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“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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