Safe Haven Village
Chapter 1written by confunded - illustrated by Nowhere and Samara/ContemplatingSketches
It started during the camping trip they took after graduation. Or at least, that's when it reached South Park. Or, fuck it, maybe it started in South Park. It wasn't as if anyone would be surprised by that. It didn't matter, really; however it began, the important thing was that by the time Kenny and the rest of his friends drove back into town, something was wrong.
That something was that the town had become infested with zombies.
"What the fuck?" Cartman muttered, more to himself than anyone else, as he navigated around the slow, stumbling husks. The streets were mostly clear, with only a few of them wandering about, but it didn't take long for everyone to jump to the same conclusion. The town itself was dark, bleak-looking despite the sunny day, and the only sounds came in the form of undead groans. Kenny wasn't sure what to think; usually by the time something like this reached such magnitude in their town, he'd already been dead for days.
The noise from their car attracted a few of them, so they pulled into Cartman's garage and ran into the house as quickly as possible. Locking the doors could only help so much, so the next step was to gather in the basement and hope that if any zombies broke into the house, they wouldn't know where to look for the living. Cartman immediately commanded everyone to sit down at his meeting table. It hadn't been used since middle school, but if anything called for a serious meeting, this would be it.
Kenny wasn't surprised that Cartman jumped at the chance to take charge, but he wasn't going to complain about it either. For his part, he wasn't one to panic in these situations. After all, he'd died in worse ways before - had even been a zombie at one point already - but no one else was so experienced in death and a little guidance was necessary, even if it was from Cartman.
"Did everyone make it?" Wendy asked, her voice shaking.
Kenny glanced around and saw that everyone who had been crammed into Liane Cartman's van was indeed sitting at the table: Cartman, Stan, Kyle, Wendy (who had gone with them because she was dating Stan), Bebe (who had gone because Wendy went), and Butters. And, of course, Kenny himself. He figured they would have noticed if someone was attacked on the way from Cartman's garage to his basement, but it didn't hurt to do a quick head count.
"So... what do we do now?" Bebe asked cautiously, once everyone was accounted for. "We can't stay down here forever."
She was right, of course, and the room erupted with sound within seconds. Everyone began talking over each other, offering different advice on how to deal with their situation and arguing about it as though any one of them should have been prepared for something like this.
It didn't take long for Cartman to step in. "Everyone! SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Silence fell. "If all of you assholes are finished making enough noise to bring hundreds of zombies to my front door, I suggest we get started here."
He looked around, daring anyone to talk back. No one did. Kenny looked over at Kyle, who was the only one who might have argued, but he was sitting with Stan looking petrified.
"First thing's first... the zombie apocalypse has apparently happened."
Butters gasped. Cartman rolled his eyes.
"Or maybe not," Wendy offered immediately, giving Butters an unconvincing smile.
"Whatever, Wendy. You're welcome to go back outside if you want to, if you actually believe that. But what we just saw driving into town suggests that you should fucking stop babying Butters," Cartman snapped. Wendy glared, and no one made a move to defend her. After all, Cartman was right. "And Butters, don't you dare start living in denial because of her. The town is full of zombies, and if the movies are anything to go by, the rest of the world is full of them too."
"Or it could be like last time," Stan suggested. "And it's just the town, and we just have to... what did we have to do?"
"Kill the one that started it all," Kenny offered bitterly. Of course they wouldn't remember how that actually ended, naturally, because it involved killing him. He looked at Kyle, the one who did the deed, and judged, by his blank expression, that no memories had suddenly clicked into place.
"Right," Stan continued. "And then everyone else got better."
"How are we going to find out who that was without just killing all of them in the process?" Bebe scoffed." We weren't here when it started!"
"Somehow I doubt this was caused by putting Worcestershire sauce in a dead body instead of embalming fluid," Kyle said, speaking up for the first time. His face was stark white, and it struck Kenny as odd that of all people, he would be the one most afraid of all this. "And even if it was, we have no way of knowing that without-"
"The Jew's right, we're going to have to kill them all anyway."
"That isn't what I said, Cartman! There could still be a cure. Just... Bebe's right, we can't waste time trying to figure out which one of them will magically turn everyone else back to normal. We'll just end up killing people who might not need to be killed, who might have a chance-"
"Kyle, please, they aren't people anymore."
"They could be! There could be a way to undo it!"
"Even if we could do that, Kyle, why would you want to?" Wendy asked. "You saw the ones who were following our car. Some of them had limbs missing and their... you know, their guts hanging out. Curing the zombie thing wouldn't fix that."
"So you're saying we're all fucking orphans now?"
The room grew silent, and Kenny finally realized why Kyle looked so scared. While everyone else had been focused on their own safety, Kyle had been thinking about his family's. It started to sink in, for himself and for everyone else, that they all might have to confront their parents and siblings... or what used to be them.
He glanced up at the sound of sniffling, and saw that Butters and Bebe had both begun to cry. Kenny felt his own throat tighten; he wasn't particularly sad for his parents, who had always been violent, neglectful drug addicts, or Kevin, who had taken an unnatural liking to Karen once she started to go through puberty. His sister, though...
No. He shook his head, not wanting to think about what might have happened to Karen. Not yet. She could still be fine.
"We should go to our houses and look for them. Maybe they're okay. Maybe they've been hiding out somewhere," he said, and there was a murmur of agreement.
"Or we could always try calling them," Wendy suggested, looking like the last thing she wanted to do was leave Cartman's basement. "Our cell phones might still work."
"Fine, Wendy's right. We can call them," Cartman said before looking up at the ceiling thoughtfully. "God damn, I didn't even think about my zombie-mom hanging around upstairs."
They listened for footsteps and were met with only an eerie silence. Gradually, everyone began to take their phones out, but no one made a move to call anyone. No one wanted to be met with voicemail, or worse - nothing at all, because that would mean the worst might have happened.
"We have to," Stan said, breaking the silence. He looked around, meeting only frightened faces. Finally, he made the first move and lifted his phone to his ear.
With bated breath, they waited. And waited. And after a minute, Stan let his hand fall to his side, face white and unsure. No one had to ask why. With some resistance, everyone forced themselves to call their loved ones. No one got any answers, only voice recordings or silence. Kenny only heard Karen's excited voicemail message, which she made that Christmas when she finally got her own cell phone.
"We can still look for them," Stan said quietly, more to Kyle than the rest of the group.
Bebe hummed thoughtfully. "I'm going to call Red too. And Annie."
"That's a good idea, there've got to be some survivors."
"Don't say survivors like that, like there's no hope for anyone who's already... there could be a cure," Kyle mumbled the last part, as if he didn't actually expect anyone to listen to him. They didn't.
Kenny scrolled through his phone and paused on Craig's name. They'd been hanging out a lot recently, but he bluntly refused to go on the camping trip, stating that all of Kenny's ?other friends' were extremely lame. Clyde wanted to go because Bebe was going, but Craig put his foot down and Clyde stayed home with him. Kenny had been secretly glad about that, because Clyde was dating Bebe and Kenny had been sort of in love with her for a long time. This trip gave him the opportunity to get some alone time with her, even though it didn't lead to anything more than good conversation. He regretted being so selfish now; he could have bribed Craig somehow, forced him into going. Then they'd be safe, too.
But there was still a chance, even if it was small. So Kenny called him.
Everyone stopped dead and all talking ceased. No one seemed to breathe for a few moments.
"Kenny? Where the fuck are you? If you're still camping you'd better stay there because this town is fucking overrun-"
"Yeah we came back just now..."
"Where are you?"
"Cartman's basement. All of us. Where're you?"
"We're in my basement."
"I'm with Clyde and Kevin."
Kenny cupped his hand over his phone and turned to the group. "Craig's alive, and so are Clyde and Kevin. They're at Craig's house."
"Tell them to get the fuck over here," Cartman snapped, talking over Bebe's relieved sobs. "We need manpower and an explanation."
Nodding, Kenny brought his phone back up to his ear. "Can you get here?"
"Yeah. If we're not over in ten minutes, consider us goners."
"Don't say-" A click, and silence. Kenny rolled his eyes, but he was going to be seriously pissed off if they didn't make it and the last thing Craig did was hang up on him.
"Are they coming?" Bebe asked, and Kenny nodded. She smiled and wiped her tears on her sleeve, and Kenny wished he'd asked her out sometime before all this. Not that he had anything to offer her - he could barely afford to put shoes on his own feet, let alone hers, and Clyde was known to spoil his girlfriends. Besides, Kenny had always known that his unfortunate tendency to have 'extended absences' from life would get in the way of having a real girlfriend.
There was very little talking while they waited for their friends to arrive. No one really knew what to say. Kenny certainly didn't. There wasn't much to say, not until they knew more about what was going on, and not while they waited to see if the other three made it to Cartman's basement alive. He occupied himself with thoughts of Bebe and what might happen if he put his arm around her now, determined not to think about what was happening around them.
After what felt like an hour, the basement door creaked open. "Don't shoot, we're human!" came the voice of Kevin Stoley, sounding unnecessarily happy considering their situation.
What they looked like coming down the stairs was oddly unexpected. The three boys were dressed to the nines in survival gear and hunting equipment, all of which looked unnatural on them. Kevin and Clyde were also wearing huge backpacks that contained God only knew what, and Kevin, at least, looked like he was experiencing some sort of adrenaline rush.
Stan stared. "...What."
"If you're seriously surprised that we came prepared, Marsh, then you need to think harder about what the fuck is out there right now," Craig said as he carelessly dropped his crossbow onto the table.
"Tell us then, because we really don't know," Kyle snapped, and Kenny suspected he wasn't sure whether or not to be glad that Craig was alive.
"Four days ago, a couple of them wandered into town and then people just started dropping like flies... I mean, one bite and you're basically done. Some people tried to rally the town together and fight, but..." Craig glanced at Stan. "It didn't really work. By that time they just got overwhelmed and... yeah."
"You're talking about my dad," Stan said flatly. Kenny saw Kyle reach for his hand under the table, but Stan moved it away.
Craig nodded. "He did his whole ?town leader' thing. But... this is serious. His group was small, too many people turned already and most of the ones who didn't were too afraid and decided to hide instead. But they've all been found by now, too."
"The whole world's gone to shit. It was like one day there were news reports of some kind of outbreak and then the next day, nothing. All the TV stations were on standby, and then no radio, and then no electricity..." Clyde trailed off, looking far more put off by everything than either Craig or Kevin did. "We're so out of the way, South Park was probably one of the last places hit. You're really lucky that you and Craig's cell phones are still working; the cell towers are probably all going out by now."
"Verizon, man," Craig said, shrugging.
"So how did you survive?" Wendy asked, eyeing their arsenal of equipment.
"Dudes, I was prepared for this thing. I've been prepared," Kevin said in a tone that was absurdly proud. "I've had a zombie survival kit for like, years. I tried to convince my whole family, but they thought it was stupid..." His smile faltered, and no one had to ask what happened to them.
"Is that it?" Butters asked, pointing to Kevin's backpack.
"Yup. First aid kit, flashlights, spare batteries, my sleeping bag," Kevin confirmed, ticking off his fingers as he listed. "A hatchet, a few maps, a folding shovel, matches, some dehydrated food, water, uhh... my clothes and shit. Some toilet paper, a multi-tool, a couple of pocket knives, rope, playing cards-"
"Okay we get the picture," Cartman said. "God damn it, Kevin. And here I thought you were going to show up with your stupid plastic lightsaber."
"A lightsaber would come in handy for this. Only a real one, though."
Cartman rolled his eyes.
"The only thing I don't have is a tent, because my backpack got kind of full and I forgot to grab my family's from the basement, you know, in all the panic."
"We still have our tents and all the camping stuff in Cartman's van," Bebe said.
"Sweet, so you're like halfway there for when we go on the road."
"On the road?"
"We can't leave yet," Kyle said, sounding slightly panicked.
Kevin sighed. "We have to go on the road some time. Everyone who knows anything about zombie movies knows that we need to go to the coast or up north or something. If we stay, we'll run out of supplies and we'll never be able to thin out the population just sitting here forever."
"Thin out the population?!"
Stan coughed and gave Kyle a look, ending any further argument against killing the zombies by suggesting, "We could also secure the town and stay here."
"If South Park was prepared for apocalyptic conditions, I'd say sure. But if you haven't noticed yet and weren't listening before, there's no electricity. Once the sun goes down, you'll be down here in the dark," Kevin said, pointing to the couple of hopper windows near the basement ceiling. "No electricity means no heat. Are you prepared to stay here all winter with no heat?"
No one argued with that.
Kevin shrugged his backpack off his shoulders and knelt down to root through it. Seconds later, he produced some maps and dumped them onto the table. "So, there are a few places we can go. First, there's a government survival center built into Cheyenne Mountain. It was built for nuclear blasts or something but it would totally work for this, too. It would only take a couple hours to get to the mountain and then it's just a matter of finding the place. If it's, for some reason, inaccessible or overrun, there are other options. We can head east. There are some bunkers in the D.C. area and the Adirondacks built for national disasters. Either they're empty and usable, empty and unusable, or they'll have other survivors. Two out of three of those options sound good to me. Right?"
- Nowhere -
Everyone nodded, amazed and grateful that Kevin bothered to do research in advance. Kenny watched his finger move around the map and could barely follow what he was saying, only able to process the word ?survival'. In his experience, surviving seemed highly unlikely, but if his friends could manage it then he'd go along with anything. He'd throw himself in front of a pack of them if it meant the others would live. He'd always come back, but once they were gone...
"Damn, Kevin, if I'd known you were doing this two weeks ago I would have laughed at you and kicked you in the nuts for being a fucking loser," Cartman muttered, brows furrowing as he examined the red markings on Kevin's map.
"Well someone has to prepare for these things. Besides, zombies are cool. Or, they were cool, you know... before they actually happened..."
"Before we go anywhere, you guys need better gear," Craig noted. "And more supplies."
"My uncle owns - owned - a gun store." Stan cringed as he was forced to use the past tense.
"Perfect! We'll have to go there," Kevin said as he zipped his backpack up. He stood and slung it back over his shoulder. "Well let's get going! There are a couple hours of daylight left, I bet we can hit a few houses."
A few of them glanced uneasily at each other, unprepared to face the reality of what was happening, and, more importantly, the prospect of seeing their undead families.
Wendy was the one to finally voice it. "What happens if we see someone we love?"
"You're going to have to put them down," Kevin answered seriously. "Craig and I already have... and then some. It's been tough. But... necessary."
"Necessary is putting it lightly," Craig muttered.
"Think of it this way - would you rather have them walking around for eternity, decomposing but still moving, never resting and never satisfied? This is more humane. It's hard to look your mom in the eye and then hack into her skull, but... really, it wasn't my mom. And it wasn't my sister. They were walkers."
"Walkers, Kevin, seriously?"
"We all know that nobody in zombie stories actually calls them zombies. And as someone who owns every volume of The Walking Dead in individual issues and compendiums, I feel most comfortable using ?walkers', Cartman. Also way to interrupt me while I was talking about killing my own sister, dude."
"You actually did it though? What if there's a cure?" Kyle chimed in, cutting Cartman's retort off.
"Kyle, dude, there's not going to be a cure. There's never a cure. Even training them like they did at the end of Shaun of the Dead was really pushing it, even for a comedy."
"This isn't a fucking movie, Kevin, this is real life!" Kyle shouted, beginning to get hysterical.
"And honestly, that makes a cure even less likely. Who the hell is going to make a cure? A team of walkerologists who magically all survived and are holed up somewhere in a secret lab?"
That shut Kyle up, which was a good thing. Whatever was out there would be able to hear them if they grew too loud.
"Weren't you upset about it at all?" Bebe asked, her eyes still red and wet. She'd gravitated to Clyde's side at some point and their fingers were intertwined tightly.
"Not really," Craig said. "My family was a bunch of assholes anyway."
"He's lying, he was upset. It is sad, don't get me wrong. It's just... dudes, in the apocalypse, you do what needs to be done. No use dwelling on it. Personally, it was more upsetting seeing my fam like that than actually doing the deed."
"We also had to put Tweek and his parents down," Craig added. "He had one of those retarded apocalypse kits in his closet too... I thought he was insane when he first told me about it. But now... well, we had to get to it, obviously."
Kevin nodded and then jerked his thumb at the staircase behind him. "We really need to get a move on, though. Time is of the essence in an apocalypse setting."
Reluctantly, they each took up a weapon either from Cartman's pre-existing stash or Kevin's, and headed out. It was easier, according to Kevin, to walk to each house, not only because cars made noise, but because the zombies in South Park were spread relatively thin.
"It's good practice," he said, just before swinging his hatchet into a walker's neck. The gurgling sound it made was pretty horrifying, even for Kenny, who was used to the gruesome nature of death. "Once we're out in the real world, there'll probably be more of them. South Park's so out of the way that mostly all the ones that are here were residents, and me and Craig already thinned out a lot of them."
Bebe was the next person to actually kill one. They didn't recognize him as Skeeter until afterward, but quite a few of the ones they put down on the way to her house were completely unrecognizable. It wasn't long before they decided to avoid trying to identify the bodies if at all possible.
"Shouldn't we give them proper funerals?" Wendy asked as they waited for Bebe to gather supplies. Her house was empty, but they remained vigilant as they moved from room to room.
"It would waste too much time and energy. Honestly the faster you stop thinking of them as human, the easier all of this is going to be."
"Kevin, how the hell did you become such an expert?"
"I don't only like Star Wars, you know. I've watched a lot of movies and read a lot of comic books in my day," he replied nonchalantly, peering down the basement stairs for any movement. He whistled once, and when there was no response, he motioned for them to follow him down. "The Zombie Survival Guide is in my backpack, you're all welcome to read it whenever. It's proven to be super helpful so far."
"Would this be okay?" Bebe asked after a minute, taking a somewhat rusty shovel off of the wall. Kevin shined his flashlight on it for a closer look and nodded.
"A good skull bashing weapon that also has multiple other uses. Sweet find."
Once she was ready, they set off to Butters' house. On the way, they ran into a zombie that was very clearly Randy Marsh, despite the entrails hanging out of his shirt and his lopsided, unhinged jaw.
Before anyone could say anything to Stan, he'd already fired two rounds with one of Cartman's pistols - one flew past Randy, but the other hit him, causing him to crumple to the ground. There was silence, and Kenny stepped forward to examine the damage.
"Nothing," he said quietly. "Went right through his eye."
"Its eye," Stan corrected. He looked pale, but his face was grimly serious. "That wasn't my dad anymore."
"Exactly," Kevin said, though he and the others in the group looked uneasy. Witnessing Stan shoot his own father was extremely sobering, even if what he said was true. "But, uh, you want to avoid using guns when you can, that's like, rule number one of not attracting more of them. So it's good to get used to using knives and shit. We should book it to Butters' house before any more of them figure out where the sound came from."
They looked back and saw a couple of them slowly moving toward the group, so there was no argument to doing exactly as Kevin said. Even Cartman seemed to accept that Kevin knew best, at least for the time being.
Butters' house was empty and posed no trouble, and the same went for Wendy's. It wasn't until they got to Clyde's house, with a few more backpacks and an array of unique household ?weapons' in tow, that another unsettling event happened: they ran into Mr. Donovan.
"It's uh... not uncommon in stories for walkers to hang around places they knew in life," Kevin offered unhelpfully. Clyde stood frozen. The walker groaned as it noticed them.
"I can do it for you," Craig said, putting his hand on Clyde's shoulder. They'd learned earlier that Clyde had yet to do any killing himself - Craig and Kevin had taken to the situation much more naturally.
"N-no. I can... you guys wait outside."
Although it felt like they shouldn't leave him alone, Kenny ushered the group outside. Despite his uneasiness, if Clyde wished to do it alone, it was best to respect that. They anxiously waited on the front porch, no one daring to speak or even breathe too loudly. The only sounds were the groaning from inside and Craig muttering ?damn' every time he missed a walker with his crossbow.
"Is he coming back?" Bebe asked no one in particular, and Kenny didn't have the heart to tell her he wasn't sure. Clyde wore a look of grim, tired acceptance when he went inside, as if he was already too drained to deal with everything. Kenny knew that look well; he'd worn it on his own face many times, usually just before he killed himself.
But after a few minutes, Clyde did come back. He stepped outside, covered in blood and clutching his pocket knife. Kenny couldn't help but notice he also had a gun, one that must have belonged to his family, since he didn't have one when he entered the house.
"That was my dad," he whispered hoarsely, blinking tears out of his eyes. "I killed my dad."
"No, Clyde, you-" Bebe started, but before she could reach him or finish her sentence, he had already lifted the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
A few of them cried out as Clyde's body fell to the floor, but Bebe's scream would haunt Kenny forever.