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It's not the dead you should be afraid of

Chapter Text

At first, it was simply rumours spreading around on the internet. After that people developed all kinds of conspiracy theories. The majority; however, was convinced that it was all just unreasonable scare tactics; fanatics trying to shake society by freaking people out because they did what they usually did: claiming that the end was near, and people were going to be punished for being too liberal or too promiscuous. Then radical and religious groups started to take it a step further and utilised the growing fear within society to spout their nonsense into the world. The rift caused within society got bigger and bigger with every day that passed and every new incident reported.

Matsukawa didn’t want to take the reports seriously at first, thinking that they were overreacting – or at least hoping they were overreacting. He saw the media coverage, but it consisted mostly of videos found on YouTube or similar platforms, which only proved that they were overreacting. Could have been fake for all he knew. He didn’t want to think about the world ending, so he ignored it for the most part. He ignored most things anyway.

Matsukawa Issei was 21 years old, and still trying to find his way in life. Before all that shit went down, he made a living off committing credit card fraud. People were quite reckless with their data and easily fell victim to such deception.

Since the incidents increased rapidly and exponentially, the government decided that severely affected cities and areas should be temporary locked down. The concerns got louder and louder, and people were asking questions, but those questions weren’t answered, since the government, in their naivety and apathy, kept thinking that their white lies would keep people from rioting. Well, it didn’t work for the most part because the inability of the government to act or provide an explanation or cause, as to why people suddenly acted like the Causeway Cannibal, made everyone nervous. Hospitals were crowded, potential individuals who might have contracted the disease were quarantined. They called the disease the ‘acute cerebrum deterioration syndrome’, but they couldn’t pinpoint the cause. Blood screens tested negative to everything currently known, and the toxicology screens turned out negative too. Experts were at a loss, but no one could have foreseen what was about to happen.

The first time Issei was faced with one of those groaning and hissing ‘things' was at the grocery store. He wanted to get some necessities because he was sure that it was the best thing to do right now, even though he had been having a bad feeling all morning. His bad feeling was proven right, after all. His town was meant to go into lockdown today, controlled by the police and the military. Some voices speculated that they were supposed to be evacuated, but there was no military, and the police was nowhere to be seen either. Nobody knew what was going on, and nobody knew how bad the cities were affected.

Matsukawa was in the medical aid aisle, standing in front the shelves. He had gotten toothpaste and instant food among other things. The store was down the dregs, so he took what he found. There were barely any bandages and patches left, and he sighed, feeling annoyed. He’s got a nasty cut on the underside of his foot because he stepped into a glass shard. The store was crowded, and here and there someone bumped into him with their cart, pushing their way through without caring if they had hurt someone or not. Issei scanned the aisle again, throwing some disinfectant into his cage. It had to suffice. Suddenly, he heard loud screams and a crash. People were running past the aisles, pushing each other to the ground and stepping onto those who were unlucky enough to have fallen during the panic. Matsun stood there stupefied, not knowing whether he should follow them and run or if it was best for him to let the panic pass him by for now. His heart rate increased, and he could hear how the muscle pumped blood through his system. The bounding in his hear felt deafening, and his breathing quickened; a cold shudder of dread running down his spine. Well, in hindsight, he should have run because if he had done so, he wouldn’t have found himself in the situation his was in right now.

 

Matsukawa found himself caged in between three carts; a desperate last-minute attempt to keep that ‘zombie-like' thing at bay. It was reaching for him, groaning and showing its teeth. Its eyes were empty and hollow, and one of its arms was broken, probably from a fall. The clothes were torn and covered in blood. The dark-haired man was not sure if was someone else’s blood or its own. He hoped the latter was the case. Issei looked at it completely mortified, but he had seen enough horror movies to know that he had to destroy its brain. He watched the jaw open and close; the gurgling sounds adding to the chilling and surreal encounter. Matsukawa knew what he had to do, but knowing and executing were two different things, so he hesitated, trying to think of a way around it. What if these things weren’t actually zombies, but people out of control; humans still conscious of their action, but unable to stop themselves. The thought was horrifying, and he pushed it away into the back of his mind as fast as it entered his brain. Issei scanned his surroundings; he could still hear people screaming, crying and yelling. The thing in front of him was still trying to get a hold of him, though the carts prevented it from doing so. The small distance gave Matsun time to properly look at it. The woman who had apparently fallen victim to the disease was relatively small; tiny wrists and thin fingers clasping onto the handlebar of the cart, though she was unable to push the cart away. Considering its small stature, Issei wasn’t surprised at all, although she seemed to get stronger, the more agitated she became. Grocery carts and the items, they stored, were now scattered on the floor, having been abandoned and thrown over in the panic.

The floor, itself, was dirty, and even entire shelves had been pushed over, blocking the way, but giving him a good view of what was happening around him. The groaning got louder, and Issei knew that it was only a matter of time, until more of these things flooded the small store. So, Matsun pushed one of the carts, that was holding off that creepy freak, away with a lot of force, causing the thing to tumble clumsily over its feet and hit the floor with a loud thud. Issei hissed. He had caused too much noise. First the jingling and clattering of the cart, and then the impact that thing made on the ground. Matsun manoeuvred through the store, successfully avoiding drawing further attention to himself. The entrance was right in front of him, and he pressed his shopping basket tightly towards his chest. There was no way, he would be letting go of his stuff. The thought of still having to pay crossed his mind for a moment, but he dismissed it because it was ridiculous.

He reached the exit, and the automatic door opened, revealing the chaos outside. The car park looked like a battlefield with people crying and screaming, lying there injured or dead; Some completely decapitated. Instead of helping each other, people fought their way through the chaos, hoping to get a car to leave the scene. Whether it was their own car or a stolen one didn’t matter apparently. The vehicles weren’t even completely full, which reminded Matsun too much of the ridiculous and totally unnecessary death of Jack in the movie ‘Titanic’.

Those who fled with a car recklessly ran over those trying to get into the car. People kicked each other, beat other down or attacked each other with a knife, bat or similar weapons. Everyone was only thinking of themselves and those close to them. Those who were in the way were sacrificed. The picture that Issei had witnessed was something he never wanted to ever experience again. It was cruel and nauseating. If people reacted like this right now, how would they act when the situation worsened?

 

More of these groaning, growling and man-attacking things flood the area; the noises they made disgusting and disturbing. No horror movie could have ever lived up to that.

The panic was evident and undeniable, even for the ignorant ones. Matsun got his legs to move, because these ‘things’ had spotted him. He ran past the fallen and crying people on the floor, ignoring the grieving mother crying while holding her child, only to be attacked and bitten in the neck a few seconds later. Issei corrected himself: these things were definitely zombies, and from now on, he would refer to them as such. Man-eating zombies. He shouldn’t have gotten out of bed today. He regretted it already.

Matsukawa had a hard time avoiding the zombies, but he managed his way through them, successfully getting to his apartment unharmed and without a scratch. He didn’t know how he did it, but he just did. He moved through his apartment, gathering everything that could be of use or was convenient. He pulled the shelves and cupboards open and scattered the content onto the floor. Then, he stuffed everything into his backpack: fresh clothes, toothpaste, toothbrushes (because hygiene is important, even in times like these), candy bars, packs of instant ramen, three bottles of water, bandages, and other things. Issei strapped the backpack on, taking a deep breath. He rummaged through another cupboard and smiled when he found what he had been looking for: Two large knives and a Swiss pen knife. He put them wear he could easily reach them. Before he left his apartment though, he switched the TV on, curious to know what was happening around the world. The screen lit up, but instead of showing the news, almost every news channel was down. But it was nothing new. The news had barely been getting any information from the government, which was probably why nobody knew that there were fucking zombies running around in the street, and it all started a fortnight ago He surfed through the channels, impatiently pressing on the buttons of the remote control. He stopped when he finally found a news channel that was still reporting live. A helicopter showed pictures of gruesome scenes: Men, women and children running for their lives because the quantity of the zombies had doubled within minutes. There was chaos everywhere, and a big traffic jam, showing how desperately people tried to get out of the city. Where was the military that was supposed to evacuate them?

Issei's eyes were glued to the flickering of the screen. A news reporter was reporting live at the scene, talking into the microphone, but Matsun didn’t hear anything but the screams and cries, cars crashing and glass scattering. The most horrifying thing; however, were the people jumping off houses and out of the window, trying to get away from the bloodthirsty zombies, only to become one themselves. Matsun sat down on the couch and removed his left shoe and sock. Then, he sprayed disinfectant onto the cut. It burned a little, and the cut itself wasn’t that big. He took the bandage and wrapped it around his foot; not too tightly, but not too loose either.

“Chaos has taken over the city, and the military is nowhere to be seen. Ho--...Ahhhhh!” the reporter screamed, suddenly being attacked by a zombie. He couldn’t even finish his sentence.

The studio was desperately crying out the reporter’s name, but they were disconnected, and soon after the studio was stormed by a bunch of zombies.

“Fuck me...” mumbled Matsun. He was shocked. The pure mass of the people that had already turned was horrifying. Some of the zombies were extremely swift on their decaying legs.

He stood up from the couch, mentally preparing himself to leave his apartment; head shooting up when screams and cries could be heard from behind the closed door. The doorknob rattled, and he held his breath; his expression never changing.

The rattling stopped, and Issei stretched his limbs, moving to the window and looking down at the street below. Cars were honking aggressively, and people were being attacked by new-born zombies. Matsun walked to his front door, carefully pushing down the door handle; dread filling his stomach. He peeked outside and decided to make a run for it, which proved to have been quite dangerous because one of his neighbours, Mr Arida, a middle-aged man who had been working as a sales clerk, had turned into a zombie and just tried to bite his leg off. Issei had let out a screechy scream, though he'd never admit that such a sound ever made it past his lips. He was going to deny it forever. Matsukawa speeded up, knowing full well that he had to leave the city and maybe find a group he could join eventually because being on your own all the time was hella boring.

 

He was on the street now, but he didn’t have a vehicle, even a bike would do, but he only had his feet. Matsun runs down the road, passing by a group of people who were holding signs up in the air. ‘This is the punishment for our sin!, “God’s wrath is coming upon us!”, “The Endgame has begun!!”.

“Why are you running.” A woman, about his age addressed him, and he halted in his steps. Normally he would have ignored her, but he was curious because the group wasn’t panicking at all. They even seemed happy about the whole situation. The wicked and satisfied smiles on their faces creeped him out. Self-delusion at its peak.

“Why shouldn’t I?” Issei asked.

“There is no escaping this. Accept fate. You will all die, but we faithful to Christ and God.” She said, her blonde hair getting blown into her face by the wind.

“Whatever. I’ve got that thing called self-preservation. You should try it.” Matsun laughed and turned around.

“It’s God’s will that we die because sinners such as you have brought this upon us.” The guy with dark hair and thick glasses, who was standing next to the girl, said. He had a golden ring on his finger, so Matsun assumed he was married. Maybe to the girl standing right next to him.

“You’re a creepy bunch of delusional devotees, huh.” Issei answers, ignoring their calls. It was better for him to avoid such people.

Matsun looked around, his lungs were burning, and he needed a break. The buildings and skyscrapers around him felt like they were swallowing him whole, and the screaming people and zombies made it hard to focus. He pushed himself through a narrow opening to escape the hoard that he had just seen coming right at him. Finding a vehicle, a vehicle or someone who was willing to take a stranger with them seemed to pose a bigger problem than he had initially thought. He was about to give up when he tumbled upon an abandoned bicycle. A zombie was crawling around the bike, and Matsun sighed. It didn’t have any legs, but the arms still posed a danger. He looked around, and the area was quite for the most part. Some zombies walked aimlessly in the streets, but they haven’t noticed him yet, since he was too far away, and the direction of the wind was beneficial to him. He walked towards the zombie at the bike carefully and fully aware of his surroundings. It tried to reach for him, pulling itself into his direction. Matsun stepped around it. He took his knife and immobilised the zombie. He put a jacket that he had found lying around next to the bike onto its head to take away its ability to see him. Its head was shooting up, and it flayed his remaining arm around, trying to claw at the jacket on its head. You could see how the imprint of the jaw was making itself visible through the cotton fabric of the jacket. Matsun wanted to crack its head with his boot, but he stopped right over its head. He needed several attempts until he finally smashed his foot down onto the groaning zombies head, painting the ground and the jacket red. He had thought it would be easier to destroy its brain, but the scull wasn’t as easily crushed as it always seemed in the movies. Maybe the decay hadn’t spread fast enough yet, which still made it hard to crack someone’s scull open. He felt sick to his stomach. Even though it wasn’t human anymore, the feeling of a bone giving in beneath him was still horrible.

Issei swung himself on the bicycle and took off, manoeuvring through the city like he used to when he was younger.

 

*

 

Matsun made it out of town, without any major incident. Although, he had to walk the rest of the way because there was a hole in the bike’s tire. The sun was about to set, but he had found shelter in a small local library. He had been on his feet all day, and he was exhausted. He hadn’t found any zombies inside, but he still couldn’t bring himself to close his eyes and fall asleep just like that. The growing darkness, silence and emptiness of the room he was resting in felt creepy. He sighed and rubbed his tired eyes, rummaging through his backpack. He opened the packed sandwiches and devoured them both, but he was still hungry. Matsun sighed again, looking through the room. It was the copy room of the library. It was relatively small and could be locked from the inside without a key. The copier stood at the end of the room, two computers and a scanner sat next to the machine. The had switched the light out because he didn’t want to draw attention from the outside. The dark-haired man pumped his head against the wall behind him, looking at the ceiling. The lamps at the sidewalk were still working, and the zombies that wandered outside could be seen clearly due to the dim light. Matsun stood up and decided to leave the room to go empty the vending machines. Every library had at least one vending machine.

He turned the lock around carefully, shutting his eyes tightly when the action produced a small click. He slowly pushed the door open while pressing his body to the wall; knife clutched tightly to his chest. After a few moments, he decided to peek outside. The halls were empty, but it didn’t mean that there weren’t any zombies roaming around. The good thing about the library was that there were no automatic doors, so the zombies had it harder to get inside. The danger now where the potential zombies that might walk around inside the building. Matsun had killed most of them off when he entered the building, but he hadn’t checked every room. He moved through the halls like a cat would through the night, producing as little noise as possible. He could hear himself breathing, his eyes darting around everywhere, scanning the area. He was on high alert. The vending machine was in the hall, so he had to go to the main entrance.

The building only had two floors and two pairs of stairs. There was no elevator either. Issei stood on the stairs at the left side, a huge pillar separating him form the stairs to the right side. Since there were only two ways to reach the first floor, it was easy for him too see whether someone was coming or not. The light of the moon and the lamps on the car park illuminated the main floor, giving it a soft blue glow. It looked deceivingly peaceful. Matsun gripped the railing and went downstairs, sliding his hand over the smooth surface of the railing. He pressed his body against the pillar, the same way he did in the copy room, and looked outside. Zombies were roaming around the car park, swaying around and dragging their feet over the ground. He was even able to hear them groaning because it was so dead quiet. He knew that they couldn’t get inside because the door was locked. He had locked it with the key he found on the librarian that had unfortunately turned into one. Even though the door was locked, he didn’t feel safe. He didn’t feel safe at all. There was that nagging feeling of anxiety knocking on the inside of his head. He couldn’t quite drown it out. The groaning and hissing got louder, and suddenly one of the doors rattled. Then there was a quite ‘fuck’. Issei looked around the pillar, seeing a hooded figure trying to get into the building, zombies closing in on them. He didn’t contemplate too long and ran towards the door, making breath eye contact with the person outside. The look of fear and terror in his green orbs turned into one of relief. Matsun unlocked the door, almost dropping the key in the process and pulled the person inside. He swiftly locked it again, and the zombies started to hammer on the door, trying to storm the place. They scratched and clawed at the wood, but the door, a thick wooden door, didn’t budge. Matsun looked at the hooded figure heaving heavily. He was kneeling on the floor and gripping the front of his hoodie tightly.

“Thank you.” He whispered and looked up.

“Your welcome. You don’t run into a zombie hoard every day after all.” He answered.

“What’s your name? I am Takahiro Hanamaki. My friends call me Maki, and since you saved me, I’ll promote from stranger to friend whose name I still don’t know.” He laughed and looked up. He was still clutching at the front of his shirt, though.

“That’s my first promotion!” Matsun said, covering his mouth like a schoolgirl that had just been confessed to. “I am Issei Matsukawa. You can call me Matsun or by my first name.” answered the raven-haired man. Maki smiled at him.

 

*

 

They were at the copy room again, and now that Matsun wasn’t alone anymore, he didn’t feel as tense.

“You hungry?” he asked Maki, who was sitting a few feet away from him. Maki’s stomach protested loudly.

“My stomach says ‘yes’.”

Matsun handed him a candy bar and the package of sandwiches.

“Thanks.” His said and removed his hood. Now that the hood was off, Matsun could see his face properly. He had short light brown hair, almost a faint hue of pink in them. His eyebrows were slim, and his expression seemed bored, even as he munched on the food.

Matsun leaned backwards, watching Maki. “Where were you when it happened?” he suddenly asked and Maki looked up, swallowing the food.

“At home. Like at home at home. I visited my parents for the weekend because my dad called me and told me to come back. We were supposed to be evacuated, but people panicked when a shot was fired, and everything got out of hand. I was separated from my parents and ended up here. What about you?” he asked, expectantly looking at Matsun.

“At the grocery store in the city. Suddenly, everyone around me started to freak out, and then people turned into zombies.” He explained.

“So, does destroying their brain work?” Maki asked while playing with the hem of his shirt.

“Yeah. It does. It’s not nice so.” The raven-haired man said, his gaze glued to the floor. Remembering how the bone structure of the zombie gave in still made him nauseous. He probably needed some time to get used to it.

“It’s a good thing we are in a library.” Maki said, and Matsun threw him a confused look.

“Why?”

“To get some maps. Useful books and so on. I don’t think Google Maps is going to be of much use, since my phone is dead, and we won’t have electricity for long.” He said.

“Those poor folks who have, until now, relied too much on the internet will now be suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms.” Matsun commented.

“This sucks.” Sighed Maki, cocking his head to the side.

“So, should we look for medial books? Don’t worry. I watched enough Grey’s anatomy. I know that when a bone’s poking out, then that’s probably not normal.” Issei laughed, and Maki snorted.

“We won’t need your vast knowledge of hospital tv shows because I am a nurse.” Said pink-haired man.

“Now, I am even happier that I ran into you. Having nobody to talk to is booooring.” The raven drawled out.

“At least you, we know that you won’t end up talking to a beat-down volleyball named ‘Wilis’” Maki snickered.

“Nah. You won’t have to fight a beat-down volleyball for that spot.” Matsun said, smiling.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Akaashi! Have you seen this?” Heather asked Akaashi, pointing at her computer screen.

Heather Garcia was a 30-year-old woman and worked for the same News Paper. Keiji blinked at her and looked over her shoulder.

“No. I haven’t, but you are going to show me in no time.” Akaashi said, voice and face calm.

“It’s crazy. Here.” She stated, clicking on the video.

The video was definitely taken by an amateur, given the shaking and swaying of the camera. There were several people on a sidewalk below a bridge at the Central Park, where the homeless tended to gather. Runners were running through the picture, but what caught Keiji’s attention was the figure, a man, swaying around and walking straight forward towards a homeless man, who was sitting on the ground, begging for money. One could have assumed the person, moaning and groaning, was inebriated, but Akaashi doubted that because of the recent reports. However, this was one of the better videos because most were too shaky or dark. The homeless man wore a rain jacket over which he had put several layers of plastic bags. The man looked up, and Keiji guessed that he must be making a confused expression because the person walking directly towards him seemed to be without any orientation. The homeless man offered him his sandwich, and suddenly he attacked, biting and clawing at the helpless screaming man on the ground. The bad filming abilities of the person behind the camera and the ‘Oh my god' ‘Oh my god' rants made it hard to concentrate on the scene. The people around looked shocked and screamed too, but they didn’t do anything; feet either frozen to the ground or being used to run away. The police arrived later, likely having been called by one of the passers-by or onlookers. They aimed their guns at the attacker, calling out to him. Several times, they demanded that he stop, but the assault didn’t end. The groaning and hissing man only stopped when the police got the permission to fire a lethal shot, and a bullet went through his head. And with that the video ended.

Akaashi wondered why they just stood there, demanding the guy to stop, instead of intervening. He narrowed his eyes at the screen and knew that this was worth investigating.

“What do you think?” his colleague asked, closing the tab.

“I’ll look into it.” He answered swiftly, grabbing his bag from his chair and leaving the building.

Akaashi talked to several eyewitnesses and even the police. It turned out that they were either not sure about the things they had witnessed or reluctant to talk about it.

Now, he was standing in front of a one family home in the suburban area of the town. The house had a poorly kept garden, the flowers had already whittled away, and weeds grew everywhere. Akaashi frowned. Why would you have a garden if you didn’t take proper care of it? The facade of the house was a plain white. Simple and common. Keiji was about to enter the small gate when the main door opened, and a young man exited the house.

“Mr Roberts? My name is Keiji Akaashi from the Opinions magazine. I wanted to ask you some questions about an incident you have come to witness. You were the person who took the video.” The raven-haired man said. It wasn’t easy to find out the names, but he had his ways.

“Incident? Do you mean that drug addict that bit off another person’s face?” Mr Robert asked, already knowing that he referred to the incident Keiji was talking about.

“Yes. Would you tell me what you saw? How did the person behave? Did he say something? Was he provoked?” Keiji bombarded the man with questions, getting out his notebook and pen, ready to write down every detail.

“I don’t remember. Really. I think he just attacked him. He made weird noises, like he had trouble breathing, and his eyes looked glazed over, but other then that...I don’t know.” The man rambled, scratching the back of his head.

“But you started filming even before he attacked.” Akaashi stated.

“Because he walked funnily and made these weird noises.” The man justified.

‘Weird noises?’ He already mentioned that, Akaashi noted.

“Describe weird noises. What did they sound like? Was there anything else?” Keiji pressed. He just had to know more. He might be onto something.

“Look. I don’t really remember. Everything went so fast, and the police said he was on drugs.” Mr Roberts said, his posture changing slightly. He looked visibly annoyed now.

“So, the police did make a statement, huh.” Akaashi mumbled to himself. “Can you imitate the noises?” he then asked.

“You reporters are really annoying. I don’t know. Something like ‘arg grr chr’ or a shallow breathing sound from the back of the throat, like when you have asthma and can barely breath. Are we done now? I gotta go.” He said, rolling his eyes. He didn’t even make an effort to hide his annoyance.

“What did the pol--.” Akaashi started, but Mr Roberts ran past him.

Keiji read over his notes:

  • Groaning and hissing noises
  • Swaying à Motoric dysfunction?
  • Police à cause: intoxication or drugs?

 

Akaashi stood at the gate, tapping his pen against his lower lip and chewing on it. He turned around and started walking down the sidewalk. About 20 meters away, he noticed several cigarette stumps centred at on spot at a tree, littering the ground. Akaashi narrowed his eyes, wondering whether these stumps were there before. He looked around, though he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary: People were walking towards the park, couples were holding hands and parents were playing with their children. Everything seemed normal, so why did he have such a wrenching feeling in his guts. Keiji continued his way to the bus station. His next stop was the police station. The officers had tried to brush him in the morning, but since Mr Roberts mentioned that small detail about them knowing the probable ‘cause’, he wasn’t going to give in so easily. He was going to put some pressure on them. Besides, Keiji knew, from reliable sources, that no autopsy was performed and thus no autopsy report could have been possibly given to the police, which was why he was so suspicious.

 

Akaashi stood in front of the police station after an agonisingly long drive on the underground. The underground had been crowded, and Akaashi had to make the unpleasant experience of having been groped. Keiji had thrown that pervert, who stood way to close to him and had the nerve to touch his ass, a nasty glare, but the guy didn’t seem bothered by it, pretending like it was the most common thing to do on the underground. Well, for some people it might have really been the most normal thing to do, but decent people didn’t, which was why Akaashi subtly elbowed him in the gut very hard. He made sure to hit him with the pointy bone of his elbow.

The central police station wasn’t that big, and the Chief was an asshole, always trying to hide information from the press. Akaashi also figured that Chief Washijo, a short whitehaired man in his seventies, didn’t like him very much. The man used to be a high ranked member of the military, conducting and supervising operations. He was elected chief after he retired, although there weren’t any real competitors to begin with.

There were times at which Chief Washijo completely ignored the reporter’s existence. The raven-haired man liked living in this small town, despite the police’ and some of the locals’ unwillingness to talk. When he and Bokuto moved there, Keiji wasn’t too thrilled at first because he was used to the big city. The small town turned out to be a blessing, though. The news paper he was with paid him decently, and his boss appreciated honesty and well-researched articles. His former boss only wanted to get the news out the fastest and before anyone else, regardless of whether the information was true or not.

The station had settled into a new building several blocks away from the old one after a fire broke out two years ago. The station was located in the centre of the town at a crossroad. The building was T-shaped, and there was a ramp and stairs that lead into the building. Below the railing, the stone read: We Protect Our Citizens! We Serve Our People!

Several blinders covered the large door-sized windows, and right next to the building was a big oak tree. Keiji read that an oak tree is a symbol of strength and morale and associated with traits such as nobility and honour.

Akaashi entered the building and headed to the counter, telling the woman that he had an appointment, which he hadn’t, but he was persistent. She let him pass eventually and he was led to the Chief’s office. He pushed the door open, and the Chief made an obviously displeased face upon seeing Akaashi.

“Good evening, Sir.” Keiji greeted, his voice as monotone and polite as usual.

“Mr Akaashi. What brings you here?” Chief Washijo asked; a fake smile now in place.

“May I sit down?” Akaashi asked and the Chief made a gesture with his hand as to say: ‘Go ahead’.

“I wanted to ask about the incidents. I heard you knew what might have cause the assault. I’d ask you to make a statement.” Akaashi said, getting his recorder and his notebook ready.

“The investigation is closed. We assume drugs to be the cause of the assault because the perpetrator was well known among the drug users and had been arrested several times on drug charges.” The man said with cold eyes.

“Have you performed an autopsy?” inquired Akaashi, observing the man in front of him, curious about the answer he may get.

“An autopsy was not required. The man was taken down by several police officers and died through a shot in the head.” The Chief said, and Keiji was impressed that he told the truth about no autopsy having been performed. “His blood was tested, and traces of meth amphetamine and other drugs were found in his blood stream. We concluded that the drug caused his aggressive behaviour.”

“I was told that the perpetrator was groaning and hissing. I was also told that he only went down after being shot several times, which wouldn’t be called normal behaviour, even for a drug addict wouldn’t you agree.” Akaashi quirked an eyebrow. He wasn’t buying any of the Chief’s bullshit. There was no autopsy, and he also knew that there was no blood or tox screen either.

“These are fairytales Mr Akaashi. You shouldn’t believe everything people tell you. Now if you’d excuse me, I need to tend to my work. You can see yourself out.” Chief Washijo stated, propping his elbows onto the oak table and leaning his chin onto the back of both his hands; his gaze calculating.

“I’ll take my farewell then. But rest assured that you will see me again.” Akaashi said as he stood up from his seat. He studied the Chief, noticing the downfall of the man’s lips.

When he left the police station, Keiji recognised an officer from the video he was shown. The man had black hair and was standing next to the patrol car; a to-go coffee in his right hand. Akaashi walked towards him and halted right in front of the officer, holding his ID into the officer’s face.

“Akaashi Keiji, journalist. May I ask you some questions?” he asked straightforwardly.

The officer jumped back a little, totally having been taken by surprise. “Eh. Of course?”

“You have been there at the Central Park incident, where the attack happened below the bridge along the river. Have you noticed anything out of the ordinary about the perpetrator such as groaning and hissing, maybe a weird smell?” Akaashi asked, observing the officer who was, without a doubt, a rookie.

“Well, the—”

“Hey, Goshiki! Who are you talking to?” a tall man with red hair, probably his partner, said. He was leaning onto Goshiki’s shoulder, eying Akaashi suspiciously.

“Ah, I wasn’t talking to anyone.” He said.

“The Chief was asking for you.” Tendou said, and the rookie visibly paled, but he ran into the building at high speed, and Keiji inwardly screamed.

“Well, then. Have a nice day Mr Reporter.” Tendou said, and Akaashi rolled his eyes.

When he passed the tall man; however, he pressed a note into his hand, walking into the police station, without looking at Akaashi. The raven-haired man walked several blocks until he decided to read the note. He fished it out of his pockets and unfolded the cramped-up paper. The handwriting was horrible, but he was used to deciphering Bokuto’s, so this was nothing to him.

‘ACDS'

Several days later, Akaashi found out what ‘ACDS' meant. It was the abbreviation for ‘acute cerebrum deterioration syndrome’, the disease that was spreading over the globe at a concerning and rapid pace.

These incidents, he was researching into, also became more frequent, and Keiji had made the connection to the disease immediately. It seemed that some of the people, who suddenly attacked others randomly and without reason, had previously been showing symptoms of the mysterious disease. However, Akaashi was shut down multiple times, and in the end, he couldn’t even publish his article because everything went to shit first. He was in at the office when it happened.

 

 

*

 

 

They didn’t believe him when he first told them. And now the infected people were walking about killing and turning people into one of them. Keiji was cooped up with Bokuto who he had called in a frenzy. He had never been so panicked before, but when Bokuto didn’t pick up the phone the first time, his heart had stopped beating for a moment. Luckily, he had called Keiji back and he’d had never been so relieved. They met up at their apartment before having been transported to a camp several miles away from the town in a remote area. The military was sent out and had been evacuating people from different places. The town’s small population turned out to be rather beneficial in their case. But what worried Keiji was the fact that they were sitting in a closed down area insider a building that looked like a shelter for the homeless with about several hundreds of people inside. They weren’t even given any instructions, just that they were supposed to wait for the commander to show up. The hall was empty, except for all the people. They had to sit on the cold floor, only their belongings they were able to gather up and the clothes on their body with them.

“I don’t like this, Kou. I don’t like this at all.” Keiji whispered, further leaning into his fiancée’s side.

“Don’t worry.” Bokuto tried to appease him, but the serious expression on his face didn’t match his words. Seeing him so tense was a rare sight for Akaashi.

“Do you think…” he looked around, checking if someone was eaves dropping on them, and then continued: “Do you think…we could just leave? So many people centred in on place can’t be safe…”

“Yeah. Let’s just go.” Koutaro said, hosting Akaashi up with on strong pull.

They walked through the sea of people, trying to manoeuvre their way through them, accidentally stepping on some of their stuff or pumping into them. It was a good thing they were so close to the exit, otherwise they would have caused more ruckus.

“Watch where you are going!” a woman hissed.

“’m sorry, mam!” Bokuto apologised.

“Prick.” She mumbled, and Akaashi shot her a glare.

They were about to leave when the door to the hall opened, revealing a man cladded in the traditional army’s uniform. Several badges and medals adorned his clothes, showing that he was of high rank.

“No body is to leave the hall.” He stated, motioning for them to sit down again.

“Why not? What’s going on?” Bokuto asked calmly, challenging the man in front of him. They were about the same height, though Bokuto was at least more than 30 years younger.

“Sit down boy.” The man said with authority, showing the gun that was secured to his uniform. They got the message.

“We don’t want any escalation, Sir.” Akaashi addressed the soldier respectfully. Let’s get back Kou.” He said, pulling Bokuto with him. The taller complied reluctantly.

 

They sat down again and Bokuto turned towards him: “But Keiji we shouldn’t stay here.”

“I know. Let’s just wait for the right moment.” Akaashi explained, leaning closer to the dual-haired man.

He could hear the murmurs and whispers around him; the people were getting nervous. The soldier from before got in front of the crowd, back straight and expression neutral. The hall went silent; the aura of authority the man gave off was somehow intimidating. His hair was trimmed short, a hat sitting on top of it. Bokuto said the hat looked stupid.

“Attention!“ the man started, his tone even and not too loud, yet his voice was carried through the hall. “My name is Nobuteru Irihata, Commander of the 5th division. The area has been cleared so far and can be considered safe. We'll evacuate everyone to another area after a brief check-up. About 30 people will be escorted outside to the tents, where their condition will be evaluated. After that they’ll be put into one of the transporters. This process will go until everyone has been checked. No exceptions. You'll be required to state your name, birth and prior conditions. So, stay put and wait until you are escorted outside.”

The people started to murmur loudly among themselves after Commander Irihata told them what was about to happen. Keiji noticed that two soldiers were standing at every corner of the building; all of them heavily armed. He assumed that they were to get a physical examination to make sure none of them was infected, although he was worried about those who were deemed ‘unfit'. Would they be left behind? Or worse, eliminated? Bokuto took his hand and squeezed it tightly.

“What do you think happens to those that fail the check-up?” Kotarou asked him lowly.

“I don’t know.” Keiji whispered back.

“Do you think our friends are alright? I haven’t seen them.” Bokuto said with concern sleeping through his voice.

“They’ll be fine. The hall is big, or maybe they were evacuated to another area.” Keiji reasoned, trying to ease his fiancée’s worries.

“You’re probably right.” Said Bokuto, leaning his head onto Akaashi's shoulder.

Several people were brought outside, and Akaashi watched the process intently. The presence of the military held the crowd in check. After what felt like an eternity, they were finally next. Bokuto had been fidgeting for a while now because sitting still for a long period of time wasn’t something he’d usually do.

 

“Follow me.” A tall bulky soldier with curly beard said. His bald egg-shaped head was red from the sun burn. Keiji had to elbow Bokuto who had trouble holding back his laughter.

“Stop that. It’s not funny.” Akaashi whispered. He tried to sound reprimanding but snorted himself.

“But pff it is ssuch pff an... angry red.” Snickered Bokuto.

The area was vast and desolate, and several tents had been set up. Soldiers controlled and secured the area. Transporters were being filled with people, but some were led to an encircled area. The white stripe marking a line they weren’t allowed to step over. The soldiers who were in charge made sure of that.

“What happens to those who fail the examination?” Akaashi asked the soldier that was leading them towards a tent. He didn’t answer.

“Wow so talkative.” He grumbled. What’s with people always refusing to answer his questions?

“Hey, you with the egg head.” Bokuto said loudly, hands in his pockets. “what’s with the people behind that white line?” he asked. Akaashi wanted to scream at his tactlessness.

“I don’t have the authority to tell you.” The soldier said. He sounded irritated, and Bokuto frowned.

There were five big tents lined next to each other, and each tent had about five people waiting in front. Akaashi looked back at the people in the circle, still wrecking his head about it. He knew that they were ruled out and had ultimately failed the examination, but on what grounds? They had to disclose prior medical conditions, which worried Akaashi because he didn’t know what kind of precondition labelled you ‘unfit'. A slight medical problem could therefore be someone’s downfall. Akaashi could understand it because if looked at from a rational and pragmatic perspective, ‘sick' people require medical expense such as medication, which might soon be hard to get your hands on with the production down. From a humanist perspective; however, nobody should be left behind because of sickness. It was immoral to label someone unworthy of being saved because the expenses would be too high. Someone among the group of about 20 people started to get upset. He was saying something to one of the soldiers; his expression desperate and scared. Akaashi felt sorry for him.

“Next one. You.” The armed soldier, watching the tent, addressed Bokuto; the name tag read: Ito

He and Akaashi were about to enter when Akaashi was stopped. “Only one at a time.” The man said sternly.

“Why?” Bokuto asked, not letting go of Akaashi’s hand.

“It’s the rule.” Ito said.

“But we saw two or more people enter the tent at the same time.” Akaashi protested.

“Only family members are allowed to enter in pairs or as a family.” The soldier answered.

“We are engaged.” Bokuto piqued in, looking down at the man who was about 5 inches smaller than he, even 2 inches smaller than Akaashi.

“So, you’re one of those.” Ito commented, letting them pass. Akaashi frowned. What did he mean by ‘one of those’?

They entered the tent, and Akaashi was surprised by how spacious it was inside because from the outside, it didn’t make the impression of being big. The room was equipped with all kind if gear: a stretcher, other medical equipment, a desk and so on. A woman, the examiner, sat in a chair and motioned them to come closer and set down. Bokuto and Akaashi sat down onto the folding chairs, turning their attention towards the woman. She had two soldiers assist her.

“Name and age.” She asked Bokuto. She didn’t even introduce herself. How rude.

“Kotarou Bokuto. I am 23 years old.”

“Do you have any prior illnesses or any other medical history? Prescribed drugs?” She continued while taking notes.

“No, mam.” He answers earnestly, shaking his head as sign of negation.

“Good.” She nodded approvingly and then fixed her honey-brown eyes on Akaashi.

“Name and Age?” she asked again.

“Keiji Akaashi. I am 22 years old.” He answered, feeling uneasy suddenly.

“Prior Illnesses, medical conditions or prescriptive dr--" she said, though her sentence was interrupted by loud screams and two shots fired.

Akaashi and Bokuto turned into the direction from where the shots came from. The soldiers that where with the doctor rushed outside immediately after hearing the commotion. The noises and screams got louder, and another shot was fired followed by another one. Akaashi clawed at the arms of the folding chair; he wanted to get out of there. As if on cue, Bokuto grabbed Akaashi’s hand, pulling the raven with him. The outside was chaotic. One of the tents was burning, and the people that had previously been kept in a white circle had broken free. There were screams and gunfire, and then all of a sudden, the first person turned, attacking one of the soldiers and biting into his throat. It dug its teeth into the vulnerable flesh, letting go just to bite right into the open blood-splashing wound again. The blood splattered out rapidly, painting the sandy ground a deep mournful red. The man, who couldn’t have been older than Keiji, screamed in pain and fear, gurgling and choking on his own blood that was flooding his windpipe. The turned person was eating his flesh and then, more of these things came to gnaw at the now dead body of the soldier. Akaashi stood there, shocked by the gruesome scene.

“---. Kei---. Keiji. KEIJI!!” Bokuto yelled, tearing Akaashi out of his trance, shaking his body back and forth. “We have to leave.”

“The truck!” said Akaashi, pointing in front of them.

They ran towards the vehicle, raising the dust of the dry sand where their boots hit the ground. The screams were deafening and the soldier’s death, the fearful faces of the people around him, as well as the humans that started to behave like monsters was burnt into his memory. They had almost reached the truck when the tires of the vehicle started to move and screech. They yelled after it, the inhalation of the dust making them cough and shield their eyes with their arms.

“Wait!” Bokuto yelled through coughing, and the truck came too an abrupt halt. Akaashi could barely see anything; the dust from before stinging his eyes and making sight blurry.

“Bo?” came a familiar voice, and Akaashi recognised it as the voice of Tetsurou Kuroo.

“Bo? Is that you?” The raven-haired man asked.

“Kuroo!” Bokuto yelled; relief in his voice when he saw his friend.

“Hurry up and get in!” he yelled, and Akaashi and Bokuto jumped into the truck that was filled with 10 other people, they didn’t know, but right now, they had to get away from there. Kuroo drove the car at full speed, trying not to lose control over the truck, despite the speed.

Akaashi sighed in relief, still tense and full of adrenaline. He leaned into Bokuto’s firm chest, taking one last glance at the area that was supposed to be safe. The soldiers had latched the entrance of the warehouse, and those still inside were hammering against the door, screaming. He watched several other trucks leave the scene. As the distance grew everything turned into tiny little dots, and the screams and cries died down, though only because they were too far away to hear the chaos and misery anymore. Akaashi felt Kotarou's arm tighten around him. He buried his face into the crook of Akaashi’s neck and took a deep breath.

“They locked them in there...” Bokuto whispered with a strained voice for only Keiji to hear.

“I know...” sighed Akaashi. He didn’t want to think about that.

“Should...should we have done something to help? I feel bad for looking away.” The man with bi-coloured hair said lowly, pushing Akaashi closer.

“It’s pointless to think about it now,” Akaashi reasoned, “you don’t have to feel guilty. Guilt is a heavy burden to carry, and it’s likely that we'll get to know what true guilt feels like more often from now on.”

“Don’t ever leave me.” Bokuto mumbled.

“I won’t.” Akaashi whispered back, running his fingers through the messy mop that was Bokuto's hair.

 

 

Oikawa Tooru stared at the ceiling of the small and confined room that he had been staying at for about three days now after having been evacuated. He was lucky to have escaped the medical check-up due to knowing Hajime Iwaizumi who served in the military. He had a knee injury when he was younger, but the cartilage damage in his left knee occurred later due to overexertion. He was afraid his medical history would have labelled him ‘unfit', which was why Hajime smuggled him in, the same way he did with others, telling them to not mention their medical record.

Being in that evacuation camp meant boredom. They were told to stay put and wait for further instructions, but so far there hadn’t been any. Food rations were small, and the tension among the group grew very day they were without further notice of the situation. They had no electricity, and no running water. They were just hanging about the room or outside, waiting for the day to end and the next day to come. Some of the soldiers did as they pleased, storming into a room under false pretence and doing as they pleased. Women were forced to perform sexual acts for water or food sometimes, and men weren’t treated any better either. Nobody talked about it, though. It was some sort of silent agreement between the people and those in charge to just look the other way. There was always a bunch of bad apples everywhere you went, and one was already one too many. It was horrible. Tooru wanted to get out of here as soon as possible. They were supposed to feel safe, but how could someone feel secure in an environment that used the chaotic situation and the fact that they didn’t know what was going on to their advantage to oppress and misuse their authority. People usually tended to trust men and women in uniforms.

Oikawa had blinded the windows with a large cloth, securing it there by using a stapler. A ray of sunlight still managed to sneak through a crack, and Oikawa grabbed for it, closing and enclosing his hand while staring absentmindedly through the room that he shared with ten other people he didn’t even now.

A loud knock got him back to reality.

“Tooru? May I come in?” a female voice asked. It’s the voice he least wanted to hear right now.

“It’s not like a can stop you.” He commented.

The woman with beautiful long black hair smiled, not taking offense at all. Kiyoko had such a good and gentle soul. She was smart, talented and modest, which was probably why Iwaizumi married her. Oikawa on the other hand was loud and sometimes reckless, but he was pretty and smart too. Iwa-chan had been his best friend since primary school, and the brunette fell in love with him around high school. At some point, he thought that he might have a chance with the dark-haired man, but Iwaizumi went to serve in the military and when he came back, he was engaged to this girl. To put it simply, Oikawa had been jealous of her ever since, and his jealousy, frustration and bitterness increased when she got to marry the man that he always wanted. Tooru reasoned that he knew him so much longer and so much better. He was even ready to give up on his feelings for Hajime, but one drunken night, the man pushed him up against a wall and kissed him passionately; teeth and tongue all included. They ended up having sex that night, but the next day Iwaizumi told him that it was a mistake, and that they should forget what happened. It hurt. It had hurt him deeply, but Oikawa knew that they were more than just friend, that Iwa-chan was just in denial. How could he forget about it when Iwaizumi kissed him with vigour and passion and touched his skin with lustful hands over and over again. Afterwards, he'd always say that it didn’t mean anything, that he loved Kiyoko. Sometimes, Tooru felt guilty towards Kiyoko, but on other days, he just didn’t care because he felt angry and jealous. He wanted to hate her. But, how could he? She was a lovely person; strong and good-willed while Tooru was always told that he had a nasty and annoying personality.

The woman looked at him and carefully closed the door behind her; expression growing serious.

“We'll leave tonight.” She whispered.

“Fucking finally.” Oikawa said.

“Just act naturally. We don’t want anyone to find out.” Kiyoko said with a neutral face.

“I am not stupid.” Oikawa grumbled, crunching up his nose.

The girl nodded and left the room, and about an hour later Iwaizumi entered, looking behind him to make sure no one had followed him.

“Only pack things you can carry. Convenient things, not stupid stuff.” He commented, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest.

“Iwa-chaan!” he whined exasperatingly. “What do you think I am gonna pack? 20 bottles of hair product?”

“Wouldn’t be so far-fetched wouldn’t it?” Iwaizumi said, raising an eyebrow at the brunette.

“You are mean!” said Oikawa, rolling around on the mattress.

Then he jumped up, closing the distance between him and the raven-haired man. He wore military boots, and the traditional military uniform. Iwaizumi looked good in uniforms. It made him look even more masculine. Oikawa met Hajime’s gaze and leaned his head onto the man’s shoulder, gripping the front of his uniform.

“Don’t.” Iwaizumi said, tearing Tooru's hands of him and putting some distance between them.

“What? I am not doing anything.” The brunette whispered with half-lidded eyes, closing the distance again, gently touching the side of Iwaizumi's face.

“You know what I mean.” He sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose in annoyance. “We can’t keep doing this. I am married.”

“Why not? Being married didn’t stop you before.” Oikawa frowned, biting his lips harshly to the point of bleeding.

“Stop looking at me with that face.” Iwaizumi said lowly, pushing the brunette away.

His rejection hurt. Oikawa averted his eyes, trying hard not to cry right now.

“Oh, I am sooo sorry, but that’s my normal face.” Oikawa croaked out, but he knew what the man in front of him meant to say.

“Just go pack some essentials. I'll come get you later. I'll knock at the door 5 times. First twice and after a pause another three times. Then, you’ll know it’s me.” He explained, and then he went to open the door, though he turned around once more.

“Don’t go to the food distribution today. Just wait here.” Hajime said, and then he left.

Toru stared at the door for a while longer, gripping the front of his shirt. He hated it when Iwa-chan acted like that; so cold and distant. But he let him do what he wanted anyway because Toru loved him. He’d always love him. He enjoyed the sexual intimacy and ignored the Hajime’s claim that they only had meaningless sex. Oikawa ignored it because it was easier that way. Sometimes, Iwaizumi was so cruel to him, but on other days, he'll be gentle and nice, and Toru would get that warm fuzzy feeling in his stomach.

Noon went by, and his roommates came back. He didn’t converse or associated himself with them. Why would he anyway. The place got cramped, and he had to move from the bed, since it was reserved for the three children. None of them were closely related or knew each other, but everyone came to agree that it was best to let the children have the small bed in the middle of the room. The rest, including Oikawa, had to sleep on futons on the floor. Eleven people in one small room was suffocating. There was no privacy at all. The Sato family was the most annoying of the bunch because Mrs and Mr Sato barely managed to control their loud and nosy children – two girls, who were called Mia and Ava, but Oikawa wasn’t sure. One woman was about his age. She was also super obnoxious, and the other one was in her fifties and accompanied by her two sons. The last one was a little boy who couldn’t be older than four. He was on his own and hadn’t said a word once during the past three days. Toru wondered where his guardians were.

10 minutes before the clock hit 6 pm, and the Sato family left, making their way to the food distribution. After that the others went to go to the supply too, hoping to get a bigger ration this time.

“Aren’t you going?” one of them asked.

“It’s not even 6 o’clock yet. I’ll wait until it’s less crowded.” He lied effortlessly.

“Suit yourself.” He said, leaving the room.

Toru waited for a moment before he moved to gather some of his belongings. He stuffed them into his backpack and strapped it on, waiting for Iwaizumi to pick him up. It was only logical to leave while everyone was busy getting their daily supply of food. That way, they could use the open time window to get away undetected. How they would get past the heavily armed soldiers guarding the exit, Oikawa didn’t know. Hajime didn’t tell him anything, which irked him. The brunette sat on the bed and sighed, scratching the back of his head angrily. Then, he turned his head looking eyes with the boy who didn’t talk. Oikawa gaped at him in shock; his mouth opening and closing like a fish that had just been pulled out of the water. The kid eyed him, though his expression stayed neutral. Not being able to read someone freaked Toru out, especially if that someone was a child. Children had the tendency to say creepy things sometimes.

“Why are you still here?!” Oikawa said, stumbling over his own words. The boy didn’t say anything. He just stared.

The boy cocked his head to the side; his eyes boring into Oikawa, who broke out into a cold sweat. The child had black hair and blue eyes, and his lack of facial expressions was disturbing. He wore an old pullover that was too big for him, jeans and sneakers on his tiny feet.

“You’re creepy.” Oikawa told the boy, turning his head away. The child didn’t talk, so he wouldn’t tell anyone that they left.

The brunette was startled by a two consecutive knocks on the door, then there was a pause, and another three knocks. ‘Iwa-chan!’ Toru though and jumped up, opening the door.

“Iw—” Oikawa wanted to say, but Iwaizumi stopped him by pushing his hand over the brunette’s face, signing him to be quiet.

“Keep your voice down Trashykawa. Don’t talk. Just follow me.” Hajime hissed lowly, releasing Oikawa from his grasp.

Toru huffed and mumbled out a ‘so rude’. They left the room and sneaked towards a remote area that was controlled by soldiers. They pushed themselves through a narrow path until they reached a drain that was covered with leaves and dirt. He saw Kiyoko and four other people, waiting for them.

“This sewer runs directly underneath the street. I’ve seen the blueprints. It’ll give us a way out of here.” Hajime explained, heaving the metal cover from the sewer channel.

“Let’s introduce everyone first. You all know who I and Hajime are, so let’s start with you Toru.” Kiyoko said, and Toru rolled his eyes.

“I am Toru Oikawa.” He drawled out, making a disinterested gesture with his hand. Iwaizumi hit him over the head for that.

“Ouch! What was that for?” he asked, rubbing the back of his head.

“Don’t be a prick.” Hajime stated firmly.

A blonde small girl stepped forward and bowed down. “I am Hitoka Yachi. Nice to meet you. I am 16 years old.”

The next one had brown hair and freckles. He looked nervous as fuck. “I am Tadashi Yamaguchi. I am 16.”

“I am Kenji Futakuchi.” A tall guy with short brown hair said. He was average in built, and his bangs fell to the side of his face.

Then, Futakuchi pointed his thumb to the person next to him, speaking for him: “This is Takanobu Aone. He doesn’t talk much.” He said, and the tall man with white trimmed hair and a serious expression on his face, bowed.

“Now. Let’s move.” Iwaizumi said, pointing at the tunnel.

“Eww. No way I am gonna go down there.” Oikawa protested, covering his nose because it smelled disgusting.

“Shut up! You go or I throw you down there.” Iwaizumi stated, glaring at Oikawa.

“You’re so rude. I’ll let you know I am quite delicate.” Oikawa whined, putting his hands on his hips in a dramatic fashion.

“Delicate, my ass. Get down there. By the way who’s that kid who’s with you?” he asked, and the brunette looked at him with confused eyes.

“Kid? What kid?” he asked, turning around to see the boy whom he shared a room with. He squeaked and jumped a little, pointing a finger at the child.

“What are you doing here!?” he asked, but the boy kept quiet as always.

“Keep your voice down idiotkawa.” Iwaizumi said, once again clutching his hand over Oikawa’s mouth. He was too close. It made the brunette flustered.

“We can’t send him back, and he obviously knows you.” Kiyoko said, and Toru glared at her.

“What’s your name little man?” Kiyoko asked, crouching down to him, so that they were on the same eye-level with each other.

The raven-haired boy stared at hair before hiding behind Oikawa, clinching to his pants.

 

“Hey! Don’t cling onto me. Stupid kid!” protested Toru, throwing the boy, who was standing next to him, the stinky eye. The kid didn’t do anything, though. He was just standing there way too close to him.

“Let’s not waste time. Let’s move.” Iwaizumi ordered, and Oikawa ultimately had to climb down the sewer against his will.

 

 

Chapter Text

Maki's eyes slowly fluttered open, adjusting to the sun’s bright light that was falling through the small window at the other side of the copy room. His head still felt dizzy, and he tried to rub the sleepiness out of his eyes. Maki yawned and decided to let sleep claim his mind once more. So, he turned his body into a slightly more comfortable position and nuzzled into the warm and firm surface below him, sighing in content, though he jumped away when he realised whom he had snuggled up to.

He looked at the dark-haired man and carefully studied his sleeping face. Maki was glad that his rash movement hadn’t torn Mattsun out of his deep slumber. It seemed like the guy slept like a hibernating bear. ‘That could have been embarrassing.’ he thought solemnly, stretching his tired muscles to get his body going. He leaned back against the wall and sighed again, bringing his knees to his chest in one quick motion. Maki wondered how his family was doing. His coming here was supposed to be a short time visit over the weekend, but he doubted that anything would go back to normal any time soon.

He was sitting in a small room in the library with a guy, who he just met yesterday; the guy who kind of saved his ass. Maki’s eyes bored holes into the photocopier and the computers in front of him as if those devices would just magically come to life. His mind was a mess. He'd never expected to experience something like that. Hell, he didn’t even think it were possible. Who would?! Maki pondered if his parents were okay or if they had been caught between the teeth and jaws of the sick. He shuddered at the thought, and tears swelled in his eyes. He didn’t want to think of his parents dying, screaming and in pain and eventually turning. He shook his head; some of his hair sticking to his face because of the heat in the room. He willed the tears down, trying to get a gentle happy imagery of happily grazing cows in the meadow on a big farm into his head. He should think about happy things, not death, even though death seemed so much more real right now. Death could be lurking right behind the door, despite them having checked the building. Death could await them everywhere. Death had become their shadow ever since people started to become sick and turn into human-eating monsters.

The day before had been hectic. When he arrived in his hometown after a long drive, he was excited to see his parents again, but instead of being welcomed by his mom and dad holding an old-school ‘welcome home' sign, he was greeted by the familiar faces of the some of the villagers who very much tried to eat him. On his drive there, he suspected that the town might have already been evacuated because he saw a lot of cars, vans and motorcycles leave in a hurry. Maki was able to avoid the traffic jam by using a secret short cut that barely anyone knew about, not even the locals.

He had heard about the sick behaving oddly, and he had witnessed those symptoms in some of the patients in the hospital that he worked at, but the attacks and assaults were new. They started about two days ago. Most of the staff was sent home, including him, but it was on a short notice, hence the visit to his family. Maki had been relieved when the hospital administration decided to send them home, despite the precarious situation the hospitals and clinics had been faced with. Every day, more and more people came in with the same symptoms of a sickness the doctors knew nothing about, and the government had trouble containing. One would have thought stocking up on staff would have been the most plausible option, but treating those patients was deemed too dangerous. Doctors, nurses, assistants and even family members had been victims of vicious attacks; attacks everybody – medical staff or not – knew by then was caused by the disease.

Maki managed to escape the not so warm welcome, but when he got to his parents’ house, they were nowhere to be found. He tried to call them, searched every corner of the house, but they were gone. Panic had gripped his entire body at the time, so he stayed in the house for hours just waiting. He waited, but his parents remained untraceable. The ‘zombies' had started to pile up at his door, so he decided to make a run for it. He probably hadn’t had the best timing because, like in every trash horror movie, he fell over a pile of rubbish, causing a loud noise to echo through the street, which had been seized by the undead. They had noticed him – of course – so he took flight and had to let go of his backpack. Later that night, he found himself cornered and luckily saved by a stranger when he had already given up hope and thought that he was going to get butchered and torn into pieces by a hoard of zombies; not the most graceful death, but certainly the most gruesome.

Maki jabbed Mattsun with his elbow to get him up; his loud snoring disrupting his thoughts. The latter grunted but opened his eyes, grumbling under his breath.

 
“Finally, you are awake.” Maki commented, getting up from the floor.


“Could have woken me up more tenderly.” Mattsun yawned, not mentally present yet.


“Let’s just get out of here. This place is, for some reasons, giving me the creeps.” Answered Maki.


“I think it’s cosy.” Mattsun said, leisurely scratching his back whilst twisting his body so that the bones would pop and crack. 


“The colours in this room are depressing. Let’s get out of here.” Responded Maki, ignoring the comment about the alleged cosiness of the room. 


“Sure thing. What’s the plan, though?” the dark-haired male asked, looking expectantly at the other man.


“Out of this town. It’s not safe. We just need to get out of this building and get a car or anything.” Maki explained as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.


“We’ve got the blueprints of this building.” Mattsun said, rummaging through a carton they used to carry the things they looked through. 


The dark-haired man pulled a paper roll out of the cardboard box and rolled it out on the vinyl floor, securing the map with the bottles of water on each corner.


 “Getting out of here shouldn’t be a big issue, though getting a vehicle to use might be more difficult. We need to go onto the roof and from there, we use the rain gutter here to climb down.”


“I am slightly acrophobic.” Maki suddenly pointed out, chewing at his bottom lip when he heard Mattsun mentioning going up to the roof and climbing down a god damn gutter. The thought alone made him feel uneasy.


“Well, that’s certainly not ideal.” Commented Issei.
“Not ideal.” Takahiro deadpanned, repeating Mattsun’s words. 


 “The area behind the building is surrounded by a high fence with a closed gate, so the possibility that there are zombies is almost zero.” Mattsun explained further, showing the area on the map. “Maybe we find a car there.”


“But the gate might be locked, so how are we going to get out of there without the keys and without being noticed. I’d like to avoid possible run-ins as much as possible.” Added the light-haired man.

He really didn’t want to climb down a building, even if it was just a two-story building. He used to know the library inside out, but he had been gone for several years, and the building had been completely renovated, not resembling the library he used to know and spend his school days at, at all. 


“We climb over it. It’s not like there is barbed wire at the top of the fence. What library has barbwire?!” he asked rhetorically, rolling the map up again and putting it back into the box.


“…fine…” the light-brown haired man said, giving in.


“Then it’s settled.” Mattsun said and stood up, turning to Maki again with a gentle look on his face. “Don’t worry. I am not gonna let you fall off or anything.”


“Easy for you to say…” grumbled Maki, still anxious about climbing off the rooftop. 

When they arrived at the rooftop, Takahiro felt nauseous, despite standing in the middle of the roof. The roof itself was flat and plastered with small smooth pebbles that clattered beneath his feet. There was a small concrete wall that surrounded the top of the roof, but no railing. Maki followed Issei to the edge of the roof on shaky legs and peaked down. He felt dizzy at seeing the ground, he could hear his heart thumbing in his chest, and his head was starting to spin slightly just thinking about having to get down there.

He even had to sit down on his knees because he had the feeling that he might lose his balance. Stepladders and stools are fine, but roofs and other places that exceed two meters in height are not. Maki just wanted to get away from the situation as quickly as possible. He didn’t want to get up anymore, which was why he crawled away from the edge, despite the fact that the roof was surrounded by a 50 cm brick wall. 


“Everything is going to be fine. Close your eyes and take a deep breath.” Mattsun said, also dropping to his knees, and Maki reluctantly did so.

He closed his eyes and took several deep breaths.
His fear of heights wasn’t extreme, and he had been working on it. He had it ever since he was pushed down a 10 m diving board at the age of twelve.


“It doesn’t help. I just prefer ground level, that’s all.” The man with the pinkish hair answered nervously, digging his hands into the pebbles on the ground. 


“Don’t look down.” Stated the raven-haired man, giving Maki an encouraging nod. 


Takahiro watched as Issei prepared the rope that he had brought with him. At least he wouldn’t have to climb of the gutter, which was a positive thing. Mattsun placed one of the ropes in the centre of Maki’s lower back, so that either sides of the rope equalled in length and crossed the halves, so that they wrapped around his waist. He made a half hitch and turned the rope around itself once again. Several steps later the harness was done. Maki had already forgotten the first two steps. 


“I used to climb a lot when I was younger. Now you’ll be safe.” Issei told him, smiling up at him reassuringly.

He fastened the carabiner and pulled on it, lifting making on it to test if the carabiner was holding his weight.  


“If you say so.” Answered Maki. He was still unconvinced, but they had to get down that roof. 


“It’s not too tight, is it?” he asked, and Maki shook his head. Then Mattsun gave him some gloves, and the light-haired man blinked.

“You don’t want your skin to burn of your hands. Rappelling causes a lot of friction.” The raven explained and Takahiro nodded in understanding.


The black-haired man secured the other rope onto a sturdy metal pole and explained Maki how to lower himself down on a rope. 


“Everything clear?”


“I guess.”


“Don’t look down on the ground. Just concentrate on the task at hand. It’s not that high, only about 8, maybe 10 meters.”


It took Maki several attempts and a lot of encouragement to finally build up the courage. Mattsun had called it ‘exposure therapy’, but it didn’t really help him that much. In the end, he got down somehow, and when Maki felt solid ground beneath his feet, he was relieved. It hadn’t been that bad, and it didn’t scare him as much as he thought it would. Still, he preferred staying away from high places. He watched Mattsun climb down the gutter and doubted the black-haired male’s sanity for a moment or two. 
When they were both on the ground, Maki looked around and noticed the emergency staircase on the side of the building. He blinked. Then he frowned and turned towards Mattsun with a glare.


“Why are you glowering at me like this?”


“Because we could have used the emergency staircase, you oaf!” hissed Takahiro, hitting the other man over the head.

 
“Happens to the best of us.” Laughed Mattsun, playfully struggling with the other man. 


“See, there’s a caravan.” Issei pointed out, attracting Maki’s attention.


Maki followed, where the dark-haired man’s finger pointed at and raised an eyebrow. Behind the gate, a caravan was parking at the side of the road, seemingly abandoned. He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. Just because it looked abandoned didn’t necessarily mean that it was. The grass and weeds grew so high that it was covering most of the vehicle. 


“I don’t trust the situation. It’s too convenient.” Maki whispered, untangling the knots and getting out of the harness. 


“Yeah. Seems too convenient, and we haven’t heard or encountered any zombies yet. The carpark is mostly empty. It is weird. Let’s check it out though. At least it looks abandoned.” Mattsun responded in agreement.


Both men walked towards the gate; eyes darting around and scanning the area for any suspicious movement. They were both silent, so that they wouldn’t draw attention to themselves and to avoid making their location known. When they reached it, Maki tested whether it could be opened. He rattled at the lock, noticing that it was indeed locked.


“Great. It’s locked.” He stated in annoyance.


Mattsun looked at him before he examined the gate himself. He made a gesture with his hand, indicating that Maki should step aside  and that’s what the pink-haired man did. The raven lifted the latch and opened the gate, giving Maki a smug look. The latter crossed his arms over his chest, pouting.


“I was obviously testing you.” Maki said, leaving the entry gate.


“Sure.” Answered Mattsun with a grin, following his companion outside.


They were surrounded by trees, and the strange tranquillity of the place made them extra cautious because it seemed deceiving. They made their way to the caravan, stopping right in front of the vehicle’s closed door that was overgrown with ferns and bramble. Issei reached for the knob, intent on opening the door, but Maki stopped him. They exchanged worried looks. Then, Maki nodded and the dark-haired man opened the door, ready to enter the caravan. He stepped inside, and the other man turned around, watching the surroundings, in case something was about to jump out of the bushes and attack them. Nothing happened, though, but it didn’t ease the anxiety he felt bubbling in his stomach, making him feel slightly sick.

Suddenly, he heard Mattsun scream, and then a loud thud followed. Maki rushed inside the caravan to see what had happened.


“MATTSUN!” he called out in a panic.

He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the dead body of a man hanging on a rope that was secured on the ceiling; eyes lifeless, and yet the barely audible noises that came from his throat didn’t seem to fit the scene. Maki knew the old man, in fact, he had known the man for years. He was in his early 70s, and back in the day, he was the janitor at the local school. Seeing him like this, didn’t look right. Even though he was dead – his pale almost bluish face a clear indicator – he still moved; hands reaching out in an attempt to get a hold of one of them. 


“Walked in and was greeted by that guy. Kinda scared me.” Mattsun answered, poking the dead man with the walking cane he had picked up from the floor.


“We have to get him out of here.” Maki said in a neutral voice and Mattsun nodded.


“So, who is gonna give him the final blow?” the black-haired male asked, though seeing that Takahiro didn’t answer, he continued: “Going by that look on your face, I will do it. That’s probably going to be messy.”


Mattsun got his knife and picked up the stool that laid fallen over on the ground by the dead man's feet. He placed it at some distance to the moving corpse, getting into a position, in which he could make use of the knife. The man hadn’t been dead long, considering that the space didn't smell of decay. Taking into account that he had died only recently, the raven decided it was best to aim for the eye. That way, he wouldn’t have to pierce through the still too thick bone of the skull.

Issei watched the corpse groan lowly, arms reaching out towards him while it close and opened its jaw in a rapid, but fluid motion, trying to bite him. A gun would be kind of useful right now.

Since it was too dangerous to try to kill it while being within its reach, Mattsun decided to take another approach. He got behind the zombie, and while it was distracted by Maki's presence, the raven-haired man slammed the knife between the small junction that connected the skull and the vertebrae, causing the wild movements of the zombie's arms and jaw to abruptly stop. The noises; however, didn’t cease, which meant that its undead body – as ironic as it may sound – was pretty much still alive.

Mattsun got the job done and used another knife to destroy its brain. Due to the lack of a heart beat that would pump the blood through a living beings body, the killing wasn't as messy as Issei thought it would be. The blood didn’t splatter all over the place, but ran out of the nose dead zombie’s corpse.


“Now we have to have it out of here.” Mattsun commented, getting the knife out of the dead man's spine, in order to cut the rope.

The blade glided through the natural fibres easily, and the body fell onto the floor with a loud thud.


“Let’s hope that he’s got the keys on him.” Said Maki, dragging the body out of the van while Mattsun cleaned his knife.


Your assistance would be appreciated.” Maki mentioned sarcastically, waiting for the raven to help him.


“Your doing a good job there.” The man laughed instead, walking past the pink-haired man and waiting outside.


After Maki finally managed to drag the body outside, Mattsun pulled the second knife out. Takahiro leaned down, looking through the pockets of the man's jacket and trousers until he found a bunch of keys dangling from a keychain.


“Let’s hope one of these fits.”


“Let’s first move him to the side of the road and maybe cover him up. I would feel bad if we just threw him on the road.” Mattsun said solemnly.


“Yeah. You're right.” Maki answered his expression as solemn as that of the raven.


They lifter the old man’s body and carried him onto the side of the road, putting him onto the grassy ground. His eyes were closed and his arms folded over his stomach. If it weren’t for his sickly pale looks, he could have actually portrayed quite a peaceful imagery. Mattsun ripped the necklace that the man wore around his neck off of him, putting it into his pocket. Maki looked at him in disbelief.


“Are you seriously going to rob an old man? What for?”


“I am not robbing him. I just want the old man not to be forgotten. Let’s hang it on the front mirror of the caravan.”


“Okay.” Maki smiled, feeling bad about having accused him of robbing a dead person.


They were about to enter the caravan when they heard loud moans, growls and groans approaching them. There were a bunch of zombies heading their way; some coming from the woods while others came from the direction of the library.


“Let’s hurry!” squeaked Maki and Mattsun followed him inside the vehicle, locking the door behind them.

 
The raven-haired man ran to the driver’s seat, trying to find the right key while the caravan was shook from the outside. The zombies hammered against the vehicle, two getting to the front and hitting against the glass window. Maki sat in the passenger seat, instructing the other male to hurry the fuck up. When Mattsun found the right one, he put it into the ignition, turning the key around.


The engine made rumbling noises, though it died down immediately. Issei and Maki exchanged a look of horror as the engine died down the second time.


“No reason to panic. Let’s stay calm.” Issei said in a slightly worried voice that didn't match his neutral expression.


“I AM THE CALMEST I HAVE EVER BEEN!” Maki laughed humourlessly, trying his best not to panic.


Mattsun hit onto the front several times, staring the engine anew while the hoard of zombies that were gathering around the caravan increased. Soon, they were going to be under siege. Then finally, the engine started, and the sound of the rumbling machine was music to their ears. The vehicle shook violently again, and it felt like they were first hand experiencing an earthquake. 


“Come on, go ahead!” Maki yelled and the black-haired man stepped on the clutch, changing the gear and speeding forward, running over some of the zombies that had gathered in front of the vehicle.

As they sped down the vastly empty road, they could see some of the zombies running after them. The two males looked at each other and holding their hands up for a high five.


“Nice.” The pink-haired man laughed and Mattsun nodded.


“At least the gas is full.” The raven commented, leaning back against the seat, keeping his eyes on the road.


“There’s a gas station in about 15 kilometres. Maybe we can stock up on supplies.” Maki informed the other, fiddling with his fingers.


“Let’s hope the place hasn’t been raided yet.” The raven said, dragging his hand down his face while keeping his eyes glued to the never-ending road.


“Since we can’t rely on Google Maps anymore, we have to use a map.” Mattsun explained with a long sigh.


“Ngh...What a drag.” Commented Maki, slumping into his seat.


“Yeah.” Mattsun agreed, “it’s inside the backpack. Let’s avoid the main roads and use cut outs. They seem safer.”


“Wait, I go get it.” Maki said, unfastening his seatbelt to get the map from the backpack. 


“We can decide on a route when we reach the gas station.” He said, putting the map into the glove compartment of the vehicle.


“Sure.”


They drove down the street, and the light of the sun blinded Maki from time to time as they passed by the trees. He looked out of the window and then studied Mattsun's concentrated and neutral expression. The necklace was dangling from the front mirror of the caravan, telling a story that would not be forgotten. It felt good to have survived death today, despite knowing that others might not be able to see what would come next.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

They had been on the road for some time before they reached their destination: the petrol station. The drive had been surprisingly uneventful, and they had fallen into a comfortable silence.

 

About 100 metres before the petrol station, Mattsun set the blinker and swiftly yanks the steering wheel around, turning left into the entryway.

 

“We’re here.” Mattsun said, parking the car next to the petrol pump.

 

“I don’t mean to criticise your driving skills, but that turn was unnecessarily sharp.” Commented Maki who, at the suddenness of the movement, had been desperately clutching onto his seat belt.

 

“Wanted to be dramatic.” Issei smiled, patting Maki on the shoulder.

 

“You mean ‘overdramatic’. Anyway, let’s see if there’s any patrol left.” Snorted Takahiro while slightly shaking his head.

 

“Wait.” Mattsun said, taking a knife out of his holster and handing it to Maki. “Take this.”

 

“I am not good with handling knives. Frankly, I don’t want anything pointy and deadly anywhere near me.” Maki pointed out, eyeing the weapon suspiciously.

 

“It’s for protection. Your dislike aside, you need to learn how to use it. Just in case.” Argued the raven, pushing it into the other’s hands.

 

“…fine.” The pink-haired man sighed, taking the knife and storing it in his pockets.

 

 

Mattsun unbuckled the seatbelt and stood up, making his way to the exit. “Aren’t you coming?” he asked, turning around.

 

“Yeah. I just wanted to explore the mobile home first. It looks so spacey.” Maki said, opening cupboards while his eyes darted around, inspecting everything.

 

“You can do that when we have found a place to set up a camp and spend the night.” Issei explained, patiently waiting for the other. He took the gallon that had been in the vehicle with him to hopefully fill it up.

 

It was important to stock up on supplies, especially fuel, since that would not be easy to find as time passed. They couldn’t use the vehicle forever, and at some point, they probably had to abandon it. First and foremost; however, they had to find food, medicine – prescriptive and non-prescriptive – fuel and fresh clothes because nobody wanted to run around in the same sweaty clothes for weeks. Some kind of comfort should be maintained, regardless of the catastrophe one was facing.

 

“Look here! There’s a bed above the driver’s cabin. I haven’t noticed that before.” Maki continued, though he did follow Mattsun outside

 

Outside, the dark-haired man used the opportunity to properly stretch his muscles because driving for such a long time was tiring. They had to drive slowly to save fuel because they had been driving on an almost empty tank.

 

The sun stood high, no cloud was in sight, and the absolute lack of wind dipped their surroundings into a tranquillity that seemed deceiving and too good to be true. The hair on Mattsun’s neck started to stand on end, but he didn’t know why.

 

He took the pump dispenser to distract himself from the strange feeling in his chest and opened the motorhome’s petrol tank, putting the dispenser in and hoping that it worked. Thankfully, it did. He filled the vehicle to the brim and put the dispenser aside, plugging up the petrol tank again. Then, he filled the gallon with petrol, putting it next to the motorhome when he was done. Maki was standing close to him, waiting for him to finish what he was doing. The way he swayed up and down on the balls of his feet looked somewhat adorable. Like a little child waiting to be given their deserved treat.

 

“Let’s go look if their have a few more gallons in the shop. One won’t be enough.” Mattsun said, heading towards the store; his movements; however, were cautious. He didn’t trust the situation. It was too calm.

 

He entered the shop first, hand on the handle of his knife, just in case something or someone would jump him. He kept his breathing even, trying to concentrate on the noises that came from his surroundings. The door’s entry bell rang, and Mattsun almost flinched because the bell was uncommonly loud.

 

His eyes darted around, and he turned his head towards Maki, who was walking behind him, equally mindful. The black-haired man gestured for the other to check one of the aisles while he would do the same. The aisles were empty, most of the shelves still packed full. It seemed like no one had been there and if someone were, then they didn’t raid the place completely, which was kind of nice, Mattsun thought. Still, there was this feeling in his guts that made him hesitant and altered his senses. Maki on the other hand, appeared unbothered, completely unaware of the possible dangers. The raven frowned. Maki was either on high alert or unwary. This trait of his irritated Issei because it could put the light-haired man himself and Mattsun in danger.

 

He went ahead, checking the counter. No one was there. There were no groaning noises. The shop seemed empty, so he relaxed his tense shoulders a bit.

 

“Let’s take what we can and get out of here and be cautious.” Mattsun whispered, and the other nodded already having started to put things into the bag, they had found in the motorhome.

 

The raven walked behind the counter, looking for a firearm. Most petrol station owners had one because they were prone to being robbed. During his search, he found a first aid kit, and even though they already had one and the motorhome probably had one too, it could never hurt to have more than just one, so he stuffed it into his bag. He also took several lighters and the cigarette packs that had been left. It seemed like people were going more for those things than for the things that were actually essential for survival. He also found duck-tape and cable binders among some other stuff. He strapped his backpack behind his back, and he was a bit surprised by how heavy it was. Maki had moved towards the back of the shop, and Mattsun jumped into motion when he heard a crash and a muffled scream.

 

He jumped over the counter about to run into the direction of which the noise came from, but he stopped when three men plus Maki came out of the storage room. One of them was holding a knife to Takahiro’s throat; a maniac smile plastered across his scared face. It looked like a two-degree burn mark, but Mattsun was not an expert in that field, so he couldn’t be sure.

 

He had middle-long blonde hair and he was wearing a biker jacket made of cheap leather, paired with an ordinary jeans and leather boots. His two friends were brunette and wore similar clothes. One of them, the raven noticed had a gun, and he was sure the guy took it from under the counter. He watched them walk towards him and he clenched his jaw tightly, trying not to let the panic show on his face. He had to keep his expression as neutral as possible as to not put Maki in danger.

 

Takahiro looked visibly frightened and uncomfortable, trying to keep the blade, only centimetres away from his neck, at a distance, without provoking a sudden movement from his assailant.

 

“Well, well, well. Look at what we have here.” The blonde spat in a mocking tone, tightening his arm around Maki’s neck. “Hand over the keys or I slit his throat.” The man threatened with a dangerous glimmer in his brown eyes.

 

“Alright but lower the knife first.” Mattsun complied, fishing a key out of his pockets and dangling it in the air. He made eye contact with Maki, tilting his head slightly, in order to give his friend a signal.

 

He observed the three thugs that were threatening his friend. The blonde one appeared to be the leader of the group, since he was spouting out the orders. He deemed him the most dangerous right now because he had Maki in his grip. The other one who was pointing the gun at him posed another problem. Firstly, because the gun could be loaded or not and secondly, he might pull the trigger if he so much as breathed too loudly. Every movement coming from his side could provoke the man to shoot him. The third one could eventually be a problem, for Mattsun didn’t know whether he was armed or not. He could be but given his too open posture and the lack of pockets on his trousers or his jacket, the black-haired male doubted it. Issei hated to engage in active combat, but he didn’t seem to have much of a choice right now. He just had to find a way to get the guy with the gun into the disarm range, which seemed likely because these guys didn’t appear to be the smartest people walking on earth. His odds to overpower all three of them was bad because his time window and reaction time to actually get close to them were way shorter as they would be if they were closer to him. Additionally, they were at an advantage, since they had Takahiro as their hostage.

 

“Hah!” the man laughed, throwing his head back in a dramatic gesture. “I aint do nothing. Saburo, get the key!” he barked, loosening his grip on Maki.

 

The third man flinched at the harsh tone of his boss, but he walked over to Mattsun, and he had to admit, the guy looked like a push-over.

 

“Since we’re already here. Let’s at least make some introduct--.” He started, though the blonde guy stopped him from finishing his sentence.

 

“We are not interested in idle chit-chat. Hand over the key. SABURO!” the blonde thug barked, momentarily loosening his grip und Maki as he was busy pointing the knife at Mattsun to emphasise his point.

 

It was worth a try, Mattsun thought, but he had to admit that he would have preferred having the one with the gun make his way towards him, but it seemed like he had to change his plan. It all depended on how fast Maki would catch on and if he reacted in time and match Mattsun’s movements. The leader had already put his guard down, so he didn’t hold the knife as close to the light-haired man’s neck anymore, but Maki was still in a position, where his life could be in danger.

 

“Here.” Mattsun offered as the unarmed guy stepped in front of him, still a few steps away from him.

 

As the guy, Saburo, came closer, Mattsun opted to throw the piece of metal into the man’s face; the sudden action confusing him for a moment. As the man closed his eyes briefly and flinched away, Mattsun used the open time window to effortlessly immobilise Saburo. The key fell to the floor, but the raven-haired male didn’t take notice of the flat impact it made because of the sudden flow of adrenaline. A screeched could be heard, and the gunman reacted to the noise that escaped his companion’s throat, but Issei’s movements had been fast; too fast for the Saburo to react and too sudden for the other man to stop as his finger slowly pulled the trigger.

 

“Brother!” he yelled, thoughtlessly firing the gun that he had aimed at Mattsun, hitting his brother instead of the raven.

 

He was lucky enough that the fired bullet didn’t go through Saburo’s body, probably having been caught by the bone of his thorax. A small ‘Argh’ escaped the brunette’s mouth and as he realised that he had been shot, his face morphed into an expression of pure shock and horror. Mattsun felt sorry for him because that wasn’t what he thought would happen. He let him sink to the floor; the noises he produced while falling to the ground almost unbearable. The raven ignored the blood that was pooling around the man, painting the tiles a deep horrifying red.

 

The recoil of the gun had the gunman fly into the shelves behind him, hitting his head in the process. Issei concluded that he had never fired a gun before, since he underestimated the recoil and was now laying there on the ground, groaning and holding his head.

 

Maki used the moment of chaos and pushed the knife away from his neck, intentionally bumping heads with the blonde, whose body went stiff when he saw that Mattsun had let go of the man, who was hit by the bullet, charge at him. He seemed shocked himself for a moment.

The sound of cracking bone echoed through the store, and the man, whose name they didn’t know, screamed out in pain, holding his nose while toppling over.

 

“AARRGH! My nose! You bloody bitch!” he screamed, kneeling on the ground.

 

In the hassle, Maki was able to get the gun and run over to Mattsun, who grabbed him by the arm and pulled him with him out the store.

 

“The keys!” yelled Maki; his voice panicked as he watched Mattsun secure the outside door with duck-tape and cable straps.

 

“It was the wrong one.” Mattsun stated in a calm tone as he pulled the other with him towards the caravan.

 

“The wrong one?” muttered the man with pinkish hair.

 

He looked confused. His expression was solemn, and his eyes turned back to the store, where one of the three man had just been shot. He felt sorry for him, and he wondered whether he would make it or not, whether he would turn into a zombie and become a threat to the other two man. The person having pulled the trigger had to be feeling incredibly guilty right now because of what he had done. Whether they were brothers by blood or not didn’t matter because being responsible for the death of a loved-one was something he didn’t even want to think about. He could have used the knife that he had in his pocket to defend himself, then maybe things would have gone differently, but at the end of the day, he couldn’t bring himself to use it against another person.

 

They had initially planned to get some gallons of petrol, but it had to wait, since escaping would be the better option right now. Mattsun pushed a disoriented-looking Maki into the vehicle, and jumped behind the wheel, He started the engine and turned onto the road as fast as he possibly could without losing control of the caravan. He sped down the street, putting his weight onto the accelerator pedal.

 

He drove like this for several kilometres and only slowed down when he saw a small and barely noticeable trail that led into the woods. He pulled into the side-track that was probably meant for hikers and walkers and hit the brakes after having driven a good way into the woods.

 

“Are you okay?” Mattsun asked when they come to a halt.

 

“Yeah.” Maki mumbled, unbuckling his seatbelt, taking a few deep breaths to calm his nerves.

 

“Are you hurt anywhere?” the ravenette pressed further, watching his friend’s reactions.

 

“No.” Takahiro whispered through pursed lips, waiting for the adrenaline in his body to subside.

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Mhm.” The pink-haired man nodded, closing his eyes.

 

“I’ll set a camp. Get some rest. You wanted to explore the mobile home anyway.” Mattsun suggested, and the other man nodded his head again, slower this time, still feeling slightly distressed.

 

As Mattsun set up the camp, Maki slapped his hands over his cheeks in an attempt for his mind to work properly again. He didn’t want to admit it, but he had been terrified when the man from the store came up from behind him and pushed a knife to his neck. He had felt completely paralysed. At some point, he felt like he had been a mere witness, watching the scene from afar. Was that what they called dissociating from your body. Only when Mattsun had given him a look of assurance while talking so calmly to the people that threatened him, had he been able to act. At times, Maki felt as if he were a burden to the other; disposable and replaceable. If it hadn’t been for Mattsun, he wouldn’t even be alive anymore.

 

Maki sat on the cushioned bench that was part of the dining area and located next to the small kitchen counter. The inside of the mobile home was surprisingly roomy, but it didn’t come as that much of surprise, considering the previous owner had a knack for camping and money. Above the driver’s cabin was a double bed as well as at the end of the truck. It even had a small bathroom, and plenty storing spaces. Maki wasn’t so sure about using the shower because neither did he know how well-maintained the water tank was nor did he know what kind of water tank system it had. The dining table could even be transformed to another bed. They had been lucky to stumble across a miniature home. He stood up and as he walked to the exit, his stomach started grumbling loudly. He didn’t realise how hungry he was, and his belly was already hurting from hunger pains. He went outside and watched as Mattsun came back from the woods, carrying woods, twigs and dry leaves to make a campfire.

 

“I would have helped you collect firewood.” Maki stated, giving the other male a hand.

 

“You seemed upset, so I wanted you to get some rest.” Reasoned Issei, and Maki didn’t know what to respond to this because Mattsun was right. He had been quite upset after what had happened.

 

As Mattsun set up the campfire, Maki went inside to get some of the canned food they had gotten from the store, a water bottle and a small pot.

 

“God, I am starving.” The raven-haired man exclaimed when he saw Maki put the things on the sandy ground.

 

“I am starving too. I am getting sick of candy bars.” Groaned the light-haired man, and the raven huffed out a small laugh.

 

As Maki cooked the contents of the can and a pack of instant ramen, Mattsun put up an alarms system, in case someone or something approached the motor home while they were sleeping. The sun had already begun to set, and Issei guessed that it was approximately between 8 and 9 o’clock, taking into consideration that it was mid-June. It had been quite a long day.

 

When they were done eating, they stepped inside the vehicle that they would call their home for the next few days, maybe weeks, depending on how things would go.

 

It was dark outside, and they were laying on the bed that was located above the driver’s cabin, having decided to share a bed because they only had one thin blanket. Maki had his back turned towards him, seemingly asleep.

 

Mattsun knew that it would be wise to get some good night’s rest, but he was still wide-awake, despite his body telling him otherwise. The events of this day, replayed themselves in his head over and over again, haunting him because he had been so scared to lose Maki. His sympathy for the guy who supposedly shot and killed his own brother kept within its limits because they shouldn’t have attacked them in the first place, and they shouldn’t have pointed a gun at the living.

 

“Are you awake?” he heard Maki asking in a small whisper beside him, and Mattsun made a sound of confirmation.

 

“I have been really scared back then, haven’t you?” he asked; his voice small.

 

“I have been scared, too.” Mattsun admitted without hesitation.

 

“You didn’t look scared.” Maki responded, envying the inner calmness the other seemed to posses, even in situations such as the one in the shop. 

 

“I was, though. I was scared that they would hurt you or worse that I would lose you. I hate losing people I care about. I am bad at dealing with losses.” Mattsun whispered back, and it was true: he couldn’t deal with death because it meant that he would never them again.

 

He once had a cat, named Niri, that he had nurtured and taken care of ever since she had been a small kitten. When she died, he was devasted, and even though people told him that it was just a pet cat, it didn’t feel like it was because she had meant so much more to him, despite only having been a pet cat. He couldn’t even imagine the pain he would feel when he were to lose Maki. They hadn’t known each other long, but they got along. Besides, Mattsun had gotten used to Maki’s presence to the extent that he couldn’t imagine him not being there anymore, and frankly, he didn’t want to.

 

“I hate losing the people I care about too.” Maki muttered back, turning around to face the other man.

 

“I really can’t lose you.” Mattsun mumbled, pulling Maki into a tight hug. “I just can’t.” he continued, tightening his grip around his friend. He had just become too attached to him.

 

“I don’t want to lose you either. Let’s look out for each other.” Maki whispered back, returning the embrace, even though he had stiffened at first because of the suddenness.

 

“I won’t let anything happen to you.” The raven-haired man said, closing his eyes and breathing out deeply, and Maki nodded in agreement, burying his face into the others shoulder, looking for comfort. The day had truly worn him out.

Chapter Text

They had been walking through the woods for at least two hours now, without taking a break once, and right after walking through the sewer system. The smell had been horrible, and even though Tooru had tried to breathe through his mouth, he couldn’t control the involuntary retching; the convulsion of the muscle in his throat. He had been so glad that they didn’t have to Kneipp walk through the entire disgusting wastewater of the cities nearby, since there was a path. Still, the moment he stepped out of the sewer he had thrown up into the bush that was closest to him. He felt like his clothes had absorbed the terrible stench. Oikawa was in desperate need of a thorough shower.

“Can we take a break?” the freckled boy asked, and Tooru was relieved that it hadn’t been him who had to ask that question first.

“I am tired too.” The blonde girl muttered, barely audible.

Hajime seemed to be deep in thought, contemplating about whether they should take a small break or keep walking. The raven-haired man was used to trekking several kilometres by foot at once, and so was Kiyoko. The rest on the other hand wasn’t, which was clear because they had gotten slower for a while now. He regarded the boy that he had been carrying ever since they went down the sewer and sighed.

“It’s probably for the best to take a break.” Kiyoko suggested, and Iwaizumi turned his head around to get an overview of the group.

Tooru was already lacking behind and he looked equally exhausted as the two teenagers. The soldier sighed once more, stopping in his tracks, and causing the rest of the group to do the same.

“Let’s take a short break then.” He said, putting the boy down and unstrapping his backpack.

They had stopped at a small open clearing that would have been perfect for setting up a tent to enjoy a camping trip. However, this was no funny and cheerful camping trip they could enjoy, this could be them on display for a possible attack, and them served on a silver platter.

“But not for too long. We still need to find a safe place to spend the night.” Hajime added, looking around cautiously. They were in unknown territory, after all. Anything could happen at time.

The birds were chirping, and a gentle breeze was blowing through the woods, creating a picture of serenity as the rustling of the leaves and the various sounds of cicadas, grasshoppers and the humming and buzzing of the bumblebees and honeybees completed it. The soldier wasn’t even sure whether the rustling was caused by the wind and animals or if it was the dead, roaming around the woods, stepping onto twigs while crawling through the bushes. No matter how peaceful something looked, it could change immediately if they weren’t careful.

Right now, they were exposed and vulnerable to a possible threat; a threat that despite being dead wasn’t so dead after all. Hajime wasn’t sure how much the rest knew, though. All he knew was that the world they had lived in before was no more. Even in the military, they had trouble containing the disease, still in the dark about the cause. The evacuation was a farce because they didn’t even have the capacity to house so many people at once, and they didn’t have enough men and women in their ranks to control a massive crowd that demanded answers; answers they still didn’t have. The reason why Kiyoko and Iwaizumi decided to leave was when they heard that the fourth military evacuation camp was overrun.

“Ah, I am spent!” Tooru sighed, putting his backpack down and practically throwing himself on it. He couldn’t move a muscle anymore, and his knee was causing him problems. He was determined to ignore the pain, though. He had been ignoring and getting used to the pain for years now.

“Don’t get too comfortable.” Hajime spoke, eying the brunette, but Oikawa didn’t react.

“I can’t walk anymore.” Hitoka whined, rubbing her sore legs.

“I’ve never walked this far for so long. Not ever.” Tadashi informed, throwing his head behind to look up the clear blue sky.

Tooru was rummaging through his bag, trying to find something to fill his stomach with because he felt almost famished. He had barely eaten the last few days because the rations sizes weren’t big, and the food had been mediocre at best.

As he was unwrapping the high-calorie chocolate bar, the boy – with whom he had shared a room with – sat down beside him; too close for the brunette’s comfort. That child was creeping him out because he didn’t talk and had taken a liking to him that he hadn’t asked for. Oikawa didn’t even like children in the first place, and now this one was clinging onto him like bubble gum to the sole of a shoe. The boy looked up at him, his blue eyes piercing and innocent. Oikawa wondered whether his mutism was something he was born with and that was caused by physical damage or if a traumatising experience was the culprit.

Now he felt bad for calling him creepy because if the boy had lost his family to the dead, then Tooru could relate because he had lost his family too. It appeared to be a likely scenario, since the child had been alone, even though he was still so young.

“Take it.” Oikawa offered, and the boy hesitantly took the candy bar; his eyes looking grateful. It was probably not the best idea to do this because it gave the child the impression that, from now on, the brunette would be taking care of him, which he would not. Definitely not. No way in hell.

“Do you know his name?” the freckled teen asked, and Tooru frowned, not in the mood for idle chit chat.

“No.” he simply stated, refraining from saying something sarcastic for once, knowing that Hajime would scold him for being rude. Speaking of Iwa-chan. Oikawa’s eyes fell onto the broad shoulders of the man in question, wondering what he was thinking right now. He seemed tense as his eyes scanning the area non-stop.

 

The group had formed a small circle as they rested with Iwaizumi being the only one to keep an eye on their surroundings. As they recharged their energy, the black-haired woman started a friendly conversation with the two teenagers; an attempt to ease their anxiety and to get to know them better.

“What’s your story?” Kiyoko asked the blonde girl, curious about what she had been through so far. They initially hadn’t planned on taking the two teenagers with them, but they had overheard them talking and letting them join them was the best course of action she and Hajime could have taken.

The blonde girl looked at Kiyoko, blushing as she made eye contact with the beautiful ravenette who was giving the blonde’s hand a reassuring squeeze. Then, her eyes suddenly started brimming with tears. Oikawa didn’t want to listen to another sob story, having had his fair share of it already ever since he entered the camp, meeting and sharing a room with people that talked way too much, too loud and too often.

“We…” she paused for a moment, but the raven-haired woman waited patiently for her to continue. “We were at school when it happened.”

“But shouldn’t have all schools been closed?” The brunette interrupted; his eyebrow shooting up at that information.

“Not every school took the same measures.” Freckles answered; Oikawa had already forgotten his name.

“Suddenly students could be heard screaming. At first it was only one person, but then almost everyone was screaming.” She continued, biting harshly down on her bottom lip. “The teachers tried to calm us down and securely lead us to the emergency exits, but when we saw that a student from the class next to ours attacked our teacher and practically bit off his arm, the structure was gone.” Another short pause followed as Hitoka tried to collect herself.

“Students tried to get out of the classrooms at once. Some even tried to jump out the window. Some were pushed out, and others just fell out. Students and teachers had gotten trampled over. First, they had just been lying there on the ground, motionless, but then, they got up as if nothing had happened and attacked other people, biting them and gnawing and feeding on them.” She told them; eyes wide with horror as she remembered what happened roughly two weeks ago.

“I’ve never seen something like this before. I don’t remember much of it anymore, and I don’t even know how I ended up on the roof, but the military had rescued us. After that, we were brought to that camp.” The teenager finished, desperately trying to hold back the tears.

“It’s okay. You can cry. There’s no shame in crying.” The raven-haired woman whispered; her voice soothing and comforting as she brought her into a hug.

“ -am s-sorry.” The girl cried, burring her face into the woman’s chest.

“It’s okay. Everything is going to be alright.” Kiyoko whispered, and Oikawa knew that she only said that to calm her down.

“I don’t want to break your moment, but we should get going. We shouldn’t stay in the same place for too long, especially since Kiyoko and I are probably the only ones who know how to use a knife and a gun properly.” Hajime commented, interrupting the moment of comforting silence.

The group nodded, and Oikawa wanted to feel offended at the comment that he didn’t know how to use a gun or knife, but it was true. He didn’t know how to use a gun because he was a strict gun opposer, and he never thought he would need knife skills. If he had previously known that the world was going to be taken over by the dead and sick, then he would have been more open about learning how to use a knife.

“However,” Iwaizumi started; voice resonating authority, “I want to put up some rules first. Rule number one: Do not under any circumstances split. It is never wise to get separated or separate from the group. No solo moves. Number two: Be aware of your surroundings. Be cautious and careful. Don’t do anything stupid. Use every single one of your senses. Don’t be reckless.” He stated, looking at all of them. “Number three: we’re a group. We move as a group, and we think as a group. There’s no room for selfishness.” He continued, indicating the number of rules with his fingers. “And rule number four: Don’t scream, or at least try not to scream for the entire time that you are running away.” Iwaizumi finished, and the rest of the group nodded in understanding.

“Well th—” Kiyoko started, but she was interrupted by loud screams and gunshots. It sounded as if they were not too far away from them. The sudden noise startled the boy, who had been holding onto Tooru’s hand. He let go of Oikawa’s hand, a small muffled scream leaving his throat as he ran into the woods.

“Hey! WAIT!” The brunette yelled after him. He didn’t think twice about it and ran right after the him.

This seemed to have caused some sort of chain reaction as Tadashi and Hitoka – in a moment of panic –started to sprint off into different directions too, screaming.

Hajime facepalmed himself, massaging his head to soothe the rising headache. He took a deep breath in, then out; a vein popping out of his forehead because of how pissed he was right now.

“I just told them not to separate, not to scream and not to be reckless and stupid…” Iwaizumi counted; his voice dangerously low, almost seething.

“I’ll try catch up to Hitoka and Tadashi.” Kiyoko said, pointing into the direction the two of them ran off to. “You go find Tooru.”

“About four kilometres east is a small pond. Let’s meet there. If one of us isn’t making it there by midnight, both of us will head towards the old military base. You know which base I am talking about.” Hajime added, and the raven-haired woman nodded.

 

 

“WAIT” Oikawa yelled, trying to keep up with the boy, despite the excruciating pain in his knee.

“Hold on! Stop!” he panted, already having trouble breathing. The twigs and leaves that his face was hit with wasn’t making it easier for him and after a while he lost track of the child.

As he fought his way through the nasty and thick undergrowth, he tumbled into a small clearing, stopping there as he picked the leaves and twigs out of his hair.

“There you are!” Tooru spoke, relief flooding his voice. The dark-haired boy was standing in the middle of the clearing, frozen in place, and the brunette frowned at first until he noticed the reason why.

His eyes fell onto the group of zombies that was seemingly enjoying a meal that consisted of a now dead and half-eaten hiker. Tooru didn’t know if it was a hiker or not, the only thing that was apparent was that the pile of torn meat used to be a human being. The three zombies were snacking on the mauled body, and the display of the ripped open and crushed ribcage made Oikawa want to puke his guts out. That was way too much gore for his liking. The ground was soaked in blood, painting the grass different shades of blood red; seeping into the soil. The growling and groaning of the zombies, the breaking of bones and the tearing on skin could be heard. The loud eating and smacking noises filled Tooru with horror. As if that picture alone wasn’t bad enough, his sudden appearance and outcry had gotten the zombies attention.

They stared at Tooru and the boy that were standing in front of them, and at first Oikawa had hoped that they were too immerged in their meal to go after them, but he was dead wrong. All of them at once, let go of the body parts of the corpse, running towards the brunette and the boy.

“EEEEEHHHHHW!” Oikawa squeaked out, lifting the boy up and running into the direction he had just come from.

His knee was hurting. His stamina was almost spent, and he mostly ran on adrenaline now. Leaves, twigs and insects were hitting him in the face, blinding his vision as he started to tear up due to the panic that was rising inside him. All he could concentrate on was the sound of his own footsteps on the uneven and rough ground.

The panic only got worse when he heard the zombies’ movements through the bushes and their growling close in on him. He could practically feel them breath down his neck, even though he knew that it was the boy’s ragged and panicked breathing. His nails painfully dug into Oikawa’s shoulders, and his muscles were getting tired. He had trouble carrying the child’s weight, and his heartbeat was accelerating. He could hear his blood pump through his body and feel his lungs inflate and deflate erratically as they were filled with the fresh air of the woods. He couldn’t breathe. His tears were stinging his eyes, and he couldn’t ease his own panic nor the boy’s.

Still, he was moving forwards, desperately trying not to look behind him as manoeuvred through the woods. The bumpy ground made it difficult though. He turned his head around and saw that all three zombies were still on his tails, undisturbed and undeterred by the uneven terrain.

“AHHH!!! He screamed again when he saw their rotting skin and their glassy dead eyes. At that moment he stumbled over a root that was raking out of the ground.

“Ufff!” he and the boy yelled, and Tooru didn’t even have enough energy left to turn his head around.

He buried his head into the moist, dirty and of dead-leaves-consisting ground, ignoring the desperate attempts of the boy to get him to stand up. He just couldn’t move anymore. The adrenaline was spent. He was in pain. Oikawa just had to braze himself for what was about to happen. Tears were streaming down his face, but he couldn’t scream. He was sobbing silently, biting down onto his lip so hard that it drew blood; He could taste the metal in his mouth. One of his hands was digging into the ground, fingernails scratching on the surface through the dead leaves and dirt.

The birds’ singing, the bumble bees’ buzzing, and the cicadas’ chirping felt comforting right now because if Tooru concentrated enough on that, he was able to drown out the growling of the zombies that were going to tear his body apart. But before they would do that, they would bite into his flesh, tear the skin of the bone and cause him a kind of pain, he couldn’t bring himself to imagine. The brunette was scared. So scared that the only thing he did was to cover his ears and hope that he it would end quickly. He waited for the child to stop crying; waited for him to run away, not hold onto his wrist tightly, so that Tooru could feel the tenderness of his skin on his and the warmth radiating from it. Oikawa just waited for it to be over and for the groaning and loud moaning to stop.

It did suddenly stop, but not the way that he had thought it would. There was no pain, no grabby hands tearing on his body and no teeth penetrating his skin. Just like that, one by one, was their aggravating moaning, groaning and growling drowned out by three very sharp and loud pops, followed by three muffled thuds and accompanied by a voice that he knew all too well.

“What the actual fuck!” Iwaizumi yelled angrily, yet relieved, but Tooru didn’t dare look up.

Iwaizumi picked him up instead, bringing him into a bone-crushing embrace. “Are you okay? Are you stupid? God, what the fuck! Don’t just lie there and give up!” he barked, cradling the brunette in his arms.

Oikawa’s arms wrapped around the other man’s shoulders, clutching and clinging onto them tightly, nails digging into the fabric of Iwaizumi’s uniform.

“Iwa-chan.” The brunette sobbed into the raven-haired man’s shoulder as the comforting smell of Hajime’s skin clouded his senses.

“I am here. It’s okay.” He whispered, in an unnaturally soothing manner.

“Hajime. –am s-so so-sorry.” Tooru mumbled, rubbing his face into the other. He was so glad.

“I am so fucking angry right now, but I won’t yell at you because you scared me. I am glad you’re alright.” Hajime said.

“What’s the point of me making rules when all of you break all of them almost at once.” he muttered; his voice reprimanding. “Don’t ever do this again.”

“I am sorry.” Oikawa breathed out after a while, pushing away from the other male to look him in the eye.

Iwaizumi’s face showed anger, concern and relief, and his scowl wasn’t as prominent than it usually was. Tooru’s eyes were buffy and swollen, and he had a runny nose.

“Let’s get going.” Iwaizumi told them, helping Oikawa get up, supporting him.

“Yeah.” The brunette nodded, not arguing for once. He took the child’s hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

 

 

 

Matsukawa and Hanamaki were on the road again, not staying in one place for long. It had been a week now, and they had already changed places at least 15 times during their travel. Both men still hadn’t decided on a clear destination because they couldn’t think of a place that could be considered safe now. Three days ago, there had been one last radio show, giving a briefing about the current situation that turned out to be far worse than anyone could have expected. During the course of only a few days, entire cities had fallen, and the dead seemed to have completely seized the regions, moving in herds and destroying everything and anything in their wake. At the end of the radio show, the host had been disconnected after several panicked cries and muffled screams could be heard. Mattsun and Maki hadn’t talked for a while after that, not knowing how to take the news. They had already thought something along those lines, but having a new reality slapping you in the face so straight-forwardly and without sending at least one warning letter first was devasting. They couldn’t keep wrecking their minds about it, though. They just had to try and stay alive.

“I see something that you don’t see, and that’s green and large.” Mattsun sing-sang, keeping his eyes on the road.

“Green and large? Can’t you be more creative?” Maki questioned with a raised eyebrow, having an inkling as what the raven-haired man was referring too. Again.

“Green and large could be anything.” Issei laughed.

“I swear if it’s another tree, I am not ever going to play that game with you again.” Takahiro grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest.

“It’s not a tree.” Assured the black-haired male, smiling at his friend who narrowed his eyes in suspicion.

“It’s the grass on the fields.” The light-haired man stated, rolling his eyes.

“Maybe green and large was a bad idea.” Admitted Mattsun, and the other man sighed, shaking his head slightly. “Don’t give me that look. It’s not like we come across anything else.” The raven defended himself, pinching Maki’s cheek.

“It’s my turn.” Said Takahiro, swatting the other’s hand away. “I see something that you can’t see and that’s PEOPLE!!!” Maki suddenly squeaked out; voice high-pitched and panicked.

“What’s that supposed to mean.” Issei asked confused.

“PEOPLE! ON THE ROAD! WATCH OUT!” Maki screamed, pointing on the road, already bracing himself for a possible crash.

“OH SHIT!!!” Mattsun yelled, pushing his foot onto the breaks with so much force, he could feel the pressure in his leg. The tires squeaked, and the raven held onto the wheel; fingers clutched around it tightly, keeping it straight. The vehicle came to an abrupt and curt halt; the impact of the sudden change in velocity, throwing them forward harshly, though their seat belts kept them securely in place. Mattsun opened his eyes and the feeling of dread that spread through his body left a sour and bitter taste in his mouth. It felt suffocating and surreal, and he intently hoped that he did not just run over people.