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  • ramblingreader3

Deadly Search

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

Arnold: Breakout


He was solitary in his confinement though it wasn't mandatory. He had yet to speak to one person in the third year of his five year sentence. He never fought or spoke out about the injustice that his fellow inmates had all come to call normal. When he wasn't required to be somewhere serving his time by completing the mundane tasks that were required of him, he would sit and read. Reminiscing of the days at his favourite bookstore with his vanilla latte and cranberry scone. He had become one hell of a biblioklept in the last few years of his freedom. He had a large and extensive library of rare and classic novels. His secret pride and joy. He would sit quietly reading in his garden on good days. However, there weren't many choices in the prisons roster so he made do with what little selection was available to him. He had re-read the Sherlock Homes collection four times since it had been the only collection here that could be considered ‘classic’. He had two years left and then according to the law he would be rehabilitated. His lip pulled up when he thought about it, ‘idiots' he would think. Nothing would ever ‘fix' him. He was broken and there was nothing anyone was ever going to do about it. If they knew half of what he had actually been guilty of he would never be leaving this prison alive. The buzzer went off and he stood up to stand at his door, doing exactly what was required of him so he could go free when the time came. The gate slid open and he stepped out onto the line with the rest of his block mates.

"Arnold!" The guard yelled from behind him "You have been selected. You are heading to the parole board. Better find that fucking voice of yours if you wanna leave this version of hell on earth." The guard turned and headed out. Arnold wondered if the guard was an agelast. He had never seen that particular guard laugh, or smile, ever. Arnold straightened his stance, slightly baffled. 'Hmm, an interesting chain of events.' He thought to himself. He turned and headed down to the cafeteria for breakfast. He sat down and ate as he thought about what he would say, he wrestled with the idea of whether he should say anything at all. Possibly leading them to believe he had taken a vow of silence to punish himself further for his crimes. As he wavered on what move to take a fight had broken out behind him. He didn't care. He continued to sit in the very same spot as fists flew and trays clambered to the floor. He moved slightly left when he felt it was necessary to avoid being hit by some debris. As the guards flew in from all access points he slowly rose to his feet and put his hands behind his head. Slowly, he lowered himself to the floor and laid down just like everyone else not associated with the chaos. After the guards cleared away the troublemakers they all fell in line again and were sent back to their cells. A regular routine here. As his cell door locked the familiar guard came to his door and he looked up from the cot he was seated on.

"Ya know the problem with today's society, Arnold? It's that good men stand by and do fuck all." He stood at the door and stared at Arnold for a moment and then moved on down the hallway.

‘I am one of those ‘good men.'' He thought to himself, maybe the guard had insight, or maybe he thinks I’m his new mission. Whatever, doesn’t matter, he looked at the wall so that he could smile slightly without anyone ever knowing.

Stepping out into the yard Arnold stopped as he looked up into the sky, closing his eyes he felt the warmth of the sun wash over his face. He stood motionless for a moment soaking in the warmth letting his arms out beside him, raising his palms. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes, bending down he picked a single blade of grass, rubbing it between his thumb and first finger noting the smoothness. He let himself pine slightly for the touch of his lilacs, trying to recollect the smell of his rose garden, and the colour of his tulips. He tried to push it out of his mind. Too much reminiscing would be dangerous for his psyche. He could mess up and say or do something wrong before the time was right. He took a deep breath and calmed himself. His heart began too slow when a shriek broke through the odd calmness in the yard.

He scanned the enclosure searching for the culprit. The second he spotted it, his heart began to quicken again. His arms went numb and he stumbled back leaning into the fence for support, he shook his head unable to process the information his eyes were relaying to his brain. Another inmates cry filled the yard. He squeezed his eyes shut, only to open them to another person being attacked by the first victim.

"What the fuck is going on." His voice cracked with disuse. A young familiar guard opened an access door about ten feet from where he stood. They starred at one another for a brief moment before the guard yelled, “What are you waiting for? Run!” Arnold didn't hesitate. His legs kicked into gear before his brain had a second too process what was happening and he went barreling into the guard with little grace. The guard quickly compensated the collision and slammed the door shut. Seconds later faces filled the window, eyes milky white, teeth stained red with blood. He had no idea he had even been noticed while in the yard. Arnold pulled himself away from the window and looked at the guard.

"My name is Rick. I've been a guard on your block for the last two years." Arnold nodded his recognition. "I don't know what’s happening but it is happening everywhere. We had watched the news this morning, military was stating emergency lock down procedures. We were just about to set in lockdown protocols here when the warden came out of his office and ate his secretary. One of the guards shot him five times before the bullet entering his head finally stopped him. No one expected Nancy to get back up, but she did and she attacked another guard and everything went to shit fast. I honestly don't know what to do but get out of here." Rick looked at him questioningly. Arnold nodded and held out his hand. The shared a silent handshake.


When it came to the topic of Arnold, Rick didn't know what to think. He knew the guy hadn't spoken a word since he arrived at the prison. The story was that he hadn’t spoken once since being arrested. No one knew if he even could speak since Arnold had continued to refuse all medical treatment. At this very moment he didn’t care, Rick believed that two were better than one, meaning survival. They charged down the hallway heading to the outside exit. Rick was silently praying the front gate would still be the easiest way out with the least amount of obstacles. There were too many gates to the back loading dock and he was afraid they wouldn't make it that far before the cells automatically opened.

Rick's mind raced as he opened the last gate and bolted through. Rick stumbled in hesitation at the sight of cars flipped upside down as fire began consuming them. He stood dumbfound at how quickly this looked like an apocalypse movie. He was only four hours into a twelve-hour shift and everything was fine when he went into the prison. Now people he had worked with for two years were fighting out on the road and throughout the parking lot. Guards attempted to save themselves only to be run down by infected as they headed to their vehicles. The piercing cries from the inmates in the yard were difficult to ignore as they were torn apart with nowhere to go. Arnold ran into the back of Rick, propelling him forward and snapping him out of his shock.

"Green truck in the parking lot! Move!" They scrambled to the truck and clawed their way in. Sitting in disbelief they stopped to catch their breath for a minute. Arnold couldn't believe his good fortune. He knew he hadn't fully comprehended what was really happening but he couldn't care right now - he was happy. Not only was he freed but it looked like the world had become incredibly more interesting. ‘There will be questionable people everywhere, it won’t take long to find them,’ he thought to himself. He was finding it difficult not to smile at the people being torn apart in front of him, all of them deserving of there last moments. He tore his eyes away and looked at the floor of the truck attempting to get his breathing under control and calm the erection that was beginning to show through his flimsy cotton overalls. He suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder, surprisingly he refrained from jumping and pulling away, "Hey, it's okay, we will get through this. I think we should head up into the mountains. We will see if there is any info along the way. Okay?" Rick started the truck and began to pull out of the parking lot. Infected turned to the sound of the truck and began chasing after them. Arnold wiped the smile off of his face and looked out the window again, now calm and collected. He watched as one of the guards bled from his eyes and mouth and began to claw at his clothing falling to his knees, a large chunk of flesh was missing from his forearm. ‘Serves him right, the piece of shit,' he thought to himself as the truck sped off and slid onto the road.

Rick and Arnold.

Not much had changed in the years Arnold had been incarcerated but the number of people everywhere was unsettling. Women and children fled the streets trying to get away from the deranged as they tore the innocent down and ripped chunks of flesh off their bodies. Arnold winced as he watched a five year old girl be torn from her mothers arms.

"We need supplies." Rick stated as he navigated through the surge chaos. Arnold nodded his reply. Rick pulled up to a pharmacy, "That's a lot of people scrambling for supplies. Fuck." Arnold took in the situation, Rick was right. Getting in was going to be difficult, but grabbing supplies and getting out, well, that wasn't looking like a possibility. Arnold noticed an outdoor supply store half a block down. A man stood in the doorway with a large caliber handgun, shooting people that were getting too close. Arnold tapped on Ricks' shoulder and nodded in the direction of the guy who had just shot a non-infected man trying to find refuge.

"Well, this is shit, eh? What the hell are we going to do?" Rick looked back at Arnold. Arnold gestured for the large hunting knife Rick had in the middle console of his truck. "Yeah, you can take it, what are you going to do?" Arnold put his finger up in a ‘one-minute' gesture grabbed the knife and jumped out of the truck. He took a deep breath. The smell of blood and bile was strong, making Arnold's heart skip a beat. He walked around the truck and headed towards the outdoor supply store sticking close to the storefronts. He picked his moment. The man turned to take out an infected in the opposite direction Arnold snuck up right behind him dragging the blade across his Carotid artery in his neck so that it would be quick. He lowered him to the ground bending over to grab his gun and the clips off his belt before ducking into the store and locking the door behind him. Walking through the isles he quickly grabbed two backpacks, two sleeping bags, first aid kits, camel packs and then went straight for the clothes quickly taking off his overalls and grabbing a pair of black hiking pants and a long sleeve shirt for himself and putting them on quickly. He grabbed some extras including a couple of waterproof jackets and some thermal sweaters. Shoving everything in the packs he looked around and found the front full of guns, ammo and hunting knives. He jogged over, grabbed a couple longer hunting knives with carriers to the hip and two hunting rifles with five boxes of ammo in each bag. He grabbed two handguns and all the ammo he could find and headed for the door. The bags were heavy and carrying the rifles was tricky. He put everything down and began putting it all on so he could free up his hands. The long hunting knife adjusted nicely to his leg. He closed up the backpacks and put one on his back and the other on his front. He adjusted the strap on one rifle sliding it over top of his packs adjusting it so it wouldn't be too much of a problem. He loaded the other with three bullets, took a deep breath and opened the door. Infected were everywhere. He took out three quickly as he walked out and to the side of the door, keeping his back to the wall he dropped the rifle to his side and pulled his knife. He began heading back to where Rick had parked. Rick tossed the truck around bumping a couple of the infected that had been coming up behind Arnold. Rick leaned over and opened the door, Arnold was already beginning to haul things off his body and tossing them into the truck before he dove in and slammed the door. Rick tossed the truck into drive and the tires spun out off the main road and back towards the highway.

"So, you weren't innocent were you?" Rick asked not bothering to look over at Arnold.

Arnold looked over at him pondering the situation and then shrugged, 'no point in staying silent now, is there?' he thought to himself.

"No" Arnold replied. Rick swerved slightly when he heard Arnold's voice.

"Well, then, how much time do I have?"

"How much time do you want?"

Rick glanced at Arnold a bit puzzled. "I'm not going to kill you. From what I see, you ain’t my type. Plus, you were always good to me, I have no reason to kill you. Especially now since you saved my life. I filled your bag, weapons, clothes, first aid kit, a sleeping bag. I have the same. I don't recommend you stay with me for long, this new world seems to be right for me, and you probably won't like what I do." Arnold smiled.

"Okay then. Why do I feel like you aren't really a bad guy?"

"Everyone is a bad guy in someone's story Rick."

"I guess so," Rick thought about that for a minute. "Well, do you want me to drop you off or do you want to head up the mountain with me?"

"I will help you get to where you need to be, we can part at any time."

Rick nodded and continued to drive up the highway as the roads slowly became more congested with cars. He knew to get out to the logging roads wasn't going to be easy but oddly he was grateful that his companion seemed capable of keeping him alive, even if her didn't know his whole story.

It wasn't long before they hit the traffic congestion that blocked off the highway, they knew it was inevitable. Arnold began repacking his backpack in preparation to walk.

"You can't think about hiking out of here."

"Sure I can."

"But there are so many of those things."

"Yup. I'd rather be the hunter than the hunted. And I definitely don't want to die locked in a truck. We're sitting ducks here. Looks like the infected have mostly moved on. I would say now is the time to go before another wave hits us." Arnold resumed packing. Rick looked around, shrugged and began packing as well. It went faster than Rick had expected. Arnold had done a good job of grabbing what they needed. Splitting the box of MRE's was settling for Rick.

"If I calculated this right we have enough supplies for three weeks."

Arnold nodded "Maybe more if we don't eat three meals a day."

"Alright. You ready?"

"Yes." He agreed with a nod of his head.

"We are jumping the barricade to head straight for the base of the mountain." If memory serves me right we will end up hiking through three neighbourhoods. Woodlands separate them so we should be able to remain undercover for the most part."

"I will cover your back since you know the way." Arnold replied as he adjusted the straps to his pack.

"Alright. We will head straight up to the observatory and spend the first night there. I think it would be the best place to have a safe sleep."

"Sounds like a plan"

"Alright, let's go." They grabbed the handles on the doors and took several deep breaths and then exited at the same time, Arnold crossing the vehicle to jump the barricade. Luckily no infected seemed to notice them.

After an hour of walking in silence, they came to the edge of an upscale community. Rick looked over at Arnold. They could hear screams off in the distance.

"Go around or straight through?"

"Faster but more dangerous to go through, however, we will be walking through the woods in the dark if we don't hurry the hell up."

"Crap. I guess we head straight through." Rick tightened the straps on his pack and pulled the rifle to the ready. Arnold followed his lead and they stepped out of the woods and onto the street just as the street lamps began their familiar hum. Rick noticed several people poke their heads through curtains as they stepped carefully into backyards, attempting to open and close gates as silently as possible. They made it halfway through the small community when Arnold shot an infected point blank between the eyes as they stepped into an alleyway.

"Run!" Rick yelled as more infected began to pour into the alley from either side.

Rick jumped a small fence running through the yard of a duplex with Arnold on his heels.

"We have to lose them somehow or they will follow us through the forest!" Arnold yelled over to Rick who was now a good twenty feet ahead. Rick abruptly turned right almost losing Arnold. Rick slowed momentum in hesitation as he began to search for a solution as Arnold pointed up the road. A house at the end of the culdasac sat with its front door wide open. The backyard looked like it connected to the forest behind. They nodded at one another and ran as fast as their legs would carry them. Arnold made a quick guess at the pack of infected following them, "About 50 give or take." He noted, Rick nodded as they bounded up the steps to the house and closed the door.

"Think this will work?"

"I dunno should keep them busy long enough for us to get out the back door."

"K. quick move the couch over here to hold them for a sec." Arnold jumped up and ran to the couch pushing it quickly to the door just as they heard the first steps of the infected. They shoved the couch up to the door and locked it. Running through the house they stopped at the back door. Arnold glanced out the window.

"Clear." Rick opened the door and they ran across the yard and through the wooden gate and into the forest. They ran for fifteen minutes before Arnold slowed down and leaned against a tree to catch his breath, Rick followed suit.

"Holy shit! that was close."

"Yeah," Arnold said between gasps of breath.

"How much further, we are losing light."

"We still have about an hour, I don't want to go through any more neighbourhoods so we will go around the next one. Wish we could have kept our ride. We would have been there by now."

"Maybe we should take a new ride." Arnold stopped to think about it.

"Not a horrible idea, at this rate we aren’t going to make it before dark.”

"Let's get to the next neighbourhood and see if we can acquire something worth the hassle."

"Sounds like a plan." they began hiking through the woods as fast as they could without breaking into a run.


They glanced at each other looking at an oversized Ford truck on the boundary of the second neighbourhood. "I think that would work." Rick said as he glanced around assessing the number of infected that could be a bit too close for comfort.

"What's the plan? We're losing daylight and I think we're getting a bit nervous about being out here in the dark. Don't think we can hot-wire a new truck. Probably need the keys."

"What are the chances we would find the keys inside?" Rick looked over at Arnold with a big smile.

"You know something that I don't?"

"Nope, just feeling lucky."

"Shit." Arnold shook his head. "If we get there and the keys aren't in the truck we could be fucking ourselves over."

"Well, I will go check, this way only one of us is fucked."

"Well, aren't you the lucky bastard." Arnold smiled at him, Rick smiled back placing his rifle up to his shoulder. Rick winked at Arnold and stepped out of the forest, quietly heading straight for the truck. Arnold leaned into a big fur tree trying to get comfortable enough to give him cover if he should need it. So far everything seemed a bit too quiet. Arnold could feel the tension in the air, his nerves a bit shot and now just afraid he may piss himself. As Rick approached the truck a scream rang out, breaking the heavy silence that surrounded them. Rick dropped to the ground with his rifle up Arnold coming up behind him scanning the area. Arnold peeked into the driver's side window.

"Clear." He whispered and ducked back down.

"Did you check for the keys?"

"Fuck, no." Shaking his head he stood up again peeking in. "Well aren't you a lucky bastard!"

"Yeah, I guessed based on the way the truck was parked, looked like someone pulled up in a hurry."

"Good guess, now let's see if someone left us some gas." Arnold popped the driver side door open and slid in as Rick climbed in after him. They stayed low trying not to draw any further attention to themselves as the beep from the keys in the ignition seemed to be louder than either of them thought possible. Rick pulled the door shut and they let out the breath they had been holding in.

"So far, so good." Rick gave a smirk as he turned the key and the truck turned over. Less than a second after he put the truck into drive ten infected came running around the corner.

"Well, those guys are fucking fast aren't they?"

"How much gas do we have?" Arnold looked over at Rick. Rick looked down at the gas gage.

"Enough." Rick floored the truck nearly missing the house and driving across front lawns before he bounced onto the road heading towards the mountain access. Infected began to flood the street behind them as they raced down the road.

"We're going to bring them straight into the woods!"

"Shit!" Rick made a hard left as he sped through the neighbourhood. "Guess we will have to take the scenic route"

"Ah, shit!" Arnold grabbed the handle in the ceiling and braced his feet as they sped down the road nearly colliding with a swell of cars parked in precarious positions along the roadway.

Ten minutes clicked by on the clock as they nearly tipped the truck over twice avoiding capture from the undead. Finally, nothing followed them and Rick headed straight to the access point, afraid he wouldn’t get another chance. "I didn't think we were going to shake them." Rick kept his head on a swivel as he headed straight up the road.

"Thought we were dead for sure, a couple times over.” Arnold scanned the roads as they passed by quickly.

"That's it!" Rick pointed up ahead to a dirt path that led off road.

"It doesn't look like we're going to fit." Ignoring Arnold, Rick plowed through the access, taking out branches and brush as he sped down the tiny pathway. Loud thuds rang out as large branches dented the side of the truck.

"Happy it ain't my truck to worry about." Rick said as he crashed on through. Thirty seconds later they were on the logging route and letting out a sigh of relief. Arnold kept looking behind them, and Rick kept his foot on the peddle making as much distance as possible.

"What's up?"

"Dunno, just find it lucky we got through. Almost seems like it was a bit too easy?"

"You think that was easy?"

"Well, I guess not, but at the same time, yeah, I kinda do." Arnold laughed out loud for the first time in years. Rick looked over at him briefly and gave him a weird look.

"Sorry man, it's just odd to hear you laugh." Rick stated smiling as Arnold chuckled again.

"Yeah, I guess it would be wouldn't it." Arnold shook his head "what a fucking day eh?"

"Yeah, you could say that." Rick smiled as they plowed down the empty logging road.

Less than an hour went by as they pulled up to the old observatory on top of Mount Benson.

“I guess I can tell you now that my cabin is about another forty-five minutes down that way. It sits in the middle of these two mountains. It's usually a bit quicker to get there but we are taking a long way." Rick turned the truck off and stepped out stretching his legs. It was completely dark, they had a complete view of the town as smoke choked out bits of the stars that continued to shimmer.

"I'm a bit surprised we're the only ones up here."

"Are we?" Arnold looked at Rick and then at the observatory. Rick opened the truck again and grabbed his pack and rifle and then leaned over and grabbed up Arnold's things.

"Guess there is no time like the present. I don't wanna come back out for the bags so I'm taking it all with me."

"Sounds good to me. Are we going to be able to barricade that door?"

"I think so, haven't been up here in a long time so I guess we'll see."

They took their time pulling the straps secure on their packs and checking their weapons were accessible. "Okay, ya ready?" Rick checked over his rifle and slid the safety off.

"As ready as I'll ever be." They turned towards the dome building and pulled their rifles up to their shoulder. Stepping as quietly as they could they made it around to the front of the gate.

Luckily the gate was closed. Arnold and Rick looked at one another and nodded. Thinking this was a good sign, Arnold stepped up and pulled the bar up on the gate and pulled it open as Rick stepped through, Arnold following close behind pulling the gate secure behind them. They moved quickly and quietly to the door. Rick pulled the door open and stepped in stopping dead in his tracks as Arnold walked right into him pushing him forward slightly.

"What the hell man?" Arnold looked at Rick and followed his line of site up towards the ceiling where five strangers hung, three women and two men.

"Awe, poor bastards. Should we cut them down?"

“Shit, let's search the place first, just in case." Rick headed straight through. The telescope that used to live here had been gone for years making the room look pointless. There were three hallways ahead and they cleared them quickly.

"Nothing here except the belongings of five people, a couple tables covered in books and papers," Rick said as they met up in the cafeteria again.

"What the fuck?"

"Arnold, I don't even have the words. This day has already taxed my brain and fried my body. I say we cut the bodies down wrap them and put them by the door for now. The door has a metal bar to keep it shut, it should be good for tonight. Let's get some food and sleep and figure out the rest in the morning." Arnold nodded and headed straight for the main room to begin cutting the bodies down.

About an hour later they sat down and had some dinner. Arnold began looking over some of the material on the table.

"Hey, Rick, this is some interesting stuff."

"What do you got there?"

"Well, this looks like some biochemistry. I'm not really sure but, I would guess that these guys are the ones that cooked up this mess we have found ourselves in." Arnold handed Rick some papers and he looked them over.

"Ain't nothing we can do about it now is there. Obviously, there was another person here but what do we care?"

"Yeah, I don't, I'm just saying, like, what are the odds of us stumbling upon this shit?"

"Pretty good since this seems like the safest place to be in this town."

"I guess so." Arnold shrugged.

"We'll head out in the morning. The cabin should be good for awhile. I think you will like it there." Rick looked over at Arnold.

"Yeah, well I think you might have me confused with someone else but I will help get you there, it's the least that I can do since you didn't leave me behind to rot in that prison. I appreciate that." Arnold nodded at Rick and Rick nodded back.

"I'm going to go find me a bed."

"Sounds good to me."

Rick chose one of the rooms that had belonged to one of the women. He began rummaging through the drawers and came across some underwear and socks. He picked up a pair of red underwear feeling the silky fabric between his fingers, he rubbed it with both hands and then brought it to his face taking a deep breath. “It’s too bad we didn't find you alive. Your smell would have been worth the chaos." He whispered to himself. He stepped back and sat on the bed. Leaning back he kept the underwear to his face with one hand as he undid his pants and began to slowly touch himself. He couldn’t wait to get back to his cabin.

Not such a bad guy, just a bit messed up.

Arnold woke to the sound of gunshots. Rapidly blinking in order to situate himself and remember the events of the last twenty-four hours. It all came back flooding to him in a rush and he jumped out of bed to grab his rifle. Running down the hallway he almost collided with Rick.

"Mornin." Rick smirked avoiding the collision course with his new friend.

"Mornin?" Arnold questioned as he fell in line behind Rick. Arnold noticed the tiniest piece of red cloth peeking out of Ricks pocket. ‘That’s weird.’ Arnold thought to himself as they hit the front door.

Rick nodded at Arnold to open the door. Arnold paused as he gripped the handle, ”Wait, are we sure we want to do this? If we head out there and rescue people are we prepared for keeping them around?" Arnold asked as he hesitated.

"I guess we will see what happens." Rick responded with a wry grin. Arnold wasn't sure if he liked that response. Something seemed off about Rick and he began wondering why he hadn't noticed it before.

Arnold through the door open and followed Rick’s lead out the fence and into the woods. More cries off to the right and they both broke into a run. Arnold caught the action first. Two women, one blonde and one brunette running through the forest with backpacks on, both were carrying hunting knives covered in blood that trailed down their arms. Arnold raised his rifle,

“Stop, have either of you been bitten?" Arnold yelled causing the two women to stop in a sudden skid kicking up forest debris.

"N-n-no, we aren't but those things are not far behind us." the blonde stuttered and she swallowed back gulps of air.

"Follow us," Rick said as he turned and headed back at a good pace. He didn't bother to look back to see if the girls were following, he knew they would, all other instincts lost in the thought that there is only one monster now. Everyone believes that people are inherently good, ‘what beautiful ignorance’, he thought to himself as they hastily hiked back to the observatory.

"It's pretty crazy eh?" Arnold said breaking the silence as they hiked back through the woods.

“I think crazy is an understatement. We were lucky to get this far, we're just biology students. Our dorms were a mess and we barely made it out of there alive. We hoped the woods would be a better option, they followed us in though, I don’t think anywhere is safe.”

"We managed to deter them from following, but you’re right, no where is going to be safe. Rick here has a cabin out a bit further. We tried to make it with his truck but the highway got backed up and I didn’t want to wait around for more chaos to find us so we started hiking. Needless to say, we've been very lucky”

“Observatory is just up here.” Rick nodded up the embankment.

They hiked up and back into the observatory. The two women letting out a sigh of relief when the bar landed across the door and the place felt secure.

"Welcome to our little hideout. We were going to head up to the cabin today but maybe we should wait till your followers find a distraction elsewhere. There’s enough food here, we'll be fine for another day." Rick led them to the cafeteria.

The girls were impressed with the setup. They took a look at the research and agreed with Arnold that whoever had been here before had defiantly had a hand in whatever was happening out there, however, they all agreed their wasn’t much any of them could do about it.

It was dinner by the time they realized they never introduced themselves.

"By the way, my name is Katherine and this is Sarah." Katherine chuckled a bit. "Guess when you are being chased by real-life monsters you don't think of introducing yourself anymore." Arnold laughed. "I'm Arnold and this is Rick." they sat at the long table chatting while they ate.

"Well, I'm getting pretty tired and I'd like to hike to the cabin tomorrow morning if possible so I'm going to head to bed. You ladies can take your pick of the rooms. There were a couple women living here so I’m sure you both could find some extra clothes. You're welcome to come with us if you like. I think we're better in numbers but you could probably stay here comfortably for awhile as well." Rick stood and stretched surrendering to a big yawn.

"Can we think about it?" Katherine asked as she glanced back to Sarah, Sarah nodded.

"Sure, let us know in the morning.” Rick and Arnold nodded to them as they headed to find a bed.

"I'm heading in as well." Arnold stood following Rick out and down the hall.

"You think it's a good idea to bring them along." Arnold whispered.

"I think our chances of survival greatly improve with more people. Plus, it would be nice to have some pretty ladies around" Rick grinned again. "I thought you of all people would welcome the idea of having some companionship, maybe they will play nicely after knowing the rules of the cabin." Arnold stopped dead and stared at Rick as he continued to walk only stopping at the entrance to his room.

"What's the matter Arnold, you think you're the only one that has needs?" Rick walked into his room and flopped himself on his bed and fell fast asleep. Arnold stood in the hallway dumbstruck for ten minutes before he could move again. Arnold slowly walked to his room in deep thought and mostly denial.

The next morning proved to be a bit brighter for Arnold. He stretched slowly, enjoying the pull in his joints. Slowly sitting up he practically jumped out of his skin as Katherine said "Mornin."

"Crap, dying of a heart attack in a zombie apocalypse seems sad somehow." Arnold rubbed his chest as he stood. Katherine laughed, "I'm so sorry, I thought you would be slightly more aware of your surroundings. You look like a soldier."

Now it was Arnolds time to laugh. "I am far from a soldier. Honestly, you probably won't want to hang out with me anymore when you realize where I came from."

Katherine tilted her head waiting for him to explain.

"I was in a maximum security prison waiting for early release when people began eating each other. Rick helped me get out of there." Arnold looked into her eyes, trying to gauge her response. "Early release eh?"


"What did you do, and what weren't you caught for?"

"Charged with assault, well a couple different degrees of it, the sentence was supposed to be five. I wasn't caught for hunting down and killing the pedophile that raped and killed five little girls, or the man who killed his wife for the insurance money, or well, any number of any of the others that I’d taken care of.”

"Oh. So you're like a good guy that does bad things that doesn't believe in the law?”

"You're the first person that gets it and for the record, our law sucks.” He smiled, hoping he didn't look creepy. She nodded. "I think you are exactly who we need to be around." She nodded and shook his hand. "You have kind eyes, I'm going to trust you, but I don't trust Rick, something about him is…off. Like you but in a bad way.”

"Yes, I guess I’m beginning to see that as well. Where is he?"

"Dunno, he went out early, hasn't come back yet."

"Well, we better pack and be ready for anything."


"Sarah, I think he's the one to trust." Sarah stepped into the doorway holding her hunting knife. Arnold nodded at her.

"Alright, so we watch Rick. What does the cabin look like?"

"Honestly, I don't know if it even exists.”

“Well, I guess we hope for the best. What other choices do we have? I'm not going back into town.”

They spent the next hour packing backpacks to ensure they could take as much as much of the supplies as possible. None of them had any idea what would be at the cabin so they loaded extra clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, food, and some cooking utensils. They felt fairly prepared. Sarah and Katherine kept their hunting knives and spent some time sharpening them. Arnold still had his rifle and hunting knives with the handgun from the outdoor supply store and was feeling pretty good about everything when Rick came through the door.

"Looks like the cost is clear. Snuck around in about a three kilometre circle and didn't hear anything. The cabin is approximately forty-five minutes into the valley where the two mountains meet. There is a small lake that we will come across first but it’s an easy walk from there."

"Sounds good. Lead the way Captain."

"Alrighty, suit up and let’s head out.” Rick smiled as he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the sweat from his forehead.

Sarah spotted the smoke from the chimney of the cabin as they crested the hill and the lake opened up before them. "Thought there wouldn't be anyone here." She pointed out at the smoke.

“Well, I don’t remember saying that.” Rick stated as he walked in front of them all. Arnold looked back at the girls with a worried look. Sarah nodded, understanding the thought across his face.

"Should only be another fifteen or twenty-minute walk." Arnold looked over at Sarah again, she nodded. They headed towards the cabin in silence. The hair on Arnold's neck began to send shivers down his spine. Something wasn't right and this was a familiar feeling. Before jail, he had always had a good instinct for people, usually, he could place the puzzle pieces together quickly. Now he began to wonder how the chaos messed him up, he was so busy looking for the outside threats he didn’t acknowledge the one right in front of him. He should have paid more attention when he was in prison, maybe he could have done something sooner. Could it be possible that the one person to get him out of prison was one that he would have hunted and killed before he'd been caught?

They stepped onto the dirt road that went into the woods on the far left but also straight up to the cabin on the right of them. Lost in thought Arnold made the mistake of walking passed Rick, the two women following close behind Arnold as the familiar clicks of a gun being prepped stopped Arnold in his tracks. Sarah bumped into his back as Rick spoke, "Now ladies, this is my place and my rules, you can drop your bags and weapons right there and put your hands on your head and drop to your knees." The girls froze. Arnold slowly turned around his hands up.

"Now!" The girls jumped at the order and dropped their weapons and packs on the ground raising their hands and turning to face Rick. Rick had an evil grin plastered across his face. "Well, well, well, aren't we a couple of lucky bastards eh Arnold?" Arnold looked from the girls to Rick in shock and a bit of confusion.

"Come on, Arnold, really? You had to have some inkling?" Arnold stood and shook his head. "Well, that's no matter. Let's get these ladies in my basement and have a long chat shall we?" Arnold stood still slowly putting the pieces together when Rick ordered the women forward towards the cabin and left Arnold behind. Arnold watched for a moment as he processed the new information in front of him. It all came tumbling to him in waves of realization. Like most places there must have been some talk of why Arnold was in prison, the rumours were that Arnold was a serial killer that had been caught on a small technicality, nothing associated to any of the crimes they felt he was actually responsible for. They couldn't link the murders to him and instead charged him with an aggravated assault that landed him the time he was in prison for. What no one actually knew was that the man Arnold had beaten happened to be someone who had raped and killed a teenage girl. What no one knew was that Arnold was a killer of bad people, only ever bad people who had never been punished for their crimes. Yes, he enjoyed it, it turned him on in strange ways to kill the ones who had deserved it. He knew he wasn't normal, or emotionally well adjusted, however, he provided a great service to society. He killed bad people that got away with unspeakable crimes against others. He helped heal the survivors. He was proud of who he was. Rick just thought he was what? A serial killer without a moral code? Was Rick a serial killer? Arnold turned to face the cabin as Rick stepped out on the deck again. "You coming in?" Rick asked. Arnold nodded and stepped onto the deck of the cabin.

The cabin was comfortable. A fire in the living room burned warmly, an oversized chair and couch sat in front with some blanket hung over the sides. It looked like a two bedroom with a nice kitchen against the back wall. The space was small but pleasant. Rick walked over and sat on the chair with a sigh. "I can't believe how lucky we are." Rick sighed again. "It's nice to be home." A door that Arnold assumed led to the basement opened and a young brunette with hair down to her waist came in and closed the door, locking the three locks that secured it. She walked into the kitchen without a word never looking at Arnold. Arnold watched her. "Who is that?" Arnold nodded in her direction as he dropped his bag to the ground and walked to sit on the couch.

"Her name is Rose." Arnold stretched his foot out and hit something making a clang, he looked down to see an ankle chain. He followed the chain around the cabin. He looked up and locked eyes with Rose. She stood frozen in her place in the middle of the kitchen.

"She can move around the cabin and out the back door to get firewood but that’s all. It took me many years and many woman to perfect this, um, situation." Rick sat looking at his handy work.

"She's free when you're home?"

"Rarely, but yes, when she's earned it. She is making us dinner now."

"Are you going to tell her what's happening out there?"

"Why?" Arnold nodded. He didn't disagree, what would it change, she was a prisoner at the moment.

"I'm dying to know what you think." Rick stood and walked to the fridge, grabbing two beers he came back and handed one to Arnold, not noticing Rose standing still.

"Impressive." Arnold nodded.

"It has taken me over fifty women to perfect this place and my technique. Rose has lasted the longest out of any so far but I was growing tired of her. I was going to get rid of her this weekend. Best laid plans and all that, this is better though. They say you enjoyed killing people, I feel you aren't much different than I."

"I did enjoy the hunt and the kill. Fortunately, I'm nothing like you." Arnold sat up.

"What do you mean? We enjoy the freedom of being who we are."

"I guess I would agree. However, I feel you didn't read enough of my file to understand where I came from." Arnold looked at Rick folding his hands together.

"I don't think I understand."

"No, you wouldn't. You see, I had a family. A wife and a daughter." Arnold looked over at Rose. "She was a bit small for her age with short brown hair." Arnold shifted slightly as he looked over at Rick. The colour in Ricks' face began to drain slowly.

"She was ten years old when she went missing on her way home from school. Her mother and I searched everywhere. Sent out alerts, pleaded to the media, placed photos everywhere for many years. Then my wife was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. I lost her two months later." Arnold took a steady deep breath.

"I began something then that I was rather proud of. I started searching out bad people. It might have been a bit cliched, a bit of a ‘Punisher' feel going on there but it made me content. It gave me purpose and I never stopped hoping that maybe, one day, I would find her. Are you interested to know what her name is Rick?"

Rick went to stand up but Arnold had already pulled his hunting knife from the sheath on his leg and had leaned forward quickly and held it at Ricks' throat.

"I have also become better at this. I am quicker and have adapted to the panic, I recover quickly from the shock. I will probably survive just fine in this new world. You will not." Arnold slowly dragged his blade across Ricks' throat. The smell of the blood pulled Arnold in making him breathe deeply, steadying himself before he opened his eyes again. He went to his knees looking up he saw her standing over him.

"Hi Daddy."

"Hi, Sweetie, I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” She dropped into his arms. They sat that way for a while before Rose stood and went to the door. She was steady, taking her time to unlock the door. She went downstairs and returned with the two women.

"Sorry about that ladies. You are welcome to stay if you like, I will not harm you. Please meet my daughter Rose. We can all sit and chat over some dinner, we have a lot to talk about." Arnold took a deep breath feeling tired but content as he walked into the kitchen and began prepping for dinner.

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