-1

Darkened Hope: The Prayer for Anarchy

Along the western section of Fairmount Drive, nestled between the once great, Art Museum and North Broad Street, sat Eastern State Penitentiary. Even though it had been out of commission for decades, its halls rang especially quiet this morning. No tourists would come inside to behold the historical landmark. No one would learn of its infamous inmates left behind. No one would hear the tales of the possible haunting and the strange things that occurred within the, now abandoned, walls.

Outside the prison, rang chaos and death, but in here, there was only silence like that in a funeral. While the city around it crumbled in flames, the Penitentiary stood strong, mocking the pathetic extinction of its creators.

Not even the sorrowful screams of the dying penetrated into the pitch black halls of the facility.

Now, as the life of the city slowly extinguished and the booming city decayed into a quiet ghost town, the thick walls of the prison showed their quality. Ruins. Philadelphia had gone the way of so many ancient societies before it. If ever spoken again, by a human tongue, it would be spoken in the same sentiment as Rome, the colossal empire of ancient history, or Babylon, the great dragon from ancient biblical times.

This time, however, there would be no one left to excavate the decaying city. There would be no society to look back on the culture of their ancient ancestors. There would be no exploration of the city, no discovery of the town called "Philadelphia." Unlike the colossal cities before it, Philadelphia would rest here, in eternal slumber, never to be thought of again.

The peace, within the walls, could only last so long as the city burned outside those walls. First, it was mere footsteps that ruined the silent serenity. Then, the soft thumping turned into hushed, careful whispers.

"We should be safe here,"

"Here? It's dark as shit down those corridors. Who knows what the fuck is down there…"

"The place has been a tourist attraction for the last hundred years or something. I doubt anyone was checkin' out Eastern State Penn amidst a national crisis."

The two had to actually break into the Penitentiary in order to find the sanctuary within it. Thick, steel, bars had been used to lock the only entrance after hours. Using a weighted cable, they make a relatively secure rope. With this they were able to scale the massive walls of the facility.

"Besides, none of these things have the coordination, let alone the intelligence, to figure out how to get in here," Moses said, landing safely inside and letting the rope hang downward, inside the walls.

Moses wasn't very tall but he was solid. His, by now somewhat unkempt, brown, beard made him look much older than he really was.

"So now what?" Anthony said, dropping to the dusty concrete as well.

Like Moses, Anthony was in his early twenties. Anthony was a little taller and about the same weight. He wore his hair less than an inch long and had no facial here. Especially with the plain T-shirt and jeans, there was very little that was remarkable about Anthony's style.

"Now what? I dunno, we live…everyone else is dead right now, lets take it one step at a time, eh?"

In reality, Moses had no idea how to answer that question. They had a barrier. That was it. Food was outside, running water was outside, supplies were outside. The only thing that they had in here was a rusty, old building that might very well have been haunted with mischievous specters from the past.

"We live…" Anthony whispered, dropping to the ground.

Night fell on the fatigued pair. As it was still the end of August, they were in no danger of extreme whether. However, they were growing hungry. It had been roughly twenty hours since they had had something to eat. The two sat in the darkness, haunted by too many nightmares to get any kind of sleep. Despite the fact that they had felt almost drowned by the moans and groans of the army that now besieged them, they knew that there was no danger within these walls. Still though, the haunting darkness made it absolutely impossible to sleep.

Seemingly out of nowhere Moses pierced through the silence.

"This…this is so fucked up. I mean…this is intense fucking up. This is a before unseen setting on the fucked up lever…" He spoke with long pauses, absolutely overcome with what had happened. He had no idea what to do next. That, for him, was a sensation totally new. He was clueless. Moses had been in some stressful situations, most of which were inherently dangerous. Never, had he been put into a situation that he couldn't get himself out of. Moses was a clever guy and this overloaded even his ability to improvise.

Anthony turned to look up at Moses. "Fuck man…Just fuck…"

"I know, dude. It's pretty heavy."

The next morning, the sun rose on two hungry, sleepless guys. They had waited until daylight to sweep the prison, just in case there was something else in here.

"The prison has five corridors extending from one central facility."

"Five dark tunnels, this will be fun," Jose interrupted.

"Anyway, we'll take them one at a time. Let's just get this over with."

The process was very, very slow. Neither of them were in a rush to move through an abandoned prison that was pitch black.

The two were adequately armed. They would have never made it to the prison, in the first place, without being somewhat prepared. They had acquired sufficient firepower from a nearby gun shop. However, after learning that not everyone can fire an AK-47 just because they can pull a trigger, they both abandoned the heavy guns for two simple hand guns. Neither of them could shoot, but in a worst case scenario, the weapons were good at keeping anything from getting too close to them. They had almost lost their lives figuring out that mace was useless against the mutated victims of the disease. However, tazers and tazer guns turned out to be an effective way to cause involuntary muscle contraction and ultimately, temporary paralysis.

They had also managed to get a hold of two flashlights while scrambling around in the Philadelphia darkness.

Now in the eerily silent halls, the equipment proved to be more useful than ever. The old prison made terrible squeaks and squeals as the two walked in. Whether it be a simple breeze or rats crawling over corroded metal, the noises almost drove the two to insanity, now helpless in the dark.

A few minutes later, Anthony breathed a sigh of relief, coming out of the darkness of the second corridor.

"Three more," Moses said.

"And they're getting easier," said Anthony. It finally started to sink in that they were safe in here.

They were just about to enter the third corridor when they heard it. It was another crunching sound. They had heard dozens of these in the darkness, but this one was different. This was the crunch of a footstep digging into the dirt.

"Holy fuck!" Anthony screamed, to afraid to even fire his pointed weapon.

"Shut the hell up, idiot!" Moses said, sternly and angrily. "Hello?"

While Anthony was having his freak out session, the footsteps had taken off, down corridor three.

"We have to find out who that is!"

"Aw Christ, they can't run, right?" Anthony asked.

"Come on!" Moses said, brushing off the stupid question.

Against all better judgment, the two took off, down a pitch black hallway, getting close and closer to the footsteps.

"We're not going to hurt you!" Moses shouted. "We're all still alive here…"

"Fuck!" a female voice called out. The footsteps had come to an abrupt halt, hinting that she had apparently hit a dead end.

Now that the chase was over, the two could see her in the light of their flashlights. She was holding a particularly sharp piece of rusty metal.

"Stay the fuck back!" she demanded.

The girl wore faded, black hair down to her shoulders. It seemed to be combed to some extent but even in "normal life" it didn't appear that this girl did much to make her hair look good. She was a short little thing, only coming up to Anthony's shoulder.

"Or what, you're going to stab us?" Moses asked.

"No, I wanted to cut myself. It's just that you two fucks are gonna try to mess it all up now."

"Wait come on, you don't want to do that…" Anthony tried to step in.

"Oh shut the fuck up, doctor Phil. How did you assholes get in here anyway?"

"Ya know he's right," Moses interrupted. "You don't…You've had plenty of time over the last day or two. You would have done it a long time ago. You don't want to die, you just want what we want. For everything to get back to normal."

"Ya know what, I'm not arguing this," the woman said, bringing the rusty piece of metal, to her forearm.

"Shit!" Moses yelled, trying to think fast. Terrible aim and all, he fired the gun toward the hand that held the metal.

The bullet ended up grazing her wrist. Screaming in pain, she accidentally dropped the jagged metal with a small cut below her elbow and a painful wrist.

She dropped to the ground with a mix of pain, depression and anger.

"Fuck! Fuck you two! Aim that god-damned thing for my skull."

"Stop it." Anthony said, sternly.

"You pussy, little bitch, shoot me. Grow some god-damn balls and shoot me you fucking fairy."

"That's not going to work," Moses almost laughed. "We would have never made it here if we were that dumb."

"You stupid faggots. You ruined everything."

"Pick her up," Moses motioned to Anthony. "We'll continue this conversation in the prison central."

"I can walk, stupid ass. Touch me and I'll shoot you with your own gun."

"My name is Stacy. You said that I wanted my old life back…Ignorant fuck. Sweetheart, see this? Look around you. This is better, its bet-ter, than my old life! I didn't want to scrape that thing across my wrist because I wanted my old life back, believe that.

Now in the light, Stacy seemed to have some sort of faint purple streaks coming down through her dull, black hair. However, it didn't appear that whoever had performed the dying had done a very good job.

"Listen. At the end of the day, I'm no psychiatrist, and neither is Moses. We don't know you, there's nothing we can say that's gonna make any kind of a difference. But stick around, me and Moses are gonna get through this. Might as well stay here with us till its over."

"Your name, dumbass. Stop trying to fix me, or save me or whatever. What the hell is your name? That's how an introduction works."

"Well, like he said, my name's Moses and this is Anthony."

"Moses and Anthony…sounds like a Saturday morning cartoon."

Anthony laughed at the comment.

"Well, despite the fact that you've now called us bitches, fairies, faggots and pussies, its nice to meet someone whose skin isn't rotting away, Stacy. Now I'm hungry as shit, so we might as well make our way back to the ammo shop, load up and then do some grocery shopping," Anthony said, finally trying to get away from the subject of Stacy's attempted suicide.

"Might as well, I guess," Stacy shrugged. She was, at least for the time being, out of her suicidal mood. At the very least, she felt that she could delay it an hour to see these two get killed looking for food.

From inside the jail, it was possible to open the iron gate that sealed the entrance. Moses had used a pole that he had found to bar the door shut in a way that he felt confident would be too complicated for the zombies to figure out.

Venturing out on the street was a lot of fun. That is if you used the word 'fun' to describe a colonoscopy.

"Let's go," Anthony said, trusting Moses that their fortress was secure. Stacy was not given a gun for obvious reasons. Although given the option to remain safe behind the walls of the penitentiary, she chose to come along, truly believing that this was going to end in some sick form of entertaining tragedy.

Like Anthony had suggested, the gun shop was the first stop. It was about seven blocks away. After that, any place that had canned or dry food would work.

The trip was unbearably silent. It was a disturbing silence, not the silence of death and desolation. No, this was the silence of being watched, the silence of a predator stalking its prey.

Seeing a zombie was almost more calming than the silence that surrounded the sighting. When a zombie had found them, the threat was brought out into the light. The enemy was right there and could be taken care of. However, when their eyes saw nothing, that was the truly frightening part. At that point, death could be hiding anywhere. It was then, not in a direct conflict, that their paranoia had reached its highest levels.

The trip was not disturbingly uneventful. They must have killed twenty of them on the way to the store and thirty on the way back.

Finally, after a one mile walk that felt like an endless journey, they reached the gun store.

"Well cowboys, who's going in first?" Stacy spat. "I'm shocked that we made it this far."

Moses and Anthony looked at each other. Neither of them wanted to be the first one in a tiny room.

Anthony raised his gun and fired three shots through the glass window. When nothing inside seemed to respond to the noise, he stepped over the broken glass, opting to enter through the much larger window front.

Predictably, the place had been ransacked. However, most people had made the same mistake that Anthony and Moses had made earlier, taking all of the big, flashy, 'unshootable' guns. This left the much more reliable and convenient guns for the pair.

"I'm keeping my eye on you," Moses warned Stacy. "No touchy."

Stacy simply gave him a dirty look in response. "Don't bust a load, hotshot I'm not interested."

"Aww nice. Yeah. Yeah very nice…" Anthony suddenly shouted, looking particularly sick.

A man, presumably the owner of the shop, lay on the ground, behind the counter, torn almost to shreds.

"I wonder why he didn't get up and kill some people too…" Stacy muttered.

"Well look at him," Moses answered. "Looks like he was infected and should have…but he's just too torn up. His body is …'very'… dead.

Alright, get the shit and let's get the fuck out of here," Moses continued trying to take his eyes off of the man.

"I'm done. Load up," Anthony returned.

Moses gathered what he needed and the trio exited the store. Suddenly it was back into the chaos that was now Philadelphia. Back into the storm.

A large grocery store two streets down. Stacy looked at its darkened windows as they passed by.

"Hey, here's the food. Are we goin' in or what?"
Both of them, stared at Stacy, wondering if she was really that foolish.

"Are you kidding me?" Anthony said, looking at the foreboding structure.

"Damn, and I thought I was going to get my suicide wish…" Stacy smiled.

"Wow….yeah….not even 'kinda' funny," Moses said, continuing to walk but smiling at the comment nonetheless.

Stacy smirked, following on.

When they did arrive at the small corner store, they were beyond disappointed.

"Guess it figures," Anthony said, looking at the empty shelves.

"It's completely cleaned out," Moses said, unable to believe it.

"I bet they all are…" Anthony slowly said, trailing off.

"That's gonna mean we only have one option…" Moses said, turning back toward the grocery store.

"Fuck…" Stacy muttered, the self satisfied smile melting from her face.

Five minutes and four zombies later they were in the parking lot and facing the Thrift-Save.

"Stay the fuck together," Moses said, shivering at the cave like structure that could be crawling with infected victims.

"But I wanted to…" Stacy started off in a joke.

"Shut the fuck up…" Moses said, completely straight-faced. All at once, the three headed for the building.

Wearily, the three entered the darkened supermarket. At first, the only sound that reverberated through the thick, dark, air was their own breathing. As they crept deeper into the cave like building, grabbing food items, they heard other breathing around them. They heard breathing that was not their own.

Something was close by. Not being able to use a flashlight was the most agonizing part of this trip.

They continued their paranoid march, carefully extracting canned goods and dried food. Even in the dark, they were able to see other dark ambiguous shapes moving around. Every now and then a moan or yell would ring out. Carefully, the group worked to avoid any movement that they saw or sounds that they heard. With three bags almost full, they were ready to get out of here.

Unfortunately, the noises that were creeping around them were only increasing. Suddenly Moses stopped and whispered. "This is stupid, they already know we're here. We better use those damn flashlights."

"I think I can hear three or four of them," Anthony whispered. "Moses is right, we're going to have to use some light to find a safe way out of here."

"No!" Stacy stammered. "I…I have a match." When she removed the stick from the book and struck it, the dim orange light revealed three zombies to be slowly approaching from behind.

"Fuck," Moses said, maybe a little too loudly.

"Well come the fuck on…" Stacy beckoned.

They couldn't even defend themselves. To fire a gun would have been to shoot a flare up in the dark building.

They briskly continued their progress for the door, keeping in mind the distance between them and the approaching horde.

Just as they were about to turn a corner and exit the aisle, one lone zombie appeared and cut off their exit.

"Damn it," Anthony said, raising his gun.

"Eh," Moses muttered, worriedly shrugging his shoulders. "We've got no choice, right?"

With a loud boom, the creature fell dead. Somewhere from the back of the store a fierce howl broke the eerie quiet.

As if it were some sort of battle cry, hurried footsteps were the next sound.

"Lights!" Moses yelled. Immediately, two flashlights shone on the obstacle that stood between them and safety.

At least 5 zombies were approaching from behind and seven stood in between them and the door.

"Anthony, cover us from behind and I'll fight us to the exit."

"Yeah," Anthony briefly shot back.

Carefully, Moses aimed his gun and started to construct a path, one undead monster at a time. Meanwhile, Anthony concentrated on who was next, judging by which one was closest to them.

The zombies weren't slowly limping wihle painfully holding deep wounds. They were very coordinated. They aggressively rushed the three intruders.

"Guys!" Stacy yelled, throwing her hands over her head.

A zombie had climbed over the aisle and attempted to jump down on them.

Simultaneously, Moses and Anthony both turned and fired upon this latest threat. Neither of them were any good at aiming a gun, but between their three bullets, the shots were enough to disable the zombie while it writhed on the ground, three new holes in its torso.

Once this first zombie had this stroke of genius, many of the others decided to give it a shot, making Anthony's and Moses' job painfully more difficult.

"Moses, get us the fuck out of this aisle, at least!"

"Can you take care of the walls?"

"Yes, but clear the path right now. Otherwise we won't have enough time from behind!" Although worded badly, what he was trying to say, amidst the heat of battle, was that in order to protect them from the sides, he'd have to take his focus away from the group that had been chasing them.

"Alright," Moses whispered to himself.
Pop. Pop. Pop. He took a chance and began aiming for skulls instead of driving multiple bullets into the chests of his enemies. Being the marksman that he was, it was a considerable risk. However, the gamble paid off, he only missed two or three shots and took out six zombies. The small gap would close quickly but it was enough. The whole store seemed to have swarmed on them. If they could quickly run past the mob, they could break out into the sunlight.

"Go!" Moses yelled. The three ran as fast as they could for that pale white square.

Despite the fact that their hearts were racing, they were able to break into the bright sunlight. Now in the sunlight, they had the upper hand.

With a good distance between them and the doorway, Moses took control once more.

"Anthony, lead us home. Keep an eye out on the street. I'll keep these guys away from us."

"Got it," Anthony said, turning to comply.

Now that they were free of the building, stalling the zombies was like shooting fish in a barrel. As they exited the building two or thee at a time, Moses put one or two bullets into the guts of their pursuers. He wasn't looking for kills, just to slow them down. Moses' plan was to create enough space between them so that the three could run off and lose the mob.

When they had about fifty yards between them Moses was getting ready to run.

"How 'we looking Anthony?"

"I dropped two but there doesn't seem to be anything around."

"Good, run. We're gonna lose them. Just follow me and keep your gun up."

"Lead the way,"

Moses took off, he lead the group across a twisted path through city streets. Although the creatures were more than capable of running quickly, it didn't take long to lose them through the maze like trail that Moses ran.

Despite, having had a few close calls in the streets when they almost ran headlong into completely different zombie mobs, the plan had worked. They had escaped.

"Okay…never…again," a now out of breath, Anthony panted.

"Yeah, that was pretty gay…" Stacy said, dropping to a squat on her toes.

"Turns out….Anthony….'they can run,'" Moses tried to laugh.

A few moments later, they were walking, once again, the prison walls a few blocks in the distance.

"Why the hell were there so many, anyway?" Stacy asked.

"I have no idea. It makes no sense," Anthony thought.

"It was a shelter. Common sense tells you that a supermarket would be another great place to find shelter."

"Oh my god," Anthony thought.

"One stupid fuck must have ruined it for all of them," Stacy added.

"He or she must have come in while contaminated. That would have been the beginning of the end."

"We were walking right into the camp of the enemy…" Anthony pondered.

"Yeah, so how badass are we that we made it?" Moses laughed.

When they reached the gate, their discussion was interrupted by an unexpected voice.

"Oh good, so you guys survived. So what kinda food didja bring us?"

The voice belonged to a short, skinny, guy who had emerged from his "hiding spot," an abandoned car. He wore khaki shorts, "Vans" sneakers, a black hat over his short, jet-black hair and a tight black shirt that for some reason said "Between the Buried and Me" on it. He also had a lip piercing and tattoos down both arms.

The three simply stared at him, confused and tired.

"So…you guys….you gonna open the gate then?"