Chapter 12

The Curious Case of Paul Davies

Outskirts of Detroit, Michigan, August 19th 2162

James Westerfield

Looking at my watch that read seven thirty-four, I decided it was time to take a break from cleaning my guns and wake up Paul. I let him sleep in my bed electing for myself to sleep on the floor, although I didn't sleep much; too busy constantly checking the doors and windows. Walking up the stairs to my room and knocking on the door I started to get impatient.

"Paul." pausing I waited a couple of seconds and knocked again. "Paul." Why am I knocking? This is my house. "Paul!" Opening the door, I saw Paul curled up like a child, cuddling the pillow. "Wake up Paul, we have things to do." Still snoring away I started to get irritated; tapping him on the shoulder and then the face, nevertheless he snored away. Frustrated and concerned with our situation, I rose up one foot and kicked Paul off the bed.

"I'm awake!" Paul stuttered, momentarily shocked by my passive aggressive style.

"Now." I threw Paul his t-shirt which had been laid on my dresser. "Hurry up, and get dressed." Pulling the bed sheets off the ground and laying them on the bed, I patiently waited for Paul to be ready after having gotten dressed myself; I wore the exact same outfit as the day before. Maybe they would remember me? After seeing Paul was done I headed down the stairs with Paul right behind me, pointing to the empty bowl on the table, I signaled Paul to sit. Looking out the window to the same bleak landscape, thinking of what do next, my thoughts was disturbed by Paul's voice.

"I have a sore on my back, do you have bed bugs?" Paul crawled at his back with one hand and ate dry cereal with the other.

"No, I don't have bed bugs. Maybe the sore came from all the fighting you did last night." Paul glared at me, not pleased by my sarcasm.

"Maybe you should get a new mattress anyway, it isn't very comfortable"

"Really? Really Paul?"

"What?" Paul looked confused as he shoved another spoon full of cereal down his gullet.

"Well, there is a very good chance that by the end of this day my house will be burned down and we will both be dead, and you are worried about my sleeping arrangements?" I was slowly driving a knife through my counter top.

"What? Why?"

"Because a gang full of lunatics burned down my relief station, killed my co-workers, attacked my house and will likely continue to hunt us down." Paul looked down at his lap, I felt bad, and none of this was his fault. Walking over I put my hand on his shoulder. "Sorry, yesterday was a hard day."

"It's okay James, I know, they were my friends too." In my attempt to comfort Paul he comforted me. "What are we going to do?" Paul asked, I still wasn't sure on what we were going to do.

"Try to find out why the Crawlers attacked the aid station, so we should go to…"

"Samuel." Paul finished my sentence for me.

"Exactly, pretty much anything going on in this city, Samuel hears about." I pleasantly responded slightly surprised that Paul had the same idea.

Finishing our wonderful meal we left to head to the Comerica Market, the city's largest market, built in an old sports area. The usually short journey took remarkable longer as we travelled through safe and patrolled neighborhoods to avoid the Crawlers.

"James?"

"What now?" Hearing Paul and sharply turning to face him, I wondered, how much I could make by selling his belongings. "We are not stopping to rest, and it is not physically possible for you to have to shit again."

"What? No?" He paused, looking slightly confused. "I just wanted to ask what we are going to do when we find out, if we find out what the Crawlers are up too."

"I honestly haven't thought it all the way through"

"Maybe Samuel will have a suggestion?"

"Maybe ammo will be on sale?" Paul let out a nervous laugh, he wasn't sure if I was kidding or not and neither was I.

"So…did you hear about the new plans by the government back home…you know… old home…in Baltimore." Paul cut into the eerie silence.

"Yes."

"They plan to take of all the land east of that big river…you know…the one that cuts through Old American…the Esiippiopee."

"The Mississippi."

"Yeah, that's what I said." Despite Paul's terrible reporting abilities I knew what he was talking about. The government back home, or 'New America' as they call themselves, wanted to finally solidify all the territory in the Eastern half of the old country. The only holdouts to joining new America were Florida, and my new home country, the Lower Peninsula- Ohio Joint Republic, a name which just rolls of the tongue. In my thinking I realized that Paul was still talking, when he stopped I nodded and made agreeing noises.

"Also new relations are being extended to Canadians by the government and thus add could be sent to…" Paul's words hushed as my hand covered his face, I stopped him as three figure approached from a side alley.

"Follow my lead and don't say anything." My orders stuck and the three very large figures came into focus, two men and one woman. The woman was walking ahead showing she was in charge, I recognized her, but could not place a name to the face.

"You boys have been causing some problems." the women said cloyingly. When she strolled to about ten feet from us I finally remembered her identity.

"Ohh, that's just too bad Sylvia" I pushed Paul a bit back so he was behind me as I mocked the Crawlers Second-in-Command. "We'll try to stay out of the way." Trying to hide my nervousness I remained in eye contact with the behemoth of a woman.

"You have killed seven of my people, James." Sylvia stopped walking about four feet from my face; I examined the very intimidating figure. She was at least 4 inches taller than me with snow white hair. I consider myself a pretty in shape guy, but Sylvia made me look scrawny being about three times more muscular than me. "I'm not okay with that." Sylvia's voice changed from calm to aggressive.

"You killed three of mine."

"If you had four more people then I guess we could be even." Sylvia's comment made my blood boil. "But I guess your last lackey will have to do." I pulled out my pistol and put it against her forehead as she signaled for her guards to grab Paul.

"Don't you lay a goddamn finger on him!" The guards raised their guns; I could feel the bull's-eye on my body.

"You can still come out of this alive, James."

"So can you!" I didn't move, keeping the gun in her face.

"James, don't get yourself killed over this kid." Sylvia started to become frustrated.

"Listen to her James." Paul finally voiced his opinion.

"Shut up Paul!"

"But they will kill us both, better one of us than both of us!" Ignoring Paul, I kept staring Sylvia in the eyes.

"You shoot and patrols will be her in minutes and you won't get out of here" Sylvia smugly added.

"No one will." My comment dumfounded the Second-in-Command.

"Fine!" Sylvia irately waved off the guards who proceeded to lower their weapons and stepped back. "But this isn't over James; you won't be alive much longer." Sylvia slowly stepped back from my gun, after taking a few steps turned and quickly walked away with her goons. Having won the game of chicken, I proceeded with Paul to our destination.

"Why did you do that James? Why are we doing any of this?" Paul questioned his voice still in shock.

"Because." Paul never questioned my response.

After ten minutes of complete silence we arrived at the Comerica Market. The field was full of people either scrambling between booths and makeshift shacks spending their money or just stood around talking and eating. The market was always full of people; being one of the safest places in the city. Spotting Samuel's booth I started out across the field toward it, wondering what information I was about to learn. A kid ran into me interrupting my train of thought.

"Sorry Sir." The soft voice of a young boy interrupted, looking down I saw that the kid could not have been any more than eight years old.

"Don't worry about it kid." I ran my hand through the kid's hair messing it up, and then sent him on his way. He ran off and joined in with a large group of children running around playing Tag. I motioned Paul to continue walking, and we arrived at Samuel's stand. Official he sells water and some other beverages, but really he an information broker and a good friend of mine.

"Well, well, well. Hello Mr. Westerfield and Mr. Davies." Samuel stepped offered his hand to shake through the booths window. "I am truly sorry about the trouble you have been having Mr. Westerfield." Samuel exhaled heavily as he leaned on the counter in the open partition.

"Thanks, Samuel. I don't have to tell you why I'm here do I?" I retorted resting on a stool in front of the counter.

"You, Mr. Westerfield want to know why the Crawlers burned down your business, murdered your friends and employees." Samuel shifted his lean from one side to the other.

"And they are still trying to kill us." Paul chimed in.

"Well, this is something I do not want to tell you." Samuel started wiping down the counter with a frayed rag.

"Samuel, don't withhold from me, not now." After saying this I realized how far this conflict had gone, there was no easy escape at this point.

"That is the problem, Mr. Westerfield. I can't tell you, because I have nothing to tell." Samuel looked disappointed, as if he had left me down.

"You? But you know everything?" Paul blurted in complete appall.

"Usually, yes. But the Crawlers have a tight heavy lid on all their plans lately. I have some leads, but I will need more time." As Samuel finished his sentence I could hear a commotion from the other side of the field. "I hear it too" Samuel said, figuring out why I was looking around.

"What's going on?" Paul ducked down a bit, protecting himself from a hypothetically enemy.

"Not sure, but the Market is never this loud." Samuel nervously stood up straight, analyzing the surroundings. Getting up from the stool, I observed some people scrambling from the opposite corner of the stadium. Hearing loud booms echo across the building, the crowd cleared to see several figures, walking very slowly. The figures were shooting at random people and booths. Focusing on the mysterious marauders my suspicions were confirmed.

"It's the goddamn Crawlers. They've lost their minds." I said shocked for their disregarded for human life.

"You boys should get out of her." Samuel said, grabbing a gun from under the counter.

"What about you?" Paul asked, completely terrified.

"Don't worry about me, I'll figure a way out." Samuel closed up his shop. "Meet me at my house later tonight; I might have something to help you out."

"Okay, be careful." Taking my gun from my back, I wished my friend farewell.

"Goodbye Mr. Westerfield, Mr. Davies." Samuel tipped his hat, motioning for us to go.

Running across the stadium with Paul in tow, I looked for easiest escape route. The Crawlers had about ten shooters still opening up on everything that moved. Several had already been killed by security in the stadium, and others were still engaged with them. Getting close to one of the exits we took cover as three Crawlers starting firing on people trying to escape through the tunnel. I almost froze in rage as I saw a shotgun blast strike a mother and child trying to escape. As the child fell, I recognized him. The very same kid that had bumped into me not fifteen minutes ago. Looking, I saw a group of about twenty adults and children taking cover behind a store near the tunnel. The group of three murders approached their position.

"Paul, get them out of here!" I ordered points at the helpless families. "NOW!" As Paul bolted toward them I opened fire on the trio of Crawlers. After firing about a dozen shots, I leapt behind a mobile bathroom for cover. Leaning out and seeing one of them had dropped to the ground, I fired another quick burst. Taking cover from the retaliation, I noticed a single security officer approaching to assist me. She fired his pistol at the two remaining Crawlers, giving me another opportunity to return fire. As my magazine ran dry, another Crawler was thrown to the ground. Whilst reloading the security officer lowered her gun, she had taken out the last Crawlers on her own. I started to walk over to talk to my hero.

"Thanks, for the assist."

"I was about to say the same thin…" Abruptly her sentence was cut short by the sound of gunfire. Looking, I saw her torso get torn apart by a barrage of pellets. Glancing away from the skewered, screaming security officer, I saw another flash in my peripheral vision. As I tried to turn, a shotgun blast torn threw the left side of my abdomen. Stunned and in agony, I lost all strength and fell to the dirt. Rolling over in pain, I saw my shooter; it was a tall woman with a double barrel shotgun. It was Sylvia. I tried to pull myself across the ground to where my gun had landed, groaning in pain as the rocks ripped at my fresh, exposed wound. Hearing more gunshots, I closed my eyes and expected another shotgun blast. Cautiously opening my eyes, I saw Sylvia limp away, with blood ruining down from her leg.

"James!" I heard a worried voice, a familiar voice. "Let's get out of here." Being pulled off the ground, I saw it was Paul. I was fighting to stay awake, barely being able to recognize my best friend.

"You figured out the safety." I was able to form some words.

"Yeah, but I'm not a very good shot." Paul started to help me out of the stadium.

"At least you hit the psychopath."

"Took the whole clip though." Paul tried to make me feel better; I laughed which made my side ache.

"And that's why we do this Paul, why we fight." I pointed at the dead and injured people outside the stadium as we exited the tunnel.

"Save your energy James."

"Yeah, I have to hold in my innards." I groaned coughing up some blood, if those were my last words then sarcasm might have not been a good choice.

I fought to stay awake as we made the twenty minute walk to Samuel's house, every moment feelings like an eon. Paul kicked on the door, needing both of his hands to hold me up.

"SAMUEL!" Paul screamed at the top of his lungs. Samuel opened the door hastily; his eyes shot open at the sight of me and Paul. "I had nowhere else to bring him!"

"It's fine, get him in here now!" Samuels's wrinkled and dark skinned face had a look I had never seen on him before. Fear. Paul dragged me in Samuel's kitchen. "Put him on the table." Samuel barked as he got a box of medical supplies. I tried to lift myself on the table, but had nothing left, I could not summon the strength. As Paul lifted me onto the cold metal table, Samuel shoved a rag in my side to absorb some of the blood.

"He has lost a lot of blood and the wound is very large. What caused it?" Samuel threw cold water in the gash, I couldn't help but scream.

"Shotgun."

"Damn, I have to make sure there are not pellets in the wound. If not he could get a very bad infection. Hold on Mr. Westerfield." Samuel's had a great bedside manner.

"You can save him right?" Paul handed Samuel another rag.

"I will try, but he has lost a lot of blood already."

"If I die, my parents will kill you." I tried to comfort Paul with any morsels of energy I had left. "Ohh… and I have a letter in my house…in case…I…" I tried to form words, but spewed up more crimson.

"Don't talk!" Samuel ordered injecting me with something. My eyes wavered, trying to close. "You have to try and stay awake." Samuel's usual monotone voice broke into emotion. My head fell to the side, and not being able to resist anymore, I closed my eyes.

"I don't think he's going to make it." I heard a horrified Samuel. I couldn't do anything, and fell into terrifying darkness.