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The Fog | Book One | Chapter Two

As Benjamin climbed out of the car, he very carefully surveyed his surroundings. Everything looked surprisingly normal.

There was a large moving van, heavy furniture being dragged out by several men with an enviable amount of muscles. Very enviable.

Any one of those men probably could have broken Benjamin in half just by blinking at him.

He began to wonder if he’d fallen asleep and somehow imagined being attacked by zombies. That was, until he walked around to the front of Alex’s car and saw the deep furrows left by zombie claws. So a bad dream was out.

Maybe Benjamin was in a coma, then. Yes. Nothing in the past twenty-four hours had happened. His girlfriend hadn’t cheated on him, his mortal nemesis hadn’t gotten a promotion, and he hadn’t been attacked by zombies.

No, clearly, Benjamin had done something heroic—like pushing a little old lady out of the way of a car—and he had sustained a serious head injury. And was now in a coma. Yes.

Alex led the way up to the apartment building, and Benjamin followed. After all, this was some sort of coma-induced hallucination. Why not?

Benjamin cast a longing glance at the elevator, but he followed Alex up the rusting, dull flight of stairs. “Don’t worry, man,” Alex said. “I’ve got everything you might need for the zombies. Knives, machetes, Mountain Dew, chocolate—”

Alex suddenly seemed significantly less prepared for the zombie apocalypse than Benjamin had previously thought.

“What about guns?” Benjamin asked.

“Guns?” Alex inquired, sounding utterly baffled. “Why shoot a zombie when you can feel the rush of having beheaded one? I am affronted that you would even ask such a thing!”

Great. Just great.

Once they reached Alex’s floor, the world seemed to move in slow motion.

There was a group of three women, dressed like they’d just come from their girl’s night out. One was a petite brunette with large doe-brown eyes; she wore a black, velvet dress and knee-high boots.

Benjamin saw the handle of a lint roller peeking out from the silver purse she had hanging from one shoulder.

The other woman was tall and willowy with long hair that was dyed half-black and half-blonde that fell past her shoulder blades. Very trendy. Her hair spilled onto her tight, black half-mesh top. Her lower half was clad in tight, vinyl pants.

Both of the women were very beautiful, but the third woman blew them all out of the water. She was blonde-haired and blue-eyed with modelesque curves, outlined by her tight, dark wash jeans and a dark blue bustier. One of her hands clutched at a black leather jacket.

Benjamin’s heart pounded so loudly that he heard its beat reverberate in his head. His throat was dry. He couldn’t feel his hands. The world seemed to stop around him, and nothing mattered anymore except for that magnificent, blonde beauty.

“Hey,” Alex said. “I haven’t seen you guys around before.”

“We’re new,” the blonde said, her voice was beautiful and shining as her body. “I’m Sara. These are my roommates, Amber—”

A small wave from the woman with the lint roller.

“And Daisy.”

A playful bow from the woman in the bohemian dress.

“Alex!” he declared, his greeting ear-piercingly loud and awkward. “It’s wonderful to meet you!”

“Nice to meet you,” Sara replied.

“And I’m—uh—Benjamin.”

Sara flashed a brilliant smile. “Nice to meet you guys. How long have you lived here?”

“Oh, I’ve been here a few years now,” Alex said. “Benjamin—can we just all call you Ben? He doesn’t live here. He was in my Uber when we ran into the fog.”

“The fog?” Amber asked, self-consciously patting her brown hair.

“They were talking about it on the radio,” Benjamin said. “There was a fog that’s been affecting people. I—honest to God—think we ran into a horde of zombies on the way over here.”

Sara laughed.

“Okay, what’s the punchline?” Daisy asked.

“For real,” Amber replied. “Zombies? Are you serious?”

“Yes,” Alex said, nodding fiercely. “We ran into them on the way over. I know it sounds crazy, but there are actual, real zombies out there!”

“Man, what have you been smoking?” Daisy joked. “I want a huff.”

“No kidding,” Sara said.

“Look. I’m sure it’s on the news,” Benjamin said. “We can prove it.”

“Well, it’s not the worst pick-up line I’ve ever heard,” Sara replied. “I mean, we might as well.”

“But it’s not a—” Benjamin began.

Alex grabbed Benjamin’s shoulder. “Three girls are offering to come to watch TV with us,” he hissed. “Don’t blow it!”

Oh!

“Right,” Benjamin said. “Right! We should all go and watch the news!”

Alex grinned and opened his apartment door. “Welcome!” Alex declared.

A blond-haired man peered over the back of a sofa. “Really, Alex, do you have to be so dramatic—I mean, hello, ladies!”

The blond-haired man smiled winningly and strode around to the back of the sofa. “Welcome, please,” he purred, seemingly deliberately playing up an Italian accent. “I am Elijah.”

Benjamin scowled and looked around the apartment, trying to distract himself from the fact that Elijah was such an attractive man. He looked like the sort of man who could win a girl like Sara, and although Benjamin didn’t want to be jealous of him, he couldn’t help but feel a hard twist in his stomach.

The apartment was ridiculously messy. Clothes were draped and piled over the two sofas in the apartment. There were empty Pepsi bottles dotting every shelf. An overflowing trashcan and laundry basket graced two different corners of the room.

“It’s a bit messy in here,” Amber said.

“Oh, that’s our roommate Ted,” Elijah replied. “He’s always leaving his crap everywhere. Like, he’s the absolute worst. He’s always deleting my games, too.”

Elijah waved a hand to the TV, which was playing a baseball game.

“I work on garbage truck collecting waste from movie sets when they’re done, so I usually sleep during the day and end up missing the games. I set them to record, and he always deletes them,” Elijah explained, rolling his eyes.

“And steals food,” Alex added. “You can’t have anything without Ted taking it.”

Sara delicately picked her way across the apartment and took a seat on the sofa. The three men exchanged looks with one another. Benjamin made to take the seat beside Sara, but before he could, Elijah slid into the empty space beside her. “Hello, what’s your name, beautiful?”

“Sara,” she replied.

“Very nice. Princess. A perfect name for a lovely lady.”

Could he lay it on any thicker?

Benjamin grabbed the empty sofa, shoving aside a pile of folded shirts, as he sat. Amber and Daisy had wedged themselves onto the sofa beside Elijah, leaving Alex to sit beside Benjamin.

Between the two sofas, there was a coffee table with an expected assortment of clutter on it. Books, mail, and magazines all warred for space.

Puzzlingly, though, there was a massive white bust of some stately-looking Greek guy resting smack in the middle of the table. Benjamin squinted and realizing that he had no hope for figuring out who the man was supposed to be, pointed a finger at it. “Who is that?” he asked.

“Aristotle!” Alex exclaimed. “See; I went through this huge philosophy phase my first semester of college. I decided that I was going to be some stately and elegant, old professor. Really smart and kind of crotchety. As you do. And I was going to start collecting a bunch of cool stuff to decorate my future office with!”

“And what happened?” Benjamin asked.

“It turns out I hate philosophy,” Alex said cheerfully.

“Uh, can you guys pipe down?” Elijah asked. “I missed what the commentators said.”

“We need to watch the news anyway,” Benjamin said.

“Dude, my game is on,” Elijah replied, sweeping a hand to the TV. “Are you kidding me?”

“No, it’s serious,” Alex said. “The zombie apocalypse has finally broken out! Legit, dude!”

Sure it has,” Elijah drawled.

Alex swiped the remote off the coffee table between the two sofas.

“Hey!” Elijah exclaimed.

Alex mercilessly switched the channel, flipping quickly through the channels until he reached a news station.

A blonde newswoman wearing a bright, cobalt-blue dress appeared on-screen. “Again,” the woman said, “The Center for Disease Control is recommending that everyone stay inside and lock their doors. A very thick fog is filling the air, and scientists believe—at this time—that the fog contains a virus, which results in zombie-like symptoms in people who inhale it. The White House has released a statement, urging people not to panic.”

“There really are zombies?” Sara asked. “Are you serious?”

“Holy crap,” Elijah said.

“Maybe we can reason with them,” Daisy said. “I can imagine that zombies would have lots of interesting things to say.”

“Until they ate you!” Alex exclaimed, frantically waving his arms. “They tried to eat Benjamin and me!”

“So I guess we ought to hunker down somewhere,” Sara mused.

It seemed like Sara was pretty and smart. Benjamin bit the inside of his cheek. A girl like her would never go for a guy like him, but he still couldn’t help but feel a dull ache in his chest. It was if Leslie, his now ex-girlfriend, had created a hole that was begging to be filled.

“That sounds good,” Benjamin replied.

“I wonder if all of our stuff has been moved in yet,” Daisy said.

Amber got up and walked to the window. “It hasn’t!” she exclaimed. “I don’t see the moving guys anyway, but our stuff is all over the parking lot!”

“What?” Daisy asked.

“No way!” Sara exclaimed, storming over to the window. “I can’t believe it! Those jerks!”

The girls crossed their arms and turned away from the window.

“We can help!” Alex exclaimed, bouncing on the sofa.

“Help?” Benjamin asked. “There’s a fog with a zombie virus in it!”

“But the fog isn’t to us yet,” Elijah noted, “And surely, we would not be so rude as to abandon such lovely ladies in their hour of need.”

Please,” Sara said, batting her eyelashes. “That would be ever so wonderful.”

Her eyes were so blue, like the sky on a cloudless day.

Benjamin felt a lump in his throat.

“If we leave it there, it might get stolen,” Sara said.

“That would be so terrible,” Amber added.

“The most horrible thing since my dad missed Haley’s comet,” Daisy said.

“We’ll have to be fast,” Benjamin replied.

They all hurried downstairs and grabbed furniture. Benjamin had never tried to lift anything remotely heavy in his life, and he very quickly realized just how puny his muscles were.

Watching Elijah and Sara man a massive sofa upstairs was possibly the most emasculating thing Benjamin had ever experienced. Benjamin himself had tried to lift the sofa, but it was far too heavy. And as if that blow to his masculine pride wasn’t enough humiliation, Elijah proceeded to show him up.

Benjamin’s only consolation was that Alex also seemed incapable of lifting anything very heavy, and like Benjamin, he had been designated to the role of side-lamp carrier.

Daisy and Amber each carried boxes; they took the elevator. Because their sofa was too big, Elijah and Sara navigated the narrow stairwell with their cargo. Benjamin and Alex took up the rear.

“Sara is really hot,” Alex said.

“Yeah,” Benjamin replied, more quietly than Alex.

Sara was quite a way’s ahead of them, and Benjamin doubted that Sara could hear them. Still, it wasn’t worth taking a risk. Benjamin knew he probably didn’t have a chance with a woman like Sara, but that still didn’t mean he wanted to shoot himself in the metaphorical foot.

“Like smoking,” Alex added.

“Definitely.”

“I think she thinks I’m a total goof,” Alex said. “What do I do? Do you think I have a chance with her?”

“We literally just met,” Benjamin pointed out. “I have no way of knowing whether or not you have a chance with her.”

“Oh! You’re right!”

Alex grunted and shifted his lamp, nearly knocking Benjamin in the face with it. “Maybe if I slay a couple of zombies, she’ll like me more. Do you think? Girls like that, right?”

“I don’t know,” Benjamin replied, wrinkling his nose.

He couldn’t imagine that many people really liked rotting and bloodied flesh.

“She might think it was hot,” Alex insisted. “I mean, I’m terrible with words, but I could probably manage to kill a zombie. An army of zombies! That would be super-hot.”

“Uh huh.”

Benjamin thought of all the terrible diseases that you could get from blood or decaying flesh. Yeah, zombie slaying was definitely the most romantic thing in the world. Mostly, he was hoping that Sara might be just a little bit impressed that he was helping her carry all her stuff up the stairs.

Benjamin deposited the lamp in the mostly empty apartment. His arms ached. He looked up and realized for the first time that Sara wore high heels, and she’d managed to carry half of that giant sofa upstairs like she was some sort of Amazonian war goddess.

Clearly, there was no God. If there was, God would have been merciful and struck Benjamin with lighting just to spare him any more embarrassment.

“I think that’s everything,” Sara said, putting her hands on her hips. “Nice job.”

Her smile made Benjamin’s knees feel weak.

“Great job, Elijah! You’re a lifesaver!” Sara exclaimed.

Okay, Benjamin was definitely not in a coma. He was in some sort of nightmare or purgatory. The hottest girl he’d ever seen was completely enchanted with another man. Of freaking course.

“Thank you,” Elijah said. “I try.”

“So what do we do now?” Amber asked. “The fog is getting closer. I can see it now.”

“I’m tired,” Daisy said, melodramatically throwing herself over the sofa. “I think we should burn some incense and just have…zen.”

“Zen?” Alex asked.

“It’s what she does,” Sara explained. “It’s kind of like meditation.”

“I see,” Elijah replied.

“I was thinking more of an end of the world party myself,” Sara said.

“That’s great!” Alex exclaimed. “I love the idea of having an end of the world party! We’ve got tons of beer in our apartment. And snacks. We have Dorito’s.”

Sara smiled. “Sounds like a blast,” she said.

“Yeah! We survived the Mayan calendar,” Daisy said, “So I’m sure we’ll survive this. It’ll be easy!”

But the Mayan calendar hadn’t actually brought about the end of the world. This fog seemed to be bringing actual, brain-eating zombies.

***

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