Before you begin: I love this game. No pairings as of right now, just a strong Ashley/Josh friendship and canon pairings (Corey/Mei, etc). First two chapters are to build conflict. Also, disclaimer: I don't own anything.
Please review if you liked!
Chapter 1: Aftermath
"Stan! Ashley! Shannon!"
Echoes of distant screams reverberated off the walls. Weary eyes scanned the darkness as a beam of light skimmed the corridor. Josh whirled around to the sound of growling in the shadows behind him, but when he beamed his light into the blackness nothing was there.
Nothing was ever there.
"Stan! Ashley! Shannon!"
He shuffled down the hall silently, his breath hitching in his throat. His light slid along the darkened walls onto the zombie-like monster shambling around near the collapsed staircases. His grip tightened on the neck of the bloodied bat, knuckles whitening, muscles straining.
The creature hissed and it clawed at something on the floor.
Josh felt his heart stop when the light reflected off the cold, distant gaze belonging to a throat-less Ashley.
"ASHLEY!" He exclaimed before he could stop himself, "NO!"
The creature whirled around in response to Josh's shout, dark aura pulsing, teeth gnashing. Blood spilled from its crooked jaws.
He stepped away only to slip in slick liquids—he was floored on his back, shoulder cracking under the sudden impact. His flashlight rolled away from him. Fear overtook the pain instantly; he shot up to his knees, fingers smearing the watery warmth across the tile.
"Wh-what?" He snatched the flashlight up and ignited the scene before him like wildfire. "STAN!" Stan's limp carcass was outlined by a pool of blood. "SHANNON! SHANNON, WHERE ARE YOU!"
Panic set in when he heard the creature limping in his direction. Josh forced himself to his feet and stumble-ran down the corridor, barreling over the fallen chunk of ceiling. The entrance to the courtyard was in sight…
But it seemed to get farther, and farther, until –
Josh was startled into reality when he toppled out of bed and slammed his forehead into the corner of the night stand, collapsing to the floor in a jumbled heap of tangled limbs and sweat-soaked sheets.
A moment later his father burst through the door, armed with his side arm. "JOSH! Are you alright? I heard screaming!"
Josh sat up abruptly, "Ah, Dad! I-I'm fine!" Blood dripped from his split eyebrow and leaked into his eye, forcing it shut.
Mr. Carter eased a little, letting his arms fall to his sides. He hesitated at the doorway, afraid to pass through the threshold out of fear of what lurked inside, as Josh once was. "Were you having those nightmares again?"
"Y-Yeah…" Josh glanced at his hands when he felt the dark aura rising from his palms. He extinguished the pathetic wisps on his exposed chest where the eroded scars from that night still lingered. Damn monsters…!
Mr. Carter exhaled a sigh of relief, "Well, you received some mail so-"
"Uh, Dad, get out please. I want to get dressed."
Mr. Carter paused, studying his son for a moment longer. "OK. I'll get you something for that wound." With that he exited, closing the door silently behind him.
Josh rubbed at the throbbing bruise forming above his eyebrow. He wobbled to his feet, shut the curtains—choosing to embrace the dimness of his room—and moved towards his closet.
It was going to be a long day.
Josh snapped his sunglasses over his eyes as he paced down the road.
After the Leafmore incident he had been having problems with the dark aura lifting from him like a sudden surge of energy. The sunlight practically blinded him as well—although, he could see very well in the dark, almost like a cat. That night's events had altered them all, come to think of it. Shannon wasn't as bubbly, Stan was terrified of schools (as he had always been), Kenny was much angrier and occasionally you could tell that the spores were eating away at him, and Ashley wasn't too fond of close contact from anyone.
He massaged his temples when a mild headache came on, brought about by the swelling bump on his brow. At least the band-aid had stopped the bleeding (it REALLY didn't help that the only color band-aid available in the house was pink. Not hot pink, but still degrading).
"Morning Josh!" A familiar voice called out to him.
He glanced over at his neighbor, noticing that she had her hair down for once. "Ashley! I thought you left for work already?"
"Nah," she leant back against the rear of her jeep, "I'm not too eager to work at a grocery store. Never was, never am. Although one of the regular costumers is almost as old as the Freidman brothers."
He smiled, adjusting his backpack, "Yeah."
"Need a ride?"
"No, thank you. I prefer to walk and enjoy the sunshine!" He spun, arms wide open to catch the warmth, "You never know when you'll wind up trapped in a high school of monsters who devote their lives to eating off your face!"
Ashley sighed, "You hate sunlight."
"I like it, my eyes don't."
"Same difference. Now do you want a lift or not?"
"No, I'm alright. I had that nightmare again; need to clear my mind."
Ashley gestured to her brow in reference to his, "I'm just gonna state the obvious but… you uh… got a little bit of a massive welt right there."
His eyebrow twitched, "Yeah, I know."
"Also, pink's too masculine for you. You need to shoot for a light purple."
"Har-har. See you later, Ash."
The walk to his job – working in the library – almost always led him through the center of town (unless, of course, he needed to take a shortcut). Streets were lined with popular shops, restaurants that served culturally diverse food, and various miscellaneous stores.
Across the road he caught the familiar outlines of his best friends in the arcade, a popular spot for them in the first two years of high school.
He traversed the crosswalk towards the window to get a better look. The inside of the arcade was illuminated with flashing neon lights and jarred to life by the frantic movements of the gamers tucked inside.
Stan and Kenney were butting heads—more like slamming fists—in a fighter game on one of the center machines. I haven't seen you two in a while… Josh circled around through the front doors and approached them, excusing himself when he squeezed through a couple of teens probably skipping school for the day.
They ignored him, attached to the screen spasming with colors. Their fingers abused the controls until Josh was sure that the panel would split in two.
Kenny leaned into his turn, "Jeez Stan, your moves suck!"
"That's not what your mom said in bed last night."
"Piss off!" He smashed his fist into Stan's character's jaw, completely depleting the health bar. "WOO! Take that!"
Stan's shoulders slumped in defeat. "Seriously dude?"
Josh cleared his throat. "Guys. Come on, don't you have anything better to do?"
Kenny whirled around. "Woah, hey Josh! Didn't notice ya there!"
"Pfft, the hell is that?" The jock touched Josh's injury and the opposing male recoiled. "Sheeh Josh, can't you go a single week without getting yourself hurt?"
Josh frowned. "When you're as bipolar as I am pain is inevitable."
Stan slapped his chest. "On the bright side, we finally graduated from that hell hole for good! SUMMER BREAK!"
Josh scoffed. "I didn't know you were ever going to pass grade school."
"Shannon and I plan on going to college together," Kenny remarked as they exited, "It's local, but the medicine's been keeping… uh… us in control, so we'll be alright to leave. Shannon can actually handle missing doses. I just get angry."
"And sunburned." Stan uttered under his breath.
"I might go for journalism," Josh admitted, "but that's pretty obvious, isn't it?"
"Dog, you should write a book about our adventures after school," Stan suggested, knocking his knuckles into Josh's shoulder playfully, "It'll be an international sensation!"
Kenny gasped, "Holy shit, Stan can use words with more than one syllable!"
"Shut up, man."
They remained in silence until they were approached by Shannon. The bubbly blonde (well, not as bubbly prior to the Freidman incident, but none-the-less bubbly) jogged over to them and wrapped her arm around Kenny's. "We're going to college!"
Her older brother sighed. "You say it like it's a good thing."
"Of course it is. Let's just leave our pasts behind us and look forward to the future!"
Josh rolled his eyes, "Yes, I definitely value all the potential drugs I'll have to dose my body with to remain human."
Stan pressed his lips into a thin line. "Y'know man, after all that's happened I think I'll pass up college."
Shannon's expression fell blank. "And what, make a scraping-by living as a pizza delivery boy?"
Stan crossed his arms over his chest, "Sounds fine by me. No more school, no more monsters, no more insane principals experimenting on the student body… Nah, man, none of that will be my problem. I'll be home-free!"
"You'll also be home-less."
"Josh, man, wanna be roommates?"
"Well then yeah, homeless it is." Stan exhaled slowly, "I'd rather be a hobo than a corpse in the basement." Josh let his stomach flip at the thought. "I look forward to the party at Josh's house!"
"Well yeah, bro!" He slung his arm around Josh's neck, "We'll watch movies and all that other fun stuff! I found my old disco ball in the attic yesterday! And some ancient CDs!"
"So we're not partying at your place because…?"
"Because your dad is cool. I can see that someone didn't inherit that gene."
"Says the guy who didn't even pass that class."
"A party sounds decent enough," Ashley told them passively as she approached them, bag slung over her shoulder. She greeted her boyfriend was a war-of-the-tongues kiss repulsive enough to make Shannon detach and hook onto Josh's arm.
Josh shifted uncomfortably.
He had always been shy around Shannon—well, since fifth grade—and even somehow worked up the courage to ask her out to prom. They had spent the night with the other trio of friends and danced together a few times, mostly to the slow songs, and they all ended the evening at Ashley's house. But there was one thing he had learned that night:
Shannon had a crush on Stan, and he was just a third wheel. He had always been a third wheel.
When Ashley broke off she smirked, "So who's ready for the party tonight?"
"Why am I the only one who didn't know about this?"
Josh stumble-ran down the corridor, barreling over the fallen chunk of ceiling. The entrance to the courtyard was in sight… But it seemed to get farther, and farther, until suddenly everything came to an abrupt stop. The doors rushed up to meet him and he burst into the courtyard, heart racing, legs aching.
Shannon was sprawled out on the concrete with blood oozing from the gaping hole in her chest.
"SHANNON!" He exclaimed, racing over to her.
There was a sudden screech—a horrible, mutilated scream—that echoed into the nighttime sky. A dismembered creature advanced on him, sinking its fangs into his tender neck –
Josh was startled awake when his name was screamed through the window.
Such an annoying noise. He clawed at the crust gluing his eyes shut and rolled over, knocking off the melted ice pack that had been situated on his injury.
DING-DONG-DING. DING-DONG-DONG. Knock, knock knock knock knock. Knock. Knock.
Go away. Let me sleep.
DING-DONG-DING. DING-DONG-DONG. Knockknockknockknockknock.
Outside the door Stan tapped his foot peevishly, pressing the door bell with such fury they all figured his finger would snap under the pressure. Kenny rapped his knuckles on the smooth oak surface before him, "Josh! Yo! It's us, open up!"
Several seconds later the door swung inwards. Josh yawned before speaking, "When Stan mentioned a party I didn't think you guys would take him seriously."
Shannon grinned, "So you want us to go?"
"Well, I was sleeping and I'm not dressed for partying."
Kenny scoffed, "No one cares dude. Besides, Ashley made you her famous coconut macaroons! This shit is outrageous! And we all know you go psycho for coconut!"
Josh slapped his hand over his face, "Actually, I'm allergic to coconut."
"Oh… whatever, let us in!"
Josh shrugged and stepped to the side, allowing the four of them to enter. He shut the door quietly, "Let me check in with Dad. You guys make yourselves at home." He trekked upstairs and entered his father's room, "Dad, hey."
His father beamed at him from his spot before the computer, "Hey son. I heard your friends downstairs. You guys having a little fun?"
"Yeah. Hope you don't mind."
"Nope, it's cool by me."
"Thanks." Josh moved across the hall to the bathroom, adjusted his shirt and brushed his hair until he was content with looking haphazardly decent, and headed back downstairs.
As he passed his room he paused.
His video camera sat on the desk top, plugged into the wall, blinking to signal that it was finished charging. I haven't been filming much lately. With a despondent sigh he unplugged it and switched it on, then returned to the bottom floor.
His friends were already in the living room debating over what movie to watch: Stan voted Dawn of the Dead, Ashley voted 10 Things I Hate About You, Kenny was taking Stan's side, and Shannon was siding with Ashley.
Josh snuck around them to a bag that had been filled with various movie titles but was now spilled across the couch. On the table there were three boxes of pizza and two bottles of soda.
"Zombies, man. They're totally in now."
"Are you girls too chicken to handle a classic horror film?"
"I saw this one with Ashley. You boys would love it!"
Josh picked up an old movie he didn't recognize. "How about S.W.A.T?" They froze and glanced at him in synch, expressions caught between blank and unreadable. "What?" Josh had never been one for watching anything outside of the news or SciFi movies, so perhaps his friends did have a valid reason for finding his sudden change in taste so odd.
"Let's do it!" Kenny exclaimed, snatching the DVD out of the other boy's grip.
Shannon slipped the camera from Josh and pointed the lens at him, "Where have you been hiding this?"
"Uh… my room?"
She tilted the camera angle, "Come on Josh, strike a pose for the camera!" He shrugged and did a little victory dance, earning a chuckle. "You can do better than that!"
"Well, for one I can't dance…"
Kenny started up the DVD player and popped in the disc. Josh took his camera back, shut that off with the lights, and filled up the now only empty spot on the left side of the couch, wedging himself between Ashley and the arm rest.
He settled comfortably and set his camera on his lap, unaware that he would never get the chance to hang out with them as a group again.
Next chapter: Then, suddenly, that perfect world of his came crashing down before it even had a chance to build itself.