Previously on Five Seconds: Parker and Andy run to the warehouse to warn the group about the incoming Crazies. Things quickly go awry when Parker and Andy become separated, the Crazies attack the warehouse, a leader gets consumed by flame, Andy is found by a lone Crazie in an underground parking lot, and Parker and his group get trapped by a hard decision.
Do Parker and the group open the door, or find a different escape?Click To Reveal Results
I couldn't tell if my eyes opened or if they were open the whole time, and only now was I not blind. I lay on the cold ground smoldering like a burnt out cigarette. Rain misted down on me but I didn't feel it; nor did I feel the cold air that made my breath plume out like a chimney. But as soon as I attempted to sit up I felt the world's rotation. I fell back down and looked up through the pines at the dark cloudy night sky.
I imagined if I lay here long enough my limbs would turn into tangled roots and my body would sprout a tree, but there was no way I could give that much life. No, there was no life left in me. I was left shattered in a ditch like a burnt out galaxy. My head was still spinning from the alcohol – perhaps I hadn’t been here very long after all.
I managed to crawl out of the ditch and struggle to my feet. Cuts and bruises littered my body, but their pain didn't penetrate my walls. I shuffled from tree to tree for support. I wasn't too far from the road. I hung my head and rested against a tree. How the hell had I gotten here? And what was that god-awful smell?
I dug deeper through the mud in my brain and found little. Just remnants. Fragmented colours, bits of sound. A kaleidoscope of memories that refused to piece themselves together.
I placed my palms against my pounding head. They were slick with a strange warm substance. I brought them in front of my eyes. I wasn't positive, but the coppery scent told me it was blood.
But was it mine or someone else's? And was it coming from my hand or my head?
If it was coming from my head that would explain the throbbing in my skull. Thrum, thrum, thrum, a steady rhythm that accompanied my heart.
At least I could tell I wasn't dead.
I closed my eyes tightly then opened them wide, hoping there would be some sort of answer in the darkness. I was situated in a grove of trees. A forest perhaps. Stanley Park?
How the hell had I gotten from the warehouse to Stanley Park?
And then a gear in my translucent memory clicked. Fire. That was the smell permeating through the cold damp air. There had been a fire in the warehouse. The Crazies had found the place. Planned the attack.
I was attacked. In the flooded parking lot underground.
Another deep steadying breath. I gripped onto the tree harder and rested my forehead against the stringy bark of the tall cedar.
I barely had enough time to point my mouth away before bile projected out of it. I grimaced at the scent — nothing but alcohol.
I clenched my teeth. That was right. I was drunk. Or, had been. Or, still was. I couldn't quite tell.
A deep sigh rattled through my body.
No. I was definitely still drunk if all I felt was numb. There should be an anvil on my chest, pouring grief, guilt, and pain into my molecules. I didn't know if I liked the numbness. It made me feel like a nonchalant ass. I reached up and snapped a stick from a branch.
The candle. Aunty.
I dropped the stick to the ground.
I collapsed to the water-logged ground as the memories flooded in.
Three hours earlier
He dragged me over the hood of the vehicle and threw me into the middle of the lane. Ice cold water soaked through my clothing.
“Nowhere to hide now!” he whooped. He swung the bat he had in his left hand through the air. “Play ball!”
My eyes darted left and right as I scrambled to my feet.
“Oh, I wish you could see yourself. Talk about a deer in headlights.”
There had to be an exit out of here. How did he get in? I took off to the right and hoped for the best. The ankle deep water soaked through my shoes and socks, which would serve to be very dangerous if I managed to get myself out of this situation.
Could I outrun this Crazie and make it to the entrance I had taken when I had originally hidden down here? I dared a glance back at the dangerous man. An oily smile was spread across his face as he chased after me.
I picked up my pace, but nearly froze and toppled over when an icy realization dawned on me. What if he was letting me get away because there was a hoard of Crazies waiting for me at the exit?
I searched the dark walls for a door and a miracle.
“Well, the longer we wait, the worse our options get, so I say go through the door,” I finalized.
“And risk getting ambushed in a tiny stairwell,” Leena warned.
“I’d rather that than being burnt to a crispy nugget,” Sam said.
The argument dissipated by the second as the flames above consumed the warehouse.
“Alright then, through the door we go,” I said, grasping onto the door handle. “Everyone ready?”
There was no telling what was behind the door. There could be a group waiting for us with fatal weapons, there could be an easy escape.
I looked into every group member's eye before proceeding.
I twisted the metal handle and yanked the door open.
A dark parkade flashed before us. Light pulsed from the left and I walked out to see the situation. Lights flashed from abandoned cars, but before I could process anything more, a hard force crashed into me, and I slammed into the flooded floor.
It was a person.
“Parker?” the person asked.
“No!” a strangled voice screamed.
I looked past Andy’s head just in time to see Yohan slam into a man with a baseball bat. Andy rolled off me and climbed to her feet, dragging me up with her.
The Crazie lay on the ground, unconscious.
“Twelve years of hockey,” Yohan said simply.
“What the hell happened?” Andy asked.
“The attack was planned. It had to be,” Leena answered. “They threw bombs through the windows and lynched everyone that tried to escape.”
“What?” Andy asked, exasperated.
“Well, that version’s a little blown out of proportion,” I corrected. “They threw Molotov cocktails through the windows, and instead of turning into fried chicken, everyone ran for the front door. We had the forethought that perhaps that wouldn’t be the best option, so we decided to escape down here through the tunnel.”
“Tunnel?” Andy shook her head in confusion.
I explained to her how there was a tunnel that led to Waterfront station. We didn’t know if it had ever been closed off, nor were we sure that it survived the earthquake, but it had been our only option.
“And it leads right to the heart of the Crazies, and, drops us off right in front of the Tomb,” Andy reminded us. “That’s just plain madness.”
“Better than being cooked alive,” Sam mentioned.
“Does anyone even know where to find this tunnel?” I asked.
The group shared empty gazes.
“We’ll split up. Search for it. Stay in twos,” Kevin decided.
“And this guy,” Yohan said, shoving the unconscious man with his foot.
“Tie him up like a pig and let his pig friends find him?” Andy suggested, folding her arms.
“And I don't suppose you have rope in your back pocket?” Yohan sighed.
Andy shifted her weight on her feet. “What good is he to us?” Andy said dropping her arms at her sides. “Just shove him behind the door and lock it.”
“Absolutely not. We need to study him,” Kevin ordered, crouching down to get a better look.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Andy ridiculed.
“No, this is a perfect opportunity. When he wakes up we can interrogate him.”
Andy looked at me with wide eyes then back at Kevin. “I'm sorry, but when did you become a private investigator?”
“Andy,” I warned softly.
She gave me a questioning look that seemed to say hey why aren't you backing me up.
“Look, you weren't exactly present when they explained it, but they have a reason to believe the Crazies are totally normal, a part of their brains just decided to stop working after the earthquake and tsunami,” I explained.
Andy looked at me like I had three heads. She shifted her gaze back to Kevin. “And you figured this all out on your own? Back at that mall in Abbotsford where you tried to kill my dog?”
“It took a while, but it made total sense when I figured it out,” Kevin explained, shifting his cracked glasses. “There's a part of your brain called the ‘id’. It’s like your instinct. And when the world did a flip flop, people’s ids grew out of control, all logic went out the window, and people began acting extremely irrational.”
Andy took a step back and folded her arms once more. “So there's not much difference between me and the Crazies that eat human flesh and enjoy murdering?” It came out more as a statement than a question.
Kevin shook his head. “Cannibalism has been documented for centuries. Same with cold-blooded murderers.”
“So your solution is to talk some sense into this guy?”
“I want to know if there's a better way of fixing things. It's not in my best interest to bomb the whole city.”
“That's your big plan!” Andy exclaimed. “Just kill everyone and start over?”
“No. That's the government's plan. They’ll blame it on a gas leak or something, but they’re going to do it. We have moles in the Tomb,” Yohan stated.
Andy spent a few silent moments gnawing on her lip.
“Andy,” I said tentatively. “I know it's a lot to take in but…” I didn't have anything to back myself up with. Her fists were tight and her eyes were distant. “You alright?”
“Find a car that works, tie the guy up with jumper cables, and let's go before we meet any unwanted guests,” she barked.
We found ourselves escaping in a dark green Jeep. It was a miracle that after two months of being abandoned the machine hadn't corroded to dust. The battery had somehow just enough juice left in it to get the vehicle running, and the gas hadn't been completely wasted.
The vehicle screamed in agony as oil ran through dried up compartments, and the headlights hardly lit up what was in front of us. But it was a working vehicle no less, and it would largely help us get out of our predicament.
I was not wrong when I had guessed earlier about a group of Crazies waiting at the entrance of the parkade. I rammed through them as best I could, but not before one climbed up on the hood and smashed the windshield in.
I cursed vehemently and pressed down harder on the gas pedal. I swerved left and right, trying to fling the woman off.
“Parker do something!” I screamed at him. She was intent on getting her hand around my throat.
He reached out from the shotgun seat and wrestled the woman away from me. With a violent shove, he pushed her off the car and into the streets. I floored it away from the crowd and propelled us down Robson.
“So, does anyone want to tell me where to go?” I suggested. “Cause I’m really not familiar with the area.”
While Parker and I adorned the front seats, Leena, Kevin, and Sam took up the middle, while Yohan crouched in the back with the body.
“We’re homeless. Again,” Sam whispered.
I gripped the wheel tighter.
“We have to start all over again,” she continued in a strained voice. “It’s winter. We won't survive. Not even if we get the same luck as the first time. There’s no way we can go through that. Not twice.”
Leena reached over Kevin and squeezed Sam’s hand. “It’s okay Magnog. It’ll all be okay I’m sure.”
“No, it won't,” she snapped. “Because last time was so hard. It was still warm and bright out. The Crazies weren’t as strong.”
“But do you remember the mobs, the fire, the riots? How we had to hide on the roof for three days in the blistering sun because people were trying to get inside the warehouse, and we couldn’t even navigate through it because of all the water? Do you remember the smell? Of the ocean, and the smoke, and all the dead bodies?” Leena reminded her. “It’s going to be okay, Sam, because we’re stronger now. And smarter. We’ll figure it out. We always do.”
“Andy,” Parker said softly. “You got any ideas? You’re still the one with the most earthquake survival training.”
And he was right. I looked at all the defeated faces in my rear-view mirror. These were the good guys. They had to be. They were willing to fight for the good and weren’t caught up in some power struggle. Tonight, their tired shoulders were just looking for a shelter to hide from the night’s tragedies.
And I would be their shelter.
I clicked on the radio and sifted through the channels. Nothing but static.
“Okay, well, there’s no certainty that we’ll find a shelter for the night, so I say we get just enough supplies to last us a day, and if worse comes to worse, we’ll just camp out here in the jeep. No big deal.”
They responded with tight nods and solemn faces.
“Leena’s right guys. It’ll be okay. You know what to do. We’re not lost. I don’t really know where we go from here, but… we’ll get there one day.”
We had left the Jeep in a dark alley guarded by Yohan and Sam. Leena and Kevin had gone one way to search for gas and blankets. Parker and I were looking for food and water.
We had come across an old store with wooden floors and shattered trinkets lining the walls.
“Andy, what are you doing?” Parker questioned from the door. “We shouldn’t risk going in there if there’s nothing good to find.”
I disregarded his words and trudged forward. I had all focus drawn on one particular object.
“Andy, get out of there.”
One foot in front of the other, I walked steady as a needle on a vinyl toward the only object on the shelf that hadn’t cracked to pieces.
“Andy,” Parker called. But he was a voice from another time.
I picked the object up and held it to my nose and breathed in an old life. Fires in hearths that have wet socks hanging to dry, in a log cabin in the middle of the snowy woods next to a frozen lake, with cheeks red from working outside and someone's laid a blanket out on the couch that's all toasty from the fire, invaded my nose, and I shattered like all the other trinkets in this room.
It was home. All wrapped up in a candle – the last intact object in the building. In the city perhaps.
In the distance, I could hear my aunt laughing because she messed up the words to our favourite song, and the oven timer was going off, and Newt was whining impatiently for the cookies to be done. In the dark corner of the store, memories danced. Christmas potlucks and swimming in the lake. Laughing till stomachs hurt, scraped up knees and muddy palms.
Deep breaths Andy, deep breaths. You can do it. The world is still spinning. You are alive, you are okay. Aunty is dead. But it’s going to be okay. Just breathe.
It was all engrained in my brain so vividly. And until now, those memories had just been a blurry scar. But now the fog had lifted, and I wasn’t prepared. I lowered to the floor and let the pain flood in.
Long arms wrapped around me. Silent sobs and fast tears settled over me. The grief, and the weight, and the pressure scratched their way through my veins like gravel. It was hard to breathe.
“I'm not ready yet, Parker,” I sobbed. “I'm not ready.”
He rubbed my back. “That's okay,’ he breathed.
“I thought I was. I, I had life in me. I wasn't just rolling through motions in a catatonic state.” I pulled back so I could look into Parker’s face. “I felt fear. And I felt anger. And for more than just a moment I could feel the blood rolling through me like a storm front, and I thought the old me was back.” I wiped my snotty nose on my sleeve. “But she's long gone. She rotted away and there's not even a skeleton of her left.”
“Is fear and anger really living?” Parker asked flatly.
I bit the inside of my cheek. “Better than feeling nothing day in and day out.”
Parker sat heavily beside me. If there were words to say, I was sure he intended to use them, but there weren’t. There were no words for this situation. Because it just plain sucked. A lot. And there was nothing anyone could say or do to make it all right again.
Some time later Parker and I found ourselves crouched in an old liquor store, passing a large bottle of spirits between ourselves. The alcohol was running rampant through our blood.
“Every single person in my family is dead,” I moaned.
“Same,” Parker answered monotonously.
I opened my mouth to say some words of encouragement, but then I back tracked. I tried to stifle my giggles. “Our lives suck.”
Compressed laughs escaped both of our mouths.
“Wow, that's the biggest word I've heard you use since you said my dog would give you E. coli.”
“God, you remember that? I can't even remember yesterday.”
“No,” I stated. “I mean. Yes.” I scrunched my eyebrows together and gathered my words. “I do remember that day. Really well actually. But I can't remember yesterday. I can't remember much since the day we arrived on my aunt’s doorstep to tell you the truth. But I remember meeting you, and thinking I was gonna do something really stupid like marry you — thank God that idea went poof.”
“Hey, I'd be a great husband.”
“Hmm. Maybe. But not to me. We're like lighting and trees. Pretty cool on their own. But when they meet — boom — explosions and fantasticness and pretty colours. But it's short-lived.”
“Yup,” I said, popping the p. “I'm a scientist. I’m allowed to make up words. I'm smart.”
“I'm young. And I'm living. You should've thought of this idea earlier. It's great!”
“Yeah, no. That's called alcoholism and that's not healthy.”
“Beats getting dragged down by all the crap in the world.”
“And you will get nowhere in life with that attitude.”
“Parker, I'm young. Like, literally. I'm hardly out of high school. I'm hardly an adult. I should be having the time of my life. Not sitting in puddles and drinking alcohol from cracked bottles like I'm a pioneer in a prohibition. Right about now I should be in Japan studying tectonic plates and seismic waves. Or maybe in Chile doing that. Or California. I'd really like to go to Disneyland before I die — hey. You know what. If we can walk from here to Green Lake, we could totally make it to Disneyland.”
“Andy, take it down a notch.”
“I'm just saying.”
A comfortable silence lay like a blanket over top of us.
“Who the hell made the decision to ruin our lives, Parker,” I spoke up. “You don't deserve this. I don't. No one really does. We shouldn't be lost and lonely and wandering the streets with nothing but the torn clothing on our backs. We should be living. We should be on top of the world and everything should be just fine. What's going to happen if we ever get out of this, Parker? We go back to nine to five jobs working till there's nothing left of us but bone? We need to live and have the time of our lives while we’re still young. Before time slips away and it's all dust and ashes.”
“I think I would’ve married Tessa,” Parker blurted out. “She was a catastrophic symphony, but she was home. And she was life.”
I gazed at my fingers in my lap. Parker slung an arm around my shoulder. “But at least I got you, buddy.”
A laugh escaped my lips. “Buddy.”
“Ten out of ten would’ve never made it without you.” He held out his fist. “We make a great team.”
I bumped his fist with mine. “Amen to that.”
And just as things were feeling a little better, an explosion ripped through the street outside and rattled the store we were in.
Parker and I jumped to our feet and scrambled outside. A large fire lit up the black world, and a sinking feeling started in my chest.
Whoops and hollers sounded above the roar of the flames, and I knew in an instant we had to get out. I turned to Parker to tell him to run, but instead had to dodge a large metal object.
The Crazies were everywhere.
They had us surrounded.
I dove away from the monstrous being as he grabbed at my jacket, and took off down a dark alley.
And here I sat on the wet ground of a dark forest full of dread, waiting for death to greet me. I had spent tireless days and nights running from it, but now was the time to meet it. Because maybe the only answer to this new life was to accept it. And in my acceptance, I would let it take me, and I knew that in accepting this new life, it would kill me.
There was nothing but the sound of a slight breeze rustling through the leaves to keep me company. To let me know that somehow the world was still spinning.
Rain continued misting down.
A bush a few metres away rustled.
Is it Parker or Newt?
If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.