Murphy's cell mate was fucking snoring again. Not a sin, but damn he wished it was so he could smother than motherfucker to death. He rolled toward the wall and put his pillow over his head.
Separate cells. The judge had been a twin. He knew throwing the boys in prison together wouldn't be a punishment if they had each other. Their sentence had been Life plus twenty years. No parole. They stood there and took the reading like men until the last mandate—that throughout that life sentence, they were never to share a cell. They could see each other at recess and mealtimes, which all together added up to a full two hours a day.
That's when they'd both started swearing at him, calling him every foul name they knew in every language they knew.
He'd had them carted out of the room in chains, both still screaming at him until they were in the transport truck with the doors shut and locked.
Luckily the warden's cousin had been killed by some of the men they had taken down. He couldn't defy the judges orders, but he could put them right next to each other in the cell block, close enough that they could talk to each other if they both stood next to the bars.
It wasn't good enough, but it was better than nothing.
Murphy let out a whistle, a signal they'd worked out in the beginning, a little something to say, "I'm still awake. Are you?."
He heard Connor's reply, quiet but audible, cut off a bit by some scuffling down the hall—probably two cell mates taking comfort in each other. Still, knowing his brother was only separated from him by about a foot of concrete helped him calm down. Maybe they could invent their own twin language out of whistling. God knew they had enough time.
"Ya can't think like that, Murph," Connor had said. "Ya know they're fucking coming for us. Eunice and Duffy and the others."
"Yeah man, no way they'll leave us in here," Romeo said, bench-pressing a barbell of weights while Connor spotted him. "They want us out there working."
"They want us out there working," Connor corrected. "You're just an accessory. Like a hat or a wee dainty little handbag."
"Yeah yeah yeah, fuck you," Romeo said, relinquishing the weight bench to Connor.
"I don't think they're coming," Murphy said. "It's the fucking Hoag. No one's ever broken out of here. "
"Murph, I'm not a big fan of your negative attitude right now."
"They're aren't coming." He stamped out a cigarette with his shitty prison-issued tennis shoes.
It had been a month since that conversation. He was right. Usually Connor was the one who ended up being right about things in the end, even stupid shit like needing rope or how some bullshit Charlie Bronson plan would work. Murphy wasn't particularly excited about being right on this one.
More scuffling down the hallway, louder and frantic. He whistled again, wondered if his brother would get what he was really saying with that one. "Hey Connor, do you hear this shit?"
Someone yelled out into the night, drowning out any response from Connor. Guards jogged past his cell, and he hopped down out of bed to see what was going on. His cell mate was still snoring.
"Holy shit," he heard one say. It sounded like Flanery maybe. He was a good bloke, always willing to throw a flask of Irish or a pack of smokes their way when no one was looking.
"Dear God, is he...?"
The alarms started sounding a second later, blaring through the hallways. Murphy's cell mate kept sleeping.
"Murph, can ya hear me?"
"Aye. Can ya see anything? You're closer."
Murphy craned his head, waiting to hear more, to try to place what was going on. One of the guards screamed. A gunshot echoed through the hall.
"Christ," Connor said. "Get back from the bars, Murph."
"What?" Murphy could hear his brother shuffling backwards across the concrete.
"Just fucking do it." When Connor said things in that particular tone, he wasn't fucking around. Murphy backed up. And then he saw them. Murphy had seen enough dead bodies to know what one looked like.
Arms reached through his bars, like they wanted nothing more than to get at him. He could see the blood around their mouths and on their hands. There was an old Irish legend that said when you died, your soul fled out of your mouth, that if something evil took hold of you, you'd come back as something else... something sinister. Murphy shuddered and looked around the cell for something he could defend himself with if needed.
He had a Bible, a nice thick hardcover one in Latin that he'd been given as a boy. That was it other than his rosary, which he could maybe choke a man with, but if these things were what he thought they were, choking wasn't going to do much. He snatched up the Bible and wrapped the rosary around his wrist, hoping they'd rove on before the morning timers released the doors for breakfast.
"Murph, you alright?"
"If this was their plan to get us out, I don't fucking like it," Murphy yelled over the alarms, holding his Bible tight. Connor chuckled.
"Fucking creative plan though," Connor said. "I vote we get the fuck out of here the second these doors open."
"Find Romeo, get to Doc's, get our guns, and get the fuck out of Boston."
Murphy stayed just out of reach of their arms, waiting. It occurred to him to wake his cell mate up. For the satisfaction of it, he hit him across the face with a pillow.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing, you little Irish f—," the guy started, cutting off when it seemed to hit him that the alarms were blaring. Murphy knew him as Ramirez from the labels sewn into all of his clothes. They hadn't bothered with first names.
"Saving your life, asshole," Murphy said, gesturing toward the arms straining to get into the cell. "Those cell doors are going to open eventually. Or would ya prefer to be something's breakfast."
He stared at them for a moment, mouth agape.
"Zombies. L-Los muertos vivientes." He crossed himself over his chest.
"Si, motherfucker. Don't suppose you have any weapons hidden away anywhere."
Ramirez took a moment to process that too before lifting up his mattress and pulling out a crude shiv made of what looked like tightly compressed newspaper...like some fucking papier mâché arts and crafts shit. Well, that thing might hold up for one good stab before it got wet and started to fall apart. Maybe two.
"Through the eyes," Murphy said, pointing at his with his fingers. Ramirez nodded.
"Remember, Murph," Connor said over the alarms, "you don't have to kill 'em all. You just have to outrun them."
At that moment, as though they heard Connor preparing him, the cells doors clattered open. The PA system activated.
"Get out if yo-" There was a gurgling noise, and then nothing but microphone feedback and alarms. And the screams of prisoners all down the hallway.
Murphy scrambled onto the top bunk.
"C'mon you motherfuckers. You're eatin' Irish tonight." He motioned for them to come to him with his fingers. "Ramirez, get up here."
But Ramirez was frozen, makeshift shiv in hand. Murphy saw the scene unfolding before his eyes, too fast for him to react. Ramirez went down, screaming. Hot blood splattered onto Murphy's face as the creatures began a feeding frenzy. Murphy took a calming breath, crossed himself, and leaped off the bunk, clearing the small group of those things tearing into Ramirez, whose eyes were wide open with fear. Murphy would have put an end to it if he'd had his gun. But he couldn't risk getting close enough to finish it. He snatched the makeshift shiv up off the floor.
"Sorry," he said, before he made it out into the hallway, turning toward Connor's cell.
"I'm right here. Let's fucking go." Connor grabbed his arm and pulled him down the hallway. Then they were both running, rounding the corner to the cells they knew housed Romeo. Murphy slid a little in a puddle of blood, but managed to stay on his feet, gripping Connor's shoulder for balance.
"What cell?" Murphy asked, tracking bloody footprints down the hall.
"He said three down," Connor said. "If they ever come for you two Irish assholes, I'm around the corner, three down. You better not forget Romeo."
"Your Mexican accent sucks."
"Fuck off," he said, jogging down the hallway with Murphy at his heels. "One, two..."
Murphy threw up all over his shitty tennis shoes. There was nothing in Romeo's cell but a pile of intestines and blood.
"Might not be his, Murph," Connor said, ignoring the fact that Murphy had puked all over his own feet too. Murphy doubled over, dry-heaving and pointing down the hallway. He'd seen brains splattered on hotel walls. He'd seen his own father's body. He'd mopped up dead cat soup. None of that would have ever prepared him for what he saw down that hall.
"No. No!" Connor yelled. It was Rocco all over again, but so much worse. Just like Rocco, Murphy felt like it was their fault. Just like Rocco, it probably was, no matter how proud he'd been to be a part of their team. If that dream had even been real.
What used to be Romeo started down the hall toward them, a length of intestine trailing behind him.
"We have ta move," Murph said, forcing himself to turn away, begging his stomach to stay calm.
"No," Connor said. "We can't fucking leave him like that."
Murphy knew he was right. What else was new? He handed Connor the newspaper shiv and quickly circled behind Romeo's body, grabbing the arms, staring at the ceiling instead of watching.
"And..." Connor's voice faltered a little. "And shepherds we shall be..."
Murphy said the words too, automatic, his eyes searching the hallway behind Connor to make sure they stayed safe for this one moment. Romeo deserved to be prayed over. He'd earned that much. He deserved to be fucking alive.
"I'm sorry," Connor said quietly before Murphy heard the squelching sound of the knife going in. The body went limp in his hands, and Murphy let it fall to the floor.
"Let's go," he said, putting his arm around Connor.
The rest of the city was as chaotic as the prison. No one seemed to care about the two boys in prison jumpsuits, covered in blood, running through the streets. People were too busy looting. Police were too busy trying to put down the dead before they could get to the living. Too busy failing at that.
"Murph, do you still remember how to hotwire a car?" Connor asked.
"It's been damn near twenty years since I've done that shit," Murphy said. "Of course I fucking remember. But we'd have better luck with a bike." He pointed at the motorcycle across the street, knocked to its side, the back wheel still spinning. A trail of blood lead away from it and around the corner. They jogged over it and picked it up. Murphy mounted it.
"Oh fuck no," Connor said. "I'm not going to ride on the back with my arms around ya like your fucking girlfriend."
"Well I'm not going to ride on the back like your little bitch," Murphy said.
"Get the fuck up," Connor said. "I'm driving."
Murphy started to argue again, but someone screamed nearby, piercing and blood-curdling. They could fight later. Right now, he wanted his fucking guns. He let Connor on and reluctantly got on the back, wrapping his arms loosely around him, just enough that he wouldn't fall off.
"Are ya comfy back there, darlin'?" Connor said, and then he took off.
Doc's place was empty, but they found the hideakey in the usual spot. Hopefully he'd found somewhere safe to go. Hidden away in an old chest of drawers, they found everything they'd owned when they went to prison. Two pea coats. Two sets of guns. Two sets of holsters. Two pairs of jeans. Two pairs of sunglasses. Two half-smoked packs of smokes. Two lighters. Two duffel bags. Two black t-shirts. Two pairs of non-shitty non-prison-issued boots. A box full of pennies. Homemade tattooing stuff. A roll of money. Romeo's guns.
"We'll use the bullets up first and then bury them," Connor said. Murphy nodded. It seemed like the best plan in lieu of a body. The two of them stripped down, tossing the prison suits in the garbage, re-dressed in their own clothes. Murphy almost sighed a little out loud slipping his feet into his boots. He strapped on his gun holsters, put his guns in, and sat Romeo's gun aside to carry.
They filled their duffels with all of the other things, grabbed blankets from the linen to roll up and put inside. They grabbed a couple of knives from the kitchen as well, grabbed some food, but left some in case Doc came back. They wrote him a note letting him know they'd come through and were alive, thanking him for keeping their stuff safe.
"We should leave him something," Murphy said. Connor reached down and pulled the spare gun out of his sock, laying his hand on Murph's shoulder, because he already knew Murphy was thinking about Romeo's first run with them.
Down the stairs and out and back on the bike, the decision made the get out of the city before they decided on an actual place to go.
"Stop here," Murph said, pointing at a store with broken windows, people running in and out of it. Connor pulled over.
"What are ya doing?" Connor said.
"Stay with the fucking bike," he said, taking off. He climbed in through the broken storefront windows, was gone all of two minutes, and came back with his duffel bag bulging.
"What the fuck did ya get?"
He opened it up, showed Connor the bag full of cigarettes.
"They're all in there fighting over food and liquor. Didn't even notice me." Murph said.
"Could have gotten something useful."
"I did. I got fuckin' smokes. Grabbed a coupl'a bottles of water laying around behind the counter too. And some lighters. We'll need those to build a fire with and shit." Murphy made sure the bag was secure on his back. They were going to have to get backpacks or something later on. "Some people inside were talking about the CDC in Atlanta."
"South it is. Let's fuckin' ride," Connor said, and they were off, zooming through the gridlocked cars on their way out of the city.