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 terrible love, open !
AUSTIN STRANGE
Posted: Oct 2 2011, 04:44 PM


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you made slow disaster out of me


“My name is Austin. My name is Austin. My fuckin’ name is Austin and I’m not bitten. I’m not bitten…”

Austin Strange sat on a kerb. He was bent double, long legs out in front of him. One hand was clutching the back of his neck and the other held a handgun, resting it in his lap because it shook too much. Sweat prickled his brow, but that had to be the heat. The sun was setting; a glowing red orb shimmering on the horizon between swollen black buildings. Austin narrowed his pale eyes and watched it leave. His breath came in sharp, shaky rasps, chest heaving. He closed his eyes and craned his head back, attempting to slow his gasps of air to a somewhat mellow pace, however the more he focused on breathing properly, the more anxious he became. In his mind he rewound the hours and replayed his life’s most recent chapters.

He’d gotten drunk no more than two hours ago. His yacht he’d tied to a dock like a faithful hound. He could still picture it moored there, bobbing merrily and smiling its wide smile with its curved bow. He had been drunk before his feet had hit concrete. He’d staggered into Houston, or was it into the outskirts of Houston? Surely he hadn’t meandered in that far? At any rate, he’d had no idea where he’d been headed. Of course he’d had the good mind to arm himself before stepping onto dry land. A handgun was shoved in the back of his belt, threatening to slip out. The reason behind his inebriation and his venturing into civilization was a simple one. He’d been suffering cold turkey for so long he couldn’t bear it anymore. In desperation Austin struck out to try and find a new stash to call his own, but not before drinking himself stupid to numb a few symptoms. Zombies didn’t snort cocaine – there had to be some left in the city.

He’d been alone for an hour or so. Company came swiftly and without warning. Austin’s dulled senses and poor judgement due to drink had failed to pick up the undead. They’d shuffled after him for a good mile, waiting for him to slow his pace it seemed. When Austin finally noted their presence, they were almost upon him. One was even close enough to lunge at him. Austin was too slow with the gun. They’d crowded him. He’d barely the strength and coordination to fight them off. He’d fallen at one point when he took off straight into a sprint, tripping over a fallen wire fence. He escaped unscathed. Mostly. He’d noticed the back of his neck warm and aching before, but didn’t sit on the sidewalk kerb until it really began to twinge and investigative fingers confirmed the presence of a heavy amount of blood.

All well and good registering an injury, but he couldn’t tell if it was a bite or sustained when he’d fallen on the jagged wire fencing. There had been twisted barbed wire on the ground… So, now Austin Strange sat by himself on the sidewalk in the dimming light pressing a hand to his bleeding neck and trembling from cocaine withdrawals. The drink hadn’t totally worn off either. He barked a laugh at the state he was in. He doubted he’d make it home now. These were probably his final few hours. Especially if his worry about being bitten was true. He eyed the gun. It was loaded. He could put himself out of his misery, but again, that lingering doubt hung in his brain like a heavy influx of fog. What if he wasn’t bitten? What if he’d simply scratched his neck on the razorwire? He was no doctor, he couldn’t tell, and couldn’t even see the wound’s reflection in a mirror. Thinking it made him panic once more. Old tear tracks of terror were being freshly cut again. Austin rubbed the shaking barrel of the gun against his forehead, his fingers clammy on the grip.

“My name is Austin…”


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LAYLA KO
Posted: Oct 3 2011, 12:23 AM


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AUSTIN STRANGE
Posted: Oct 3 2011, 01:01 AM


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Member No.: 521
Joined: 19-June 11




you made slow disaster out of me


Austin didn’t look up. Not even when he heard the bike and the voice. She wasn’t a zombie, clearly, so he hoped he had little to fear from her, but sometimes meddling people could be worse than the undead. Austin didn’t want company. The light from the bike’s headlamp hurt his eyes, as did the glare from the sinking star. His eyes closed over and he huffed a long breath through his nostrils, lips pursed together with irritation. He took the gun away from his face and held it aloft instead in response to the girl’s suggestion. Rather than aiming at her like he desired, it was pointed to her bike’s front tire, his arm too tired to raise the weapon any higher. The sleeve of his other arm went to his face to wipe sweat and tears and blood from his visage. Had to preserve a little dignity.

Her dark figure in the fading light shifted a little closer, and shit, she’d used his name too. Why had he insisted upon giving himself that pathetic repetitive pep talk? He shuffled backward away from the edge of the kerb and onto the sidewalk itself, gun still aimed at her and her noisy bike. What did he say to her? Hello, my name is Austin and I’m an alcoholic drug user who might’ve gotten himself bitten by the undead, soon to join their hoardes? There were three valid reasons not to talk to someone like him if you were sensible. Sure, he was feeling a little sorry for himself, but not enough to warrant a need for human contact. He’d been getting along fine before without other people.

“Look… Layla… I’m fine, okay? I just… I’m fine!” Austin tried, his voice hoarse and cracked when he spoke, eyes blinking madly in some try to adjust to both artificial and natural light, though now her bike’s headlamp was much brighter than the sun’s red rays. “My neck is fine. It’s just a thing. It’s not as bad as it looks. I’m going home, alright? You can be on your way,” Austin dared to wave the gun at her to usher her away. He didn’t need some girl’s kindness or sympathy right now. There had been a time not too long ago when he’d rejoiced if a girl spoke to him and showed some benevolence, but he considered himself too far gone for compassion. He continued to stubbornly cover his neck with his hand. It couldn’t be that bad. It was less than an hour old, so it had to be healing over by now. Half of the blood was dry and caked.

Not being able to get up and stand over her was a pain. He wanted to throw some authority around, use that six foot figure to scare her off, but he simply didn’t have the strength to pull himself to his feet. He turned his head and torso away from the girl, waiting for the bike to roar on. He growled under his breath, getting impatient, his sore neck not aiding his mood. “Just go away!” he exclaimed, gun raised to shoulder height to show he wasn’t afraid to use it. Only he was afraid to use it. He’d never pull the trigger. Never did until it was too late.


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LAYLA KO
Posted: Oct 3 2011, 01:28 AM


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AUSTIN STRANGE
Posted: Oct 3 2011, 04:23 AM


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Joined: 19-June 11




you made slow disaster out of me


Austin grumbled under his breath. She was one of those, then. A strong, skilled type. The hero type. The kind of person who had to help everyone else in order to make themselves feel better about the end of the world. Part of him was thankful she was being so damn persistent, but the rest of him was sick of hearing her voice. She had spirit; he’d give her that, so she wasn’t a total loss. He shifted his head stiffly to face her just a tad, eyes turning to watch her bike more than Layla herself. He placed the gun back into his lap again. It was no use waving it at her, she was unfazed, and therefore the firearm was useless as a threat. The headlamp was suddenly gone, so Austin took comfort in the darkness and looked directly at her for the first time, taking in her physique and features, or what he could make out of them at any rate.

He had a damn good mind to be sarcastic back, but that would get neither of them anywhere. He supposed he should be reasonable toward her. She had a point. His home was miles away, and a boat. He didn’t know which way was up, let alone the right directions back to his moored yacht at the docklands. He groaned when it dawned on him he’d never make it back there alive. Letting Layla speak, Austin lowered the hand he’d been pressing to his neck all this time and stared up at her, embarrassed that his eyes were still shining; what an idiot. “I don’t know, okay? It could be either, or none. I’m not sure how I got it and I can’t check and see. But it really isn’t as bad as it looks, I swear,” he said with a wince when he felt another hot trickle of blood slip down the groove of the tendon by his throat.

He was giving her the truth, and even bothering to use a calmer voice. She should be honored. He wanted to ask why she was helping him, or trying to. He could name a dozen people he knew who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at his predicament and drive on by or cross to the other side of the road. Bad Samaritans. She was even offering up the chance for a ride out of here. He tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. What was the catch? There was always a catch. Maybe she was really a psycho, or wanted to take him somewhere secluded where she could butcher him and then eat him. Stranger things had happened on the news, and this was the new world of opportunity. A guy or gal could be whatever they desired now.

“I was attacked. Didn’t see ‘em coming until they were on me. Fuck!” He slung a stone from the gutter across the road, his throw weak and the stone rolling to a stop mere yards away. His head was aching, but he refused to complain about it. “Where,” he had to pause, neck stinging, fists clenching around his knees, gun sitting over a thigh casually, “where is your… y’know… thing. Base?” He asked blearily before laughing madly and lying back with his knees raised and his hands on his chest. “I’m tired,” he sighed, rolling his eyes away from Layla, ceasing communication, but he hadn’t turned down her ride invitation…


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LAYLA KO
Posted: Oct 3 2011, 02:23 PM


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AUSTIN STRANGE
Posted: Oct 3 2011, 02:52 PM


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you made slow disaster out of me


“I don’t want you to look, don’t you get it? If you look and it’s a bite then I’ll spend hours or minutes or whatever knowing that I’m gonna… y’know. If I don’t know then it’ll come on me suddenly and it won’t matter. If it’s not a bite then I’ll be fine. Just don’t look at it. How about you just take me to your little base of operations and I’ll go my own way at dawn…” Austin suggested, waving a finger at Layla, his voice rising and lowering in tone and pitch, a little drink still making him slur his words. He really, really did not want her inspecting it. She wasn’t a doctor, she’d not know how to treat it any more than he did himself. Raising his head and looking up at her, Austin finally mustered the strength to sit up, hand back to protecting his neck in case she tried anything.

“I’ve not seen you around. You’re not one of us, are you?” he said, referring to the ragtag gang the Salty Dogs. She wasn’t a face he knew, but to be frank, he was happier about that. If she was an old friend, or heaven forbid someone closer than a friend, he’d be so embarrassed about this whole farcical scene. She was getting too close. He recoiled through instinct, shuffling backward away from her like some startled animal. Jesus, he was so paranoid. He laughed at himself again. It took a lot of effort, but finally he hauled himself to his feet, thin frame looking like it could barely support itself; as if he’d crumple like a house of cards in a gust of wind. Standing straight with hand still clutched to his collar, Austin blinked away dizzy vision furiously. Peering down his nose at the sidewalk Austin noted how far away the ground was now.

“I just wanna go somewhere,” he murmured to himself, unsteadily stuffing the handgun down the back of his belt where he prayed it would be safe and wouldn’t end up firing without warning. He raised his hands to shoulder height in a surrender. No more gun. She had nothing to be scared off apart from his sour mood. “I think… I think if we took your little bike there I’ll end up losing whatever lunch I’ve managed to keep down. Can we walk it? Please?” he said with a whimper of a laugh, hissing in breath through his teeth at how stupid he must sound. This was the part all assholes like him never expected; the bad part. The sickness, the loss of synchronization, the humiliation of being caught as weak as a kitten. Keeping his distance and reluctant to move any closer, Austin swayed and waited for Layla to show them forward. He couldn’t meet her eyes, though luckily the darkness aided him in avoiding her gaze.


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LAYLA KO
Posted: Oct 6 2011, 01:17 PM


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AUSTIN STRANGE
Posted: Oct 6 2011, 02:21 PM


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Joined: 19-June 11




you made slow disaster out of me


“I can’t believe anybody could survive out there by themselves…” Austin shrugged, his voice a murmur. He took a long gasp of air and released it slowly, eyes closing, waiting for his racing pulse to calm. She was on the move, so he focused on placing one foot in front of the other in order to follow. He watched his feet. Those shoes had been smart once, had been shiny. Now they were rough and scuffed. Even the shirt he wore had once been crisp and white. Now it was gray and bloodstained. His little adventure into Houston hadn’t gone as smoothly as he’d have liked. Austin was an easy-going guy, so this wasn’t going to knock his determined demeanor. He’d try it all again next week if he survived this.

Shoving his hands into his pockets and dipping his head, Austin strolled as steadily as he could beside Layla and her bike. He’d let his eyes stray over the machine. He appreciated the swell and dip of its body and tires, impressed with how well she’d kept it. “By us I meant,” he paused. Should he tell her about his little group? He wasn’t exactly in charge of them, but the bigger, badder Salty Dogs might not like a stranger like Layla knowing all about their armada. He frowned, zoned out, then returned back to Earth, “I meant the people who live in the bay. On boats. I got a yacht. It’s a real nice yacht. I’ll show you it, if-if you want,” he tried a smile. Damn, it was an ugly smile. A forced smirk that twitched into nothing. Why was he offering to show her his yacht? Would she think it was an innuendo? What an idiot.

I’m uh…” Austin pinched the bridge of his nose, another flicker of a smile cross his face, “I’m both. Wasted. Drugs. Whatever. It’s all cool. I just… no wait. No drugs. That’s why I’m here, holy shit,” his purpose finally dawned and he barked a sudden and sharp laugh. He almost stopped where he stood. “I’ve run out of…y’know,” he bobbed his head and flashed what he hoped was a charming, endearing smile, “and I was gonna look for some more. Then I got jumped.” He explained blearily, not really caring if she judged him on his addictions. He was just weak, pursuing such nasty vices. He snorted a laugh to himself and tried to carry on strolling, eyes rolling toward the top of his head every now and again. “Are we there yet?” he groaned, his voice a low rumble.


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LAYLA KO
Posted: Oct 27 2011, 01:25 PM


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Layla shrugged. "It's not easy all the time, but it's possible. Easier to keep mobile." As they walked, Layla kept an eye on Austin out of the corner of her eye. She didn't know if she should be looking for him to pass out or go zombie.

A bunch of people camping out on the bay? Couldn't be too bad with their fancy yachts. Layla chuckled. "Yeah, I'm sure your yacht's real nice." Apparently men were just as attached to their toys in the midst of the Zombie apocalypse. Good to know yet another thing hadn't really changed.

Drugs and alcohol. Quite the responsible combination. The zombies were actually making her more judgmental. "You ventured all the way out here for drugs?" Holy shit. Addicts had no sense at all, did they? Layla shook her head. "Bit of advice? Save getting high and wasted for when you're safe back on your yacht. It's dangerous enough wandering around with all your wits intact." Surely he knew that already, right?

"Yeah, we're here." Layla propped her bike against the wall of the alley, between a dumpster and assorted debris to hide it from view. Then she yanked open a door in the alley way, shining a flashlight into the blackness. The room was still undisturbed. Good. "Lock the door behind you." Layla led the was through the room and out into what had been a small souvenir shop. The security gate that stretched across the front was still intact, though the windows were shattered now. "Home for the night."

Layla went straight for her stash of supplies behind the counter, retrieving a first aid kit and a couple granola bars. "Make yourself at home."
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AUSTIN STRANGE
Posted: Nov 1 2011, 01:57 PM


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Member No.: 521
Joined: 19-June 11




you made slow disaster out of me


Austin hesitated. He narrowed his eyes and appeared to be thinking deeply about following Layla inside. He hung back in the alley, his hand pressed to his neck once more, glancing about the place. Was this alley safe? Would zombies suddenly burst from behind them? He turned when that thought occurred, but nothing had followed them. He backed up and then slipped through the door Layla had entered, stumbling forward into her little homebase. It was pitch black inside, and for one frightening moment Austin reckoned he’d gone blind. He bit his tongue and fumbled for the lock when he shut the door behind them. Finally it clicked to and he moved forward after the girl. She had set up base in one of those little gift stores. Austin let both hands drop to his sides as he stared about with a stupid expression on his face.

“Don’t you lecture me about…” he let his sentence die. He’d been about to go on about Layla’s scolding of his habits, but frankly, he hadn’t the energy to argue with her tonight. He slumped down onto the closest chair (or was it a table? It was quite dim in the souvenir store) and rubbed his palms together, his eyes on Layla. Why hadn’t she sought out other survivors more readily? How could a girl even live alone without going mad? Perhaps she was mad and he’d fallen into a trap? He’d heard of folk keeping zombies chained up in their yards and feeding unsuspecting travellers to them, taking their supplies before sating the zombies’ appetites with the poor bastard. Austin tilted his head when the notion crossed his muddled brain.

“Got any smokes?” he asked. He could do with a cigarette to calm his jangling nerves, but he doubted she’d hand any over. By the look of her, she wasn’t even a smoker. Neither was he really; only when the occasion called for it. “Thanks,” he suddenly grunted in that regretful male voice which suggested he appreciated the gesture extended to him but wasn’t sure how to emote his gratitude properly. He shrugged at her and pulled up his collar, his eyes now roving around the room. “Been in here long? Looks like you got a nice little place sorted here,” he complimented. Small talk had never been his strong point.


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LAYLA KO
Posted: Nov 25 2011, 05:20 PM


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AUSTIN STRANGE
Posted: Dec 2 2011, 04:55 AM


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you made slow disaster out of me


She moved on as fast as all that? These rogues were odd, that was a fact. He couldn’t imagine moving from place to place in such quick succession. It was akin to being on the run. He knew all about avoiding the authorities, but this was ridiculous. No wonder the rogues were so antisocial and unwilling to make friends. Austin let his shoulders sink when Layla revealed she had no smokes. Damn his vices. He knew they dragged him down and made him vulnerable, but it wasn’t his fault he’d not been expecting a zombie apocalypse, was it? He sighed and nodded, accepting the fact he’d have to go a little further without nicotine. That was fine. His eyes darted to the water. Layla had said he was welcome to it, but he was going to groggily act as polite as possible, so he didn’t take it straight away. He had supplies on his boat, and he doubted she had much more beyond what she had offered.

“What?” He asked, as if she’d spoken another language. Then his brain caught up and he worked out what she had asked. “Oh! Yeah. I kinda… yeah. I crashed my cab at the docks, found the yacht and have been driving around on the water ever since. Y’know, driving a boat is harder than it looks. You have to work out what all the buttons do and how the engine works. I didn’t even know much about cars before. I just drove ‘em, y’know? I drove ‘em a lot. For a lot of people.” Something in his mind told him he probably wasn’t making much sense. His neck had resorted to a dull ache, just to remind him that it was still there. He could feel Layla watching him. He laughed clumsily. “It’s not a bite! I swear it’s not a bite. I’d remember a bite. You’d remember a bite, right?” he looked up, refusing to appear desperate. Clutching at straws was a cliché, but right now he couldn’t think of anything more accurate to describe his frantic feelings.

He reached for the water finally, unscrewing the cap and downing almost half of it in a second. What a sorry son of a bitch he’d become. He smiled to himself about it. He knew he should be asking questions back about Layla and her life before or why she was by herself, but frankly he didn’t have the energy or the drive to talk much. So he fell quiet with his eyes on the dark floor, blinking every once in a while.


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LAYLA KO
Posted: Dec 21 2011, 08:32 PM


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"I'm sure it is. I've never sailed, just stick to the bikes. They're much simpler to operate." Layla shrugged and twisted open a water bottle of her own. Now that she was back at her home base for the night and sitting down, she was feeling tired. Exhausted, really. She'd done a lot of scavenging today for small reward. Farther into the city would give her better supplies, but it was more dangerous. More zombies milling around.

Layla stifled a yawn. Moving on was a concern for tomorrow, or the day after. "Yes, yes." She was quick to reassure Austin, tuning back into the conversation. "I'm sure you'd remember a bite. But being overly cautious has gotten me this far. Not going to be welcoming a hung-over mess with a large cut on his neck with open arms." She wouldn't have done that before Z-day either. If he was going to be in the room, he'd have to deal with her watching him a little cautiously. That was just how it was going to go.

Were neck wounds like head wounds? They just bled a lot, even if they weren't serious? Hopefully. At least he wasn't bleeding everywhere and attracting zombies. The conversation died off and Layla rested her head back against the wall, closing her eyes for a just a minute.
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AUSTIN STRANGE
Posted: Dec 27 2011, 04:53 AM


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Member No.: 521
Joined: 19-June 11




you made slow disaster out of me


Christ. He needed a cigarette. Austin’s stress levels were probably hitting the ceiling. He was unaware of anything medical. He couldn’t tell the difference between heartburn and a heart attack. Sitting there trembling and sweating like a racehorse wasn’t helping either his confidence or his image. Layla thought he was mad, or was going to think it after time had passed. “Good. Sailing only makes you feel sick. It’s slow and complicated and hard to control when you’re by yourself. It’s total bullshit…” He sighed, shrugging at her comment. She was better off on her bike. Everyone would be better off on a fast vehicle. Then again, they needed fuel. Yachts could just about get by with the wind if their engines were shot to shit or ran out of fuel. He wasn’t sure who was in the better position when it came to survival vehicles.

“I’m sorry.” He apologized in a flat voice when she gave him the lowdown on why she was going to be keeping an eye on him. He’d do the same thing. In fact, he’d not even have done as Layla had. He’d have run like hell in the opposite direction, not stop and taking the stupid bastard in. She was a fool for doing it, but he was grateful. She had saved his life, no doubt about that. Any longer spent out there sitting in his solitude with the monsters roaming he’d have been a goner in less than an hour. He forced a crooked smile at her. He looked at the bottle of water in his hand, then without a word tipped it upside down over his neck. The water stung and caused him to hiss a wince through clenched teeth, but it wasn’t as bad as he’d reckoned it would be. The blood washed down his already stained shirt, pink where it was new blood, browner where it was old. “Shit.” He sighed, fingers feeling the laceration.

“Hurts like a bitch but I don’t think it’s as bad as I first thought. A band aid will cover it, if you got one?” Austin looked up, the dark circles under his eyes darkening with each blink. He was exhausted, but refused to say so, just in case Layla thought he was turning instead of falling asleep. The last thing he wanted was to be executed by a cute girl because she thought he was a zombie. Then again, that actually sounded like quite a nice way to go compared to other deaths he’d heard on the grapevine.


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