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Lock In | Book Three The Fog Series | Chapter Three

With a clamber of barstools and sloshed beer, everyone leaped away from the window. Benjamin wasn’t fast enough, and the Ted’s fingers seized his wrist. With a shrill, girl-like shriek, Benjamin grabbed one of the tiny drink umbrellas tucked behind his ear and stabbed the Ted in the eye. Although the Ted screamed in rage and pain, its grip didn’t lessen. Benjamin struggled as the zombie hauled him closer. He tried grabbing the zombie’s arm and prying it loose but to no avail. Sara, wielding a knife, brought the blade across the Ted’s wrist. The Ted screamed and loosened its grip enough for Benjamin to pull his arm back. Then Sara shoved Benjamin aside, and buried her steak knife into the zombie’s head. She drew it out and pushed it in. In and out, again and again. Blood flew and spattered across the pub’s floor.

“I guess that all my years on the farm are finally paying off!” Sara exclaimed, rubbing the bloodied knife off on a napkin.

“Definitely! You go, girl!” Daisy exclaimed, going for her baseball bat.

“That’s probably the hottest thing I’ve seen all week,” Elijah said, whistling between his teeth.

“Yeah!” Alex exclaimed.

“Thanks for—uh—saving me,” Benjamin said.

“No problem,” Sara replied, shrugging.

Glass crunched beneath Darnell’s tennis shoes as he approached the Ted. “I can’t believe he smashed my freaking window out! That son of a gun!”

“You have insurance, though, don’t you?” Alex asked.

“Have you ever tried to get money out of an insurance company? I’ll be lucky if I get a new window within a year!” Darnell exclaimed.

“Well, I doubt that guy is paying up,” Benjamin said, nodding towards the dead and bleeding Ted.

“Oh, he’s paying up,” Darnell said, storming towards the Ted.

Darnell gingerly reached through the glass and fumbled through the Ted’s jacket and then reached further back into his jeans. Finally, Darnell found a worn, leather wallet. “Ha! Dead or not, he’s paying for that window!”

A chorus of groans filled the air as more zombies, seeing the broken window, tried to force their way into the pub. Their decaying limbs flawed around the now dead Ted. One climbed over the fallen Ted, causing more glass to fall onto the floor. Benjamin screamed and hurled his cocktail at the Ted, hoping to deter it as it crawled into the bar.

“They’re in!” Alex yelled. “We have to fight them!”

Daisy swept into action with her baseball bat. With a resounding crack, she brought the aluminum bat over a Ted’s head and sent it to the ground. More streamed in. Benjamin grabbed a beer bottle off the bar and threw it. The Ted didn’t seem very deterred, but still, Benjamin reached for whatever was at hand—bar stools, chairs, glasses, discarded bottles—and threw them with all his strength at the Teds that were creeping in.

Alex broke a table over one’s head. Elijah smashed a bottle of rum over another. Sara and her friends tore into the zombies, sending them back with knives, baseball bats, and glasses. A full-fledged brawl had broken out in the pub, and Darnell futilely tried to minimize destruction. He went about, pulling chairs out of reach and trying to save his precious alcohol from becoming the next missile.

“Stop trashing my bar!” Darnell yelled.

“Death will never conquer!” Daisy shouted as the climbed atop a table and smash another Ted in the face.

Benjamin backed away, his eyes darting wildly about the bar and searching for another weapon. Some of the patrons hadn’t awakened, despite the Ted invasion and pub’s destruction. Benjamin fleetingly wished that he, too, was sleeping and oblivious to the chaos surrounding him, but he was all too aware. And this wasn’t his element. He belonged in labs, sterile, clean, and controlled, not in this chaotic pub surrounded by the screams of the undead and broken glass.

“Guys, help!” Alex yelled.

Benjamin spotted Alex, cornered across the room, with a group of Teds approaching. Alex frantically stumbled against the wall, his fingers brushing against the fire extinguisher. “Darnell! I need to use the fire extinguisher!” Alex shouted.

“Don’t you dare!” Darnell screamed, as he wiped up the cabernet sauvignon that was threatening to soak into the mat at the pub’s entrance.

“But I’m about to be Ted food!”

“The last time you used that, you’d drank way too much! You and your buddy nearly ruined my pub!” Darnell snapped.

“Sorry!” Elijah shouted, as he climbed on the bar and kicked a Ted in the face.

“Just ram them with the fire extinguisher!” Benjamin shouted.

Benjamin ran back, keeping a table—complete with a massive mountain of a man, a man who looked like he could literally be the human incarnation of the god Thor, who was fast asleep and snoring loud enough to break the sound barrier—between himself and two hungry, approaching Teds.

“I didn’t think of that!” Alex shouted.

Thunk! A metallic ring filled the pub, Alex having felled one Ted. Encouraged by his one victory, Alex swung the fire extinguisher just like Daisy swung her bat. He was far less graceful in his movements, but still, Teds fell before him like wheat before the scythe and settled in unconscious heaps along the ground.

Elijah had reached Darnell’s gun, hidden behind the bar, and although Benjamin knew little about firearms, he could immediately tell that Elijah had never held a gun in his life. The man’s hands shook as he lifted it. Unsteadily, Elijah pointed the gun towards a couple of the Teds rushing Benjamin, who ducked for cover. The sound of the gunshot reverberated through the pub. Benjamin screamed and fell backwards; it took him nearly thirty seconds to realize that he wasn’t, in fact, dead.

Glass shattered. Darnell screamed and dropped to his knees, shaking his fist at the sky.

“Sorry!” Elijah exclaimed.

Benjamin looked at the pile of shattered glass, the remains of a mirror with the words Queen Vic etched into it. “What’s the big deal?” Benjamin asked.

“That mirror was my baby!” Darnell retorted. “My angel, my muse! And that plebian swine just ruined her!”

“I was trying to fight off the Teds!” Elijah protested.

Darnell leaped to his feet like a man possessed. “You’ve killed my baby! And that’s seven years bad luck—”

“That’s just a silly superstition,” Benjamin said. “It comes from—”

“It’s my mirror!” Darnell continued. “And now, it’s smashed into hundreds of pieces! You are banned for life!”

Elijah gulped as Darnell stormed across the pub, suddenly looking far more threatening than any of the Teds had. Darnell ripped the gun from Elijah’s hands and expertly slew several zombies with it. Daisy, bat in hand, paused and took a sip from a martini as Darnell quickly cleared the room of Teds. Then, there was silence.

Benjamin took a shaky breath.

A nearby patron, a man whom had been asleep, slowly looked up. “What did I miss?”

“The apocalypse,” Benjamin replied.

“That sucks, bro,” the man said, before letting his face drop once more to the table.

“We need to board up these windows,” Sara said, “Before more get in. Darnell, do you have any wood for things like that?”

Darnell’s face had turned a very alarming shade of red, and seeing it, Elijah slowly sank beneath the bar and out of sight. “Yeah, I’ve got some,” Darnell replied, “Luckily. If someone didn’t destroy it!”

“Sorry!” Elijah squeaked.

Benjamin looked across the once pristine pub. Now, it was littered with broken glass, decaying bodies, and blood. It looked like a scene from a horror movie, but somehow, it still didn’t seem entirely real. It was too much to be real.

“If you can just quit running your mouth, I think it’ll be better for all involved!” Darnell snapped.

Elijah winced and mimed locking his lips with a key. With a sigh, Benjamin crossed the room and joined the others in following Darnell to the back. They were greeted by slats of plywood. “I always keep some back here just in case,” Darnell said.

In case what? How many pieces of plywood could a pub owner possibly need to hide behind their counter? Benjamin opened his mouth to ask, but then, he looked at Darnell, cradling his shotgun as if it was his first-born child, and decided that line of inquiry was, perhaps, not the best one. Instead, Benjamin dutifully joined everyone else in hauling the plywood out and dragging it to the shattered windows.

Outside, everything was eerily quiet. It was as if the world had stopped turning when the Teds were slain, and there was nothing left but the night sky. A few timid stars peeked through past the clouds and the remnants of city light, and for a moment, Benjamin stared at it and thought that it was beautiful. With a sharp bang!, Elijah smashed a piece of plywood right over the window Benjamin had been gazing out of.

“It looks like it’s time to get banging!” Elijah announced.

That was a very poor choice of words.

“I guess,” Benjamin replied, helping steady the piece of plywood while Alex edged in with a hammer and beat the nails into place.

One window down, several more to go. Before long, Benjamin’s arms began to ache, but slowly, board by board, they patched up the windows. Darnell was fuming still, and Benjamin heard the bar owner swearing beneath his breath as he stormed across the floor, trying to salvage what had been destroyed. Once or twice, he kicked a Ted out of his way, seemingly in an attempt to vent some of his aggression.

“He’s going to murder us,” Elijah whispered. “Do you think we can take him?”

Benjamin rolled his eyes. “Don’t be so dramatic. He isn’t going to kill us.”

“Sure,” Elijah replied. “That’s why he’s pacing around on the floor and toting around a shotgun. Because he wants to hold hands with us and sing numbers from Hamilton.”

“As long as Daisy isn’t singing, we should be fine,” Benjamin replied, rubbing his temples.

He stifled a yawn. The alcohol had made him tired and sleepy already, and even a Ted attack and boarding up windows couldn’t change that. Benjamin thought longingly of his bed—well, what had been his bed. Suddenly, it sounded so nice and inviting.

“Windows are done,” Sara announced, rubbing her hands on her jeans. “Now, what?”

“Now, you all get out of my pub!” Darnell declared, pointing to the door.

“Get out?” Alex asked. “Come on, Darnell! You can’t—”

“Yes, I can!” Darnell snapped.

Elijah shrank back. “This is about the mirror, isn’t it? I mean, we can pick up—”

“And what? Glue my custom mirror back together?” Darnell snapped.

Elijah winced and sank back behind the bar.

“I want all of you out!” Darnell exclaimed, pointing towards the door. “Right now!”

Daisy swept shattered glass into a pile and dumped it into the nearby trashcan. “But we’re helping!” she argued.

“You’re helping after you trashed my pub!” Darnell snapped, waving his arms wildly around, as if to indicate the messes.

“Darnell,” Benjamin said, trying to make his voice placating and calm, “We can’t go outside. There are Teds there, and the ones that got in would have destroyed the pub with or without our help. At least, with us here, you have someone to help you clean it up.”

“I could have taken on the Teds by myself without any help,” Darnell replied, “And with less casualties!”

“Dad, I—” Benjamin paused and clapped his hands over his mouth. “Dad—I mean, Darnell—”

Elijah laughed nervously. “God, I hope he’s not your father.”

Darnell and Benjamin both cast him withering looks, and Elijah winced. “I’ll be quiet,” he said.

“Please,” Benjamin said, “At least, let us stay until it’s morning. It’s dangerous for us to go wandering around New York City this late at night.”

Darnell sighed. “Fine,” he said, “You can stay the night, but first thing in the morning, you’re all out. And I’m only letting you stay the night because I’m a gentleman.”

“That’s fair,” Benjamin said. “Thank you.”

Darnell rolled his eyes and grumbled as he walked back behind the bar. Once the bar owner was out of earshot, Elijah sighed. “Thank God,” he said.

“I know,” Sara replied. “It’s a good thing he was willing to listen to you, Benjamin.”

Benjamin nodded and glanced at the boarded-up windows. “Me, too,” he said. “It’s not safe to go out anyway, but it definitely wouldn’t be good for us to go outside in the night.”

“The Queen Vic is looking better, though,” Daisy said, leaning against the edge of a table.

And she was right. Despite the boarded-up windows, the pub did look better. All the overturned chairs and tables had been fixed and turned upright, the broken glass had been swept up, and spilled alcohol and blood had been cleaned from the floor. Even the Teds had been dragged outside and piled by the door. So perhaps, the outside of the pub didn’t look great. But the inside was, at least, in decent shape.

“This must be really stressful for him, though,” Amber said. “I can only imagine what a nightmare this is going to be for him.”

“It’s stressful for everyone,” Alex said. “If we can’t stay here after tomorrow, we’ll have to figure out how we’re getting back to the apartment. There are Teds everywhere outside! It’s not safe to walk there, and we don’t have a car. I doubt Uber is going to be taking people with this all happening.”

“And I imagine there will probably be more,” Benjamin said.

Sara sighed. “Maybe we can convince him to let us stay here.”

“But even then, we can’t stay here forever,” Daisy said. “We’ll have to leave eventually.”

“That’s true,” Benjamin replied, furrowing his brow.

Groans and grunts. Everyone stiffened. Slowly, Benjamin looked further down the bar, where a patron—a man with blond hair—raised his head and groaned. The man’s neck lulled to the side, his cheek resting on his shoulder. Benjamin’s eyes keyed in on the crusted blood on the man’s neck. Had he been bitten in the fight?

Benjamin shifted backwards, bumping into Sara. Elijah and Alex slipped back behind the bar. Daisy stepped forward, her bat in hand. She gave it an experimental swing, and with a shout, Daisy swung her bat and struck the man’s shoulder. He jolted upright. “What the Hell is going on?” he snapped.

“He’s talking!” Sara exclaimed.

“Can the Teds do that?” Elijah asked.

None that they’d seen had. This man wasn’t infected. More likely, he was just finally waking from his drunken stupor, and he’d just happened to get spattered with blood at some point during the day.

“Ted…Ted…all better if they’re dead, Ted is dead!” Daisy sang, swinging her bat with gusto.

“Daisy, wait!” Benjamin shouted.

But before anyone could move forward and stop her, Daisy brought her bat down atop the man’s head, crushing his skull with the baseball bat. Benjamin cringed.

With a smile, Daisy swung the bat over her shoulder and turned around to see her horrified audience. “What?” she asked. “You act like you’ve never seen someone kill a Ted before.”

“Daisy…” Sara trailed off.

“We can’t tell her,” Amber whispered. “She’ll be so upset.”

“Son of a gun,” Alex whispered. “What do we do?”

“We can’t tell her,” Elijah said.

“Tell me what?” Daisy asked. “You guys are all acting really funny. What’s wrong? I didn’t even make this much of a mess.”

“Daisy,” Benjamin said slowly, “That man wasn’t a Ted.”

“What do you mean?” Daisy asked.

“I mean, I’m fairly sure that was just a drunk man waking up,” Benjamin replied. “I don’t think he was infected.”

Everyone was quiet, waiting for Daisy to crumble in guilt and horror. She looked back at the man. Then, at her friends. Abruptly, Daisy burst into laughter. “Well, he would have been in the morning, so no foul. Don’t panic.”

Benjamin shivered when she strode past him, idly swinging her bat at her side. It was a little frightening just how blasé Daisy was about bashing a man’s skull in. He gulped. Daisy was definitely one person that Benjamin didn’t want to make angry.

Elijah whistled between his teeth. “Dude,” he muttered.

“Anyone—uh—want to play darts?” Amber asked.

“I’m game!” Daisy exclaimed. “Let’s go for it!”

As long as Daisy wasn’t pointing them at him, Benjamin supposed that wasn’t the worst idea. He was good at darts and didn’t often get to show off his skills. “That might be fun,” Benjamin said.

Elijah crossed the room and grabbed the darts from their place on the bar.

“Well, we might as well enjoy the night,” Amber said, “As best as we can.”

“Yeah,” Sara said. “Hopefully, the Teds will have left in the morning.”

“Right?” Amber asked. “It would be nice to just have a hangover to worry about.”

Benjamin winced. A hangover, indeed. When he woke up in the morning, he would probably really regret all of those cocktails, but really, what better way was there to deal with an epidemic than to drink it away and try not to think about it?

There were dozens of better ways to deal with it, actually, but Benjamin didn’t have the resources to do anything more. He was a scientist, and he felt like he ought to be out in the world, trying to end the epidemic and trying to save people, but he was away from his lab and his plant samples and colleagues. At this point, he didn’t even know if he’d be able to make it back to his new apartment, much less capable of going anywhere helpful.

Benjamin sighed and picked up a dart, testing the weight between his fingers.

“Are you any good, bro?” Elijah asked.

“I’m very good,” Benjamin replied.

“Really?” Daisy asked, sizing him up. “I’ll have you know that I could probably kill a man with a dart.”

She probably could.

“I don’t know if I could kill someone with a dart,” Benjamin replied, carefully flinging the dart forward.

Bull’s eye.

Daisy’s face brightened. “You’ve got game,” she said, tossing her dart.

She hit the center, too.

“You guys are really good,” Sara said, taking a seat and sipping out of a blue margarita.

“It’s basic aerodynamics,” Benjamin replied, “And a bit of practice. That’s all.”

“It’s better than I would do,” Sara said.

Amber sat beside Sara, who offered her a sip of her margarita.

“Do you want in on this, Alex?” Elijah asked.

Alex rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t think so,” he replied. “Last time I played darts here, I ended up breaking some sort of fancy decanter. I thought Darnell might be seriously about to kill me.”

“How many times have you almost ruined Darnell’s pub?” Benjamin asked.

“Oh God. I’ve lost count,” Alex replied.

“Me, too,” Elijah admitted, “But at this point, I figure I might as well press my luck. He hasn’t killed me yet!”

“But there’s a first time for everything, and he’d only have to kill you once,” Benjamin pointed out.

Elijah wrinkled his nose and mouthed the words. “Oh!” he exclaimed. “Right. Crap. That would suck.”

Elijah took a dart and tossed it towards the dartboard; it missed entirely and instead smashed into a framed picture of Queen Victoria. Glass shattered, and Elijah went as pale as a ghost. Abruptly, he sat. “On second thought, maybe I should just sit down.”

Benjamin snorted.

“Looks like it’s the two of us,” Daisy said, smirking. “Ready to taste defeat?”

“You’re on,” Benjamin said.

He tested the weight of another dart and then threw. It flew straight and true, striking the dartboard with a dull thud. Bull’s eye!

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