What the hell am I doing? Aelita wondered as she walked toward the basement-door.
She saw the doorknob turning, and had a feeling whoever was behind the door was alive. But she could not be certain. Picking up a snow-globe on a counter nearby, she made her way to the basement door, and opened.
The assumption the person behind it was alive turned out to be wrong. As soon as she turned the knop, she heard the screech of a walker, and an arm stared reaching for her. She pressed her body against the door to keep it closed, but the walker's arm got caught in the doorway, and kept clawing at her. She tried hitting it with the snow-globe, and could see fingers breaking. That's when she saw Shawn running toward her.
"Get out of the way!" he shouted, carrying a large piece of wood. Aelita dived to her left, and the walker in the basement stumbled into the house, only to be hit by Shawn's board. Abandoning the wood, Shawn resorted to stomping on the walker's head until it was sufficiently dead, getting blood on his new jeans and shirt. Aelita, still on the floor, stared at the body in horror, hyperventilating as she did so. It was only then she saw how young the walker was. Shawn looked at it, and then at the pictures nearby.
"Jesus," he said. He realized the walker used to be the little boy who had lived in the house.
"What the hell were you thinking?" Shawn asked Aelita. "I blocked the door so that this wouldn't happen."
"He was using the knob. I've never seen a walker do that!"
Shawn immediately looked worried.
"What?" Aelita asked.
"Every once in a while, you'll come across a walker like this," he explained. "They're not dumb like the others. They can pick shit up, their movements are more coordinated, and they're a little faster than the others."
"How common are they?"
"Not very, thank God. Why'd you freeze like that?"
Aelita was not sure what he meant.
"You should have just killed him when you saw him. You waited you hesitated. You almost got yourself killed." Shawn's face emanated disapproval.
"He was just a kid! You expect me to smash a little boy's brains in like a bug? That's a human child."
"Oh my God, really? That 'kid' was trying to eat you, Aelita? It's so simple: defend yourself."
Aelita walked up to Shawn, mustering up the most intense look she could.
"Look, just because I feel sorry for these people, people who became monsters after being infected with a sickness, doesn't mean I'm an idiot. Ok? I crossed four states on foot. I've seen people die, I've seen people waste away after being bitten. Just because I feel a shred of empathy for these people doesn't mean I'm a naïve child."
Shawn stared right back at her, before simply saying, "You're half-right."
Shawn walked outside, frustrated. Aelita was angry at him, and wanted to shout at him. But before she could, she heard something else. She heard the steps to the basement creaking. Something was walking on them. She turned to face what it was, and it was a little girl, crawling up the steps. It was not until Aelita saw her face, looked her in the eye, and have her hiss at her that she knew the little girl was a walker.
The girl got up on two legs, and immediately made a break for Aelita. Aelita, although terrified, picked up a vase and smashed the little girl's head with it.
Shawn was outside when he heard the walker's snarl, and got back right when Aelita was eliminating it with a large vase. He was impressed; she had defended herself this time.
Aelita gave him a look, and just shook her head. She walked away from the living room, pissed off at Shawn and disgusted by the corpses near the basement door. Shawn sat down, and started cleaning his guns; the two Smith & Wesson M&Ps.
Something caught Aelita's eye; a walkie-talkie. She picked it up and inspected it. It had all the needed batteries, but the circuitry was damaged. Nothing Aelita could not fix.
A couple hours later, Shawn's attention was grabbed when he heard static. That's when he saw Aelita holding the walkie-talkie.
"You fixed that?" he asked. Aelita smiled, and nodded.
"Damn. Ok, now I am impressed. So you're good with technology?"
"Pretty much," she replied. "My dad taught me a lot about it."
Shawn nodded. "My dad taught me how to shoot guns."
Aelita's silence showed that it was a poor choice of words.
"Sorry, forgot about the whole European thing about firearms."
"Why would anybody teach a teenager to use a gun? I just don't understand it."
"You don't know the gun-culture in the US," he said. "Here in Georgia, it's a big thing, being able to hunt and shoot."
"But why? I mean, it's not like you people need to."
"It was a cultural thing," Shawn replied.
"That explains a lot." Aelita suddenly feared Shawn would be offended by that, but instead he nodded.
"It really was. War-mongering gun nuts; that's probably how France saw my country, right? Well, I'd say the answer was yes and no. Some places, like Georgia, yeah, that description would be accurate. But other places, like New York, or Vermont, or the West Coast; they're not like that. Or, they weren't, I should say."
Aelita felt weird. This was the first time Shawn had seemed to converse about the past; before the walkers. Perhaps she could finally learn something about him; a person she knew so little about.
"You said your parents were divorced? Why?"
"They were doomed to fail," he recalled. "My dad was a gun-owning, conservative Christian, while my mom was a New-Age liberal. I'll never understand why they got married, or even got together in the first place. They got divorced when I was about six."
"I'm sorry," Aelita said. Shawn shrugged.
"They both moved on and remarried other people. After the divorce, my dad started taking me up to North Georgia with him. That's when I learned to shoot guns, hunt, and survive in the wild. He was what you could call an outdoorsman, and I guess I became one.
"When my mom got remarried, she made a much better choice than my dad. He was a guy with a compatible personality, and I learned a lot from him. I mean, this man was a genius. He knew about science, history, religions; I learned a lot from him. I learned a lot from my biological dad, shooting, hunting, and surviving; but my stepfather taught me a lot of intellectual stuff.
"He also had a son, a dude about my age. His name was Maroon. He uh
he pretty much became my best friend. We went to school with each other, and we were known for being smart, socially-awkward; all that stuff. As unlikely as it seems, I was actually a nerd before the walkers."
"Really?" Aelita asked, stunned. "You look more like a jock."
I think. I took class in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, Eskrima, Krav Maga, and some other stuff. One of us, my stepbrother or me, had to learn how to defend ourselves. Assholes all over the school were trying to mess with us. My stepbrother didn't have the work-ethic, so I took the classes, and learned how to fight."
Shawn's nostalgia suddenly turned to sadness, and his expression changed dramatically.
"Are you ok?" Aelita asked.
earlier, you said you weren't 'naïve.' Well, I'm not sayin' this to offend you, but I'm afraid you are. All these times, where you say you can't understand how I can just kill walkers so easily. Well, I can tell you how I can, but it's not a pretty story."
"What happened to you?" she asked. "Don't censor it, I want to know."
"Ok, then," Shawn replied, nodding. His eyes started to water a bit, but he gathered himself, readying to tell his tale.
"I was in school when the walkers first showed up, in Sandy Springs. It was a town north of Atlanta. I sitting in a class with my stepbrother, Maroon, and these two friends of ours; a couple of Chinese foreign-exchange students who went by the names Robert and Rebecca. They
they were good friends of ours. They weren't in the social "In Crowd," like the others, being from another country. They understood us, and we helped them get by in this country.
"Robert was this pretty awesome guy. He was nice, optimistic
you could count on him. And Rebecca
she was a really nice girl. She was great at math and science, but not so much at history or English; stuff I would later help her with."
From the tone of Shawn's voice, Aelita suspected he had harbored romantic feelings for that girl.
"When we first saw the walkers, it was complete panic. They were spreading everywhere, infecting so many people. They, they
we eventually had to leave the school. We weren't dismissed or shit, we just freakin' left. Abandon ship; like that. So, Maroon and I started walking to our house, and invited Robert and Rebecca to come with us. Their host-families they were staying with were too far away."
Shawn suddenly gave a slight laugh. It made Aelita feel uneasy.
"We actually thought that
that this would change. That this would get better in a week or so. That Robert and Rebecca could actually go back to their host families, or hell, even their biological families in China. We were so optimistic
and so goddamn wrong."
Shawn had to stop himself for a moment, but then went on.
"When we got to my mother and my stepfathers' house, that's when everything changed. I put in my key, opened the door
and that's when I saw her. My own mother, with
a big bite in her neck."
Aelita's went to her mouth in shock.
"She tackled me," Shawn continued. "She was trying to bite me, but Maroon kicked her off of me. That's when my stepdad Maroon's father showed up. He had a bite on his arm, and this old Asian sword he owned was sticking out of his chest. That's when we realized how screwed we were, that people bit didn't die. My stepdad lunged at us all four of us but Maroon was quick. He grabbed the sword, pulled it out
of his dad, and stabbed him in the brain. He somehow figured out how to kill those things; walkers. My mom
she was getting back up, about to attack. My stepbrother asked if should he finish her off or should I
and I said it should be me."
Aelita was stunned by all of this. There was no way she ever would have guessed he had been through something so horrifying.
"We left, and went to my father and my stepmothers' house," Shawn started back up, indicating more to the story. "Same result; they were walkers. My dad's guns were gone, and the both had a lot of gunshot wounds. We assumed somebody robbed them."
Shawn looked away for a minute, and then said more. "We put my dad and stepmom down; we just thought it was the right thing to do. Better than leaving them walking around as bodies. It was right after this shit the military bombed Atlanta. And I mean FIREbombed Atlanta. God, it was like Sherman burning the city down again. There were millions of survivors in Atlanta who had fled there in search refuge
and they just burned. Some became walkers, some were too burned to get up. Robert, Rebecca, Maroon, and I were in Smyrna when the bombing happened. We came back up to what was left of Atlanta out of desperation
and Robert was the first one of us to die."
"How?" Aelita asked. She quickly regretted asking.
I don't remember where we were, but Robert walked out on to some platform, and it collapsed. There was a shit-ton of walkers underneath, and he was gone in seconds. We tried to get to him, but once the screams stopped, we knew he was dead."
Robert's death reminded Aelita how Sissi had died.
"We lost Rebecca after that," Shawn said. He looked at Aelita, then continued. "We were looking for some food or supplies by The Varsity, a restaurant in Midtown. Or, at least what was left of it. But then these assholes started shooting at us. I don't know why, but they were trying to kill us. Their shots called walkers from all over the place. The Varsity is right where Georgia Tech and a bigass church used to be. And walkers just started swarming out like ants. The guys shooting at us quickly ran down, and we, Maroon, Rebecca, and me; we all ran like hell. We running across this bridge to get to the highway, but Rebecca tripped. She fell down; hurt her ankle, I think. I called out to her
I tried to save her. But the walkers were too close
and she shot herself. She put it to her temple and pulled the trigger."
Aelita's face was lined with horror and shock. Shawn looked down. Aelita could tell he was trying to hide his sadness; he was like Ulrich in that way.
"I was so angry, when she died. I didn't care what happened to me, I just wanted to kill walkers. Kill the walkers who were eating her body. I just started shooting; just
nailing walkers with my gun."
Shawn picked up the gun on the coffee table.
"This gun," he said. He put it back down. "Maroon actually had to put his gun to my head, and threaten me in order to get me to leave before the walkers killed us. Ironic; he saved me by threatening my life. And a few weeks later, he was gone."
Shawn did not know it, but a tear was running down his face. Aelita put her hand on his shoulder, feeling more empathy for him than she had for anyone in a long time.
"We were over by this shopping center called "The Prado," Shawn suddenly said. "Maroon and me. Not the Spanish Prado, but a shopping center named after it in Sandy Springs. He was in a parking lot near a Target, and he got bit on the ankle by a walker pinned under a car or something. And... and
"We had to run for our lives, and he was getting more sick. And then he looked at me, right in my eyes, and told me to shoot him. He told me to euthanize him."
Aelita's jaw dropped.
"Maroon said, 'I'm bit, I'm going to die anyway.' He said he 'didn't want to be like them.' He gave me his gun, the one of the coffee table. And then
I shot him. With this gun."
He pulled out the gun tucked in his pants. Aelita was beyond shocked, beyond horrified. Disturbed was a better word.
"I killed my best friend," Shawn said with sorrow in his voice. "I killed him because he asked me to. I'm not saying this to be malicious, Aelita, but you are kinda naïve. But it's 'cause you haven't had someone you love reanimate and try to bite you. You haven't had to kill those people in self-defense. You haven't had to put your best friend out of their misery to spare them a more painful death. And personally, I hope you never do."
Shawn looked away, and Aelita could tell he wanted to be left alone. This guy must have had all kinds of psychological trauma. Who the hell wouldn't? Aeltia had read that some people developed PTSD after only three-weeks in a war-zone. Something as horrifying as having to kill loved ones; how could anyone walk away from that?
To alleviate boredom, Aelita started working on the walkie-talkie. It had a very limited range, and she wanted to change that. Soon, with the help of supplies laying around, Aelita constructed a full-fledged radio out if it, which she proudly showed to Shawn.
"Wow," he remarked. "You continue to amaze me. You know, you were right; about talking about stuff, I mean. It helps."
"You're welcome," Aelita said. She unconsciously put her hand on his shoulder. "I can't imagine the horror you've seen, but you don't have to deal with it alone. I lost my parents years ago, and I know how much it hurts."
"Thank you," Shawn said with more emotion in his voice than Aelita had heard him use before. He was looking her right in the eye; his ice-blue eyes meeting her earthly green eyes. Their heads were instinctively moving closer. They didn't even realize what they were doing. Shawn closed his eyes, and Aelita did so as well, before he slowly closed the distance of their mouths. Aelita was receptive for a moment, before she realized what she was doing. She broke off from the kiss like a toddler touching a hot stove, and stood up faster than a soldier at attention.
"Oh, God. Oh my God," she suddenly said.
"Ah hell, what did I mess up now?" Shawn asked.
"It's not you," Aelita replied. "It's
oh my God. I can't believe I just did that."
Aelita quickly walked away. Shawn was greatly confused.
"What the hell?" he muttered, still standing in the living room.
Shawn O'Neal had been a lone survivor for a long time, and it was rare for him to get much sleep. The weeks of sleep deprivation had taken a toll, and now, feeling safe in the house with Aelita, Shawn's body started wearing down. The kiss was a sign; his inhibitions were going away due to the effect of fatigue on his cognitive abilities. Something about telling his story made him feel exhausted. Perhaps it was his anger that gave him energy, and with Aelita, that anger was going away. It made him feel better, but it was also making him weaker. Soon after the awkward kiss, he fell into a deep sleep on the sofa. A sleep so deep Aelita could not wake him up. A sleep so deep he did not hear someone open the front door. A sleep so deep he did not Aeltia scream when she saw it was a walker opening the door.
For the second time, Aelita saw a walker turn a door knob. Only this time it was the front door, and the walker was a woman. Aelita recognized her from the photographs. The whole family; the father, mother, son, and daughter, they were all walkers. None of them had escaped. And now, the last one was lumbering toward Aelita.
"Shawn! SHAWN!" Aelita screamed, trying to wake him. He was so worn out, he didn't even respond. The walker shrieked as she got closer, and that's when Aelita remembered the gun on the coffee table. She picked it up, and aimed it the way Shawn showed her.
"Please, stop," Aelita begged, then fired when the walker nearly grabbed her.
The gunshot woke Shawn up, and startled him greatly. He was stunned by what he saw.
"What the hell happened?"
"I tried to wake you," Aelita said. "I tried to warn you, but you wouldn't wake up. I couldn't leave you to die here, so I had to make a stand. I had to protect you."
"Thank you," Shawn replied, hugging her as he did so. "I'd have died without you. That was a good shot."
"You alright?" Shawn asked. He looked at a window, and saw it was now dusk. Night would be coming soon.
"I don't know," she replied. "She came in the front door, like the young boy."
"Maybe it's genetic," Shawn speculated. That's when Aelita noticed something.
"What's that sound?"
Shawn's face showed a grim look. He knew what it was, but he wanted to be wrong.
"What is it?" Aelita asked again. Shawn walked to the open front door, and stepped outside.
"Shit, they know we're here," he told her.
"Oh my God," Aelita said, seeing all the walkers the recent gunshot had called.
"We need to go," Shawn said. Suddenly, the growls of walker started coming from their sides. Shawn instinctively pulled out the gun in his pants, and started shooting. Aelita did the same with the gun she picked up. Shawn then ran into the house.
"What are you doing?!" Aeltia asked, following him.
"Getting my bag!" Shawn picked up his big, mysterious backpack, and then fled with Aelita.
They left the house, and ran bats out of Hell. But there were so many walkers, and so few places to hide. Eventually, they came to a fork in the road. One way led into town, the other away from it.
"Which way?" Aelita asked him.
"The town will have more walkers, but they'll follow us whichever way we go. We need to split up."
Shawn then slid the backpack off of his shoulder, and handed it to Aelita. It was surprisingly heavy.
"I'll draw their attention. I'll go this way, and distract them. You run down that other path, away from town. Find your friends."
"I'm not leaving you "
"You don't have a choice, Aelita. Listen, that backpack, it's got stuff in there that's important to everyone. And I mean EVERYone. You need to keep it safe. You've got friends; they'll help you protect it."
"You really think I'll leave you to die to save a backpack?" she asked.
"Aelita, you'll be doing a lot of good for a lot of people if that backpack stays safe. Now go, PLEASE!" Shawn pleaded. Aelita finally nodded.
"Keep your gun with you," she told him. "And don't give up. I'll find you,"
"Keep that backpack safe."
They split up; one each running down a different path. Aelita heard Shawn shooting in distance, but did not stop. There was the heroic, chivalrous thing to do, and then there was the smart thing that would keep Aelita alive. Knowing she would regret it, she chose the smart thing, praying that Shawn would somehow get out alive.
I do not own Code Lyoko, any of its characters, or The Walking Dead. Code Lyoko is owned by Moonscoop, while The Walking Dead is owned by AMC studios and Robert Kirkman.