John crossed his ankles over one another and took a calm sip of hot coffee as he sank deeper into his recliner. It wasn't very good and only half the strength he would have preferred, but he was at the end of his coffee rations. Once this last bit of comfort ran out, he would have to venture out of his metal cubicle and investigate what the world has done to itself again.

He shook out the rest of the newspaper as he turned the page and sighed. This was going to be the fourth time he had read that same article. He didn't have much to choose from after the papers shut down, and since the war started, he started getting more stubborn about keeping to his morning routine. It was the only semblance of normalcy left.

It's been two month since the city first sounded the alarms. He had an outside line inside the 12 by 12 shelter for when the city was suppose to give the all clear signal, but the indicator never lit up. Even though the village's emergency alarms have been silent for the past week, he didn't want to risk venturing outside until he was absolutely sure it was safe.

Just as he was about to toss the paper aside and make himself some bacon, he heard a loud crash above him. There were traps set up in the house, precautions he had taken in case someone was dumb enough to try to ransack his house.

John snatched his containment suit off the shelves and zipped himself up, then he grabbed the shotgun propped up next to his chair and held it under the crook of his left arm. The suit was heavy enough that he had to lift his legs with some effort to climb out through the ceiling.

Looks like this'll be the day I see what the world's been up to. He thought as he pulled himself up through the floor of the bedroom closet.

His heartbeat pounded with the same beat as the raindrops knocking on the windows. Judging by his body clock, it shouldn't have been much past noon, but the dark clouds outside didn't let much light into the house.

He made his way cautiously towards the living room. The heaviness of his boots was muffled by the softness of the carpet, but his nerves pulsed with each step.

There was a flash of lightening just as he turned out the door of the hallway. The clasp of thunder that immediately followed shook the house and rattled the windowpanes. There was a blur of something moving in his peripheral vision.

John immediately cocked his gun and fired off a warning shot. The shot clipped a pot of dried plants next to the window, spraying dirt in its wake.

"Don't shoot me!" A voice screamed somewhere to the left of the carnage. There was a person huddled under his mother's old baby grand piano in the dark corner.

"Stand up slowly with your arms raised" John growled dangerously through the muffled mouthpiece of his suit.

"Please, I'm unarmed and mean no harm." The voice was quivering in fear, and its owner nudged himself out on his knees.

"What are you doing in my house?" John walked slowly towards the man with his gun still pointed and aimed.

"I thought this whole town was gone. Just passing through and got hungry. Please don't kill me. I won't come back again, I meant no trouble—"

"What do you mean gone?"

"The government's already come got all the sick bodies, no one's out there. It looked deserted or I wouldn't have come in here. Sir? Please, I meant no harm."

John lowered his gun slowly. He knew enough combat that he was sure this man wouldn't be able to do much to him.

"What's your name?"

"Quintus Bradley, sir."

"Everyone's gone?"

"It's the Sickness, everyone's been getting it."

"And you?"

"I'm still here, I guess it didn't want me"

John said nothing, but thought in silence. Quintus could be lying to him, but he hadn't heard nor seen sight of a person since mayor Dally told them to go home and hide.

"You going to get me sick?"

"No, sir, I don't think so. If you were going to get sick, I'd think it'd have gotten you by now. It's in the air, the water, the soil. The Sickness makes people rot and they die within first day's contact."

"Guess I'll know in 24 hours if it plans on taking me then."

"Can I leave, sir? I won't come back again, I didn't mean on bothering."

"No, you stay. If you were the one to make me sick, then I'll kill you with me."

Quintus fidgeted nervously and looked around the room.

"Take off your clothes real slow."


"Do what I say or you get a bullet in your head. I want to make sure you don't have any weapons."

John held up his gun and made sure Quintus knew that he was still in danger. Quiton started unbuttoning his shirt, let that slid off his body, then his jeans, let those drop to the floor, nudged his shoes off with the heel of his feet, and stepped out of those.

"Socks too?"

"Socks too."

Quintus looked a little unhappy at that, but he stepped on the toes of his socks and slid his feet out of them. His hands lay at his sides, for someone who was butt naked, he looked awfully defiant, despite the trembling.


"Keep that on. Go sit on the sofa over there."

John waited until Quintus had sat himself down, hands folded over his lap so that it was shielding his crotch.

Then he lowered his gun and took out the cartridge, the clicks sounded too loud in the silence and made them both nervous. He stuffed the bullets in his back pocket, and set the gun down near an accent chair. If he wasn't going to be using his gun, he didn't want nobody else having access to it either. The zipper on his suit was a bit stuck, but with a bit of tugging, he managed to get it off. The foggy eye guard had made it hard for him to see, but now he saw that Quintus was in his mid twenties, good lean body, a little shorter than him.

"I wish you'd stop staring." Quintus caught him looking and said a bit huffily.

"I'm not, just checking you ain't got weapons on you."

"Hard to hide anything when I'm this covered up."

"You've got a smart mouth for someone in their whitie tidies."

Quintus stopped talking. His lips were pursed together unhappily and he started looking around the room. John hadn't been in his own living room since his mother passed away five years ago. No one used it much while the family was young either. It was only decoration for when guests came, to impress them that they were living well, even if they were stuck in a backwards little town with no jobs, gathering dust and fading away.

"May I please cover myself with the blanket? Nothing hidden in that, I'm sure."

"Yeah, do that." John nodded. He stepped out of the rest of his suit. If he was going to get sick with whatever was killing the world, it would have gotten him the moment he stepped out his shelter.

Quintus took the faux fur blanket draped over the back of the sofa and wrapped himself in it. Dust flew everywhere and made him sneeze in two quick successions, then wrinkled his nose like a rabbit.

"Nice house. I was an interior decorator before all this. Have you seen the Roosevelt in the city? This remind me of that. It was my last project. A magazine was asking me to do—"

John ignored him and moved towards the kitchen, then looked back at the man talking like he was lost in his own world, and said, "You want food?"

Quintus's eyes immediately lit up and he sat up straighter. "Yes, that would be so kind of you."

"Stop talking then."

It got Quintus to shut up immediately. John walked to the kitchen, tried to flick on the lights, then realized that whoever was manning the power stations were probably dead.

"I saw some candles in the living room."

"You've got another thinking coming if you think I want a candle lit dinner with you."

"I'm married." Quintus held up his hand. The diamond caught light. Expensive probably, back when money meant something.

"Awfully girly engagement ring." John said and snickered at the ugly chunky thing on Quintus's finger. "You one of them boy brides?"

"It wasn't like that. I married my best friend. We were very much in love." There was a simmering anger in those eyes, and the face was taut with tension.

"First they kill all our women, then they make the men sin and force them to marry each other, now they comin' for us too. Damn bastards." John was opening and slamming the kitchen cupboards; most of the shelves were still full. He had stocked them well before he had gone into hiding. But he was having trouble finding the ramen he had been craving.

"I said I married for love."

John snorted, "You better change your tone of voice if you want my food."

The room went quiet, just the sound of John's boots squeaking on the wood floors as he walked around the kitchen island.

Then Quintus whispered, "Biggot."

John spun around and snarled with a mean squint in his eyes. "Say that again."

"I said, Biggot." The anger on Quintus's face was something nasty. "Don't you worry, I'll take your food. And your life too."

It didn't take John looking down to know that there was a gun prodding into his stomach.