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.”