, but there’s just this one little thing I don’t like.” He said in a mockingly sweet voice.
“Little brats that don’t listen to what they’re told should be killed, shouldn’t they? No, they should be tortured slowly and painfully. If they don’t then I’ll end up having a group of unruly kids who all want to be in charge and then everything we’ve built will fall apart.”
Clinton looked up at Nathan, who laughed at the scared look on his face. Nathan’s eyes reflected something beyond evil, it was madness. That night screams echoed through the cold air, then as suddenly as they had started, they ceased and were replaced by hysterical laughter.
“What was that?” asked Lewis.
Rick shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know, it sounded like laughter.” The group had set off half an hour earlier once Percy had made his way to the garage. They had travelled silently as Arthur and Darcy had tried to soundproof the engine by using insulation and wood to smother the sound. Also there was an air of tension in the bus. They had driven for half an hour until they heard laughter and the sound of a generator. Rick drove the bus towards the source of the sound. They pulled up outside Lennard’s Fish & Chips; it was fortified but appeared completely deserted even though the generator was still powered up. Rick called everyone out of the bus, Lewis had a terrified look on his face, Jack laid a hand on his shoulder and Lewis looked up, Jack shot him a reassuring smile. He could understand why Lewis was scared; the store gave off a creepy atmosphere, especially with, what looked like gallows, standing out the back. Rick finished telling them to be calm and to be careful not to attack anyone who wasn’t infected. They moved like professionals through the maze of wooden and metal spikes and stakes that decorated the whole front car park of store. They made their way along the wall of the shop, it was filthy, covered in moss and the occasional splatter of blood, which made Jack’s heart thump in his chest. “I don’t like this, Rick.” He said nervously.Rick sighed. “ I know, but there’s definitely been kids here, maybe there’s someone inside who needs help.” They rounded the corner to find the back door of the shop swinging slightly in the breeze, making a squeaking noise that didn’t help to make Jack feel any better. Rick stood in the doorway and turned to them, “Alright, Jack, Lewis, you’ll cover the rear as we go in, I’ll be at the lead with Butch and the rest of you stay tightly packed together and watch the sides. Let’s go get this over with.” Rick led the way inside, some of the lights were on and flickered, Jack guessed that the generator was running low on fuel. The shop was an absolute mess, there was rubbish and furniture toppled over and kids bodies that littered the ground. “Christ, what happened here?” Butch asked, his voice breaking a little. Rick looked at his friend, “I don’t know, look, not a single grown up body to be seen, I wonder how they all died.” Butch made a retching sound as he saw a kid sitting on a couch with his internal organs spilled out in front of him, “I’d rather not find out.” Jack covered Lewis’s eyes, but Lewis pushed his hand away. “What use am I in a fight if I can’t see anything?” he said. Jack was mumbling an agreement as a boy ran towards them, a wide smile on his dirty face and laughing like a maniac. He ran head on into Butch, who quickly shoved the boy to the ground and held him there. “Who are you?” Rick asked. “If you want to talk to me, let me up. We’re on the same side aren’t we?” The boy spat furiously. He laughed, as if he’d just made some hilarious joke and wriggled in Butch’s grip. Rick didn't like the way this guy was acting. “Tell me what happened here and then we’ll let you up, ok? Make this easy on yourself.” The boy looked around at the bodies everywhere, seeming to notice them for the first time, but not really caring about them. He looked back at Rick and laughed, “They’re funny aren’t they? I killed them all, they thought I was joking about death sentences, they thought that they could break the rules. Well I showed them, oh yeah, I showed them….” Then he started mumbling something incomprehensible. Rick stared hardly at the boy, trying to decide whether to kill him now and rid the world of a psycho, or to spare the boy’s life and try to bring him back to some sort of normality. Before he could make up his mind Butch spoke to him, “What are we going to do with hi-” The boy slipped out of Butch’s grasp and ran upstairs, Rick yelled some orders and set off after the boy, he checked to make sure the shotgun was still in his pack, he pulled it out and loaded it, just to be on the safe side. Rick ascended slowly up the stairs, the area was just three rooms, a large lounge room, and two bedrooms. Rick walked down to the second bedroom, where he could hear muttering and snarling coming from the insane boy. As Rick approached the door, the muttering stopped and was replaced by an animal growl. Rick leapt back as the boy kicked the door open, he was holding some sort of machine gun that Rick couldn’t remember the name of and yelling incomprehensible words mixed with abuse. “Look man, I just want to talk, we don’t have to fight, please man.” The boy looked at Rick, and for a moment, though he saw understanding flicker in the boy’s eyes, then the boy smiled wickedly and raised the machine gun. Rick cried at as the boy fired round after round. Jack heard the gun and bolted up the stairs, there was dust everywhere but he could still make out the crazy boy and ran forwards and tackled him. The boy spat insults as they wrestled around the ground until the boy pulled out an army knife and pressed it against Jack’s neck. “Quiet, quiet, little boy.” He cooed, “Make this easy for me, hold still and let me do my work.” Jack shrieked and closed his eyes as the boy raised the knife, but he didn’t feel it pierce his chest. He opened his eyes to see the boy staring at a crossbow bolt sticking out of his chest with a surprised look, and then he fell to the ground. Jack looked at the boy for a moment then turned and saw his saviour. Lewis looked at Jack, and his heart swelled. The little boy had tears in the corners of his eyes as he embraced Jack, squeezing him tightly. Butch the other kids made their way up the stairs and took in the scene before them. Butch coughed, “Where’s Rick?” Jack looked stricken with grief, “If he's not dead we've got to find him.” They walked around yelling his name. After half an hour of calling, the kids sat around a pile of rubble from where a section of the roof had caved in. “Where the hell could he be?” Ben asked. Jack sighed, “I have no idea, but I don’t think I could handle the thought of another close friend dead.” He put his head in his hand and Hayley put her arm around him, “It’s not your fault, Jack. Rick was brave and tried to protect the rest of us. He’d have wanted you to be safe.” Jack nodded slowly, their conversation was interrupted by some pieces of plasterboard moved, and then a hand rose up from the pile they had been sitting on. Jack leapt to his feet, “Guys! Help me move this rubble. Quickly!” The rest of the kids jumped up and moved in. After a few minutes they dug up Rick. His left arm was snapped at an unnatural angle and he had cuts all over him. “Rick!” Roxy screamed, “Thank God, oh thank God, you’re still alive.” Rick gave her a weak smile, “Barely.” he croaked. Butch picked up Rick and carried him back to the bus so that the girls could give him medical assistance. Jack walked over to where the crazy boy’s body lay, and picked up the AK-47, he searched the boy and found three small boxes of ammunition and stuffed them into his backpack, then he, Lewis and Ben searched the shop for any food and weapons. The place was a gold mine in terms of food and Lewis’s eyes lit up when he found a carton of Cola. After the boys took their haul back to the bus, they then went and picked up the generator and five, twenty litre, fuel containers. As Rick hopped onto the bus, his eyes rolled back in their sockets, the last thing he heard was shouting as he blacked out.