True friends are hard to find. But when you do find one, they will stay loyal to you even to the end of the world, literally. And I was glad that even during the end of the world, I was in the company of such true friends.
“So what other plans do you have now?” hollered Mike as I stared blankly around me. We were crowded on the concrete pier, overlooking the Johor Strait that separated Malaysia and Singapore. The waves crashed against the foundations of the pier, a sound that would usually comfort me, but it was only adding to my anxiety then. I was so sure that there would be at least a boat tied to the pier, that the sea would be our only escape route, until I had put all my hopes into this one plan and nothing else.
Behind of us, already the entire facility was beginning to bustle with activity. The noise level was increasing, and occasionally one could hear a shout coming from the whitish grey collection of buildings. The founder must have found out that we were missing now, and would be most probably be turning the entire place upside down in order to search for us.
“How about we try swimming?” Daniel piped out curiously. We exchanged glances, considering our options. The dark waters beneath us were far from welcoming, but it was by far a better choice than heading back to where we came from. The founder’s twisted attempt to stay in power and living in that godforsaken cold and dark cell, nothing could be worse than that. Even the zeds were better, at least you know what their intentions were (eating you). We stood there, trying to guess what everyone was thinking, but in the end we all nodded in agreement, and prepared to jump. It was only then did Alicia’s sister sound out.
“I am not leaving without my sister,” she proclaimed. I turned to look at her. She had the same determined look as Alicia when she asked me to save her sister, and I knew it would be pointless to convince her otherwise. Seeing her being so determined, I began to feel regret. Of not choosing the easy way out. The sound of the waves have a strange way in making you think clearer. I was not going to leave without Alicia too, I realized, or else I would spend my whole life in regret.
“You guys go first, I would try to meet up with you all later. Camp at Sembawang Shopping Center, I will find you all there,” I told them. It was time for me to fulfil my promise to Alicia, to bring her out from this place, even if I die trying. And it was also myself. I turned to her sister.
“I don’t know your name yet, but I promised your sister that I would bring you out alive, so you have to follow them here to safety. I would go get your sister, I promise that, and I will get her out, trust me. But first you have to trust me.” It was a hollow attempt of assurance. With so many armed guards around, I doubted my chances of success. But I guessed that was what heroes usually do in movies, make a grand promise, and then going out with a bang. Alicia’s sister opened her mouth to protest, but before she could say anything, Jack cut her short.
“I will help you,” he said matter-of-factly. Yet another determined look that could not be convinced. I took a look around. All of them had the same look.
“Let us stay and help,” Julie added, to nods from Daniel and Mike. So in the end we would all end up getting caught or killed, I thought. I pondered if I should be angry or grateful. Angry at them for carelessly throwing away their lives just after I had saved them, but yet at the same time grateful for them being there for me.
From the corner of my eyes, several figures with guns in their hands were making their way through the platform towards us, and I knew time was running out. Just as I was about to open my mouth to thank them, and to insist that they leave, however, an explosion went off behind us. It rocked the entire place. The blast came from direction where the front gates of the facility lie, as we felt the shockwave from it. We saw a fireball reaching for the air, before being replaced by a column of smoke which rose steadily against the backdrop of the city.
The men that I saw on the platforms were equally shocked by the sudden change in events. There seemed to be a frantic discussion among them - perhaps deciding on what to do with us – and in the end which they decided to leave us alone, and went back to the direction of the commotion. The noise level grew, unfurling into a mixture of gunshots, shouts of panic, and the hungry growls of zeds when they found their prey. We stood shocked for a few seconds, unsure of what we should do, and it was again Mike who pressed for actions.
“So are we going back or what?!”
I calculated the risks, weighed the cons. We were not sure whether the blast had occurred at the gates or inside the compound, or whether the zeds were pouring into the base. If there was, going back was a quick ticket to death. If anyone was going to die that night, it should only be me and no one else. It was I who promised Alicia, and I alone should bear the burden. But how could I convince them to leave without me? I hesitated for a decision. However, for the second time that night, another surprise was in place.
A road ran parallel to the place that we stood on, and from a distance, the sound of a vehicle being driven was getting louder and louder while we were busy standing there. Initially it was part of the amalgamation of noise that accompanied the blast, but little by little it grew in volume, until it stood out on its own, signalling us to its presence. We saw the headlights after a while, growing in intensity near the corner of a container, until it finally revealed to what it belonged to. An armoured personnel carrier. The vehicle took a sharp turn towards our direction, and we braced ourselves. It was only then when I remembered about the story Jack told us of how he met KM. Surely enough, he was standing there unafraid, and the vehicle soon cruised to a stop in front of us. Out from the hatch popped KM. He came back for us.
He shouted for us to get into the vehicle, and opened the door behind. How easy it would have been for us to all bundle into the safety of the vehicle and drive away there and then, I thought. But it was not what I was going to do. We stood there as KM watched us, confused over on perhaps our lack of movement, and also at the presence of the new girl.
I demanded that I alone be the one to go back. We argued over my insistence of going solo and not letting them follow me, but in the end, seeing that I would rather shoot them all than to let them follow me, Jack relented. He, Daniel and Mike understood what I had intended. They carried Alicia’s sister, screaming once again, into the transport.
“Here, take this,” KM shouted to me from the top of his hatch, and threw me a black object. I caught it with both my hands, and immediately recognized it. It was the same gun model that I held earlier, a Glock. Which reminded me, I must have left the gun that the founder gave me earlier back in the detention cell. This one was different, however, as it had an extra cylinder attached in front of it. From my experiences in video gaming, I easily recognized it as a silencer.
“Stole them from the armory earlier,” he added. So it was him.
“And you might need something else too, if the zeds had indeed broken through the perimeter, judging from the big hole I left at the front door as a welcoming gift,” he said before disappearing under the hatch. I followed him to the back of the vehicle, and in his arms, I saw what seemed like a diving suit, equipped with an inhaler and what seemed to be a breathing tank. It looked more professional, shaped like a pentagon rather than a cylinder. Seemed that Daniel had told KM too about our wild little theory.
But in addition to that, he also handed me a pair of weird looking glasses. Night vision glasses, he said, and told me that in the few days he was outside, he found out that the zeds have little to no vision in the darkness, and asked me to use it to my advantage.
“We would try to help if possible, but some areas are unreachable by wheels, and we would not want to create extra attention for you,” KM said as I suited up. I understood perfectly what he meant, and I would not ask them to risk any more of their lives for me too. It was merely a personal journey that I had to make.
“Don’t wait for me if I cannot make it,” I told KM, and he nodded silently, but flashed me a grin that told me that it would be the last thing on their minds.
“Remember that you have only until sunrise!” shouted Daniel from inside of the armour carrier as the steel door slowly closed. The equipment felt heavy on my back as my body tried to adjust to its weight. It was still dark around me, but the fiery orange fire from the explosion glowed in the distance, lighting up part of the sky.
Please protect me, I found my heart silently praying, to a figure whom I had stopped believing in a long time ago.
P/s: This story is part of the ongoing series, Dear Diary, that I am writing in hopes of getting it published. I try to read through it several times before I upload it, but time and time again grammar mistakes might elude me. So if you spot anything do let me know, and I will correct it asap. Thanks!