The Zombies, Run! community had a competition recently where they invited their fans to send in audios describing their own lives in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. I can’t audio, but I really liked the idea… so I played to my own strengths and did fake screenshots of me and Liv as Abel Township residents. That’s Liv with Sam and Janine in the first pic and Maxine in the second. In the third pic it’s me with Jody and Simon, and me with Liv in the fourth.
And Liv, who is an absolutely fantastic writer and an awesome buddy in general, added an adorable little continuation.
We’re both dorks, I know. But read her fic! It’d make us both happy. :)
Priorities - by Errantwings
"Just what the hell are you planning on doing with two goddamned gallons of hydrochloric acid?" I grumble as I stuff the first two containers I can find into my backpack.
"Liters. Those are liter jars, and you’re exaggerating. Do you even know how to convert to metric yet?" Crim’s voice rings in dryly over my headset. I can practically hear the smug arch in his brow.
"Should a Runner be making bite jokes?"
"I think especially Runners should be making bite jokes. But really, Crim. You’re not trying to make a body disappear with this stuff or anything, are you?”
"Oh please. If that were the case I’d be a little more pragmatic than sending you out for a few liters of acid."
The classroom is a mess, desks overturned and broken glass littering the floor. I find myself stepping over loose papers and lost notebooks, crouching to pick up someone’s discarded Hello Kitty pen. I try it out on the back of my hand, doodling a spiral. It still writes, fuck yeah. That goes straight into my pocket.
"Now, now," Crim chides. "Focus, will you? Sam’s not here and I don’t know what any of these buttons do." Sometimes I forget he’s constantly watching over the cameras. When I’m in range, anyway. Cameras are coming up and going down so fast I can never keep track of which zones are live.
"Yeah, yeah. I’m working on it." Straightening again, I move to scan the shelves for anything else on Crim’s list, or any of the stuff I know he’s constantly short on. I spot a first aid kit and fasten that to my bag at once. Never know when you’ll need a small mountain of bandages in that man’s lab. And yet I’m hanging out there when I’m off duty anyway. All my friends back in the States had me pegged as a sadist, but lately I’ve been thinking they had it all wrong.
"Shit, Crim. This stuff is getting heavy. Did you need to send me out for all the liquids at once?"
"Yes, because I did that on purpose. It’s the only lab in the area we haven’t been through already—"
"Wait, I think I just— Do you have the cameras in the hallway up? I hear something move."
"Probably just a rat or something, hold one."
While he’s checking, I hastily stuff whatever else I think I can carry into my bag. Unidentified glass bottles, lab equipment, gloves. Crim might think a rat is more likely, but I’ve heard enough hungry undead to know when to get going.
"Right, okay, not a rat. You want the south exit, there’s three shambling in from the north."
"Why Crim, I think you missed a calling as a comms operator."
"Will you stop teasing and run?”
"No, I think I’ll keep teasing and run."
"Ten, if you’re still in one piece when you get back here I’m of the mind to strap you to a table."
"Is that a promise?"
"I’m going, I’m going!"
I don’t think I’m Abel’s fastest runner, not by a long shot. My body’s just not built for it. Short, top heavy, metabolism like a sloth. I’ve gotten a bit leaner since joining up with the township, but not by a lot. Still, for all my shortcomings there’s nothing I love better than a good run. It makes me feel alive in a world that’s dead and dying. You might call that a bit cliche, but this is the apocalypse. The world’s so far gone that cliches are fresh again. Trust me, I used to be a writer.
I book it down the hallway, headed for the double doors down at the end. I find myself slower than I’m used to, which is troubling. I’m usually having close calls even when I’m clocking my average speeds, which for me is part of the fun, but—
"Ten, what the hell do you think you’re doing?!" Crim’s voice crackles over the headset, the volume of his shouting causing him to break up a little.
"It’s your stupid liquids! They’re throwing off my balance and it’s slowing me down—"
"Dump them, then! Hell, just throw them behind you! We’ll call it a field experiment—"
"Shut up, I can do this! It just needs some getting used to!"
"They’re catching up, dammit! I don’t have cameras up ahead!"
"Don’t worry about it! Just tell the snipers I’m coming in hot and wait for me at the gates! I’ll be there!"
"Ten, it’s just some stupid glass bottles! We’ll get more!"
I take a second, just a single, precious second, to compose myself so I’m not shouting. I want him to hear my smile, my confidence. Oh, he’s going to be so pissed off when I get back. But that, too, is part of the fun.
"I’ll see you in a few minutes, Crim. I promise."
Then I take a deep breath and charge on ahead into the dead zone.
Crim stares at the blank camera screens, listening intently to any sounds coming over his headset. Screams, maybe. Undead groans. Anything to indicate what’s going on. But all he hears is the wind and Runner Ten’s labored breathing as she runs. Scowling, he goes over the maps. With Ten’s average running time, even accounting for the heavy liquids in her bag slowing her down, it should take her no more than twenty minutes to reach the settlement.
He can’t remember a length of time ever sounding longer. Stupid, wretched, cocky little girl. It must be an American thing. With their imperial units and their utter disregard for the letter ‘u’ and their driving on the wrong side of the road. It figures that the most willful and irreverent Runner in the township would be the only one willing to work for him.
It’s been two minutes.
“Kind of— Busy—"
He knows he shouldn’t try to talk to her when she’s sprinting. Biting down on his lip, he stands to pace in the tiny tin shed Mr. Yao calls a comms station. It’s going to be impossible to find a replacement for Ten. No one wants to work with him now, never mind after he loses a Runner on a basic supply mission like this.
When Sam said he was going to grab a bite to eat, Crim hadn’t imagined the man was going to go butcher his own chickens or forge his own cooking utensils out of scrap metal or whatever else that man must be up to for the seemingly simple task of getting lunch to be taking him forty-five minutes. Perhaps something very unfortunate will happen to Mr. Yao’s secret stash of marmite before he returns. It would certainly give Crim something to do while he waits.
Twenty one minutes.
Twenty five minutes.
"Jesus, Crim! You don’t have to shout! I’m here, okay? Just— Just had to get the last stretch—"
Distantly, Crim can hear the echo of cover fire over the headset and he quickly sits back down, all the breath sucked right out of him.
It’s Ten’s turn to worry.
"…Crim? Crim? I told you I’d be back, didn’t I? Crim…? Now don’t give me the silent treatment—“
"Stay where you are. I’ll be right there."
Oh boy, I know that tone of voice. Mopping the sweat off my forehead with the back of my sleeve, I accept a bottle of water from Jodie and sit down to wait. I’m shaking with exhaustion by now. I won’t be fit for another mission for days. Pushed myself too hard. Ah, well. The important thing is that the mission was a success. Got the lab supplies and a couple things extra. Now I just have to keep Crim from locking me up in a closet indefinitely and we’re golden.
Speaking of Crim, there he is. I spot him striding over in what isn’t quite a jog, but it’s Crim’s best approximation of one. I think it’s cute, but last time I told him that he pinched me.
"What. Were. You. Thinking?!”
That must be the fastest I’ve ever gotten him to launch into a lecture. I should start keeping a scoreboard.
"I was thinking I was definitely fast enough to make it?" I really shouldn’t challenge him. But I can’t help it. We keep each other on our toes, or at least I’d like to think so.
"You took almost half an hour to get back! That should’ve been a twenty minute run at most!"
"Well, I made a stop!"
The way Crim’s expression goes dark makes me almost wish I hadn’t said that. But only almost. He’s gotten a lot less scary the more I get to know him. At first he was like this really intimidating possible serial killer guy. By now he’s more like a puppy dressed in a shark costume, absolutely convinced he’s a shark.
"There was this smashed up storefront on the way back and I saw a couple boxes of perfectly good snacks, so I made a stop!"
"You almost became zombie food for snacks?! Olivia, I swear—”
"But they’re your favorite!"
I pull the box of weird cookie things I know Crim likes out of my bag, shoving it unceremoniously into his arms.
He stares for a long, hard moment.
He lifts his gaze to stare at me now, and I know he’s livid but I’m grinning like a maniac all the same. It’s like those close calls with the zombies. Crim won’t stay mad for long, probably, and I live for this stuff. It’s the small things when the world is in pieces, and this is one of my things.
"You nearly died for Tim Tams."
"No one nearly died, Crim." Feeling energized just having this argument with Crim, I climb back to my feet. "C’mon, I wanted to bring you something nice. I’m fine, so why don’t you walk me to the showers and we can eat Tim Tams and talk about your plans for the crazy acid stuff, and if you’re really still sore after all the cookies are eaten, then you can tie me to a table or something until you feel better.”
"…I’m never going to understand you."
I’m sweaty and gross so I don’t want to get too touchy-feely with my friend, but I do laugh and slap a hand on his shoulder.
"Nah, you’re a smart guy. We’ll get there. The getting there is the part that’s the adventure, you know?"
"Flattery is not going to make me less angry."
"You say that, but we’ll see."
"I hate you."
"I know. But you know what?"
"You called me Olivia instead of Ten earlier. I think you’re— What’s the word you used? Attached.”
"This conversation is over."
"Oh no, this conversation’s just begun."