September 24th, 5:40am
Forty minutes after his nightmare, James forced himself to wake up while Michael remained asleep. The boy seemed to be rather fretful, tossing and turning to his own horrors within. The raptor cautiously snuck downstairs, seeing that Roy was not in bed either as he saw him seated at the kitchen table. Something bubbled on the electric cooker, whilst Roy shifted through a strange variety of items from his overturned satchel, categorising them appropriately. He had not seen James yet, who simply stood out of sight watching him talk to himself.
"Alrigh'...lessee, two bottles of water'll do, two fer me, two fer FG, two fer Mike. Fruit's gonna keep us awake best so them apples are cookin' away nicely."
He checked over the steaming pot before going back to his inventory. Out of all the items that James spotted on the table, he noted especially the following. A green scroll of East Asian origin, a blank yellow jigsaw piece with some sort of strange rune inscribed onto it, and a single steel horseshoe. The horseshoe was of particular interest to Roy, kissing it with a small murmur to himself almost like a prayer, as he pressed to his head before slowly putting things back into his satchel. James made his presence known as he was doing so.
"Mmm? Oh, hey."
"You sleep good?"
"Yeah sure, nice comfy bed an' a quiet street, don't get any better than this."
"Heh, right...it's weird that this street hasn't seen a lot of violence."
"Guess all thuh action's goin' on downtown, lotta stuff we saw wuz all down that way."
"We had a map of the zoo right?" said FG. "What about the rest of the city?"
"Would help, I'm sure Michael's got sumthin', maybe an atlas even of thuh local area. If not, could always get like a bus route map an-awwwwww...we coulda picked one up back at thuh tram station."
"Awww shit you're right. Hah, I almost never use the bus so that's my excuse."
"Man ah used thuh bus all thuh damn time, ah shoulda known that...welp, you any good with directions?"
"Oh god I dunno, which way is east even?"
"...well thuh sun is risin' thattaway so ah assume that'd be east."
"Heh, right...soooo what's cooking?"
"Stewed apples and sum soup later on," said Roy.
"Is soup the only thing you know how to make? Not that I'm complaining, I mean soup is always great."
"It's thuh easiest thing ah remember...not thuh fastest but it's easy to make so..."
"You uh...checking out your inventory there?"
"Gotta be prepared man, keep everythin' all neat an' shit."
"Right...maybe that's a good idea for me too, I should check over my stuff."
"If you wanna have sum privacy, thuh bedroom ah wuz in is free."
"Heh alright...should I wake Michael?"
"Better do that, wanna make sure his stomach'll wake up in time."
After waking up Michael slowly, who groaned in the hope that all this had been a bad dream, the raptor's presence sadly confirrmed that it was not as he informed him of Roy making breakfast. He headed downstairs while FG went to the parents' bedroom to recategorise his stuff. His food, some healing items, the two strange still-warm sigil stones that were found in Meen's strange prison, and Isaac's bell. The pendant from Dar-Ma already occupied his neck, something he had become far too accustomed to remove.
He rubbed his claws along the tiny Soothe Bell, the silver item rather dull in the light of dawn over the city. At first it was sorrow that creeped into his heart, his spirit rather shaken by the sleep and nightmares that grew within. But when he heard a boy's voice calling up from downstairs, he clenched his fist with the silver bell inside, putting everything back into his satchel except for Koopin's photo. Despite what had just run through his mind, regrets still formed within him as the smiles of his past beared down on him.
"...I know Roy is not responsible for making me leave you," he murmured, "but...I can't tell him about...him."
He sat down on the bed and heaved in a deep breath, looking over the photo and rubbing a finger across it gently. Flashes from his nightmare came back in small pieces, blood and screams fading away as he struggled not to weep, putting the photo away before palming his face softly. Once he calmed down, sighing with tears moistening in his hands, he headed downstairs with his satchel all neatly organised, ready to start the day with some breakfast.
Michael was all the more eager to leave, laughing away as Roy shared with him a story that FG walked in on.
"So we were all rhymin', none of us had anythin' to say an' this witch is all like 'It appears I have your tongue, the fight is over, the bell has rung', and Kazooie's all like 'You can shut it, call yourself a witch?! You're more like a total BI-'woaaaaaaaaaah then there came a HUGE explosion down thuh hall! Guess whut it wuz?!"
"OOH OOH, the exploding chewing gum!"
"YEP, sure wuz! The whole guard room got blasted out an' all of 'em are just lyin' there all messed up an' smoking black coughin' away, an' ah just go 'looks like Drew bit off more than he can chew."'
"Pffffffft hahahahahahaha, that's laaaaaaaame!"
"Hahaha, ah know, but thuh rhymin' spell wuz still on so ain' nuthin' else ah could do! Hey FG."
"Hey there," said James, "what's so funny?"
"Roy was tellin' me his stories," said Michael, "there's this place he went to with this bird and bear an' they all got cursed to keep rhymin' forever!"
"This is why ah will never like rap," said Roy, "got so damn sick of rhymin' so faaaast."
"Really?" said FG. "What sort of music you like?"
"Heavy metal, you?"
"Ehhh dubstep, maybe some electro-rock. How about you Michael?"
"Ummm," he replied, "I like...I dunno, I kinda like anythin' that sounds good."
"Heh, alright, guess it takes a while to really get into one musical taste. So, good breakfast?"
"Sure is! I never had stewed apples, they taste great!"
"With cinnamon an' brown sugar," said Roy, "this stuff goes gooood with ice cream."
"OOOH, I think we got some ice cream!"
Despite the rather unusual breakfast which was a culmination of cereal, soup and stewed apples with ice cream for Michael, the simple food did help to stave off their fears as Roy shared more stories of his journeys. James was interested especially, wanting to know of his unusual experiences as well as how often they tended to mirror his own journey. He spoke of great wars in ancient China, a mountain ruled by a vile witch with an obsessive habit of speaking in rhyme, as well as his tales of knights and maidens in the far-off kingdom of Daventry.
To Michael, this was all like a dream even moreso to hear such strange and wonderful tales from these creatures. To James, it oddly felt the same way, even with his own adventures giving plenty of credence to Roy's own tales. Once they finished their breakfast, they made certain of their supplies and headed out towards the east. Michael had found a map of the city in his room, something he used for a geography project a year ago which made things especially handy to navigate the streets. They left at 6:45am.
Griffin Road was at the far eastern part of the city, an exit into the countryside over a river and far away from the ruin and horror that soon came flooding in. The warmth of their sleep and morning meal ran cold, as the smell of dead bodies and burning cars came forth to their senses. Screams of those beyond who had been running all night, desperate to flee the city had not changed since last night. The only difference was that it was brighter now, the blood-orange of the dawning sun washing the streets anew with its cursed light.
Heading up towards the north-east in order to bypass around the main streets where the chaos was centred, James, Michael and Roy found themselves soon passing the St. Michael Clock Tower. The place gave James a deep chill, shuddering as he passed by with a quickening in his step as they brought out the map, sitting in a side street.
"Okay," said Michael, "we don't got far to go, we just gotta get through Raccoon Street, an' up towards Ivy Street."
"What about this Wallace Street?" asked James.
"Ummmm...there's a lotta narrow streets, those look all complicated."
"Maybe, too many narrow streets could turn us around, or get us in trouble with zombies. Let's check out Raccoon Street like you said."
Heading down the main street was, of course, going to be difficult. If it wasn't a horde of zombies, it was going to be piles of debris and twisted carnage burning into the air. The one group of survivors they met however heading down from Wallace Street to the north gave them some advice, a ragtag group of five men and three women, all of whom were in office clothes except for one police officer. They almost freaked at the sight of the two raptors before introductions were made, the cop starting with:
"HEY, what's that?!"
"Woah woah cool it," said MG, "we're human, these are just costumes!"
"Costumes?! Fer what?!"
"Circus. Me an' him were part of an act an' this all got crazy."
"Who's the kid?"
"My nephew," said FG. "We're trying to get out of here together, this guy here's my circus buddy."
Roy and Michael looked at each other briefly but said nothing, not wanting to look suspicious as FG further asked:
"You guys come from up that street? We're trying to reach Griffin Road."
"No way up there man," said the police officer, "we just came from the hospital along the backroads and that whole place is screwed, plus there's some kinda monster that someone saw hunting around the clock tower, killed all our friends in there."
"Damn really?" said MG. "Why were they there?"
"We needed a place to keep safe, like a sorta hideout you know? This thing's not like a zombie either, but something real nasty that can really tear 'em apar-"
"Jesus Craig there's a kid here, shut up."
"Right, sorry...so yeah you better stay away."
"Do you know any other roads that are open?" asked FG. "We really need to get to the uh...college, yeah, we promised we'd meet our friends there."
"Only place I can think of is crossing the river early and heading east towards the college area, like, heading opposite the city hall?"
"Yeah friend of mine said that it wasn't hit as bad there, least last time I heard anyways, more like direct east rather than southeast or something. You know where the elementary school is?"
"I go to school there!" said Michael, "I know where it is!"
"Right, good, you head on down that way and it should be a pretty safe area for you."
"Alright," said James. "Thanks for the help officer."
"No problem you folks keep safe."
"Same to you, take care."
The group of survivors headed off down the Central Raccoon Line, whilst James' group headed off down Warren Street directly south, towards the City Hall. Michael shivered feeling terribly unnerved by hearing what could possibly be happening at his school. Roy however felt uneasy, asking his fellow raptor:
"Why'd you lie to him?"
"Because he was a cop."
"...seriously? You doin' this now?"
"No, listen, remember that note Michael's parents left? Don't go to the police, if they find out somehow about who Michael is, they might start getting nasty. Now I dunno what the deal is between Michael's parents and the police around here, but I'm not gonna take any chances. Alright?"
"...alrigh'. Guess ah...can understand that. Do we go to thuh school?"
"Leeeet's not, besides it's further away from Griffin Road than we wanna be so let's not go directly there."
"Makes sense, alrigh' let's go."
As they made their way towards city hall, they found their route unfortunately blocked by the sea of rotting meat gathering around the police station like the flies that would pick at them. Gunfire and screams resonated from inside, the clear signs of survivors within trying to fight back against the ensuing horde. The police station, while amazingly grand and elegant in design for such an institution, was clearly suffering from the attacks judging by the state of the roads.
Blood streaked through the very streets amongst the twisted cars of white and blue, bodies both dead and undead filled the very length of the street, all approaching en masse towards the station that blazed aplenty with bursts of fire from the boarded-up windows. Their screams made certain that anyone who came near would be most unwelcome, as Roy and James watched from near the city hall. Michael tried not to listen, trying to drown out the noise and look for another way around.
"Looks like those guys before were wrong," said FG, "jesus even the station got overrun."
"Man if the cops can't do anything, whut hope is there?"
"Heh, don't think we're done yet just because your boys in blue failed. Maybe if some of them weren't snorting coke from the evidence room they'd be a lot more prepared."
"...you really gonna bring this up here? REALLY?"
"...ehhh...sorry, just-...sorry, that was shi-um-awful of me."
"Righ', it wuz. So now whut?"
"Well unless we got a way of getting through that crowd, say, moving the zombies up the street while we hide in a store and let them pass, then not only would we be able to get past-"
"But we'd ALSO be helpin' out thuh guys in there! Hey that ain't a bad idea."
"Now uh...how do we distract a zombie?"
"Maybe we make a noise?" said Michael.
"I...um, I remember when you...before you found me, those zombies that chased me, they only found me cuz I was makin' noise. Maybe if you made like a BIG noise, they might all start going up this way?"
"...you know what? That's a great idea. Alright, do we have anything around here, any store that might make something?"
"Ummmm...OOOH, um, there was a TV store back there, like, right up that road! They got a karaoke machine!"
"...a whut?" asked Roy.
"You know, karaoke! The girls at my school talked about it all the time, said they went in and tried it out, kinda like a videogame in the store, it's a neat place! Maybe we can make the zombies come towards it an' sneak round 'em when they do!"
"...better than nuthin' sure! If it helps us and it helps them up in the police station, we can give it a shot. Lead thuh way Mike."
With a smile the boy headed back up Warren Street, before turning a right along Euston Street in order to find the electronics store. It was a sizeable store, a wide variety of televisions and video recorders all lined up with the odd game console or three. The place was locked down, surprisingly intact given the rest of the street being covered in glass and stone debris. Television was not a great concern when in the midst of a zombie apocalypse it seemed.
There was no real way around however due to the pileups of employee cars around the back, however the map did show that there were winding paths that went around and down south through back alleys that would further cement their plan. Surprisingly, it was Roy out of all of them that learnt how to lockpick the door, which made James rather suspicious.
"Well well, Mr. Wannabe Cop knows how to pick a lock eh?"
"THAT is quite fascinating to know, do they teach that in New York or is that a thing all cops learn?"
"Look it's nuthin' to do wi' that alrigh'? Ah learnt a few things along thuh way, more than you even."
"I'm just curious as to how someone so straight-arrow like you would ever learn such an underhanded trick."
"Do you wanna waste time tryin' to break me down, or you wanna get outta here?"
Tutting with feigned disapproval, James walked into the store with Michael as Roy closed the door, bolting it securely with a large shelf against it. The store was much larger than they had expected it to be, and yet surprisingly still running with power judging by the dimmed fluorescent lights. None of the TVs appeared to be on for the moment, lining up the walls in every single direction in all shapes and sizes from classic square to flat-inch rectangles. Various rows along the mini-mart of electronics offered various devices, such as CD players, VCRs, even an entire separate section for both movies and videogames.
Most of the videogames however had been taken off the shelves for some reason, a few miscellaneous titles mainly in the PC gaming range now remaining untouched. The movies however were all left on their shelves as Michael looked for the karaoke machine, once they made a clean sweep of the area. A staff room laid beyond, but there was no need to investigate it due to being locked. The fire exit that acted as a back door however, was accessible to all the public for making a clean getaway. Roy however spotted something unusual, calling out to James:
"Hey, look at this."
He walked over to where the black raptor was, perusing through the various movies which remained on large black cassette tapes, mystifying both raptors as FG said:
"What the hell ARE these?"
"Ah dunno man, sum kinda...like thuh size of a book but it's got all this tape inside of it. You recognise any o' these movies?"
"I think so, I-holy shit Hardboiled!? ...fuck, Sarah loves this movie!"
"Yeah this is it! Same guy on the front and everything holding a baby while wielding a shotgun, this is totally it! She even has a poster of him in her room-...wait...wait that makes no sense. Why would this movie even BE here?!"
"Maybe a coincidence, maybe-wait naw...naw naw look at this."
They looked through the movies further, turning even more confused by the disturbing similarities between worlds far apart.
"Star Wars, Dracula, World War Two movies even! Now that's a historical event, that can't be right, shit even Disney's here! LOOK, Walt Disney movies!"
"...man you ain' never seen a DISNEY movie?! The hell you been livin' under a rock!?"
"Well not a rock exactly but I don't often get a chance to go to movies OR see cartoon stuff because Sarah's...not really into this kinda thing."
"Whut come on, everybody loves Disney, ah seen all these movies! Robin Hood, Lion King, Oliver and Company, this shit is thuh best!"
"You...watched all of these?"
"Hell yeah, ah love all of 'em! 'specially Oliver and Company, this is mah favourite."
"But wait wait wait...how the fuck is this even here? We're in another world, in fact have you noticed how similar this world is to our world? Cars, buildings, place names, I swear I saw a travel flyer back somewhere for London, and now all this! Humans too, always goddamn humans I find in these other worlds but THIS one is just freaky."
"Yeah...know whut, kinda is freaky, lotta odd similarities."
"...what if this is an alternate Earth?"
"No, listen, what if-you know how in our world we all got nuked back in like 23rd century or something?"
"Right, so, what happened BEFORE that? Like what happened with the humans, did they get zombies, did they ever have to deal with this thing here, this whole apocalyptic setting?! What if all this time we've just been skipping through the same world over and over again in different forms?"
"...that...doesn't make any damn sense. Do you REALLY think thuh Mushroom Kingdom is sum kinda alternate Earth? Really?"
James suddenly blinked as he felt a hole punch through his wild theory, rubbing his chin rather bashfully with one clawed hand.
"...oh...wait, that...yeah that kinda disproves...something."
"But we've both been to Fourside, we've both been to Silent Hill and now we're both here in this Raccoon City, all of them are the same thing! There's always humans, there's always mentions of other places from OUR world like London and New York and such, and they always have-...wait."
"W-wait, hold on."
FG began focusing on the Disney section of the movie aisles, rummaging through each and every cover he could take as he searched carefully upon both back and front of each video case. Roy simply stared, rather confused by this sudden train of thought and pondering to himself on what FG had been saying, before the raptor in brown said:
"YES! THIS IS IT!"
"THIS MOVIE! I REMEMBER IT! I REMEMBER THIS FROM FOURSIDE!"
Brandishing one movie towards Roy, he looked upon a cover of what appeared to be two mice riding upon an albatross.
"...Thuh Rescuers? Whut about it?"
"There's a song in this movie, I know this song somewhere, back far away in the back of my mind and I don't know how. But this movie was playing back in Fourside, or like one of the towns before Fourside, and I KNOW I know it back from our own world. And now it's here. This movie...right in the middle of this fucking apocalypse."
"...this is weird," murmured Roy. "Ah mean, yer idea of it bein' all sum kinda alternate Earth would make sense fer those worlds alone."
"Yeah, I mean, think about it. Those movies in our world, they got found all pre-world stuff, back before the nuclear holocaust right? Like, isn't there a group of people who find them in old movie vaults or data drives or something back where we came from?"
"Yeah, then they all pieced 'em together to try an' make a complete movie, thuh Media Restoration Project."
"Right! ...so how is this here? What kind of worlds ARE we going through?"
"...ah dunno. But ah can tell you that not all worlds we been to are just alternate Earths. Sum of 'em might be, like this one...shit."
"Ah just thought of sumthin' that might hold up yer theory...sumthin' like thuh zombies but not exactly-"
They were broken from their reverie of thought by the voice of Michael, calling out from the other side of the movie section.
"I found the machine an' got it up working again! It was still plugged in an' everything!"
"Aw sweet!" said Roy. "So uh...whut exactly do we do?"
"Well...you can maybe hook up a big speaker to it, so it'll like BLAST outta here real loudly so the zombies'll all hear it an' come running to us."
"Oh god not running," said FG, "slow zombies are one thing but I do not want to deal with fast zombies."
"I'm glad they don't, that'd be bad."
"Can you imagine a zombie marathon? Like, running across the city all stub-legs and arms with their number shirts like 'and here comes Cripps McGee and OHH NOO he just lost his left leg, looks like he's gonna be hopping mad all the way!'"
Michael laughed until he almost fell to the floor, cackling uproariously to the point that Roy even smirked a little with a snort.
"Hhhheheh, heh...y-yeah, tha-...that'd be crazy!"
"Sure would be, almost as crazy as this idea you got. You know how to plug all this in?"
"Sure, I fixed the computer at my school sometimes, I can do it! My dad says I'm real good with electronic stuff, I just...I dunno I can understand it all."
"Alright then we'll help you, let's get this show going!"
In the Warren Street electronics mart, a revolution was about to come. The jacks were in, the amps were wired, the speakers facing towards the south. In the midst of a small stage in the middle of the dim store, Roy stood in front of a karaoke machine, large and disturbingly yellow with a touch of pink like fresh summer lemonade. Both James and Michael had everything set up, while Roy flicked through the choices.
"We need sumthin' heavy," he said, "sumthin' loud an' roarin' that'll really get their attention."
"And you're the guy to do it?" said FG.
"Ah got thuh deepest voice, mah voice'll carry a lot better...least ah think that's how it wor-OH NO! NO! ...this one."
"...put that one on."
Michael looked at Roy oddly with a smirk, while FG stood at the sidelines. The song had a small sample from it play upon selection, making MG's eyes light up with a smirk as a sudden childish excitement had overcome him.
"You ever heard this song?"
"Um...n-no, wait that-isn't...isn't that from one of those movies, I recognise that dog."
"Yep. Yep it is."
"But...that doesn't sound like a heavy metal song."
"Ah know...but this one is mah jam."
"...cuz ah got New York City heart. Hit it Michael!"
Tapping the selected song, Michael stepped back as Roy began to feel the strange song vibrate through him. The speakers were incredibly good, the best they could find in the store and soon beating out a gigantically-loud bluesy vibe. Piano came in rather quickly, a ritzy style that set off a fire within Roy's mind as he clenched his fist hard around the mic, and began to blare out a song. A song that, in his world, had been of a children's movie long long ago.
He wasn't good at it, certainly not good enough to pass the second round of a reality TV show. But at the very least he was passionate. And loud. Very, very loud.
"One minute ahm in Central Park
Then ahm down on Delancey Street
From thuh Bowery to Saint Mark's
There's a syncopated beat
Ah-say hooo-hooo, hoooo-hoo-hooo!
Ahm street-wise! Ah can improvise!
Ah-say hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo-hoo!
Ahm street-smart! Ahhh got New York City heart!
WHY SHOULD AH WORRY!
WHY SHOULD AH CAAAAARE!
AH MAY NOT HAVE A DIME
BUT AH GOT STREEET SAVOIR-FAIRE
WHY SHOULD AH WORRY!
WHY SHOULD AH CAAAAARE!
IT'S JUST BEBOPULATION
AH GOT STREEEET SAVOIR-FAIIIRE!"
Roy started dancing to himself once the song began to change its rhythm slightly, as Michael soon joined in with the singing and dancing. At first FG was a little out of odds, simply happy to see that for once the black raptor was no scowling in his direction everytime their eyes met. But as he glanced outside the store window, he could see that a crowd was starting to gather, slowly but surely. With glazed eyes and rotting flesh, he almost smirked at how the zombies were not so different from an audience at any music concert.
"IT'S WORKING!" cried out James, "KEEP IT UP!"
The song played on, as Roy screeched out along with Michael as they whooped together into the chorus, with Michael even playing off a solo two lines for Roy to resurge with.
"Everything goes, everything fits!"
"They love me at thuh Chelsea, they adore me at thuh Ritz!
WHY SHOULD AH WORRY
WHY SHOULD AH CAAAAARE!
AND EVEN WHEN AH CROSS THAT LINE
AH GOT STREEET SAVOIR-FAIRE!"
It was incredible to witness. The bass off-key voice of Roy MacGregor cried out far enough to even be heard faintly from the outer reaches of the police station as he hit the final chorus. People were confused, unsure of what the song meant. It was the worst siren song they would ever hear. It was a song of joy and happiness, but not because they were hearing it. But because they were getting a reprieve from the zombie horde that now slowly lurched onwards in droves, heading towards the north.
As the song began to reach its ending, the zombies could be seen from outside the store window. Roy and Michael didn't stop, attempting to howl musically with the worst of their abilities, all while FG was looking towards the fire exit.
"Guys, we're good to go, come on!"
"COME ON ALREADY LET'S GO!"
"FUCK'S SAKE WE HAVING AN ENCORE OR WHAT, LET'S GO!"
Leaping off the small plastic stage in front of the karaoke machine, Roy headed off towards the fire exit along with both FG and Michael, the song playing away on its own as the zombie horde amassed at the front window. The leering faces of the dead beneath the morning light, scratching at the plated glass, brought them back to reality a little faster than they expected to. It only made things even worse when they found that the fire exit would not open to FG's hands.
"...it's not opening."
"N-no no maybe I'm just-"
"Yer doin' it wrong."
"I know how to open a door, jus-"
"Lemme at it!"
Roy tried the same, the song now no longer playing for them to hear all too clearly the sounds of the hungering horde from outside. The black raptor slammed at the door, but the lock would not yield.
"DAMMIT, IT WON'T OPEN!"
"I told you!"
"WE CHECKED IT BEFORE, IT WUZ OPEN WEREN'T IT?!"
"It was, I checked, I double-checked god dammit!"
"We gotta break it open, if we jus-"
Suddenly a shot rang out from nearby, shattering the very air with a brief moment of silence as they all turned towards the store room. In the darkened corner of the store, behind the customer service counter, was a person aiming a gun shakily at them. A young boy, teenager possibly, whose hands resonated with growing panic.
"No one is leaving...until I say so."