We were well outside the Stanwyck, Georgia city limits. It was just me and Sean in his 2011 Camry. We’d been cruising around all night. Playing music, making each other laugh. You know the drill on those boring nights in Small Town U.S.A.

We were out and about on a November night, but the weather wasn’t too cold. With a classic rock radio station going full blast, we might’ve normally drawn the attention of police or some pissed-off neighborhoods. But not when we were this far out. Not out here in the country.

At this point, Sean had driven us out toward the Flint River. Outside of a few rural neighborhoods, there wasn’t much out here. Just wilderness and the glorious river. The nearest city was Donalsonville, and honestly, calling it a “city” would be generous. Dville was more of a community and a weird one at that. From what I understood, Donalsonville had even become a bit of a ghost town.

But me and Sean’s drives could be quite pretty. There were farmhouses, forests, and the Flint River, of course. Honestly, we’d been out here so much at night, I was scared to picture how it all looked unmasked in the daytime. I knew it’d never be as pretty as it was behind this dark veil.

Combined with the loud rock music, our experiences were exhilarating. It felt like we were in one long music video. Or like being lovers on the run in the rural countryside. A Georgia Bonnie and Clyde.

As Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” played, Sean parked at an abandoned boat basin. A common spot for us juvenile delinquent Stanwyckites to hijack at night. We had nothing but woods for neighbors. And the glorious Flint River lying right before us. This was a true Millennial Lover’s Lane. And tonight, me and my baby were all alone. All the privacy in the world.

We were about twenty feet from the dark water, but we had no intentions of getting out. We had better things to do on this Friday night. While most of our friends were at the Stanwyck State football game, me and Sean were about to seek our own private entertainment…

Sean killed the headlights and cut the engine. Now it was just me and him and The Boss.

I looked out at the Flint. Like a lighthouse, the Christine Plant loomed across the water. So many lights were running over there. The whole fucking plant resembled a spaceship in the darkness.

“You want me to turn the heat on?” Sean asked.

Grinning, I faced him. Both of us wore hoodies and jeans. Perfect clothing for this cool weather. We looked like two rock stars, honestly. Two college rock stars at least. Then again, he did look like Jared Followill from Kings Of Leon. That was one of the reasons I began crushing on Sean to begin with… And yeah, I knew what year it was. I was eleven when “Use Somebody” got big. Sue me.

And Sean had the great body, the cute unkempt hair. And he had these piercing green eyes. Like tantalizing emeralds. Or like glistening treasure on an already sexy face.

He was my Jared Followill. And I was his Pam Grier. Well, Pam without the afro. Hipster Pam Grier who kept her hair in a bun. I guess me and her did have similarly striking noses at least… I liked to think I had close to her knockout bod as well. So yeah, Sean liked calling me Foxy Brown. Even though I preferred Coffy.

Keeping my gaze on Sean, I pulled my pink hoodie tighter. “I’m fine.”

“If you say so,” Sean responded in his deep voice.

I watched him check the radio. One of his nervous tics during our Donalsonville drives. You know, since he always sucked at making the first move…

Once Sean began muttering along to Bruce’s lyrics, I knew I had no choice but to be aggressive. Maybe one day my boyfriend would stop being so neurotic.

I stole a glance at the backseat. We’d fooled around back there before. Thankfully, the seats were usually clean, but now I saw all his textbooks and papers scattered about. He was committed to a History degree… I tried to get him to switch to political science like me. But he’d already switched it twice. Judging by all these fucking books, the history workload looked like it was gonna drive him mad.

My eyes darted to what I was really looking for: our brown paper bag. I grabbed the bottle of wine from it. Barefoot. Our favorite cheap bullshit.

Holding the booze, I faced Sean. “This’ll keep us warm, I think.”

Looking at me with those alluring eyes, Sean gave me a smirk. “Yeah, that’ll do it.”

Like a dramatic actress, I opened the bottle with a flourish. Then I took the first few sips.

“Don’t drink it all, Becca,” Sean teased.

“Maybe I will.” I handed him the bottle. Cheap booze was one of many things we had in common.

The radio switched to Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.” 104.1 wasn’t letting us down tonight.

With natural serenity outside and Kurt Cobain’s haunting vocals surrounding us, Sean and me got drunker and drunker.

Flirting, I moved my hand along Sean’s leg. A gentle touch.

All the while, he watched me with those emeralds. I noticed them beaming with excitement. As he took another sip, I could feel something else getting excited in those skinny jeans…

“Hi there,” I said softly. With seductive technique, I leaned in closer to those beautiful eyes. And closer to those luscious lips.

“Hey,” Sean replied. Eager, he jammed the bottle in the cupholder.

Right when we were inches away, I closed my eyes and went in for the kiss.

A harsh beep interrupted Kurt’s anguished “MEMORIEEEE-UHHH.”

The onslaught of the public service announcement dial-tone-like static startled me and Sean.

“Shit!” Sean yelled.

He reached over and turned down the volume a little bit.

“What happened?” I asked. Confused, I looked out the window but only saw forest. Just pitch black forest.

“Probably some weather bullshit,” Sean groaned. He leaned back in his seat.

A frantic disc jockey overtook the noise. Not to tell us what song was gonna be next or what topped the charts back in 94. But to tell us something horrific.

“We interrupt our Friday night requests for this shocking update,” the announcer’s hasty voice said. “Police have reported a dangerous patient has recently escaped the Chattahoochee Mental Hospital.”

Uneasy, I looked toward the radio. Even at the lower volume, the DJ’s frenzied fear sent a chill down my spine. Chattahoochee, Florida was less than thirty minutes away from Stanwyck. And even closer to Donalsonville…

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a frustrated Sean grab the bottle.

“The patient is Charlie Cox Arnold, better known as The Iris Killer,” the announcer went on. “Arnold is a former ophthalmologist who collected his victims’ eyeballs for trophies. He’s believed to have broken out earlier this morning. A police manhunt is still ongoing in the local area.”

Each word only further heightened my fear. Chattown hadn’t had a breakout since Julie Marlowe last year… and well, they never found her. With Donalsonville not having a town much less a Goddamn police force, how was The Iris Killer ever gonna get caught?

Sean took a long swig from the Barefoot. The bottle was nearly empty, and my buzz was already dead.

Like a newbie 911 dispatcher, the disc jockey couldn’t mask his fear. I figured he wasn’t even trying. “Police want everyone to please stay inside your homes. Lock your doors and windows. Arnold is a middle-aged African-American male around 6’1 and very skinny. He is also left-handed. If you have any information, please contact the police department.”

Sean offered me the booze.

One nervous swig and I finished off the shit. Too bad we didn’t have more.

“Also, we want to remind everyone that the Christine Plant is still currently experiencing difficulties,” the announcer went on. “Police still don’t know the cause of-”

With jarring ferocity, the opening riff of Kings Of Leon’s “Temple” cut off the announcer.

Startled, I looked over at Sean’s drunken grin. He had his iPhone hooked up to the aux cord. I was at the mercy of his Pandora.

“What the fuck, Sean!” I yelled. Angry, I gave him a punch on the arm.

“Hey!” he said through his laughter.

“I was listening to that!”

Sean placed the phone on his lap. “I got tired of it.” Facing my wrath with those green eyes, Sean motioned toward the radio. “I mean shit, I thought you liked this one?”

“I do, but not when the fucking Iris Killer’s running around!”

Sean scoffed. “Man, his ass ain’t here. He’s probably off in Alabama or somewhere north by now.”

“You don’t know that.”

Full of drunken swagger, Sean placed his hand on my leg. “Hey, he’s not out here, babe. I promise, alright.”

His emerald eyes and gorgeous smile did it. I couldn’t help but give him a warm grin. Here he was making a move too…

Sean leaned in a little closer. “He wouldn’t be sticking around here anyway.”

I grabbed a hold of his leg and squeezed it tight. “You’re probably right.” This up close, Sean’s eyes were even prettier. Not to mention they more than made up for his Barefoot-tinged breath.

As “Temple” reached its middle eight, Sean stopped inches away from my lips. “Now let’s get back to where we were.”

“I like the sound of that.”

Kings Of Leon built up to the explosive chorus. A crescendo for our intimate moment.

Right when I went in for the kiss, a hard slam hit the driver’s side window. The noise not as jarring as the radio’s beeps, but much more brutal.

Me and Sean jumped back in our seats, shocked.

Another hit rattled the window’s glass.

“What the Hell’s that!” Sean cried.

The hits continued. Harder and steadier. Like a huge bug kept throwing itself against the glass.

“Shit…” I said. Uneasy, I held my cell phone’s flashlight up to the window.

An open bloodied palm greeted us. The palm pressed against the window like it was part of a design. Slices were all over the hand’s scarred flesh. Blood smeared across Sean’s window and ran down the glass in thick lines.

“Oh God!” I screamed.

With methodical movement, the hand drew back for another hit.

“Fuck this!” Sean said. He turned the key, but all we got was a sputtering engine. The Camry wasn’t cutting on.

“Sean, drive!” I yelled.

“I’m trying!”

The next hit shattered his window into a million pieces.

We screamed as glass went flying everywhere.

A tormented cry overshadowed Caleb Followill’s soaring vocals. The sound a cross between a groan and a dying scream. Like whoever was making it had only pain rather than power to fuel their cries.

Through the iPhone’s light, I could make out the terrifying man reaching in through the broken window. His cut hands dripped blood all over the Camry’s interior, providing red decorative paint for all the fallen glass.

Saliva flowing from the man’s mouth, he continued yelling. Cuts and blood galore were on his face. His eyes hollow and void of humanity. Pus-dripping tumors accompanied the long threads of flesh dangling off his head.

I noticed the man wore a police uniform. The uniform tarnished with blood and gooey remnants of flesh. Describing him as a rogue cop would be an understatement. He was a psycho cop. And given the slices, the wounds, and all the different tumors, he didn’t even look human. More like a monster you’d create in a mad scientist’s lab.

The cop’s movements were so sloppy and slow. Slower than his incessant moans. He sounded like an old dying animal.

Sean wasn’t athletic, but he was still able to avoid the policeman’s clumsy grasp. “Fuck, get off me!” he cried.

Leaning in, I turned the key. But Sean was right. The car wouldn’t start.

“Goddammit, what are we gonna do!” I yelled.

Letting out a snarl, the cop grabbed Sean in a chokehold.

“Sean!” I screamed.

The policeman lunged toward Sean’s jugular.

I saw Sean strain to avoid the cop’s long and sharp teeth. Teeth so sharp that the mad scientist or whoever the fuck had created this thing had fused a tiger’s fangs onto this policeman’s mangled head.

Drool fell all over Sean’s frightened face. “Aw, God!” Sean yelled. “What the fuck!” His frantic hands wrapped the aux cord tight around the cop’s neck.

I saw blood streaming beneath the cord. The aux wire was slicing through the cop’s gooey, dough-like skin.

From where I was, I could see flowing blood cause Sean’s grip to loosen on the cord. And the cop was unrelenting. Even with a cord cutting through his neck, the motherfucker was strong.

“Becca!” Sean cried.

The cop looked up at me, his narrow eyes locking into my soul. I saw a faint smile of fangs form on that hideous mouth. Blood-stained fangs.

Crying out, I smashed my iPhone straight into his fucking face.

Like an anvil had landed, my phone obliterated the cop’s gooey face. An explosion of gore erupted. All his dangling flesh flew onto the floorboards and seats. I’d given Sean’s Camry a messy makeover.

While the policeman’s arms kept waving around in slow wildness, my phone stayed lodged in his face. The phone’s light buried beneath the man’s flesh. The iPhone my addition to the mad scientist’s monster.

Disgusted, Sean shoved the cop back out.

As he staggered away, the cop still had the aux cord tied around his neck. And he still had Sean’s iPhone.

“Sean, let’s go!” I pleaded.

But Sean kept turning the key. “It ain’t starting!”

“Goddammit, Sean!” I looked through the driver’s side window. In the darkness, I could see the cop still swinging his arms around in a frenzy. The aux cord still around his neck like a cut noose. Sean’s phone just kept banging against his body.

Loud banging and groans went off in front of us.

“What the Hell’s that!” I screamed.

Uneasy, Sean hit the headlights. We both looked out the windshield in terror.

Two young boys, neither of them over the age of ten, stood near the open Camry hood. They were both dressed in camouflage, both of them bloodied and hacked like the cop. Bulging tumors all over their young flesh. Their eyes full of deranged hunger.

“Oh God!” Sean yelled.

Not sure what to do, I looked on at those creepy children.

Like a classroom gone mad, they kept banging the car hood. Their frightening gaze glued to us.

I heard Sean keep turning that key. But we were going nowhere.

Like a sadistic taunt, the kid standing on my side held up loose engine parts. I didn’t know what they were exactly, but it didn’t matter. Not when I knew they were parts from the Camry. The boy may as well have been holding our intestines.

I pointed Sean toward the pieces. “They fucked up the car!”

A bloodied hand grabbed Sean’s shoulder.

He jumped back and screamed.

The cop was leaning in through the shattered window once more. The aux cord still wrapped around his neck. Even with a phone stuck in his face, the fucker wasn’t giving up. I saw his other hand reach toward me. His movements slow but precise.

Sean tried to snatch his iPhone off the cord. But the cop had other ideas.

Snarling, the cop pulled Sean closer in toward his fangs. The only part of the cop’s mouth left thanks to my bludgeoning job. The cop now resembled a faceless insect with only an appetite for motivation.

Straining, Sean was just out of reach of the phone. “Shit!”

I could see the cop pull Sean’s head in closer toward those sharp teeth.

Sean’s impending death, our impending deaths now coincided with another Kings Of Leon chorus.

“Sean!” I cried.

Using all my force, I grabbed Sean’s hand in a tight grip and opened the door on the passenger’s side.

“Oh fuck!” Sean yelled. He was inches away from those bloody fangs.

One quick tug, and I pulled Sean away from that fucking cop. I led us out into the dark night.

The two children cried out. Their low shrieks more shrill than the cop’s. They sounded like crying babies. Hungry crying babies.

Startled, me and Sean saw the boys stumble toward us . They were slow like the cop. Their shuffle methodical but efficient. Like a monster moving in slow motion… only we had no pause button.

A vicious snarl erupted behind us. Just a few feet away was a woman wearing a nurse uniform. But like the cop, she looked more hungry than helpful. She had the same slices and sharp teeth. The same spurting tumors.

She held out her bloodied hands toward us. Black blood poured from the woman’s mouth, drowning out her anguished cries.

“Come on, let’s go!” I yelled at Sean.

He was too scared to talk back to me now. He just let me take over. Like always.

I felt him tremble in my grip, but I didn’t let go. I led us past the Flint River. All the way down a faint path in the forest.

Those disturbing cries surrounded us. The cries of the cop. The shrieks of the children. The groans of the nurse. And the cries of so many more. Together, they formed a haunting chorus.

These creatures’ footsteps were more of the same. They were slow but steady. And they were everywhere. Every snapping twig made me look all around the darkness. I could feel the swarm surrounding us. I could feel their empty eyes watching us. But I couldn’t see them. All I could do was focus on the path ahead…

“Where are we going?” Sean asked. He breathed heavy, tired. But I wasn’t letting go. I kept my grip glued to his hand.

“Just keep going!” I said. My frantic eyes searched the forest. No lights greeted me. No signs of life other than what lurked in the darkness.

The path went past a small community graveyard. Its wooden fence was long dilapidated.

I heard more sounds echoing from within the cemetery like a crowd echoing from a stage. I thought I heard falling dirt as well. The sounds of people crawling from their graves, I figured.

I could see all sorts of figures staggering toward that rickety fence. Toward us. They moved so slowly. I didn’t have time to comprehend how crazy this all was. Or how horrifying of a situation we were in. Me and Sean just had to keep going. We couldn’t let them catch us. Whatever the Hell they were.

“We’re gonna be okay,” Sean said to me. I was glad to see him keep pace with my speed. He was standing by my side. “We’re gonna be okay,” he repeated. His voice low like he was saying that optimism to himself.

Finally, I saw a literal light at the end of our tunnel. Security lights were up ahead in a clearing.

But the cries around us never ended. If anything, the unnerving cries of the night had only grown louder. As if they had become a part of the forest’s ecosystem.

We left the woods behind and stepped onto the spacious front yard. An isolated country home sat in the middle of the large property.

The security lights illuminated the place like a ball field. There was a flourishing garden. And so much farm equipment. Most of the machines were old and rusted… but they were big.

“Let’s go!” Sean pleaded.

Together, we jogged down a dirt driveway. I looked for a car but didn’t see shit. Just those fucking tractors and plows.

The wooden front porch loomed before us like a finish line.

“We’re almost there!” I told Sean.

Right when we passed a huge tractor, a man in a mechanic’s uniform jumped out from behind the John Deere. His groan was nasty and shrill. Almost as nasty as the tumors and cuts running along his mangled face.

Sean grabbed my arm in fear. We both looked on at the mechanic, terrified.

Groaning, the man stumbled after us. He had a crazed blankness to him. Like an animal with a singular focus for food. His narrow eyes and sharp teeth marked us. His arms held out to snag us in a death grip.

Before I could force Sean to that porch, a loud snap led to an awful crunch.

Stunned, both of us watched the mechanic tumble to the ground.

The mechanic’s painful cries rang through the night.

There he was writhing on the ground. A bear trap rustier than all the farming equipment ensnared around his ankle. Blood poured out in droves, overflowing onto the grass.

Crying like a spanked child, the mechanic grabbed at his ankle. He was too weak and helpless to ever escape the trap’s brutal grasp.

“Holy shit…” Sean muttered.

I heard more loud groans coming from the woods. I looked out at the forest, fear in my eyes. The collective footsteps were well on their way. The monsters were getting close.

I grabbed Sean’s hand and led us to the porch. “Hurry!”

We ascended the wooden steps. Just when we were a few feet away from shelter, the front door burst open with ferocity. A shotgun stopped us dead in our tracks.

“Stay right there!” a stocky man barked. Holding the gun steady, he pointed the weapon right at us.

“Shit!” I heard Sean say as he stuck his hands up. With no other choice, I did the same.

The intense man glowered at us. He was muscular. Like a former linebacker. One who still stayed in good shape even if he was in his mid-40s. His rugged facial hair and sweaty clothes tarnished what would’ve been an attractive man. A man who now looked like a paranoid hot mess. Then again, at this point, I couldn’t blame him.

“Just let us in!” I pleaded. “We need help.”

The man’s dark eyes just glared. I saw sweat slide down his brown skin. He looked tired and flustered. Like he was losing his mind guarding this farmhouse from the creatures around us.

“Please!” I yelled.

More snarls bellowed from the forest.

Scared, I looked off toward the woods lurking behind the driveway. “Oh God…”

Using his shotgun, the man waved toward the mechanic. “Get him!”

Sean took an angry step toward him. “Do what!”

The man put the gun to Sean’s face, stopping Sean instantly.

“No!” I grabbed Sean’s hand.

“I said get him, Goddammit!” the man yelled. “Bring him inside!”

“Are you crazy!” I shouted.

Unwavering, the man now put the shotgun to my face. “I mean it!” He pointed the gun toward the woods. “Or else y’all two can stay with them!”

The chorus of tortured groans descended upon us. I looked back at the driveway.

A horde of those people were now staggering down it. Down toward the house. Rows and rows of these monsters moving so slowly. All of them bloodied and slaughtered beyond belief. Their bodies infiltrated by countless tumors. Yet here they were marching toward us. Their arms outstretched. Their murky cries piercing through the night. I recognized the camouflage children and the nurse walking amongst them.

“I suggest you hurry,” the man told us. He waved his weapon toward the onslaught. “Before they get any closer!”

Nervous, I looked at Sean. We didn’t have much of a choice. And we knew it. Now I needed to take charge…

“Come on!” I said. Holding onto Sean, I led us down the stairs.

To my relief, the mechanic was right where we left him. He’d gotten even paler. Weaker. A pool of blood was building up beneath his ankle.

“You grab the feet!” I commanded Sean.

Sean pushed me toward the mechanic’s legs. “No, I got him!”

“Hurry!” I heard the crazy man shout at us.

Stealing a glance toward the driveway, I saw that horde getting even closer. All their eyes were on us. Hungry eyes. And their moans sounded even hungrier.

“Come on, Becca!” Sean yelled.

I looked over and saw Sean maneuver fast enough to grab the mechanic’s hands while avoiding the man’s manic bites.

Now out of reach of the mechanic’s fangs, Sean held up the man’s hands.

The mechanic snarled in frustration.

“Becca, hurry!” Sean pleaded. He stole a look toward the driveway.

Mustering up my courage, I grabbed the man’s feet and the bear trap. Everything was surprisingly lightweight… but then again, it’s not like the mechanic had much blood left.

Working as a team, me and Sean carried him toward the front porch. We were fast but careful.

I was walking backward, so there was no way I could avoid seeing the group make their way down the driveway. They were gaining ground. Maybe twenty feet away from me and Sean at this point. I could hear their omnipresent snarls.

I saw the monsters lunging and grabbing at air in the hopes they’d capture us soon enough. Yeah, these fuckers weren’t smart… but they weren’t human. And they were strong.

“Don’t look at them, babe!” Sean said to me.

I faced him just as the mechanic snarled and lurched up. He was well out of reach of Sean, but we both still jumped.

All the mechanic’s tumors poured more white pus. Like each tumor was a mini-volcano.

“Keep going,” Sean said to me in a soft tone. A soft tone that struggled to hide his obvious fear.

We reached the porch. The man was still waiting for us. Still with his shotgun at the ready.

“Hurry!” he said.

Right when I put my foot on the first step, I heard that shrill scream. The voice of a child having a violent meltdown.

I looked up and saw one of the camo boys staggering to Sean.

“Sean, look out!” I yelled.

The kid flashed his smile of fangs at me.

Still holding the mechanic’s hands, Sean turned.

A loud gunshot blasted the child’s face into smithereens.

Brain bits and blood showered over Sean.

Unlike my iPhone, the bullet had slowed down this monster for good.

The kid hit the dirt. Half his head replaced by a spilled bucket of gray matter. His body cold and still.

Behind the boy was that most terrifying crowd. They were mow maybe ten feet away from us. Their wild hands still clamored for our flesh.

“Sean!” I screamed.

Snapping out of his disturbed trauma, Sean looked over at me. The kid’s blood and grue covered his body like warpaint. I would’ve laughed if I hadn’t known the grotesque origin of Sean’s mess.

“Let’s go, baby,” I pleaded with him. “Come on, Sean!”

“Hurry!” the man hollered at us.

At his command, I led us up the stairs. Smoke from the shotgun blast made me cough, but I was determined to get us inside. We’d come this far.

The man opened the door and guided us in. “Get in!” he yelled.

Like a bodyguard, he lagged behind, his shotgun at the ready.

Me and Sean entered the house. We waited on the man in a narrow entryway.

Soon after, the man came inside and slammed the door shut. He fastened several locks and barricaded the door with a wooden board.

I looked around the rest of the house and saw how barricaded the rest of it was. Every window had wooden boards nailed across them. The farmhouse was a rural fortress.

A flurry of ferocious scratches against the wooden door frightened me. Loud, steady scratches.

I looked at the door. Even inside, I could still hear the creatures’ agonizing groans. They were like tormented prisoners begging to come inside. Only they weren’t the prisoners. We were.

“Follow me!” the man commanded us.

We followed him into a kitchen. In there, I saw a pantry. A basement door. A small wooden table. A radio sat on a counter. We had appliances and electricity at least. But still… behind those boarded-up windows, you could always hear the undead army’s cries. Not even the radio’s Top 40 station could drown them out.

The man opened the basement door. “I’ll take care of him.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

Determined, he grabbed the mechanic’s leg. “Just let go of him.” He looked at Sean. “Both of you.”

We did as we were told. Exhausted, Sean sat at the table.

“And wait right here!” the man demanded, knowing good and well we had no other choice.

I watched him drag the mechanic by the vicious bear trap. He dragged him all the way into the dark basement.

Right before he disappeared down those stairs, the man flashed me a harsh glare. In one cold push, he slammed the door shut.

Inside the silent kitchen, the radio’s silly pop music may as well have been a funeral hymn. We couldn’t escape the incessant cries outside. Me and Sean were trapped.

Uneasy, I sat down next to Sean. “What do we do?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. With those green eyes, Sean faced me. Even considering all the gore covering him, those eyes still captivated me. Sean was still so handsome. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Becca…” He looked down at the table.

A soft love song played on the radio. One of those acoustic indie ballads. The kind of song we used to play and sing to when we got really drunk.

Like slow rain, I saw teardrops fall from Sean’s emeralds.

“I’m so sorry…” Sean went on.

I grabbed a hold of Sean’s hand in a reassuring grip. “It’s not your fault, Sean,” I said. “We didn’t know.”

Sean did his best to fight back the tears. But some still got away. “I didn’t mean to get us caught in this… I didn’t.”

Supportive, I squeezed his hand. “I know, baby.”

Sean looked right at me. His gorgeous eyes more vulnerable than ever. The soft love song seemed like it would never end. Not that I wanted it to.

I knew he wouldn’t make the first move. So like usual, I did. I leaned in and gave him a kiss right then and there. The most heartfelt kiss I ever had.

I gave Sean a soft smile. “I love you.”

He returned a weak smile.

Right before we could go in for another kiss, the radio erupted with another Public Service Announcement beep.

Startled, we looked over at it.

“Great…” Sean muttered.

“I know, right?” I quipped.

A female radio reporter came on. She was just as scared as the male DJ we heard earlier, but she hid her fear better behind her professionalism. “The latest reports from the Christine Plant have now revealed that a contamination has broken out right outside the Stanwyck city limits,” the reporter said in a steady tone. “The Plant owners won’t comment on the cause or the side effects, but local authorities have ordered all citizens to not go anywhere near the Donalsonville area. Repeat, please avoid Donalsonville and the surrounding area, including the Flint River boat basins.”

I saw Sean turn away in sadness. I squeezed his hand harder.

“In other news, police are still on the lookout for Charlie Cox Arnold,” the newswoman continued.

“Babe,” I said to Sean. I caressed his face in a gentle touch. “I love you.” My soft touch wiped away whatever was left of his tears.

Sean looked at me with those eyes. At least he was no longer crying.

“They’re gonna find us, okay,” I comforted him. “There’s no way they won’t come looking for us.”

“I know.”

“Your dad knows where we went.”

The basement door opened up.

We turned to see the man walk in. Holding the shotgun at his side, he closed the basement door.

I stood up. “What’s going on?” I asked him. “What happened?”

The man just looked at me with his jaded scowl.

“Goddammit, tell us!” I yelled.

Hesitant, the man glanced toward a boarded-up window. “It’s death,” he said. He looked right at me. “That’s exactly what it is.”

I took an angry step toward him. “Look, we need to call somebody! There’s-”

Like a defensive reflex, the man aimed at me.

Like a protective reflex, Sean stood by my side. “Leave her alone!” he yelled at the man.

“There’s no phones here!” the man said. “There ain’t nothing out here!”

Oblivious of our confrontation, the female reporter’s update continued. “Repeat, Arnold is an African-American male between the ages of forty to fifty years old.”

Angry, I glared at the man. “Well, we can’t just wait here forever!” I waved toward all the boarded windows. “They’ll get in at some point! We need help!”

“We can’t worry about that right now,” the man replied. Using the gun, he pointed us toward the entryway. “We need to go.”

“What!” Sean yelled.

The man aimed at us. “Look, my name’s Jon, but we can’t wait in here! We don’t have time!” A panic had overtaken his stoic tone.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“We need two more!” Jon shouted.

“The suspect is believed to be armed and dangerous,” the female anchor’s voice went on.

“Two more?” I asked Jon. “What the fuck are you talking about!”

Glowering, Jon pointed toward a window. “We need two more of them, alright! Just like that guy you brought in here! They have to be alive, understand!”

“Are you fucking crazy!” I took another angry step toward Jon.

“Repeat, please stay inside your homes,” the female reporter said.

“There’s hundreds of them out there!” I yelled at Jon. “What are you-”

With perfect aim, Jon fired a shot at the radio. The radio exploded into fragments. Just like the kid’s head had earlier.

Stunned by the warning, me and Sean staggered back.

“Shit!” I yelled.

Holding the gun steady as always, Jon aimed right at us. His eyes more irate than ever. “Just do what I say!” his desperate voice shouted. “We need two more and we need them now!”

We had no other choice. And much to my relief, Jon wasn’t gonna feed us to the creatures. Instead, we worked together. Maybe he was just using as bait, but with Jon’s marksmanship, we grabbed two more of those fuckers rather quickly.

Our plan was simple. Me and Sean went out on the porch just long enough to draw a few zombies. Then Jon would shoot the closest ones in the leg or ankle. Together, me and Sean would then drag the injured creature into the kitchen. And there, Jon would haul them down to the basement.

We were fast and efficient. I didn’t bother questioning Jon during this process regardless of how much I wanted to. After all, he was the one with the gun. Not us. Apparently, he’d been doing this shit for some time too… that would at least explain all the bear traps I saw scattered throughout the yard.

After we nabbed our second zombie, me and Sean even helped Jon place a bear trap out on the porch. Another line of defense for our farmhouse fortress.

And what a fortress it was. The two-story home was stacked with drinks and canned goods. However long this bullshit lasted, we’d be okay… or at least, somewhat comfortable.

Jon had barricaded every window. We were reasonably safe. And in an upper-middle-class home to boot. Yeah, there were no T.V.s, but the furniture was nice. The electricity and water worked.

That night, Jon tried to explain things to us a little better. Not that he knew much… just that something really wrong went down at the Christine Plant. Something that made people act crazier. Something that made them more violent.

I mentioned the graveyard we saw in the forest. My revelation further dampened Jon’s already-strong cynicism. This “accident” at the plant didn’t just affect the living apparently. It also resurrected the dead.

Still, there was something off about Jon. Not that me and Sean were scared of Jon. But why keep us barricaded like this? Apparently, he had no phone. No means of contacting the outside world. And when I started asking more about why we needed to bring these zombies into the basement, he never gave me a clear answer. Not that I expected him to on our first night at the house… but still. Things were weird. And they got even weirder once he broke down in tears at the kitchen table. I couldn’t understand much through the heavy sobbing. Just how he kept repeating that he needed to keep us safe. That he needed to keep us all together and safe. I guess as long as he had the shotgun, there wasn’t much me or Sean could do. Not for a few days at least while people were out looking for us. After all, this was Jon’s house. And at the end of the day, it beat the alternative of having to run through those Goddamn woods again.

Jon made us stay in the upstairs bedroom. We weren’t complaining even though there was no way out. Not with the windows all boarded-up and with Jon barricading our door with a bulky wooden board on the outside. But hey, the room had a huge bed. And given how exhausted Sean was, I thought it best to just go along with the plan for now.

In the bedroom, Jon promised us we’d be safe. That we should just be patient, and as long as we listened to him, we’d be okay. I wanted to believe him. I really did. But I still felt a discomfort with this situation. And it wasn’t just from the constant, unnerving cries I heard outside our windows either.

If Jon was so concerned with our safety, why not tell us the fucking truth? Hell, why not give us a gun for protection? God knows how many firearms we probably had in this damn farmhouse…

I tried but I just couldn’t sleep that night. I knew how tired Sean was, but I kept him up anyway. Not for anything romantic, but just to talk. Just for his company. Cuddled up under the blankets, we stayed warm. But I didn’t feel safe. Not when I kept hearing the children’s shrill shrieking from outside the entire night.

Sean sang me Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” in his usual goofy attempt at cheering me up. I gotta say it worked. He couldn’t sing for shit even if his effort was cute. I had to crack a smile. And soon after, I finally let Sean drift to sleep.

As I laid back down, my nerves never relented. My anxiety stifled whatever warmth Sean’s “singing” provided me. Outside, a bellowing screech befitting a grieving mother only further solidified my horror-fueled insomnia.

Like a sickening alarm, my gut kept reminding me something was wrong. My eyes drifted over to the bare nightstands. Then to the closet. I couldn’t sleep, Sean was out. There was no T.V., no iPhone. My morbid curiosity finally won out.

I walked up to the closet and opened it. To my surprise, the door was unlocked. I let it creak open. Immediately, a few items tumbled off the top counter and crashed to the floor.

Turning, I looked over at Sean. He was out like a rock. One of Jon’s shotgun blasts wouldn’t even wake him at this point.

I faced the closet. Stacks of boxes were inside. No clothes, no hangers. All the assorted items and boxes were crammed into the closet like it was an overstuffed warehouse. I guess Jon had used the space for extra storage.

Nervous, I didn’t know where to start. I saw a laptop laying on top of one of the boxes. One of those early-2000s bulky models. God know if it even worked… or Hell, if it even had Internet Explorer.

Another one of the zombie’s anguished cries frightened me. I glanced out one of the boarded-up windows. A cascade of cries soon followed, each one more unnerving than the last.

There were so many of those people out there. We were surrounded… and here I was actually thinking we had a chance at escape.

With weary eyes, I looked down at the floor. Then I saw the items that had fallen earlier. They were framed photos. The glass cracked across all them.

Horrified, I picked up a couple of them. There was the farmhouse. The John Deere tractors lurking outside. Only Jon was nowhere to be seen. What I saw was an elderly white farming couple. Like real-life incarnations of American Gothic… only they were smiling. They looked happy save for the cracked lines running across the glass.

Before I could consider Jon being an adopted son, I then saw blood splattered over the glass. Through the darkness, I could see how the vivid red stains gave the images a disturbing filter.

To my horror, the blood trailed down to my fingertips. The blood was moist… and there was so much on every picture.

Disgusted, I hurled the photos back on to the top closet counter.

“Shit…” I shook the crimson off my hands. Just whose house was this… Pulsating with terror, I looked back at Sean. I couldn’t let him sleep. Not now.

Hours later, morning sunlight seeped in through the small crevices between the boards. Me and Sean were wide awake and terrified. I could see the unease in his green eyes. He was more scared than I was.

I’d tried to use the laptop but got no signal. Plus, there was no charger. With only twenty percent of juice left, I shut it down until we had more time to figure something out.

“Do you think they’re in the basement?” I asked Sean, my voice full of nervous fear.

Uneasy, Sean looked off toward the bedroom door. “I don’t know…”

I grabbed his arm. “But they could still be alive.”

Sean confronted me. “You don’t know that for sure. We can just-”

“But we can’t just let them die! They might need our help!”

Aggravated, Sean pulled his arm away. “Look, we don’t have much choice, Becca!”

“Yes, we do-”

Sean motioned toward the bedroom door. “He’s the one with the gun, alright! We just have to play it cool till someone shows up.”

My intense eyes stared right into his emeralds. “And what if they never do?”

Sean didn’t reply. He offered no comforting or reassuring words. Just scared silence.

Immediately, I regretted confronting him like that. But Sean knew I was right. We had to make a move. I grabbed a hold of his hand. “Look, just take my lead, alright.”

“What?”

I gave him a kiss.

He just looked at me, still reeling from the embrace.

“I’m not gonna do anything to get you hurt, Sean,” I told him. “We’re gonna get outta this shit.”

Like a rooster’s call, harsh knocks at the door greeted us at seven-thirty A.M. A polite gesture from Jon considering he was the only one who could open the door.

“Breakfast is ready,” we heard him say.

In the kitchen, we ate grits and eggs. Jon even made us coffee in a pot. The elderly couple had no use for a Keurig apparently.

For over an hour, we sat there at the table. Like a child holding their favorite teddy bear, Jon held the shotgun in his hands.

You could say the three of us bonded. Our conversations stilted yet cordial. Anything to get our mind off of the eerie cries of the creatures outside.

“We’re gonna need to get five tonight,” Jon told us.

“Five?” I asked, incredulous.

“I know it’s tough, but-”

“How the Hell are we gonna get five of those things!” I waved my hand toward a window. “They’re everywhere! They’re all around us!”

Trying to calm me, Sean grabbed my shoulder. “Babe.”

I pulled away from him and focused my glower on Jon. “No, this is bullshit!”

“We’ve got no choice,” Jon told me, keeping his voice calm and steady. “They’ll back off around noon then we can start trapping them.”

I felt Sean rub my back. “Hey, it’s okay, Becca,” he told me.

Giving in, I looked down at my empty plate. The china plate was old, its pastoral designs long faded. Typical old people’s dishes, I thought.

Eager to change the subject, Jon sat back in his seat. “Where are y’all from anyway?”

Sean looked at him. “Uh, Stanwyck.”

“Oh, okay.”

Calming down from my outburst, I watched Jon take a sip of coffee.

“My family’s all from Bessemer,” Jon went on.

“Alabama?” Sean asked.

“Yes.” Jon placed his empty mug back on the table. “I played ball over in Gainesville for a couple of years. I was the first one in my family to graduate college.”

“Wait, you played at UF?” I asked, impressed.

“Damn, right,” Jon responded.

Sean grinned. “Well, we’re more Noles fans.”

Annoyed, I elbowed Sean in the ribs. Jon’s craziness didn’t need another reason to kill us off…

The hit shut Sean up pretty quickly.

“Naw, that’s cool,” Jon replied. He inspected his shotgun. “I had family play ball out in Tally.”

“Whoa, for real?” Sean asked.

I placed my hand on top of Sean’s. Our eye contact was brief but intense. I gave him a slight nod.

Like a nutty gun enthusiast, Jon kept inspecting the barrel. Lost in both nostalgia and the weapon. “Yeah, it was one of my nephews.”

I grabbed me and Sean’s plates and stood up.

“He’s a damn fine football player,” Jon went on.

I walked toward the sink. Sean’s nervous green eyes stayed glued to me the entire time. Thankfully, Jon didn’t pay me any mind.

“So you played under Urban Meyer?” Sean asked, his voice restless. He watched me stop at the sink, making it too obvious he was trying to keep Jon distracted.

“Nope, Spurrier,” Jon replied. He looked right at Jon. “I was third-string back in…” Jon came to a confused stop.

From the sink, I could tell he noticed how focused Sean was on me. I loved Sean to death, but fuck, he was a horrible actor.

“What the Hell’s going on?” Jon asked. He turned to face me.

Gripping my china plate, I pulled it back like a baseball bat.

“Becca, look out!” Sean yelled.

I saw Jon’s expression morph from confusion to anger.

But I didn’t give him time to react. Using the plate, I gave Jon a hit to the temple and sent him out of his seat.

I heard him grunt as he hit the floor.

Slipping from Jon’s grasp, the shotgun landed a few feet away from him.

“No!” Jon yelled. Pleading, he looked up at me. “Please! Wait-”

Crying out, I slammed the plate into the back of his head.

The hit sent Jon face-first into the ground. I didn’t hear him say another word. He was out cold.

Sean scooped up the gun.

I stared down at Jon. Long cuts ran across his head. I saw some blood leak out but not enough to make me worry whether or not he’d make it.

Breathing heavy, I threw the plate onto the table. Fresh redness flowed off its edges and ran down the table like a burgeoning stream.

Sean grabbed my arm. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” I replied. I snatched the shotgun from his hands.

“Wait, Becca-”

Determined, I glared at him. “We have to find them! Come on!”

I pulled Sean toward the basement door. As he let me lead us, I saw Sean steal a look back at Jon.

“Don’t worry, he’s out,” I reassured him.

“I see,” Sean replied in an impressed tone.

Holding on to the shotgun, I swung open the basement door.

Together, me and Sean peered into the darkness. Amidst the quiet house, all we heard were the collective shrieks outside. And all I saw before us was the long staircase.

Before my overwhelming unease could keep me at bay, I jogged down the stairs. So fast I caught Sean off-guard.

I heard his cautious footsteps try to keep up behind me. “Becca!” I heard him yell.

But I had to keep going. Straight toward the dim light I saw at the bottom of the staircase. I had to see what Jon was hiding. I had to know if the elderly couple was still here.

Finally, I reached the basement. Through the faint lighting, all I saw were towering bookshelves. Various items on them included books, boxes, and bottles of wine. My sweaty hands gripped the shotgun tight. My frantic eyes kept searching for any sign of life.

“Becca!” Sean yelled behind me.

Then I saw an open doorway in the back of the basement. I approached it. And as I got closer, I heard low groans. Weak groans.

Right when I heard Sean reach the basement, I entered the hidden room. I was compelled to see the truth.

Tall lamps were positioned throughout the wide room. Lighting so bright it left me disoriented. More shelves were placed against the walls. I saw some sort of glassware on each shelf.

And there were long tables scattered about. Strapped to each and every one of them was a creature. One of the people from outside. All of them strapped to these makeshift operating tables. A rag jammed down each one of their mouths.

Still holding the shotgun, I staggered past several tables. The zombies were still alive. Still breathing. Their horrifying cries were now muffled by the gags. They didn’t sound scary or ferocious. They were weak and pathetic. And when I looked into their eyes, I realized why…

All of their eyeballs were missing. Sliced out with medical precision. Dry blood covered their faces.

Even with empty sockets, I could tell the creatures sensed me. And as I moved past each one, they writhed in pain. They screamed through the gags.

I passed the child from last night. The one Jon had shot. The boy’s leg was still mangled, and he was still fighting for his life. He strained under the straps. Slobber and blood streamed from under his gag like flowing oil. He didn’t have to show torment in his eyes for me to know he was in agonizing pain.

As I got closer to the final shelf, I realized what the glassware was. Jars. Jars of all shapes and sizes. And each one of them contained two small circular items. Items of many different colors. And all of them were looking right at me. Eyeballs. God, there was so many of them. All of them on display like gory trophies. Most of the eyes still had tattered pieces of flesh stuck to them.

Near the shelf, I came to a terrified stop.

In a corner were stacks of nude bodies. Most of them dead creatures. Their eyes were all missing. Their chests, necks, and faces had all been slaughtered and stitched back up. Like an immature medical student had gone fucking wild. A playpen for their perverse pleasure.

The stitches were primitive yet precise. The wounds not as clean as those sliced-out eyeballs were.

The collected creatures here were no longer moving. Not even the undead had survived. Amongst the bodies, I saw the elderly couple. They had their lips stitched into a monotone smile. Besides all the cuts and hacks, I could make out two shotgun blasts to their legs. And yes, their old glazed eyes were gone… but I was pretty sure they were somewhere in one of the dozens of impromptu medical jars.

“Oh God…” I said in disgusted fright. My sickened grip loosened on the shotgun.

“Becca, look out!” I heard Sean yell.

I whirled around just in time to see a tall man emerge from behind the last shelf. All I could make out were his brown eyes. Otherwise, he was dressed in a long white lab coat and scrubs. A surgical mask covered his mouth.

Like a ghost, he was quick and evasive.

Before I could even scream, the man’s left hand raised a hammer and smashed it into my head.

More disoriented than ever, I hit the floor hard. My weak hands dropped the shotgun.

Besides all the muffled cries of the tortured monsters around me, I heard my boyfriend cry out. I could hear Sean’s fear and anguish. And his footsteps fast approaching me.

“No, let go of her!” I heard Sean scream.

Dazed, I felt my conscience lose the battle to the hammer wound. My eyes blinked rapidly.

All I could see was Sean struggle with that ghost of a man.

As my head tilted back to the ground, I watched their fight. The man was strong and powerful. Not to mention he towered over Sean. Before I felt my eyes close, I realized who this man was. I realized why he had so many collected eyeballs. Why he wore those surgical clothes. Charlie Cox Arnold had been here all along. Right here in this very basement.

Hours later, I awoke not tied to an operating table, but in the upstairs bedroom. I felt relief that I was at least still alive. And that I could still see.

I sat up in the bed, confused. Through the crevices in the wooden boards, I saw darkness start to overpower the sunlight. Had I just been dreaming?

Cringing in pain, I touched my head. I felt the mark of that heavy hammer. Definitely wasn’t a dream…

“Hey, are you okay?” a familiar voice said to me.

I turned to see Jon sitting by my side. He had the shotgun in his lap. A bandage wrapped around his head.

Seeing my awkward expression, Jon flashed me a smile. “It’s okay.” He pointed to the bandage. “You didn’t get me too bad.”

I gave him an uneasy smile. “Sorry…”

“No, I understand.” Inner torment stifled his smile. “I should’ve told y’all the truth right from the beginning. I was going to, but I just… I just didn’t wanna scare y’all.”

Unease striking me, I searched the room. I didn’t see Sean anywhere. “Where’s Sean?”

Jon didn’t answer.

Panicking, I looked right at him. “Where is he!”

Jon’s brown eyes showed anguish. Guilt. “I’m sorry. I knew it was scary enough out here without me telling y’all everything…” He looked at the floor. “But I couldn’t…”

I grabbed his arm. “What happened? Who the fuck was that back there! Was it The Iris Killer?”

Muttering to himself, Jon kept avoiding eye contact.

I squeezed his arm. “What happened, Jon! Tell me!”

Jon looked right at me with tears in his eyes. “He took me with him. I had no choice.”

Shocked, I let go of his arm. “What…”

With trembling hands, Jon reached into his pocket and retrieved a wallet. “I worked security at Chattahoochee.” Like the pleading nervous wreck he was, Jon showed me his Chattahoochee Mental Hospital I.D. The image was him from a few years ago. Well before the stress of working security at an asylum had weighed him down. His name was in big bold letters: Jon Winston.

“When he broke out, he forced me to go with him,” Jon said. “I had no choice. And then we ended up here… and those people attacked us!” The fear in his voice matched his uncontained tears. “We had to ditch the car and we walked to this place… we came into their house.” The memories eating him alive, he looked down at his I.D.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m-”

“He made me shoot them in the legs!” Full of bitter anger, Jon confronted me. “Not to kill that old man and woman, but just so I could bring them to him!”

The anguish in his voice gave me chills. Jon’s torment was well on display. And somehow, it was even scarier than the horror of his story.

Jon wiped away his tears. “He said he’d kill me if I didn’t do it. And I know he would. He’d throw me to those fuckers outside… then they’d fucking eat me.” Like a bursting dam, reserves of tears streamed down his face. Jon looked down, away from me.

“Jon,” I said. “You can’t blame yourself. You had no choice.” I reached out toward him.

In a quick motion, Jon snatched my wrist. His frantic eyes looked right into mine. “He tortured them! You saw what he did to them!”

The horrific images flashed through my mind. The disturbing work of The Iris Killer would forever haunt my nightmares.

“He cut out their eyes while they were still alive!” Jon said. He hurled my arm back to me. “And it was all because of me!”

“Is that why we bring him the zombies every night?” I asked.

Swiping away his tears, Jon nodded. “Yes.”

He tossed his wallet and I.D. onto the nightstand. I now saw a small box on the edge of the stand.

“He wants them alive,” Jon continued.

“God…” I said.

“He craves it. Every night, he just needs more and more to operate on… to kill.” Jon ran an uneasy hand through his scalp. “He needs a quota.” He looked at me, intense. “And if we don’t, he’ll throw us out there.” Terrified, he motioned toward the window. “He’ll feed us to them!”

Utter helplessness hit me like a gut punch. “We’re never getting out of here, are we?”

Jon hesitated. “Maybe. At some point.”

Defeated, I looked out the window. The crowd’s cries and groans continued. Like they were all wanting us out there for an encore feast.

“But we can’t give up,” Jon said. He caressed my shoulder. “We just have to keep bringing him those people. We have to keep him happy, that’s the main thing. Until someone shows up.”

I faced him. “How many?”

Not answering, Jon’s gaze drifted down to his shotgun. I saw weariness on his expression. He couldn’t hide his hopelessness no matter how hard he tried. Just like me.

I grabbed his arm. “How many do we need!”

Jon looked straight at me. “Ten.”

“No! There’s no way!”

“By midnight.”

Outraged, I drew my arm back. Like a drugged-out asylum patient, I considered laughing at the sheer insanity of all this. “We can’t! That’s fucking impossible!”

Jon now kept his emotions subdued. There were no more tears. No more attempts at reassurance. He was just there. “We have to try.”

Panicking, my eyes scanned the room. “Where’s Sean?” I grabbed Jon by the shoulders. “Where is he!”

Silent, Jon just stared at me.

“Goddammit, where is he!” I yelled.

Jon motioned toward the ring box.

“What’s in there?” I demanded.

A despondent gaze was all I got. “Arnold wanted me to give it to you.”

Frantic, I grabbed the box.

“I tried to warn y’all,” Jon said, his voice now a low monotone. “If you’d have only listened to me, we could’ve just been a team.”

I glanced at Jon. He wasn’t even looking at me. Just lost in his latest ramble.

“We could’ve kept doing this,” Jon said. He leaned the shotgun against the nightstand. Like a madman, he kept babbling to no one in particular. No one but his own tortured psyche. “It’s always easier with more people…”

Suppressing my dread, I opened the box. I was prepared for something bad. Something ominous regarding what happened to Sean. But even then, I still couldn’t stifle my horrified scream.

Sean’s gorgeous green eyes stared back at me. His big disembodied eyes had no stringy flesh attached to them. They were cut out clean and precise. The Iris Killer had been on his game for this one.

Weeping, I dropped the box to the floor. The eyes bounced in the air for a moment… a moment that seemed to last forever considering the way those emeralds looked up at me before falling back inside the case. Thankfully, Sean’s irises were now facing down. Away from my frightened gaze.

“Oh God!” I screamed through the tears. “Sean!”

I felt Jon’s frightened hands grab me by the shoulders.

“It was a warning!” Jon told me with unconstrained conviction. “Now you see! We have to do what he says!”

All I could do was look into his wild eyes.

“We can’t let him down,” Jon continued. “He’ll kill us both!”

Still weeping, I didn’t say a word. I couldn’t say anything through the tears. All I could do was think of Sean. Our memories, our love. His enchanting emerald eyes…

“We have to hurry!” Jon went on. He leaned in closer. “He needs ten now!” Fueled by unbridled fear, he motioned toward the window. “And we only got a few hours till midnight!”

Like a dejected prisoner, I looked off at the window. Darkness lurked outside. And so were the monsters. The creatures were all waiting for us. Just like that monster in the basement was.

It’s now been a little over a week since I got here. Regardless of the quota, the supply of creatures only seems to grow with each passing day. By this point, me and Jon work efficiently as a team… only now we’re starting to run out of bullets.

Every night, I have the same nightmares about Sean. About those gorgeous and gory green eyes of his. About the pain he must’ve felt down there in that basement all alone as The Iris Killer had his way with him. I should’ve joined him down there…

Jon has since kept me from ever going back in the basement. And now that Charlie Cox locks the door, well… I guess I’ll never really know what happened to Sean. And maybe I don’t wanna know the true torture he must’ve endured at the hands of that Goddamn psychopath.

Now all I can do is lay in bed and weep about what should’ve been. Dream about the future we should’ve had together.

I’m sitting here now typing this tonight as a last resort. My battery’s down to two percent. I managed to get a very spotty Wi-Fi connection in the kitchen, but I have no idea if my attempt to post this will even work. I can only hope so. This seems like my last chance. No one has come looking for us. And honestly, there seems to be no sign of life out here in Dville. Just the zombies, me, Jon. And The Iris Killer.

I never knew the pressures of meeting a quota each day could be so stressful. It’s literally life and death out here. I’ve begged Jon that we should fight back against Charlie Cox Arnold at some point. After all, we have a shotgun. But then Jon always comes back with the inevitable truth: we’d have to go down there to fight him. We’d have to find a killer in his own personal playland.

If this post reaches any of you, please send help. Send the police down to the Donalsonville, Georgia area. To this fucking farmhouse near the Flint. We need help bad. Our food supply’s only getting lower. And every day, I hear more of those creatures waiting for us to come outside. All of them waiting for that exact moment when me or Jon screw up. All while we have a killer in our basement waiting for us to bring him more of these fucking monsters. At some point, all this waiting will have to end. I just hope by then, me and Jon will be somewhere safe.

I just want everyone to know that the outbreak at the Christine Plant was way more serious than what you heard. I don’t know if the whole area’s been quarantined or not, but it won’t last. You may not know it, but like me and Jon, y’all are also waiting. Y’all are all waiting for that inevitable moment when these creatures finally break through.