See important note at bottom of page!

My interest in continuing this story re-emerged with the new season of The Walking Dead starting up tomorrow evening. I really wanted to stick with it initially, but life gets so busy sometimes, it's hard to take the time to sit down and write.

Not 100% sure where I'm eventually going with this - originally I was interested in a Rick/OC pairing, but having just finished "Polar" by MarionArnold (thanks for your review, btw!), I'm almost inspired to go with Merle. Never considered that route until reading your story. Amazing - and totally recommend it!

Well, enough of my prattling. Here's chapter 2, hope you enjoy it!

Laura's eyes snapped open and she was momentarily blind until her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness still occupying the room. She lay still in bed, breathing slowly, as she tried to identify what had caused her to wake. She turned her head slightly to look at the bedside clock and frowned when she noticed it repetitively blinking 12:00 in glaring, red letters, indicating it was no longer working properly. Laura sat up halfway in bed and realized the TV she had left on mute before falling asleep was dark. Had there been a power surge in the night, knocking out the electronics?

She leaned on her left forearm as she turned to the bedside nightstand and disconnected her cell phone from the charging cord. As she did so, the phone's screen lit up showing the battery was fully charged and the time was actually 1:16 am. No messages or texts. Phone in hand and growing more confused, Laura sat up fully in the bed, the white hotel sheet pooling around her hips. As she made a move to rise out of bed, a horrific scream stopped her dead with her right hand paused mid-air, causing her to unconsciously grip the sheet she held even tighter so that her knuckles turned white.

All of the blood drained from Laura's head and her eyes widened to resemble saucers by their size. The scream had come from the floor above her, maybe even the room directly above her own. It was not the suddenness or loudness of the scream that caused her blood to run cold, but it was the emotion behind it: sheer utter terror and pain. A large crash sounded again from above, shaking her room slightly. The crash was followed by smaller thuds that beat a rapid pattern into the floor for nearly fifteen seconds before ceasing completely. Laura barely had time to try and think of what could have caused that noise before another scream came from the floor below her accompanied by yelling and loud thumps against the walls. A sharp bang sounded below her - a gunshot? - which finally woke her from her temporary shock and spurred her into action.

Laura raced across the room towards her bag, her long legs reaching it in only two strides. As she struggled into the jeans she had worn the day before, her hands shaking badly, her ears began to pick up the sound of more screaming, yelling, and other horrific sounds now coming from all different parts of the hotel and even outside. She cursed under her breath as she tried to button her pants, but her fingers were tembling so badly she couldn't get the button through the hole. Finally it slipped through and quickly donned her shoes, as well. Laura felt a bit uncoordinated - wearing an over-sized t-shirt with jeans and her nice mules - but she barely acknowledged the feeling as she crept slowly towards the door and its peephole.

She slowly placed her hands on either side of the door frame and leaned forward, matching her right eye to the peephole in the door and squinting her left closed in order to see out into the hallway. Immediately two figures raced by and her mind only had a moment to register it had been a man and a women, both with wide eyes, the woman's mouth open as her scream followed their flight. Another man raced past Laura's view, only a few steps behind the couple. In his hand he held a piece of metal that caught the light as he ran past: a pistol.

What was going on? Laura's mind raced as she took in the looks of terror of the people who ran by her door. A young woman clutching the hand of her child came into view. They stopped abruptly right before her door as the child's foot caught on the rumpled carpet and he skidded onto his stomach. The small boy appeared to be about five, and his voice cried out in surprise and hurt as his mother worked to bring him back to his feet. Her movements were frantic and Laura could see the tear stains down her cheeks even from her position behind the door. Suddenly the young mother's head whipped to her left and she screamed at whatever it was she saw. In one fluid motion, she roughly pulled her son to his feet and continued down the hallway, essentially carrying him along as she ran. Laura didn't have to wonder long about what it was that she saw because in that next moment, the source shambled into view.

The man wore a torn and filthy mechanic's jumpsuit, its dark blue colour turned a deep midnight in places by something staining it. The man stopped in front of Laura's door but still stared down the hall in the direction the mother and her child and run. He seemed unsure of himself and loitered in place, his feet shuffling as he turned in a small circle. When his face turned towards Laura, she threw herself backwards away from the door and brought her hands to her mouth a moment too late to stifle the scream that came out. The mechanic's lower jaw was completely missing, his tongue lolling grotesquely down his chest. Blood covered his face and neck, and it clicked in her head that it was also blood that stained his jumpsuit.

Laura stood a few feet away from the door, her hands still clasped over her mouth and she held her breath. She prayed that the man - that thing - hadn't heard her and would keep moving. Her prayers went unanswered and she watched in growing terror the doorknob twist first one way then the other. Low groaning came from the other side of the door as the doorknob was tried again and again. Tears silently began to stream down Laura's face and she began to step backwards, putting more distance between her and the door. Suddenly there was a shout followed by an impressively loud bang and the doorknob instantly ceased to move. A man's voice swore vehemently right outside the door as another bang sounded and footsteps retreated down the hall. Then there was only silence.

Laura's legs were shaking so violently that another attempt at stepping further backwards into the room caused her to fall and land hard on her butt. Her eyes stared unseeingly at the door as her mind fought to comprehend what she had just seen. That man had obviously been dead, no one could survive an injury that traumatic, but he was moving around and walking as though he were alive. It was impossible. It was-

Bile surged up Laura's throat and she turned her head, emptying the contents of her stomach onto the carpeted floor. There wasn't much that came up; she hadn't eaten in awhile. She stayed hunched over on all fours for more than a minute, spitting every now and then in an effort to rid the acidic taste from her mouth. Finally Laura's stomach settled and she leaned back sitting heavily on the floor with her back leaning against the end of one of the beds.

Laura knew she had get out of the hotel, but so far the thought of even getting up off the floor made her panicky. What on earth was happening? Tears sprang to her eyes unbidden and before she could stop herself, she began to sob. Laura's sobs racked her body and she held her face in her hands as she wept. Was Jack ok? What about her parents? Her friends? The tears eventually began to subside and left in their place sporadic hiccups.

Laura forced herself to take deep breaths to regain control of herself. I have to be strong, she told herself silently. When her heart began to slow to its normal rhythms, she pulled herself to her feet, and pulled the t-shirt she was wearing up over her head. Laura stuffed the t-shirt into her small suitcase then rifled through it until she found a plain, white t-shirt that she knew fit her more tightly. She pulled it up over her head, realizing as she did that she had never put on a bra.

"Oh well," she muttered to herself, turning again to the suitcase. She was relatively small chested - a full B cup - so the lack of a bra would not affect her too greatly. Laura kicked off her mules and hurriedly dragged on an old pair of sneakers she pulled from the depths of the suitcase. If she was going to leave this room and face what lay outside, she wanted to be able to move easier and more surely. A baggy t-shirt with slip-on shoes would not cut it.

Shouts, yells, and screams continued from all around her as she jammed her purse into her suitcase, zipping it up fiercely. She slid her cell phone into her back pocket and glanced quickly around the room to ensure there was nothing she was about to leave behind. With her hand on the doorknob of the door leading out into the hallway, Laura peered through the peephole.

The activity in the hallway appeared to have quieted. No one raced by her door and the sounds she was hearing came from other sources than her floor. Laura waited a full minute to be sure she wouldn't be surprised by someone - or something - when she opened the door before turning the doornob and stepping out into the hallway.

Not even two steps out the door, Laura stopped dead. The mechanic she had seen through the peephole earlier lay at her feet, his jawless face leering up at her from the floor. A neat bullet hole tunneling through his forehead. Laura felt the bile rising again in her throat, but she coughed once and forced her gaze away, reclaiming her senses quickly. She tightened her grip on her suitcase held against her chest and purposely edged past the body of the mechanic towards the stairwell at the end of the hall.

The mechanic was not the only body occupying the hallway. Others lay in crumpled heaps and Laura tried to avoid touching or looking at them as best as she could. Blood covered the walls; streaks created by hands and splatters by bullets and other trauma. The sight alone was almost overwhelming, but the smell that accompanied was enough to send her over the edge. Laura gagged and emptied the contents of her stomach for a second time, though all that remained was some bile and spit. She drew in a ragged breath as she wiped her arm across her mouth and continued down the hallway at a staggering run.

Laura reached the stairwell, stopped right before the top step, and peered down so that she could see a bit of the main lobby at the bottom. There was no movement and only one body lay in her field of view, a female hotel employee by her uniform sprawled halfway down the staircase. The woman was lying facedown, her head towards the bottom step, her arms outstretched as if she had tripped going down the stairs. Laura waited another few heartbeats before gathering her courage and taking her first step down the stairs. She stepped silently down each step, pressing herself to the wall as she went to pass the fallen woman. As Laura passed the woman, she exhaled a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding and walked down the stairs a bit quicker. All of the sudden, Laura's suitcase flew from her arms as she windmilled and fell forward down the stairs to the lobby floor.

A low hissing sound crescendoed from behind her on the stair and Laura whipped around from her place sprawled out on the floor. The woman on the stair was stirring. Her head rose and Laura's breath caught in her throat. Like the mechanic the girl bore a traumatic wound that should keep her from ever moving again; yet, there she was, reaching hands towards Laura as she dragged herself slowly down the stairway. Dull, pale eyes watched Laura hungrily as the girl snapped and groaned - horrific, unearthly sounds that sounded alien coming from a human being. It wasn't the sight of the wound or surprise the woman was moving that froze Laura, it was the name on the nametag that glinted dully in the light: "Brittany."

Laura's legs scrabbled beneath her as she scrambled to her feet and her "fight or flight" response kicked in. She grabbed her suitcase and bolted for the front door of the hotel. Her mind overrun with fear as she burst into the early morning darkness.

A/N: So I realize this must draw some ire, but I am officially retiring this story for the time being and will delete it in a few days, once I feel those who have followed this story see this message. I decided I wasn't happy with the direction I was going with or how I started, so I'm beginning a new one. Since I'm currently posting this from my phone, I will have to post the new story later today, at the earliest.

Hope you can forgive me, and hope you like the new one I decided to work on, if you so choose to seek it out.

Thanks for the support thus far, though!