Clay exited the desolate streets of Kashwak and entered a small bungalow as the first rays of sunlight rose above the horizon. Johnny however, remained just outside of the doorway with a vacant expression drawn across his dirtied face. Assured that the house was vacant after a quick survey, Clay gently nudged the shell that was his son into the house and locked the door behind them.


Clay had done it, he had found Johnny.
It had been three days since Clay had miraculously found Johnny absently playing with a shoe on the sidewalk of a diner. Maybe it was divine providence that had allowed Clay to find Johnny or maybe it had just been a father's instinct which led him to his son. Regardless, Clay had found him and that was what mattered. Not unlike the recent generation of phone crazies, Johnny had not been transformed into a ravage being of blind fury, but rather brainwashed into an oblivious entity by a mutated signal of the Pulse. During those three days, Clay had tried to civilize Johnny by teaching him how to feed himself and use the toilet, but it was all futile. Clay had trekked across hundreds of miles and put his friends in mortal peril all to find a Johnny that was nothing more than a shadow of his former self. Nothing more than the world's idea of a sick joke.

It wasn't until earlier tonight that Clay had resorted to using the cell phone he had located at a police station prior to finding Johnny. Before he had left Jordan and Tom to find Johnny, Jordon had told Clay that if he did find Johnny, he could use a cell phone to send a second signal through Johnny's mind that might cancel out the Pulse's effect. However, this was just a theory thought up by a possibly traumatized twelve-year-old student that sounded just too good to be true. Not to mention, if this process didn't work then Johnny would remain a mindless zombie for the rest of his life, and that scared Clay more than any of the horrors he had witnessed in the past few weeks during the Pulse apocalypse. Still, if there was a chance at a normal Johnny then he had to take it; no matter how scared he was. Johnny needed this. Heck, he needed it.

So a few hours ago, Clay had led Johnny into an open field where he was sure to catch the signal of the Pulse. He took a deep breath of the cool night air, allowed himself to collect his thoughts and pulled the Virgin Mobile from his pocket. Even without the aid of streetlights, Clay could still make out the fainted power button and pressed it. As the LED screen came to life, Clay made sure that the cell phone had three bars of signal and dialed the first number he could think of – 911. He then counted three seconds and pressed the phone against Johnny's ear.

It seemed like an eternity that he stood there holding the phone to his son's ear. With each passing second Clay hoped with all his heart that Johnny's dazed expression would be replaced with an expression of instant recognition and joy…but the moment never came. Johnny continued to stand there, dumbly staring into space and unaware of the phone against his ear. Heartbroken, Clay collapsed onto grass and wept before Johnny's feet as he looked on at his father, unaware of the reason for his tears. Clay had failed. Jordon had been wrong, Johnny couldn't be saved, he couldn't be normal again. Johnny was gone.


Clay turned away from the door only to meet his son's dazed eyes glaring back. It wasn't the lack of life or even the eeriness of those eyes that made Clay shiver inside, but the fact that there was a sense of familiarity in them that reflected back into his own. It was the familiarity of a sweet and young Johnny that Clay had adored since his birth; adored and lost that is.

The moment ended as Johnny turned away and began to fidget with one of the coats in a closet nearby. Clay pulled him away from the coats and seated him on a dusty couch in the living room. Clay then lay down on the sofa beside the couch and heaved a heavy sigh. Closing his eyes; Clay tried to empty his mind of all his worries and sorrows so that he may receive a peaceful moment of rest. Though try as he might, Clay couldn't fall asleep because there was still the lingering guilt that resonated through his mind; just like the ringing of a cell phone.

After a minute of fruitlessly trying to sleep, Clay sat up and pulled out the object that had been wedged in between his belt for the last three days. As he absently fiddled with the object, Clay recollected the events of the night he had found the cell phone at the police station.

The police station had been riddled with the corpses of downed officers and a couple of phone crazies. What compelled Clay to enter such a macabre scene was the distinguished glint of a cell among the pile of bodies. As he drew closer to the scene, Clay saw that the cell phone was tightly enwrapped in the hands of an elderly officer. He remembered how he had taken the cell phone from those icy, gray hands and then noticed it just a few inches from the cell phone.

The Colt .45 was fully loaded and quite heavy. As he transferred it back and forth to each hand, Clay couldn't help but realize that it felt extremely foreign and strange in his hands. He had used guns before during his trek to Kashwak but oddly enough, this one felt different from those. Maybe it was because what he intended to do with this gun that set it apart from the ones he had used before. Clay looked up from the gun to Johnny, then back to the gun again. Clay checked that the safety was off and got up from the sofa.

As Clay looked at Johnny, he couldn't help but delay his actions for a second. However, this moment of hesitation quickly dissipated. The figure in front of Clay wasn't Johnny anymore, and he would never be the Johnny that Clay had raised ever again. Clay's entire life up to this point has been nothing more than a series of failures. His marriage with Sharon had failed, he had allowed Alice to die, he couldn't stop Sharon from turning into a phone crazy and he couldn't bring back the old Johnny. He had failed so many times but not tonight, tonight he was going to succeed on his own terms. Yet, as Clay raised the gun, that wave of hesitation came back and he lowered the gun. Clay walked up to Johnny and fondly kissed him on the cheek.

Clay remembered how a few moments ago he had so desperately tried to get some sleep but was thwarted by the bothersome guilt as it has been for the past few weeks. He knew now that there was only one way to stop the constant ringing in his head and obtain the serene sleep he needed. Clay was tired and needed it to end; he needed it to end now.

Two shots rang through the air and the ringing fell silent.