CHAPTER 6: O'The Places You Will Go

Maria pressed the button on the shutter door's control panel- begining the slow but steady opening of the 20ft high entry way. Quickly rushing to the truck, Maria got in, buckling up and locking the door. Paul grinned at the sign of the obvious habitial and instictive sign Maria had just displayed. The door still slowly rose, infected standing by outside.

The doors opened fully, the truck flooring it threw the entry way, making an immediate sharp right, knocking over several infected in the process. Paul drove forward past the street they walked to the garge by- noticing flocks of city pigeons feasting on the dead- seemingly careless of the truck and infected running about (and the infected of the pigeons). A fat pigeon fluttered its wings as the truck zoomed by it.

Paul continued the drive threw the burning downtown area, manuevering around wrecks and other obstacles- running over the rest. Infected who got close enough pounded on the sides of the truck, thuds being a constant noise as some were taken by the speed of the truck and others ran over, blood splatters decorating the sides.

Maria stayed focus on the road, looking for any signs of possible survivors. Unfortunently- a lot of what she saw was possible hide out spots that were either over run by infected or burning to the ground. Paul glanced over at her, seeing the determination in her eyes. Something inside of her wanted to find and help someone- a piece of her that she didn't want to dissapoint.

Driving along a road on the outskirts of downtown El Paso, the two made their way up the neighborhoods- avoiding some larger groups of infected that would have been next to impossible to bypass if met head on, bringing on a detour delay. The very same detour led them to a hill (clear at the time of their approach) which had a grand view of Juarez, Mexico. The sight Paul had witnessed not long ago somehow intensified- small figures running in the street, chasing another small figure. The slums of the border town scorched with fire, cries of the damned echoing forth of the city of over one-million citizens.

"I had family there..." said Maria with a sense of shock and awe in her voice.
"Look away, nothin' you can or ever could do to help stop THAT over there. Push it to the back of your mind- you are still in the game" replied Paul, grabbing Maria's hand in comfort.

Maria looked down, again giving out a sigh of a sort, motioning for Paul to keep driving. The truck accelerated- leaving the sight of the ruined sister city as they went down the elevated point of the road.

The duo drove for a little while longer, the path taking much longer than anticipated due to wreckage and infected presense as they saw the mountain path- but first- a neighborhood lay in front of them. The majority of houses were untouched by fire and seemed as if normailty was still present- until they saw the blood stains and occasional wrecked car. Paul drove slowly threw the neighborhood, trying not to alarm any unwanted attention.

Houses were boarded up along the way, people however, could not be seen. It was once a very dense neighborhood now gone quiet.

"Its either these people are good at keeping quiet and in hiding or that this virus hit us extremely harder than I could of imagined," thought Paul to himself, still trying to fully understand the situation.

As the two were almost clear of the neighborhood, the mountain path only a few blocks away, Maria suddenly said in suprise, "Look over there, there is a man on that roof!" pointing at a house in the near distance with indeed a man on the roof, waving his arms in signal to get the trucks attention. As the truck pulled forward, they could see the infected pounding on the door below.

"Ok, get ready to get on top of the roof of the truck and give me some covering fire so I have a truck to even come back to- I'm going in" said Paul, pulling up his UMP, checking the magazine.
"Alright, just please be safe- we will probably make a lot of noise- its seemed too quiet so far" replied Maria, mirroring Paul's actions as she checked her SCAR's magazine and making sure she had extra magazines on her.
"Good to go, get ready to move when I stop" said Paul, pulling up to the outside of the gated house.

The truck went into park, Paul and Maria opening their doors simotaneously as they moved into positon. Maria quickly scrambled to the roof of the truck as Paul rounded around to the house in time to shoot down an infected who caught onto their presense. The remaining of the small group of six turned sharply from the door, now fixated on Paul. Their eyes had the same milky whiteness to them, screaming of torment and agony, their bodies poised for killing. They charged with all of their might.

Maria took careful aim as Paul took a knee below, opening fire as she took down an infected with a quick two-round burst. Paul aimed low, giving out 2 quick three-round burst, taking down all but one to the ground. As the infected as almost upon Paul, it fell limp to the ground with a gaping head wound. The report of Maria's rifle still echoed as Paul turned his head, giving Maria a thumbs up, standing up as he guided around the downed infected, still screeching and unable to move effectively, quickly taking to the door.

As Paul approached the door, Maria's ears caught on to infected drawn to the noise from down both ends of the street. Taking the same steady aim, she began dropping them, one-by-one as she had the advantage of distance between them and a good shot. Still, the number of infected coming was increasing. Soon, they would be over run.

Paul banged on the door, yelling, "Come on out, we don't have much time!" He tried the door knob to find it locked, still banging on the door.

Suddenly, the door unlocks, Paul taking a reactive step back, putting his weapon at the ready as it opened fully. Paul then stood face to face with a teenage boy and girl, shock and fear in their eyes. The boy had a darker Mexican complextion, looking to be of average muscle tone and height. The girl was a much lighter skin tone and petite, both looking to be roughly 17 in age.

"Alright, where is the man at? We gotta get ya'll out of here!" said Paul, giving motion with his hand for them to follow.
"He said he would be right behind us! They are almost threw the back door! He said to go!" said the young man, still trying to take in the situation.
"Ok- lets get you to the truck, move!"

Paul led the two around the infected towards the gate, shooting an infected that got past Maria's covering fire, sending a three-round burst into it. Two the head, one to the head. Opening the back door, Paul motioned for the two teens to move as they crawled inside, looking a bit uncomfortable as they had to manuever around the large packs. More infected drew nearer, Maria still shooting from above, Paul taking a knee as he took careful shots down to the infected, seemingly pro at disabling shots.

Just as his magazine ran dry and was going to reload, the man could be seen in the door way. His eyes were full of exitment and relief upon the sight of Paul and Maria and most certainly the truck. He ran forwards, straight towards the gate, Paul only barely having the chance to yell, "NO!"

One of the downed infected grabbed the mans ankle, causing him to trip. The other disabled one's noticing their meal on the ground next to him. They clawed at the man as he tried to get up, screaming for his life, opening up his hand to Paul. More infected started to run towards the downed man from within the house- the back door apparently having faultered. As Paul managed to put in a new magazine, he began to take aim as the back door from the truck hit him in the back, the teenage girl screaming for the man.

"Help him! They are killing him! You gotta help him!" she yelled with tears in her eyes.
"Get back in the truck! We can't do anything now!" yelled Paul, taking down an infected from within the gate, "Maria, lets go!"
"OK! I'm coming down!" said Maria loudly, taking one last well aimed shot as she got down from the roof.

Paul opened the front door for Maria as she climbed in, closing it behind her. The man still managed to draw breath somehow, looking up at Paul, giving him the same look as John had not so long ago. Taking a very quick breath, Paul gave the man the only help he could, sending a round to his head. The report caused the girl to scream even louder, Paul turning and pushing the back door closed, the girl still crying.

As he came rushing around the corner of the truck to get to the drivers seat, Paul realized the situation was close to nil. Infected had began to mass, coming in with force. Two were almost on top of him as he sent one down with a snap-head shot, giving the second a buttstroke to its temple. Both went limp to the ground.

"Well shit, maybe it is the headshots..." thought Paul to himself as he contiued around to the truck.

Paul got into the still-running truck, putting it into drive, seeing that the soft hearted and beautiful Maria had already began trying to calm the hystericaly crying girl down. Driving forward, the thuds and thumps of infected bouncing off the truck rattled the cab, the truck still pressing threw.

The group cleared the neighborhood, now begining the steep incline of the mountain path. As they drove forward, Paul could see that the area was virtually untouched by any of the strife down below. Sand, rocks and desert vegitation were the only occupying force around, no shelter to be had unfortunently for the group. The truck made its way to a relatively flat clearing in the slightly past mid-day sun, stopping there to try and calm down the seemingly emotional situation in the back seat.

"Alright guys," said Paul as he put the truck in park, turning to face the teens, "how are ya'll holding up?"
The young man held the now calmer girl in his arms, his eyes seemingly weary of Paul and Maria.
"Well what is are your names then?" said Maria with a warm smile.
"Andrew." said the young teen.
The girl stayed quiet, looking as if the had exhausted herself with all of her crying, giving the slightest of movement to mutter out, "Kelly."
"Well, Andrew, Kelly, its nice to meet ya. Wish it was under better circumstances of course" said Paul in reponse, trying to be soft with his voice (a thing he had been working on).
"And I am Maria, and he is Paul, it is nice to meet you" said Maria, still keeping the warmth of her voice.
"Well- I dont know who that man was to ya'll, but I'm sorry for your loss Kelly. It hurt to hear you cry like that- I'm sorry," Paul said, looking at Kelly directly.
Kelly sat upright, glaring at Paul, giving a harsh voice responding, "Thats why you let him die?! That's why you KILLED my papa?!"
With this, Paul turned around slowly, letting out a sigh, hanging his head.
"You KNOW that's not even true, Kelly, stop it!" replied Andrew harshly, "You know exactly what happens when someone gets bit! Would you rather see your dad like one of THEM?!"
Kelly began to cry lightly again, sinking her head into Andrew's chest.

Maria turned to Paul, giving him a hand on his shoulder, attempting to comfort him. Paul glanced over to Maria, giving a half smile as he lifted his head back up, leaning his head back on the headrest of the seat.

"Thank you" said Andrew quietly, "What do we do now?"
"Well you are very welcome- glad we could help someone. For now, we sit up here until we figure out our next destination," replied Paul, still leaning his head back.
"What about the Army? We should make our way over to them. THEY will know what to do and will protect us! THEY are probably already cleaing everything up!" replied a hopeful Andrew, speaking with confidence in his words.

Paul rolled his head to glance at Maria, sharing a moment of eye contact, Maria dropping her eyes down, turning to Andrew.

"We can't do that, sweetie. The Army is not as safe an option as you think unfortunently" said Maria sympathetically, "We ran into some people that THEY had shot down, we think THEY are doing it to try and contain whatever this is."
"NO! You are lying, THEY would never do that! My dad would never do that! You two are just trying to keep us away from getting help! YOU probably started this mess huh!" retorted the harshly offended Andrew, a tear slipping from his eye.
Kelly sat up, listening to the conversation seemingly unbiased.
"Listen up boy, last I recall- we risked OUR asses to get you. You have no value to us in matters of resources or survivabilty and now you throw accusations at us for telling you something that we don't even want to believe?! Please tell me you are shitting me" came back a much harsher Paul, his fist clenched as the accusation against him sank in and quiet blatantly pissed him off.
"Now-now, I can see how this could be hard to take in- your Dad being a soldier and all, but until we figure out more- we need to stay clear of them. Its chaos everywhere- we can't expect EVERYONE to be helpful and friendly now can we?" said Maria, trying to calm down the group again.
"I just," started Andrew, more tears rolling down his face, "I'm scared- what the heck are we going to do? I don't wanna die, but there are so many..maybe if we talk to the Army, THEY will help us."
Kelly put her arm around Andrew's back, "Just listen to them...why would they lie? Even if they were, we could eventually find our way to some Army people, find your least you still have your dad..." Kelly then sinking her head back into his chest.

Paul let himself relax, half turning to see the two in the back.
"Ok- I'm sorry- I know this must be tough on ya'll, shit, I think it 'bout ruined everyones day, we just gotta stay calm and think this threw. We will sleep up here where we know it is safe and try to figure out what to do next. We still got a few hours of day left, we will just take a look at the city from here. Lets get out and stretch out- sound good?"
The others gave back a silent nod and a muffled "ya"- Paul, in his mind, still expecting the motivated sound of his Marines. A bit of him was dissapointed, but also understood that these were no Marines.

The four exited the vehicle- checking the area around them. The path leading up to them was very steep- the infected who had pursued from the local neighborhood still remained at the lowest point, stumbling over each other. The surrounding area was rocky and had scattered desert vegitation. The only path leading up to this particular point was the way the group had came up. Safety was once again established- for now.

Paul climbed atop the truck, looking in the direction of the city as he found that some parts weren't near as bad of the rest (for his side of the mountain at least). Smoke still sizzled above the downtown region as well as some local neighborhood areas, but spots of relative clearness could be seen, standing out from the rest.

"Quarantined zones?" thought Paul to himself.
"Possibly, or its just people who haven't died...yet."
"Don't let your mind wonder too far- we still need to figure out what WE are going to do. Worry about the rest later."

Phasing back in, still surveying the area, a thought came to Paul.

"Hey uh, Andrew, Kelly- ever shot a gun before?"

The two teens, pearing off the ridge, turned theirs heads to Paul, shaking it to confirm a "no."

"High time to learn don't ya think? And boy are you in luck! Come on over- I will show ya the basics."

The two teens approached the truck as Paul jumped down, opening the back seat of the truck, grabbing for his rucksack. As he unzipped the pack, he pulled out the Glock 19 and Glock 22SF, handing Andrew the 22SF and Kelly the 19.

"Ok- first rule- don't point it at anything other than the ground and your target. Don't EVER waive it at something you don't wanna shoot" started Paul, giving his old instructional voice.
"Rule two- keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to fire, like this," unholstering his own Glock 21, demonstrating what he was explaining.
"Why?" asked Kelly, breaking her silence.
"Well you don't wanna accidentally pull the trigger if you aren't ready to shoot. Ok- rule three- before you shoot, make sure you know what is behind your target. You don't wanna shoot at things that will obviously richochet and end up hitting one of us." explained and continued Paul.
"Now onto using the weapons.."

Paul continued his lesson, Maria even joining in after she got back from a bathroom break (tho of course without facilities), showing the common functions of the pistols such as loading, reloading, chambering a round (since the mechanics were all the same except for caliber) and then firing.

"Ok, Andrew- you first. Come here- we are going to aim for say uhhh- that rock- there" said Paul, now pointing at a rock as Andrew moved into position.
"Now what you are going to do is line up the two side sights with the middle one until it levels out. After that- you are going to relax and pull the trigger very gentally."

Andrew took aim, taking a deep breath as he leveled the sights, pulling the trigger- sending the round straight to the rock, smiling as he confirmed hitting the target.

"Good job- just remember to take a stance that supports the recoil of the gun- don't wanna end up shooting planes. Well, if there were any left in the sky at least. Kelly, your turn, come on over" said Paul, motioning Kelly over to him.

Kelly timidly came up next to Paul, trying to repeat Andrew's movement.

"Alright, same deal- just relax."

Kelly took aim, leveling the sights as her hands began to shake. A few seconds later, her aim dropped with her head, crying lightly. Maria rushed over, giving her a comforting hug, holding her tight.

"I know today has been a really rough day on you sweetie, just try to get your mind off of it. This will help. We all have to learn this- we are just lucky we have Paul here to make sure we survive. Are you up to it?" said Maria, combing Kelly's hair lightly.

Kelly nodded, wiping the tears from her face, retaking aim at the same rock. Lining up the sights, she pulled the trigger. The round flew low, missing the target.

"It's alright, just try again- remember to relax is all" encouraged Paul.

Taking another breath, Kelly squeezed the trigger, this round going slightly high.

"Why can't I get it?!" exclaimed Kelly, dropping her aim and looking at Paul with frustration.

"Why? Because it is only your second shot. You should'a seen me my first 2 rounds- I got laughed at all day long! You got it in the box tho- you are doing good. Just remember that not every round will always hit- ya just gotta keep trying" replied Paul calmly and caringly.

Nodding lightly, Kelly took aim again, leaning into her shot as she pulled the trigger, the round connecting dead on with the targeted rock.

"Good job Kel!" said Andrew, giving her a side hug.
"Very good, nice one Kelly!" congratulated Maria with her warm smile.

"Very good indeed. Now both of you do it again" said Paul, crossing his arms.

The shooting continued until Paul felt that the two were comfortable with their shooting stances, targeting and overall comfortability with the weapons. Nodding his head, Paul gave a hand on each of their shoulders.

"That is how you do it. Right on time to help me gather fire wood before the sun sets!" said Paul cheerfully with the first full smile he had since he met the two.

Maria walked next to Paul, placing a hand on his shoulder, leaning her head on her hand as Andrew and Kelly walked off to gather the fire wood.

"Sheesh, Mr. Take charge aren't ya? You did good with them, just don't let them down- kids their age are let down really easily. That's on us now" said Maria, patting Paul's back and she departed to gather fire material.

"Responsibility. Lets see if I can manage it like I use to" thought Paul to himself, his memory quickly pulling him back into the past.

"Snap out of it, think we are going out even up here alone?" called out Maria, bringing Paul back on track, smiling as she continued to walk towards to vegetation of the mountain.

The small group gathered flamable sticks that were dried out by the drought, circling rocks together to form a fire pit. A small stack of spare wood and dry vegatation sat next to the group as Paul lit the fire with a lighter Maria provided. Kelly and Andrew sat next to each other as the sun set deep enough for darkness to set in, the fire light illuminating the area. Maria sat next to Paul, putting her hands over the fire for warmth against the cool breeze the mountain elevation gave (tho they weren't dramatically high up).

"Not to drag ya'll down or anything, but how did ya'll end up in that house if ya don't mind me asking" asked Paul, looking up at Kelly and Andrew.

Andrew looked at Kelly, trying to read her emotions to see if she would respond. Taking the initiative to keep her calm, Andrew spoke up.

"We were on our way to her house after school let out early due to an emergency when we saw the first of THEM. THEY were attacking the postman- got into his truck and all I remember of him is blood covering the windows...then THEY saw us.." started Andrew, taking a breath, looking over at Kelly to reasure the recolition wasn't disturbing her. "We ran a few blocks until we got to Kelly's place, we forgot to close the gate behind us. We knocked loud and Daniel...her dad..opened the door, rushing us in. He had already started boarding up his house. He ran over to Kelly, giving her a hug and kiss, telling her he was happy that she made it. And the rest...well- you know."

"You should be proud of your dad Kelly. If he wasn't brave enough to of gotten on that rough to signal us- we would have never of found you and you probably wouldn't be here. He saved you, don't forget that" said Maria, holding eye contact with Kelly.

Kelly nodded, a tear slipping from her eyes. Andrew comforted her with a hug.

"Soooo uh, what does that make you then?" asked Paul, looking at Andrew.
"O, I'm her boyfriend" replied Andrew with red cheeks, caught off guard by the question.
"How sweet, be a gentleman and keep her safe hun" replied Maria, wide smile on her face.
"I will try." replied Andrew.
"That's all anyone can really do," said Paul with a nod, "So you said your dad is in the Army?"
"Ya- he is stationed here at Fort Bliss. He is an Intelligence Officer- he doesn't tell me much about what he does. I hope he is ok.." came back a now saddened Andrew.
"If anyone is ok for now- its probably the brains of the Army. Don't worry- I am sure he is a lot more worried about you. When things calm down-"
"IF things calm down" corrected Maria.
"WHEN...things calm down, we will try getting you and Kelly to your dad. Maybe he has some answers that could help us figure out how to survive this thing" finished Paul.

Kelly yawned, the days physical drain finally catching up with her. The contagious yawn soon caught Andrew and Maria, both stretching out in exhaust.

"Well- you two can sleep inside the truck. Me and Maria will sleep in the bed of the truck. We will keep an eye out threw out the night, so don't worry" explained Paul, putting his hands above the fire.
"Ok...thank you..again..I'm going to sleep now" replied Kelly, standing up, stretching out.

Paul and Maria stood up, walking over to the truck, taking out their packs- passing out bread and water amongst each other and letting Andrew and Kelly get situated in the cab of the truck. Paul lowered the tail gate of the truck, rolling his and Maria's sleeping bags as Maria finished her bread next to the fire.

As the setup was completed, Paul joined Maria next to the fire.

"What's on your mind?" asked Paul as he crossed his legs comfortablly.
"O- just that young love. It's so cute. I hope it survives all of...THIS" replied Maria, throwing her hands in the air.
"Ya- one of our many ever growing problems.." said Paul, loosing his focus in the fire.
"What do you mean by that?" asked Maria.
Paul shook his head, snapping back into the conversation. "Think about downtown on our way to the garage. That was a fucking ambush- a set up- if I ever seen one. Even the prosect of that is fucking scary."
"Do you think they are getting smarter or something?" replied a now wide-eyed Maria, her gaze fixated on Paul.
"Maybe so. Maybe its just a select few with basic problem solving skills. I mean...THEY did use to be us. Not like THEY are de-evolving from fish or something. Or maybe it's THEM just going into an extremely primal state of being. Think of like..a fucking wolf. The wolf knows it has to stalk its prey...shit- it even takes bigger animals out by coordinated strikes from its pack and all that doesn't require shit other than being an animal..insticts."

Maria fixed her eyes on the fire in front of her, wondering to herself the grim situation she would be in if any of Paul's theories were correct.

"Try not to focus to hard on it- we don't know anything yet. It may have been coincidence. We were in a populated area on a particularly busy last few days," started Paul in his attempt to minimize the fear that was currently containing Maria, "We need to focus on the NOW tho. We are going to be out of food and water soon enough. We need to find a place that will buy us some time on supplies so we can figure out a solid plan. Tomorrow, we will go back down and find us what we need. Shit- I wouldn't mind even trying to find a defensible place- the desert will be too harsh if we are exposed to the heat all day- especially with the young'ins."
"Ok- but for now- lets focus on OUR NOW. Lets go to sleep- I am tired of this day- so much has happened. That poor girl...can you imagine what she feels right now?" replied Maria, a look of sorrow filling her face as she looked up at Paul.
"Would you believe me if I said yes?"

Maria nodded, remembering Paul's introduction as a Marine, assuming a lot of history of his that had yet to be told. With little else to say, Maria took off her socks, boots and LBV, climbing into her sleeping bag.

"You going to hop in?" asked Maria, leaning forward, looking down at Paul who was still kneeling down at the fire.
Paul threw in more of the dried vegetation onto the fire, looking over at Maria. "I got first watch, wake you up in a couple of hours. Rest easy pretty thing."

Maria smiled, thinking to herself, "He called me pretty" as she closed her eyes- trying to forget the nightmare world she now existed in.

"Thinking..instictive..zombies. Isn't this some intense shit" thought Paul to himself as he stood to his feet, walking over to the decline, looking down to dimly see the infected, still at the lowest point, relentlessly trying to climb it.
"Instictive..yes..Zombies...infected, zombies, whatever, yes...thinking...debatable."
"Lets hope you are right- I'd hate to be right."

Paul kicked a rock that travled all the way down to the infected, knocking one on its chin. A growl came back up in response, Paul allowing himself to chuckle as he patroled the perimeter.

"I wonder if the boys are alright."