Esther Velez

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Review: Allegiant

 

By Jessica allegiant coverVelez

*Spoiler Alert*

In order for me to review this, I”m going into detail at some points.

Allegiant is the third book in the Divergent trilogy, preceded by Divergent and Insurgent, written by Veronica Roth.  I”ll start with a little background about the other two books.

Beatrice Prior lives in a world divided into factions based on personality types and values:  Abnegation, Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, and Amity.  Beatrice grew up in the Abnegation sector, where selflessness is the defining trait.  Upon turning 16, every child must take a test to determines if they should stay in their faction or transfer to another.  Beatrice tests come back as inconclusive (or as Divergent) and she decides to transfer to the Dauntless faction. Continue reading

The Watchtower S2: Episode 1

The Watchtower is a serial novel about zombies.
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EPISODE ONE

The gentle rays of first light stroked the grey morning sky.

It was the dawn of a new day.

Jamison stepped out of the Main Office and into the quiet of Goulds Point. It was still too early for panic, but Jamison knew that before long, the community would want answers.

And he was afraid he wouldn’t have any to give them.

The government had barricaded the entrance to their community several hours ago, mentioning a dangerous virus that was spreading throughout South Florida. His community, Goulds Point, was one of the few safe zones, and the government wanted to protect them. But that was the only information they had.

Questions stumped him: Why was this happening? How long would it last? And questions haunted him: How do we know that we are safe? What do we do if we aren’t?

He could not answer them, and for a moment, he wondered why he should. Why should he be the one with the information? Why should he be the one the community turned to for direction?

Because you volunteered.

It was true. When the leaders of the community gathered and called to vote for a single leader, he had raised his hand.

“I nominate myself.”

And he had won. Three of the four saw him as their only hope. The fate of their entire community was now in his capable hands.

Now, he wished he hadn’t raised them. He wished he hadn’t won. His children still weren’t back from outside the quarantine, and now that he had authority—no, responsibility—he couldn’t leave to find them. He couldn’t bring them back to the only safe place he knew, because if he left, it wouldn’t be safe any longer.

***

Toby eased the car onto the side of the road. He glanced at Lyn through the rear view mirror. She was staring straight ahead, trying to get a look at the road in front of them. He smiled slightly. Lyn had been through a lot the past few hours. He was surprised that she was still holding up.

“Is it safe to assume that we’re here?” Miller readjusted the seatbelt strap against his neck. Toby hadn’t even bothered. If what Miller said was true, and there were creatures that even vaguely resembled zombies, then wearing a seatbelt was the least of his worries.

Toby turned around in his seat to face his wife. “Is this the place?”

Without looking at him, she shook her head. “Soren lives a few streets over.”

“Hey, can we walk the rest of the way?” Lincoln shifted in his seat. “I don’t want to spend any more time in this car.”

Lyn let out a short laugh. “You’ve been sitting in here for all of twenty minutes.”

“Well, that’s twenty minutes too many.” Lincoln looked at Toby again. “Can we please walk the rest of the way?”

Miller cleared his throat. “Why don’t you go on ahead?”

“Are you sure?” Toby asked. If what Miller had said earlier was true, then walking around Homestead on foot might not be the wisest thing.

“Let Lincoln stretch his legs,” Miller continued, taking off his seatbelt. “I know the address, so we’ll just meet you there.”

Although he wasn’t sure if it was a good plan, Toby knew that they needed to get going. And since they were doing this for Lincoln more than anyone else, it might be best to walk a few minutes to get there.

“All right, then, let’s go.”

***

Jace reached for the window beside him.

“Well, if we’re going to get a move on, we should open up some windows. We need some ventilation in here. Once we finish that, we’ll be on our way.”

They’d been stuck on the side of the road for long enough, waiting for the traffic to clear up. Jace had decided to take some time to clean up her wound, after declaring that it wasn’t serious enough to kill her.

It was a good thing he was a doctor before all this started.

She turned to face the window closest to her and stopped. She thought she saw a dark shape moving near the bus. The sun was just starting to come up, but her visibility was still very limited, so she couldn’t be sure.

It was probably just a tree.

She wedged her fingers in the metal latch and pulled the window down.

“Well, it looks like we’re all done.” Jace was standing in the row behind her. He’d finished all but three windows in less than a few minutes.

Always a damsel in distress, needing to be rescued, Rosemarie chided. She hated being in need. But ever since her car had gotten stranded on the US-1, she’d been in need of rescuing. She was used to being the one doing the rescuing, whether it had been at work, or even at home with Lincoln. Being in a different position unnerved her.

Rosemarie watched as Jace returned to the driver’s seat.

“Why are you doing this, Jace?” She asked. “You don’t even know who I am. And you probably have family that you want to be sure is safe as well. Why are you helping me?”

Jace turned the ignition, firing up the noisy school bus engine. He turned his head slightly.

“I don’t have any family in Florida,” he said, his voice raised above the noise. “I said I would take you back to yours, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

***

“It looks like we’re here.”

Lincoln counted up the windows and tried to imagine what it looked like inside. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms. A spacious front yard. Soren lived alone in a house that could’ve sold to a young family.

“He lives here by himself?” Toby asked, moving for the front door.

Maybe he’s planning on marrying Rosemarie and living here with her, Lincoln thought.

Whatever the case, they had arrived. A small car sitting in the driveway and a few lights visible inside indicated that someone was home.

Toby stopped walking.

“Didn’t Rosemarie drive up here?” He asked. “Why isn’t her car in the driveway?”

“I don’t know Toby,” Lincoln said. “Maybe they met up somewhere and she drove back alone.”

“Why would they do something like that?” Lyn asked. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“You want to know what doesn’t make any sense?” Lincoln replied. “Zombies, okay? Zombies don’t make any sense. But according to Miller and the government, they’re real and they’re in this area. So unless you want to stay out here long enough to turn into one, I suggest we knock on that door and get my sister back.”

***

“It’s happening again.” Emmy sat across from him at the table, head in her hands, sobbing. He reached for her hand, but she wouldn’t let him hold her.

“Emmy, what’s wrong?”

She lifted her head long enough to look at him puffy red eyes. “The children are gone again. And it’s all my fault. This is God’s punishment for what I’ve done.”

Jamison caught her hands. Earlier this morning, he had been sitting where she now sat and she had given him words of encouragement. Now, it was his turn.

“Don’t you ever say that, Emmy. You’ve been forgiven for what you’ve done. God has forgiven you. I have forgiven you.”

But she wouldn’t accept it. Her eyes grew hollow and she looked through him. “I should never have run to him. He wasn’t what he said he was, Jamison. He said he would leave his wife for me, but he never did.”

“Emmy…” When she talked like this, he wondered if she had ever wanted to come back to him. Was it only because she had been so hurt by this man that she’d returned?

His phone began to ring. It always seemed to ring at the wrong time.

“Hello?” He asked, turning away from his wife.

“Jamison, we’ve got trouble.”

It was Trace, his only ally among the other leaders.

“What’s going on?”

“There’s commotion at the main gate.”

Jamison glanced at Emmy. “Can’t the government take care of that?”

“That’s just it, Jamison. The government’s the one causing the commotion.”

“I’ll be right outside.”

He closed his phone and reached for Emmy’s hand.

“I have to go, Emmy.”

She didn’t seem to hear him.

Jamison stood up and pulled her into a hug. “I will be back soon.”

Still, she stared off into the distance, unable to hear him.

He would have to deal with her later.

***

“All right, Lincoln, there’s no need to get excited. I was just asking a question.” Toby placed a hand on his shoulder. “Do you want to lead the way?”

Lincoln didn’t need him to ask twice. As he worked his way up the driveway, he saw Miller turning around the corner. If that man hadn’t crashed into the side of Lighthouse Church, they never would have gotten here in the first place.

Thank God for miracles.

Well, he would thank God. If he believed in him.

He reached for the doorbell and pushed it.

A man’s voice called out from inside that he was on his way. Toby and Lyn came up behind him.

“Someone’s coming,” Lincoln told them.

“Miller said he would wait for us in the car,” Toby said. “Once we get Rosemarie, he said he’d drive us back home.”

“You know they aren’t going to let us back in, right?” Lyn said. “We’ve been gone for too long. They’ve probably already closed the quarantine.”

“Well, we’re still going to try,” Toby replied.

This boyfriend of Rosemarie’s was taking too long to come to the door.

What was his name again?

The door opened quickly, and a young man stood on the other side. He was a bit taller than Lincoln, but his hair was a mess. He looked like he hadn’t slept in at least a few days, and his skin was pale. Whoever this was, he was in pretty bad condition.

“Hello?” The man asked. “Can I help you?”

“Yes, my name is Lincoln Valera. I believe you know my sister, Rosemarie?”

The man smiled. “Of course I know her. Rosemarie’s my girlfriend.” He extended his hand. “My name is Soren. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Lincoln.” The man looked behind him. “And this must be your sister, Lyn, and her husband.” He reached out to shake their hands, but Lincoln stopped him.

“Soren, I know this must be very interesting for you, but where is Rosemarie?”

“I was going to ask you the same question,” Soren replied. “She called me a few hours ago saying that she wanted to stop by, but she never arrived.”

“She never arrived?” Lincoln didn’t know what to think. This was supposed to be it. She was supposed to be here. If not here with Soren, then where on Earth could she possibly be?

“I’m sorry, man, but she’s not here. I’ve been trying to call her, but she won’t pick up.” Soren pushed his door open wider. “Would you like to come inside?”

“What for? She’s not in there.”

Soren looked at Lincoln for a long time before replying. “Are you really giving up on Rosemarie? How many times did she give up on you, Lincoln?”

“He’s right, Lincoln,” Toby said. “Let’s go inside, regroup, figure out a plan to find her.”

Lincoln nodded slowly. This wasn’t going how he thought it’d go. Rosemarie was supposed to be here. But now that she wasn’t, they had to do something. He couldn’t just go back home and leave her out here in the world. She’d never do that to him.

Toby patted him on the shoulder. He turned to Soren. “We’ve got some friends outside. I’ll tell them to join us in here. Then, we’ll talk about how we’re going to find Rosemarie.”

“That sounds like an excellent plan.” Soren stepped back into his house, gesturing for Lincoln and Lyn to follow.

Soren’s house was exactly as Lincoln predicted. Large living room in the center, two rooms off to one side, the master a little further down. A spacious kitchen to the other side.

“Why such a huge house?” He asked. Soren laughed and directed him to the table in the dining room area.

“Well, I plan on marrying your sister one of these days,” he began, “and I wanted to have something nice to start our new life together.”

I knew it!

“Does she know anything about this?” Lyn asked.

Soren looked away. “We’ve talked about it a bit before. She says that she’ll be ready soon.”

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about you,” Lincoln said as he took a seat. “How about I hear some of the not-so-good things.”

“What are you talking about?” Soren sat across from him. “I’m not a bad guy, Lincoln. I don’t have anything to hide.”

“Everybody’s got something to hide, Soren.” Lincoln leaned forward. “I just want to know yours.”

The front door opened, drawing their attention to Toby coming through it. Miller followed closely behind, but stopped when he came into view. The man’s face froze and his eyes widened.

“Miller? Are you all right?”

The man took a step forward.

“Steven? Is that you?”

Lincoln turned to face Rosemarie’s boyfriend, who looked about as shocked as Miller.

“Father? What are you doing here?”

Lincoln crossed his arms.

“Well, what do you know. Looks like you had something to hide after all.”

The Watchtower: Episode 15

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EPISODE FIFTEEN: The Truth

Toby pounded on the door, causing Lincoln to jump. He looked out the window at his slightly frustrated brother-in-law. He opened the door slowly.

“Hey, Toby, I was—”

“Lincoln, I need you back inside. Who knows what other crazies are going to show up.”

“I’m not going back in there, Toby,” he said, looking at the steering wheel. “I’m going to use this car, and I’m going to find Rosemarie on my own.”

“What are you talking about?” Toby put his hand on his arm. “Lincoln, I said I was going to help you find your sister. Don’t you trust that I’ll do whatever I can to find her?”

“No, Toby, I don’t!” It felt good to shout, but he knew that Toby didn’t really deserve it. He lowered his voice. “You were content with staying the night here, putting more time and distance between us and Rosemarie.” He gave Toby a fierce look. “But I need to find my sister now. I cannot wait until morning.”

Toby sighed and looked away. Lincoln almost imagined him taking on the same posture and tone when dealing with Lyn. It bothered him to think that, in this moment, he was acting about as stubborn as his oldest sister.

“Lincoln, I want to find Rosemarie, too. She’s the glue that’s holding this family together, even if it doesn’t seem like it.” He paused and exhaled loudly. “Let’s get back inside, clear this thing up with Brian —”

“But, Toby —”

“And then, we’ll use this car to drive down to Homestead and find your sister.”

The smile that Toby gave him was genuine, and did not contain even an ounce of the fear and uncertainty he felt in his own heart.

***

They had been driving for almost half an hour before she woke up. A digital clock on the dashboard shined brightly, the only real light on the bus. Rosemarie could not explain her sudden blackout, but she’d awoken feeling refreshed.

As refreshed as you can feel after almost getting strangled to death by a zombie.

The thought was about as disturbing as the actual event had been.

“You’re awake.” Jace glanced at her from his seat. Rosemarie forced a smile and stood next to him.

“Thank you,” she said. “For saving me.” It was the most she could give. Rosemarie didn’t even know who this guy was, and, yet, he’d saved her life twice, not just here on the bus, but also by getting her out of that church when those creatures first appeared.

He nodded. “All in a days work.

Rosemarie looked at the road in front of them, illuminated by the bus’s powerful headlights. Abandoned cars lined the shoulders, and some people were running around, stealing random cars they thought were better than their own. Other people were sitting on the side of the road, talking on their phones, trying to make sense of what was going on.

“This is a mess.”

“Tell me about it.” Jace sighed, keeping his eyes on the road. “They wouldn’t tell us what was going on, back there. They just told us that there was a sickness, and certain places in the city were contaminated, and we were.” In his eyes, Rosemarie could see him recalling the creature on the bus. He didn’t look frightened, though. More confused, than anything else. “They didn’t tell us it was anything like this.”

“And this wasn’t the first time I’d seen them, either.” Rosemarie looked down at herself. Her clothing was dirty from her kidnapping, but there was also some of the dark liquid she’d seen on Jace. It appeared that he’d cleaned it off since then, and had ditched the lab coat. “How did you kill it?” She ventured, not sure if this was something he wanted to talk about.

“I didn’t kill it,” he said, after a moment of silence.

Rosemarie waited for an explanation. When it didn’t come, she prodded.

“You didn’t kill it?”

Jace swallowed. “I was hitting it on the head, over and over, and it was getting hurt.” He beat his palm against the steering wheel as he spoke. Rosemarie could feel some of those palms slipping and hitting her in the face. She winced as she recalled the pain.

“But it wouldn’t die,” said Jace, shaking his head. “After a few hits, and once I started drawing some kind of blood, it ran away.”

“It ran away?” Rosemarie was confused. “You mean, it didn’t just want to kill us? It cared about not dying?”

“That’s one way to put it,” said Jace, exhaling softly. “Whatever that thing was, it had enough sense in its mind to know that if it kept choking you, it was going to die.”

Rosemarie turned back to her seat and was about to sit down when she noticed a dark red stain on the seat next to her, where she’d collapsed. She knew it wasn’t from the creature — whatever had come out of it had been black and was much thicker. It had to have come from either herself or Jace. She began to check herself for wounds — and found one. The back of her head had been cut, and had started to congeal into a thick mass of sticky, red blood. That was why she had passed out earlier.

She was losing blood.

***

This is insane. A man slams his car into the side of the church, nearly killing all of us, and we just let him sit with us like he did nothing wrong? What is wrong with these people?

Lyn watched as the bearded man, covered in blood, sat in the rocking chair Brian had dominated all evening, eating a granola bar. They all sat around him, waiting for him to talk. She leaned against her husband.

“Why do we care about this man? He nearly killed us five minutes ago.”

Her husband smiled and shook his head. “It was at least a half an hour ago. And we need to know why he would do something like this. If he’s a danger to himself or others —”

“Oh, I’m pretty sure we know the answer to that one.”

Their conversation grew quiet.

The man swallowed the last piece of granola bar and pocketed the package. “Thank you for the food.”

“You are most welcome,” Brian said, patting the man on the shoulder. “Are you up to telling us why you crashed your car into the side of this building?”

The man frowned and wiped his eyes, spreading streaks of red over his face. “This is Lighthouse Church, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Well, then, that’s why I had to do it!” He pounded the armrest of the wooden chair. “The Lighthouse people are nothing but trouble. They don’t care about anything other than appearance. They put on a good show every week, but inside, they are rotten.” He pointed to the door leading into the rest of the church. “They don’t care about doing God’s work. They only care about building themselves up, fattening their pockets.”

“Sir, I used to be an Elder with this church, and I can understand your anger toward the church.” Brian leaned closer to the man. “But what would prompt you to drive a car into the side of the building? Isn’t that a bit extreme?”

The man laughed. “What are you talking about, extreme? This entire church needs to be destroyed, then rebuilt from the bottom to the top. Only then will anything change.”

Lyn looked at Brian. “Sounds a lot like you.” When he shook his head at her, she laughed. “What, you weren’t saying the exact same thing earlier this evening? This guy sounds so much like you, he could be your long lost son.”

That got everyone’s attention. She felt guilty for a moment, but that was quickly covered by curiosity. “Whatever happened to your son, Brian?”

The Elder grew very quiet and wouldn’t hold her eye. “I don’t want to discuss that right now.”

“Well, then, I guess we’re done here.” Lyn stormed out of the building. Toby had informed her of their plan of escape earlier, and she was ready to go. They didn’t need to hear any more stories of church politics and drama. She stayed away from church for a reason.

She grabbed some things from her husband’s car and transferred them into the truck. For a split second, she thought she saw the little girl from the school again, and she nearly lost her mind.

Why is she following me? Why doesn’t she leave me alone?

The voice was followed by another one she’d become all too familiar with.

What, like the way you left her? You knew she was dying, and you just left her!

Lyn did not pay much attention to her husband and brother coming out of the building and entering the car. She did not notice the Millers and Katie join them, carrying large backpacks and a few bottles of water.

The only thing she could think of was the fact that of all the things anyone could say about her, that she was stubborn, inconsiderate, ill-tempered and rude, the only thing that mattered — the fact that she was a murderer — no one would ever know.

End of Season One

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The Watchtower: Episode 14

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EPISODE FOURTEEN: Attack!

The first creature pushed its face against the kitchen door, its flesh turning gray right before her eyes. Rosemarie stifled a scream and rushed away from where they were standing.

Jace immediately turned around and took in the creature.

“That’s one of them!” Rosemarie shouted, trying to put as much distance between herself and the creature as she could. Jace made a dash for her and pulled her to the door beside the kitchen.

“No, no, I can’t go over there!” She tried pulling away from him but he was much stronger.

“We’re going to the bus now,” he said, not looking back at her. Despite her struggling, he managed to get her through the door and onto the bus.

“What about everyone else?” Rosemarie asked when he boarded the bus behind her. He gave her a look.

“Did you see the same thing that I saw? It was in the kitchen, Rosemarie. Do you know how much food we’ve been feeding these people? Thank God I haven’t eaten any food in days.” Jace felt for the keys in his lab coat and started the engine of the long, yellow school bus. “Who knows how many people are infected in there.” He pointed to the first row of seats by the door. “Why don’t you take a seat, Rosemarie? We’re getting out of here.”

More screams from inside the church forced her onto a seat. Rosemarie never thought she’d see one of those creatures ever again. But, if she was honest, she was glad she had seen it with someone else. What with the way the police talked on the phone, it seemed as though she had made the creatures up, or her kidnappers had put her on some drugs that were starting to wear off. Now that Jace had seen it as well, as sick as it sounded, she knew that this really was happening.

“Are you going to be able to drive through the streets like this?” Rosemarie asked. She hadn’t thought of it before, but the streets were crowded with people, and now that this was happening in the church, more people were probably going to flood it soon, just to escape whatever “it” was.

Or they would die.

The severity of it all was hitting Rosemarie hard.

What is all this, God? What is going on here?

“This vehicle is enormous,” said Jace, making eye contact with her through the large rear view mirror. “If there are any people on the street, they are going to be parting around us like the Red Sea…”

He jumped up from his seat. “Rosemarie keep your head down!”

But she couldn’t keep her head down.

Someone had grabbed her from behind and was beginning to strangle her.

***

Lyn was covered in dust. The wall had crumbled under the weight of the crash, and had sent whole chunks flying across the room. Thankfully, the cribs lined against the room had absorbed most of the debris, leaving trails of brick dust to cloud their vision and stain their clothing. She stood up and reached for her husband, who was also reaching for her. He helped her keep her balance.

“What just happened, Toby?”

He didn’t answer.

“All right, everyone move away from the wall!” Brian shouted, lifting his weapon and making for the nursery door. He pointed to Toby and Lincoln. “I need the two of you to come with me. We’re going to check out what this is.” As Brian turned to hug his wife, Lyn pulled on Toby’s arm.

“Toby —”

“It’s going to be fine,” said Toby, his calm voice indicating that he was, indeed, very much afraid. She’d learned a few things about Toby, and one of the most confusing was his sense of calm when he himself was most frightened. But, at the very least, she knew that despite the fear, he would be able to rationally make a wise decision. She let him embrace her and made her way over to the Elder’s wife, son, and the little girl they’d saved.

“It sounded like a car.” Lyn sat on the ground next to the boy, who was sulking. “Did they not let you go?” Lyn asked, nodding in the direction of the crash.

The boy clenched his fist. “They never let me do anything,” he said through his teeth. “Ever since my brother left, they’ve never let me do anything!”

“That’s enough, Seth,” the boy’s mother said, putting her hand on his shoulder. “Your father and I are acting for your protection. Going out there is not the best thing for you right now. Please, understand that we do this for your own good.”

“Well, it didn’t do anything to stop him from leaving, did it?” The boy mumbled under his breath, and Lyn was sure she was the only one who had heard it.

Him? There was more to this family than she realized, and not just an additional family member. Beneath their little facade of happiness and ideals, there was something dark hidden, and Lyn was satisfied. If even the good looking families were messed up, that meant all their family drama was, at the very least, a sign that they weren’t all that abnormal.

You are terrible, Lyn. Did you know that?

***

The car was a dark green Ford Expedition, probably a few years old. It seemed very well taken care of, other than the fact that the hood was smashed into the side of the church building. Lincoln followed closely behind his brother-in-law and the elder, wondering who, in their right mind, would crash into a church.

Well, they might not have known it was a church. It could’ve been an accident. They could have been drunk. There’s a whole lot of reasons that might explain this thing away.

Brian held up his hand, and they stopped moving. He pointed to the driver’s side.

“Lincoln, you stay with me on this side. Toby, go around to the passenger’s side, in case he tries to make a break from there.”

Toby moved without a word.

“Open your door!” Brian shouted, moving closer to the vehicle. He reached for the handle and pulled on it, but it wouldn’t budge. “Unlock the door, son.”

A loud grunt came from inside the vehicle.

“This side is open!” Toby called out. Lincoln heard him open the door, then grow silent. “He’s hurt bad.”

“Unlock those doors, and let’s get him out of there,” Brian replied, lowering his gun. The automatic locks reversed themselves and Brian pulled open the door.

A middle aged, bearded man tumbled out, blood streaming from his face. The air bag had done its job of saving his life, but had left him in bad shape. Lincoln examined the car while Brian and Toby hauled the man away from it. Other than the hood, this car was in pretty good shape. He sat inside, pushing aside the deflated air bag, and turned off the ignition.

“Lincoln, why don’t you try getting that car out of there?” Brian said, before they disappeared in the nursery with the man.

“All right.” He turned on the car again and put it in reverse. After a few tries, he managed to wedge the car out from the wall and parked it near their own car.

It hit him right then and there. Even if it had a few scratches on it, this car was still fully functional, and powerful. He could just start driving to Homestead and search for Rosemarie himself. He didn’t have to wait until Toby came up with a plan. He could do this for himself.

Lincoln turned on the car’s ignition.

I’m going to find you, sister.

 ***

She didn’t have time to scream. Rosemarie tried to pull the arms away from her neck to no avail. Her fingers clawed at graying flesh and she froze. There was a creature on the bus. And it was attacking her. Why was she always attracting them? Why had she, in the past two hours seen at least three of them? All those thoughts found a place in her mind as Jace ran over to her. She struggled to find a breath as Jace began to hit the creature over the top of the head with his bare hands. Twice he slipped and smacked her in the face, but when the creature let go of its grip, she forgot all about it.

Rosemarie fell onto the seat next to her, choking and gasping for air. She barely noticed Jace dragging the decaying body to the door and tossing it out. She closed her eyes and heard him walking up and down the aisles, checking for any other stowaways.

Oh, God, save me, please!

Rosemarie felt his hand on her back. The gesture took her back in her memories, when she had fallen off her back at seven years old, and her father had helped her up. He had left his comforting hand on her back, and she had leaned on it to regain her balance after the spill.

“Are you okay?”

“I…” She opened her eyes, pulling herself from the memory. Jace was a mess. His face and lab coat were splattered with thick black liquid, and his hair was disheveled. He was breathing about as heavy as her, trying to gather himself after —

“Did you kill it?” Rosemarie managed.

There was a pause.

“It’s gone.”

That was all Jace would say. He stood up and returned to the driver’s seat. “We have to get moving.”

Rosemarie closed her eyes again. This was all too much excitement for one day. Even though she had managed to get most of her breath back, she felt herself slipping into darkness. For the first time in her life, she welcomed it.

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The Watchtower: Episode 13

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EPISODE THIRTEEN: No Perfect People

“You’ll have to forgive the mess,” Brian said, leading them through the door on the side of the church building. “We haven’t had much time to tidy things up since they forced us in here.”

Lincoln shuffled into the tiny space behind his sister and her husband. The room was dark, and filled with…cribs?

“What is this place?” No one seemed to hear him.

A woman and what appeared to be a twelve year old boy came forward.

“Brian, who are these people?” She glanced at them with suspicion, but her eyes softened when she saw the little girl. “Katie? Is that you?”

“I’m sorry, Julie, they need some shelter for the night.” He reached for the boy and turned to them. “This, my friends, is my son, Sean, and my wife, Julie.”

She greeted them with a small smile and quickly attended to the little girl, pulling her over to another door on the other side of the room.

“Well, make yourself at home,” Brian said, collapsing onto a dirty, beige rocking chair. “It’s going to be a long night.”

Lincoln crossed his arms. “What is this place?” He ignored Lyn’s fierce look and waited for Brian to answer him.

“This used to be a nursery,” the elder said, “before they kicked us out and forced us to stay here.”

“So they kicked you out, but forced you to stay here?” Lincoln reached for his brother-in-law’s arm. “This doesn’t sound right, Toby.” He could see that Toby was also a little confused.

“Brian, what’s going on here?”

“It’s what I told you,” replied Brian. “Lighthouse Church has never liked me, and they especially don’t like my big mouth.” He paused and looked at Julie, as though asking for permission to continue sharing the story. Lincoln sighed. Married people and the silly things they do. Like they actually care what each other has to say.

“When this whole thing hit, I was one of the only ones that wanted to do something about it. I wanted to transform this place into a shelter, or maybe even a hospital for people who were injured or hurt by this.”

“We’ve seen some of the grounds,” Toby said, nodding. “You have another building back there. You could’ve done it.”

“But they wanted to hide away in there,” Brian said, gesturing toward the rest of the building. “They wanted to hide away in there, where they think they’ll be safe, and where they can kick little girls like Katie out if they so much as sneeze.”

Lincoln looked over at the little girl, who was sitting on the lap of Brian’s wife, eating some crackers. Tears had dried on her cheeks, and she stared at Lincoln with wide, expressionless eyes. He quickly looked away. The scene had reminded him of a time when he’d lost a soccer game in elementary school, and his mother had scooped up his crying self in her arms, carrying him to the car. He’d been trying to eat some chips at the same time, hoping that the taste would wash away the pain of the loss. That was when he first learned that food never solved any problems. He’d have to turn other things to numb the pain.

What pain, Link? You don’t feel any pain, remember? No regrets.

“So what have you been doing in the meantime?” Toby asked. “It’s only been a couple of hours since this whole thing surfaced.”

Brian and Julie exchanged a glance, and the look in their eyes put a spot of fear in Lincoln’s heart. He swallowed as Brian began to answer.

“Son, this has been going on for at least a week.”

A week?” Lincoln felt the words come out, but didn’t hear them.

“They’ve been keeping the Homestead and some sections of the Redland area under quarantine,” Brian continued. “That’s why when you said you were looking for someone down in Homestead…your sister would never have made it to Homestead. They wouldn’t have let her in.”

Lincoln felt the weight of Brian’s statement, and refused to hold on to it. “That’s ridiculous,” he shouted, startling everyone. Brian stood to his feet, hands extended.

“Now, son, you need to stay calm.”

“What I need to do is find my sister,” Lincoln spat back. He grabbed Toby’s arm. “Listen, I appreciate all you’ve done to get us this far, but I can’t just sit here while Rosemarie is out who knows where.”

“Lincoln —”

“No, Toby, listen to me!” Lincoln cut him off with a growl. “I need to find my sister, and you can help me search for her or not. I don’t care. But I am getting out of here. And there’s nothing you can do to stop me.” He pushed Toby away from him, looking the older man directly in the eyes, daring him to a challenge.

“I think the theatrics are nice,” Brian said, standing up, “but I have to disagree with you.” The elder lifted his weapon and pointed the barrel in Lincoln’s direction. “You aren’t going anywhere, my friend.”

***

“So you think threatening me with a gun is going to keep me inside? What do you care if I die out there, or here?” Lincoln huffed from the corner they’d forced him into. He felt the little girl staring at him from the woman’s lap, but he ignored her. Instead, he focused on sneering at Brian and his gun.

“I am not a fool. I am not willing to sacrifice yet another life because I was unwilling to act. To protect.” He settled back into his rocking chair, gun still trained on Lincoln.

“Think about it, Lincoln,” said Toby, coming over to his side. “Who knows what kinds of creatures are roaming out there, especially since this entire area was quarantined a whole week before any of us even knew anything was wrong.” Toby paused. “Brian, how many did you say you saw out here?”

“Zombies?” The elder glanced at his wife. “How many zombies have we seen, Julie?”

His wife shook her head. “Sean?” She looked down at her son, who had sat quietly next to his father’s rocking chair ever since their arrival. The boy immediately perked up, however, at the prospect of having something to add to the conversation. Lincoln frowned. He remembered that feeling all too well. He was the last in a long line of children and adults, always the kid, never allowed in the adult business. Well. He’d done a fine job of acclimating to the adult business. If that business meant fighting and anger and never getting along with anyone.

“There have been twenty-two sightings, not including the seven that you shot and killed, Daddy,” the boy said with a small smile, as though he was uncomfortable with the sudden spotlight.

“That’s almost thirty zombies that have been seen around here.” Toby shook his head as he did the math in his mind. He put his arm around Lyn, who had also been sitting silently the entire time. Her face was still very pale, and she was still very shaken up over what she’d seen in that school.

Lincoln didn’t care that she felt bad about what she did. It was about time that caught up to her. How can you live without any guilt after doing something like that?

“So you killed zombies?” Lyn asked, breaking her silence. “Weren’t they people? Are you fine killing other people?”

“No.” Brian shook his head, lowering his gun. “I don’t kill other people. Once those things turn, they aren’t people anymore. They’re monsters, and they don’t care about anything other than themselves.” He looked at his wife and the little girl sitting on her lap. “Kinda like the Lighthouse folks. They only care about keeping themselves nice and healthy, not caring that there’s dozens of people out there that just need some shelter, folks like you who are stranded or searching, and just need something more than the nothing that this world has to offer.”

“Why did the people from your church kick you out, then force you to stay?” Lincoln asked. It’d been bothering him since he first heard Brian say it. “If you want to leave, and they want you to leave, why don’t you just get out of here?”

“Because it’s safe here,” Julie said softly. She looked at him with tired eyes, like a mother who had been kept awake all night by a sick child. “We don’t have the necessary materials or provisions to strike out on our own.”

“But that doesn’t mean they are keeping you here,” Toby cut in, joining the conversation. “It means you don’t have what you need to travel safely out of here.”

Brian sighed. “Lighthouse Church was supposed to give us some provisions for our journey, but they have yet to deliver. Until we have what we need, either from them, or acquiring it for ourselves, we are not going anywhere.”

“How do things like this happen?” Lincoln asked. “How do churches that are supposed to be all about God turn into places that will throw a little kid into the street because she might be sick?”

“They happen slowly,” Julie replied. “They happen with one mistake here, another mistake there, little by little until they’ve grown into something you can’t change even if you wanted to. It started in the leadership and worked its way down into every single other ministry.”

Lincoln frowned. If this had once been Christ Fellowship Redland, then he’d been here, right before the transition. Although things were pretty decent at the time, he remembered feeling like something was changing. “Was the church cut, or did it break itself off?”

“That’s a strange question, Lincoln,” said Brian, giving him a look. “I don’t feel comfortable discussing the particulars of the church split, but I can confidently say that what happened then needs to happen now. This place needs to be destroyed and rebuilt, from the bottom up. That’s the only way anything can ever change.”

“This is why I don’t go to church,” Lincoln mumbled. “There’s too much drama involved.”

The room grew silent. Lincoln watched everyone settling in for the night. Brian gave his son a hug and patted him on the head. He looked over at Julie, who was still holding the little girl, making small, distracting conversation. To his left, Toby was sitting on the ground next to Lyn, holding her, hoping that she might actually tell him what was wrong. Lincoln closed his eyes. He was, for the first time in his life, actually alone.

No, there’d been one other time. And, when it’d happened, Rosemarie had been there to save him.

Where are you now, Rosemarie? I need you to save me.

The sound of the car crashing into the nursery wall interrupted his thoughts.

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