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As the helicopter put some distance from the helicopter pad, Denise looked back. A giant mass of zombies filled the location where they had just been. They had left Joseph behind. Of course, they had had no choice, but that didn’t settle any better with her. She swore she could almost see a group of zombies bent over, still picking at the scattered remains of Joseph left over after Jack had blasted him apart.
She turned away; there was no sense in looking back anyway. Denise had already had to deal with a great deal of loss. The church goers, that boy Ty, Hugh, and Donny were all dead. Even Rory’s dad, Randle, was most likely dead at this point. Joseph was just one more in a long list of dead she seemed to leave behind her. Would the next one be Ferrah or Tina? Would Rory die like Donny did?
These thoughts weren’t helping her either. She had been running for so long, she was just tired. There was nowhere else to go. Nothing else to do. They had been heading for the Amora Airforce base the entire time. That was the location where they were supposed to find safety. The fact that they were not safe, they never seemed to be safe, just kept wearing on her.
There was no military, no government. Her parents were most likely dead like everyone else. There was no point in continuing onward. She closed her eyes, about ready to give up hope. A small hand grabbed hers and she started, looking down; it was Tina. Her eyes still had signs of hope and determination. This last week or two had hardened her, made it grow up far faster than she ever should have, but Tina still had hope they could survive.
Denise squeezed Tina’s hand, giving her a reassuring smile. It felt fake on her face, but it would have to do for now. She straightened her back, willing herself to go on. She looked to the front of the cockpit to see how her companions were doing. Ferrah concentrated on her flying with a unique kind of vigor. The pilot’s helmet she put on covered up a great deal of her hair, making her almost look like a normal girl for once. Her focus and determination to pilot this helicopter and keep them safe gave Denise a well of admiration and pride at her friend’s strength.
This almost caused her to laugh. She supposed that she did see them as friends now a days. She might as well start seeing her as a friend; she might very well be the last teenage girl alive in the city.
Denise glanced over at Rory, when he noticed her watching he turned and gave her a reassuring smile. It really shouldn’t have made her blush as it did. Rory turned from her, glancing out the window and looking down. When his eyes took the site below, he winced.
Denise followed his eyesight out the window, and when she saw what he saw, she gasped. Below them now was the city of Janesville. From above, the view stretched out across the medium sized mid-western town. Some streets were completely abandoned, while others appeared to be crowded with the movements of zombies, who seemed to prefer to coalesce together.
Fires had broken out at various points throughout the city. While Denise had never owned her own car, she was frequently driven around by her family. As a result, she didn’t have a particularly clear knowledge of the city layout. She was not entirely sure if that knowledge would have done her any good, as the landscape seemed to have been significantly altered.
Several entire city blocks seemed to have burnt to the ground. Others seemed to have been flattened as if with a bulldozer, with no sign of burn damage at all. Cars were more often upside down, or sticking out of a building they had been rammed into, as they were parked on the side of the street. The damage was immense, and the town was trashed. Acrid smoke filled Denise’s nostrils as the passed a particularly thick billowing cloud of burning buildings and she gagged. She also smelled a subtle rotting sent, and knew the smell of death was permeating the air. This city had a population of almost two hundred thousand people, and now there were probably only dozens left alive.
“Look, that’s the convenience store where my dad and I met you!” Rory exclaimed over the sound of the helicopter’s blades.
Denise tried to trace his fingers to where he was pointing. He was right; it looked to be the block that they had been on. However, she wouldn’t have caught it if she hadn’t been looking for it specifically. A broken and charred ruin sat where the convenience store once had. It looked like it had burnt down shortly after they had left. Perhaps it was Randle’s doing, that loud bang was particularly shocking.
“I hope my dad’s okay,” Rory mumbled, half to himself.
Denise didn’t respond. It seemed like it would be too much to hope for. Looking down at that city, she was just glad that she was over it and not inside of it. She couldn’t believe how much damage the city had sustained in such a short period of time.
“Something doesn’t look right,” Rory spoke up again, increasing his voice so everyone could hear.
“What is it?” Ferrah asked, lifting up the side of her helmet to listen better.
“The cars, they’re all over the place,” Rory said, staring intently out the window.
Well, he was right about that, but that wasn’t too surprising. When it started, people would have abandoned their cars whenever they had to. Riots had broken out, people looting left and right as everything went down. She was sure more than a few cars were set on fire or overturned just for the fun of it. Add to that people who had infected in the car with them ending up careening into accidents… it was a recipe for a lot of mess.
“It’s all a mess,” Denise reassured him.
Rory vigorously shook his head, “No, it’s more than that, look at the cars.”
Denise frowned, starring down at them, but whatever it was; she couldn’t see what he saw. When Rory noticed she didn’t seem to be understanding, he pointed down enthusiastically at a particular car. Denise gaped; the car wasn’t sticking out of the bottom story of that home, but the second story.
“You see that car? That one seemed to have run into the home… with its side. There another one, it’s in the third story of that building.”
“What’s that mean?” Denise asked, just a little more frightened.
“It’s almost like something is throwing them. Shoving them out of the way or tossing them at buildings.”
“What could do that?” Ferrah frowned, keeping her eyes ahead of her as she continued to control the craft.
“I don’t know,” Rory responded after a moment’s pause.
“Do you remember when we met Donny?” Ferrah asked, turning back to Denise, “Those cars were all torn up as well. I swear one of them almost looked like it had been ripped open.”
Denise nodded numbly. This was just one mystery that she did not want to find out the answer to. The group sat in silence for a few more minutes as the city passed by below them.
“We need to figure out where we are going,” Rory broke into the silence.
Denise would have thanked him for giving her something else to think about, but she realized that this question was just as hard to answer. She had no clue where to go now.
“I’d say an island,” Ferrah asserted, nodding to herself.
“An island?” Denise asked.
“Someplace deserted, preferably tropical. All we need to do is spend the remainder of our days eating coconuts and bananas on the beach. I think I could live with that.”
Denise thought she was joking, but when Rory started to nod thoughtfully, she spoke up, “What about our families? We can’t just leave them?”
“You saw it down there; all of our families are dead!” Ferrah snapped.
Tina whimpered, but otherwise made no comment and Denise shivered at the coldness of her voice. Ferrah had already lost her mother to this; this was probably just her way of coping with it.
“My parents are still alive,” Denise responded sternly.
“You don’t know that,” Ferrah muttered.
“I’m not giving up on them, and you shouldn’t give up on your father,” Denise replied defensively.
Ferrah turned her head away, although Denise could not tell if it was in anger or shame.
“I don’t want to give up,” Tina chimed in.
Ferrah sighed, giving a few moments before she responded, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Denise nodded, “We’ll find him eventually.”
Ferrah put on a pained look, closing her eyes for a second before refocusing them, “Yeah, I hope so.”
“That still doesn’t tell us where we need to go right now,” Rory interrupted.
“Well, how can we find them?” Tina asked, “Maybe we should put it on an intercom. Does the helicopter have an intercom? That’s what happens when someone goes missing at the zoo.”
Rory glanced around the cockpit before sighing, “There is this ham radio, but I don’t know if it would be any good. Our families might be listening to normal radios, but I doubt they have ham radios.”
“Wait, that’s it!” Denise exclaimed.
“What’s it?” Rory furrowed his eyebrows in confusion as he looked back at her.
“The radio station, isn’t it just out of town. Has its own helicopter pad too on the roof. We can broadcast our signal on every frequency! If our parents turn on a radio anywhere near the city they’ll hear us and know where to come. Then we can just stay their till they get us!”
Ferrah looked back, “The helicopter is still full of food, we could probably hold out for weeks.”
Tina put on a hopeful expression. Denise smiled; this was definitely a plan that could work.
Ferrah glanced over at Rory, who shrugged and smiled. She sighed, and then pulled the shaft turning the helicopter to their next destination.
“It’s as good a plan as any,” Ferrah shook her head.
“What’s that!” Rory exclaimed, pointing out suddenly.
Denise instinctively looked out, observing a large object flying up towards them.
“Whatever it is it’s coming this direction!” Ferrah shouted, quickly turning the helicopter again.
It wasn’t fast enough and the object, whatever it was, collided with the hull of the helicopter. Tina screamed as the helicopter began to spiral in a circle.
“I can’t keep it up!” Ferrah screamed, struggling with the controls.
Rory held tight onto his seat, having no clue what to do with a look of absolute terror on his face. The helicopter continued to spin and Denise started to lose focus as the world spun around her. She desperately held on to Tina, who was at that point wailing. She could feel that they were falling fast. The supplies in the back of the craft flew and bounced, several flying up and hitting her in the head.
“Denise!” Ferrah shouted back to her, “You need to bail, grab Tina and jump out the side when I say to.”
“What?” Denise screamed back, clutching Tina in her arms as the shaking banged her from side to side.
“You need to jump out, aim for a tree or bush, it’s the only way! Rory, you need to go too.”
“What about you?” Denise yelled.
“I’ll be fine!” the look in Ferrah’s eyes told Denise that it was a lie.
“I’m not leaving you,” Rory demanded, grabbing on tight as if she would physical shove him from the helicopter.
Ferrah put on an exasperated, but thankful look, but nodded back to Denise, “You need to protect Tina, and you need to get out before it lands or she could be hurt.”
Denise was terrified, disorientated, and confused. She wanted to refuse like Rory, but Tina cried desperately into her bosom, and she needed to do something fast.
“Get ready!” Ferrah shouted.
Denise opened the side door, the spinning of the helicopter leaving her disorientated; she could see the green of the forest coming up on her fast. It looked like they were past the city. She wanted to jump for a tree, but the spinning prevented her from gauging any distance. It would be a blind jump, she knew it.
“Now!” Ferrah screamed.
Denise closed her eyes, pulled Tina close, and jumped. The free fall only lasted a second as she collided with something hard. She opened her eyes and saw herself falling through several thick branches. She desperately grabbed for one, and her entire body lurched as she fell onto a thick branch, Tina safely in one of her arms.
Before she could fix her equilibrium, she immediately began searching for the helicopter. She saw it below the tree tops spinning violently. The side of it collided into a nearby pine tree with a sickening crunch. The helicopter seemed to fold around the tree as it slammed into it, the propeller wobbling before shooting off.
It shot strait at her. Denise shouted as she lost her balance. The blade slammed into a nearby tree branch, slashing her arm. She fell, pulling Tina’s terrified body towards herself as her body careened the rest of the way down the tree. Her back slammed into the ground, darkness overtaking her.