My feet barely felt as though they were touching the floor at all as I made a mad dash back the way we came, down that dark hallway!
Alex and I were pretty evenly matched, running at top speed while scurrying away from the possible threat behind us. But Donovan's longer legs proved to be to his advantage, catching up to us and soon overtaking our speed and passing us up as self preservation pushed all of us to our very limits! Holy shit! PLEASE don't let my life end like this!
However, neither one of us could run as fast as Preston!
Preston had already reached the end of the hallway and had rounded the corner before we could even clearly catch sight of him. I had never SEEN a boy move so fast! DAMN, he was quick on his feet!
However, Preston was also the first to run into a trio of armed soldiers who were patrolling the grounds at that particular moment. Noticing his frantic behavior, they grabbed him around the shoulders and did their best to hold him still. What the fuck is going ON, you know???
The soldier holding him had to actually lean back and pick Preston's super quick feet off of the ground to keep him from squirming his way around them all in a hyperactive, 'greased piglet', fashion. And even then his kicking legs bashed their shins as he struggled to get loose. The soldiers, then, took notice of the rest of us approaching with all the blood drained from our faces and a terrified look in our eyes, causing them to immediately draw their weapons and aim them at whatever might come creeping around that corner next.
Despite my initial fright and panic, I almost felt a touch of safety now that the military was here to protect us.
However, when the dark figures came shuffling around the corner, and the soldiers pointed their high powered weapons in their direction...something odd happened.
The, once silent, figures suddenly stopped dead in their tracks...and they frantically thrust their hands in the air.
"GET DOWN!!! DOWN ON THE GROUND!!! PUT YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEADS !!!" The soldiers barked at them. The potential zombies complied with their orders, and lay face down on the floor.
What??? What the heck was...?
"DON'T SHOOT!!!" Came a voice from one of the bodies on the floor. "PLEASE! Don't shoot us!"
The voice was deep in its tone, but you could tell that it still had that touch of youth behind it. They were all maybe Donovan's age at the most. Maybe even a year or two younger...like me and Alex.
The soldiers aggressively, yet cautiously, approached the shadowed figures with guns still pointed directly at their heads. Their orders, hollered at the top of their lungs as the so-called 'assailants' quivered and trembled from the threat of getting a bullet in the brain. The soldier holding Preston was actually able to put him back down on his feet as the boy calmed down and let his curiosity take the reigns from his previous hysteria. Donovan caught his breath, and was the first one to be brave enough to step forward for a closer look. I hadn't even noticed that Alex was gripping my hand until his tension caused him to squeeze it so tightly that the loss of circulation caused my fingers to go cold.
What was this?
"It was just a fuckin' PRANK, man!!! What the FUCK??? We're human! Swear! We were just fucking around!" One of the boys said, his forehead still pressed to the tile floor. The others were sobbing quietly, a few sniffles exchanged between them as their admission of guilt didn't grant them any freedom from the soldier's lethal sights. It was then that I looked past the teenagers' river of tears to see a small puddle of yellow tinted liquid spread out across the floor from the one boy in front. The humiliation of wetting himself only worked to intensify his waterworks as he begged for his life. "Come on, you guys...please? We were...were just joking..."
The soldier, finally able to catch his breath, pressed the barrel of his gun against the boy's head. "You think this is a goddamn JOKE? is that what you think???"
"No..." He whimpered.
"No, SIR!!! Address me the right way, kid!"
"NO, SIR!!!" The boy sobbed.
"What about the rest of you? This is funny to you? Huh?" He said. "And what happens when your little comedy routine puts a round of bullets in your best friend's face? What then?" The soldier yanked the lead boy up to his feet and roughly grabbed him by the back of the neck. All while the four of us looked on in horror. Not because of their zombie prank, but because of the soldier's treatment of the teens responsible. Finding out they weren't the monsters outside should have been a sigh of relief...not an excuse to beat them up.
"Let's go! Move!" The soldier barked at them and practically began dragging them off to put them God knows where. The boy who wet himself had a big stain down the front of his left pants leg, and all of them were sniffling and drenched in tears from the sudden attack. "I said MOVE!!!"
Donovan spoke up, "Where are you taking them?"
"There's a curfew in this building, son! I suggest you boys get back to your bunks immediately and stay there."
"That doesn't answer my ques..." Donovan started to speak, but one of the soldiers bumped his shoulder on purpose, nearly knocking him up against the wall. That was no accident. It was practically a hockey check, for crying out loud. They would have completely knocked little Preston clear off his feet if he hadn't been small enough to worm his way between them and stay out of their way.
"Beat it, kids. Show's over. Get to bed. You've got a long day ahead of you tomorrow. Believe me." Another soldier told us, and we were left standing there, astonished at what we had just witnessed. That's when we heard the soldier activate his walkie talkie and ask, "Did we clear out those ball cages in the gym locker rooms yet? We may need them tonight.
Donovan rubbed his shoulder a few times before angrily straightening his clothes out again. "It's already starting to crumble..." He said. "We don't have much longer. The way things are? They're about to become the way things were."
Was he right? I have to admit, even though some of the soldiers could be a bit intense in their treatment of people within the high school walls...it never left this feeling of dread inside me before. It felt...wrong.
We may be protected from the threats out side, but who's going to protect us from the protectors when THEY become the enemy?
All four of us were dead silent as we walked back down to the main gym. I didn't want to be roaming the halls at night anymore. I didn't want to even think of running into one of those zombie things, but I don't think I wanted to run into any soldiers either. If Donovan's right, it'll be hard to tell which one is more frightening in the weeks to come. Hell, even Preston was to scared to yap away like he usually does. I don't think his heartbeat ever slowed down from when he first took off running. He was breathing heavy, his big eyes searching every corner and unexpected shadow they could find. Just in case he had to kick his adrenaline into high gear all over again.
Noticing his discomfort, Alex asked, "You ok, Pres?"
"Uh huh..." He said, barely above a whisper. His gaze still roaming around the halls with every step.
Alex's magical eyes connected to mine, and he gave me a little nod. "How about you? You ok?"
I nodded. Not that he really had to be worried about me all that much, but now that he asked, I noticed that my heart was beating extremely hard for me to consider it 'normal'. But a part of that might have been caused by the pure beauty of his bright eyes alone. They have a similar effect. I guess, I could call it a comfortable level of 'terror' mixed with a loss of emotional control.
Once we got back into the gym, we noticed people had mostly found their spots, and were just sitting in random places on the floor, some of them already asleep. It wasn't that late. But I guess when it comes down to a choice between boredom and sleep...losing a few hours of consciousness is preferable.
Alex and I had already taken the time to move our little palettes together so that we could sleep side by side. I mean, we were in an entire gymnasium full of people, so it's not like we were going to be having marathon sessions of hot 'boy sex' in front of everybody. But that wasn't the point. We simply wanted to be together. We wanted to remain close at all times, no matter what. It brought me a huge thrill to know that he felt the same way, and that we could truly romance one another in the most intimate ways without so much as a single kiss.
Besides...I just like the scent of him. The feel of his faint body heat in close proximity. The idea of falling asleep next to him, my eyes closing as they make his angelic vision the last thing I see before my subconscious takes over for the evening...it just gives me a warm feeling inside. Every time.
However, we were both surprised to see Donovan sit down beside us as well. One knee up, one leg stretched out, as he leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes as he tried to relax. Alex and I must have been staring at him pretty hard, because his eyes opened and he wrinkled his brow. "What?"
"Nothing!" We said, simultaneously. We didn't mind. And we certainly didn't want to ruin the moment. But...even Donovan had to admit that this seemed a bit out of character for him. And here I thought he was obsessed with being left alone.
Just as Donovan tilted his head back and began to relax again, we heard the squeak of Preston's sneakers on the gym floor approaching us. He had a big blanket bunched up in his arms, and two pillows, and his backpack slung over his shoulder, and he was sucking on a piece of candy...quite loudly, I might add. "You guys got room? I can just...here, lemme squeeze in right here. I don't snore. Promise." He just kind of wormed his way between us and Donovan, taking a comfy spot right next to him. "This is cool, right? It's like a sleepover. Or a camping trip. Prolly more like a sleepover though. You know..." Donovan reached out to cover Preston's mouth with his hand.
"Shhhhh...people are trying to sleep." He said.
Preston smiled, "Oh yeah. Right. Hehehe!" His whispers helped Donovan to tune him out audibly...but the second he found enough space to squeeze in, he leaned against the same wall and put his pillow on Donovan's shoulder, leaning against him as he drew both knees up to his chest and closed his eyes.
Alex and I expected an immediate protest to this once Donovan opened his eyes, but Preston had gotten so comfortable, so quickly...he didn't seem to bother. A momentary frown crossed his lips as he looked down at the top of his companion's head, then he looked up at us as we tried not to snicker out loud. So Donovan let it go, leaned his head back, and just closed his eyes again. They are an odd couple if I ever saw one.
Alex and I stretched out on our mats and lay on our sides, facing each other. The gym was dark, but the flood of light coming through the open doors from the hallway gave us enough illumination to see one another. That smile. That untouchable smile of his. There was nothing else like it on this planet. And as we silently scooted closer together, Alex's hand reached for mine, and we pulled our blankets up to our shoulders to conceal our affectionate bond.
I was scared to kiss him. I shouldn't be scared anymore. None of this should be considered dirty or 'scandalous' enough to warrant either one of us making it a secret. But old, brainwashed, habits are hard to break, I suppose. Still, I leaned close enough to lightly rub my nose against his, and Alex giggled in the sweetest way from the contact.
"G'night, Jake..." He sighed.
"G'night, Alex..." I sighed in return.
We could have held that silent eye contact for another ten minutes at least. But then, out of nowhere, we heard the faintest sound coming from the area next to us. A light 'buzzing' sound. Heavy breathing, with just a touch of 'noise' behind it. And when we looked up, Preston had already conked out for the night. How the heck did he fall asleep so fast? He must have truly been worn out from the day's events. And as we listened closely...a very light snore was rumbling around in the bridge of his nose. Not in a loud or obnoxious way, but in this cute and cuddly manner that reminded one of the way a household pet would snore while sitting in your lap. So much for promises, huh? Hehehe, that boy is a real gem, you know that?
Alex and I continued to hold hands under that blanket until we fell asleep. The blankets were cheap and coarse to the touch. Just enough to be 'functional' and nothing more. But Alex's hands were soft and smooth as silk. Not just in comparison...but in general. We loved the sensation of our affectionate contact. Threading and re-threading our fingers together. Loving glides of bare skin over the backs of our knuckles and the slightly moist touch of our nervous palms. As erect as I was at the time, I was surprised that I had enough blood flow left to blush. Secret smiles and intimate gazes...added to a few stifled giggles from the bubbly feeling inside. I could feel the sweetness of his breath on my cheek and lips, but wasn't able to lean in for a kiss. No matter how much my heart ached for it.
Oh God, how I longed to be alone with him again.
I could have stared into those radiant eyes all night if I had a choice...but the darkness and silence eventually came to claim us both, conspiring with the fatigue from our evening and lulling us to sleep. I'm not sure which one of us dozed off first, but we couldn't have been that far apart. It just felt good to know that his beauty was the last thing I saw before my subconscious took the wheel.
Love is grand.
I wasn't sure how long I had been out of it...an hour, maybe two. It couldn't have been much longer than that because the gymnasium was still pretty dark. Rubbing my eyes, my first instinct was to focus just long enough to give my sweetheart another glance, so as to take a mental picture of my angel at rest. However, I couldn't see him as clearly this time. There was a shadow cast over his cute face. Hehehe, such a pity.
It was then that I rolled over to look towards the gymnasium door...
I thought that maybe one of the lights had gone out in the hallway. Ever since the outbreak got too heavy for the military to contain, the electric grid for the whole city has been a bit crazy. It's not like people are getting up and going to work to monitor these issues right now. But what I saw caused me to do a double take, and rub my eyes a second time.
Doing my best to adjust my eyes to the brightness of the light, I noticed the silhouette of a young boy...standing in the middle of the doorway. Dead center. Not making a sound. Not moving a muscle. Just...standing there.
Was he looking at me? I couldn't really tell. The hall light was behind him, so his entire front was concealed in darkness. I only knew it was a boy from the mere 'shape' of him. I could also tell that he was shirtless, as his bare shoulders were slightly illuminated at the time.
An eerie silence seemed to come over the entire room. Is anybody else seeing this? I tried to come up with a 'non-creepy' reason for him to be standing there so lifelessly. Like...maybe he was looking for someone in the gym, or...maybe he needed to find a spot to sleep in. But his head never once turned left or right. He didn't seem to be seeking anything. It was as if he was completely lost in a trance or something. He barely even looked like he was breathing.
I watched for a full two minutes from my palette on the floor...and nothing changed in his demeanor. Nothing at all. His stillness gave me a chill, and I moved around a bit to maybe...I don't know...get him to realize that he had been spotted 'watching' us, and he'd go away. But he didn't move. Not even when I sat up straight and looked directly at him. That only seemed to make things all the more frightening...as I saw the dark pupils in his eyes suddenly shift to stare right back at me. Nothing else moved...just those eyes. Those dark, dead, eyes.
"Another prank, maybe?" I thought to myself. But my path of logic wasn't convincing enough to put me at ease. Why would he be pulling a silent prank in a dark room while everybody was asleep? That didn't add up at all.
We looked at one another through the darkness...the fear building up inside of me as I found myself paralyzed by his ice cold stare. And it wasn't until I noticed a few 'wires' and such hanging down from his arms, almost to his ankles, that I recognized him as the boy from the makeshift infirmary that the school had set up for special cases. What was he doing here? I thought he was sick. How did he detach himself from all of those needles and machines? How did he even have the strength to get out of bed, for that matter. He looked so weak before.
It was then that I saw another, larger, shadow show up behind him and lightly put his hands on the boy's shoulders. Whispering, and adult voice said, "Spencer? Spence...what are you doing, buddy?"
it took a second or two, but hearing the man's voice suddenly seemed to shake him free of whatever it was that had a hold on him. He shook his head a bit, his breathing returning to normal, his stiff and rigid stance finally loosening up to look more human.
In a hushed voice, the boy asked, "Where am I? How did I get here?"
The man gave him a loving hug, holding him close as he said, "You're alright, kiddo. Daddy's right here, ok?"
His father interrupted him and said, "C'mon. Let's get you back to bed. Come on, now." And with that, he led the boy away from the gymnasium doors to take him back to the infirmary. Quiet echoes of the boy's sickly cough could be heard in the distance as they traveled further down the hall.
I'd like to say that it was easy for me to get back to sleep...