Chapter Thirty

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Max looked back in disbelief.

"We die? What do you mean we fucking die? Why do you all just sit back and take this; why not fight back against them?" Max said accusingly.

"Ha, you think people haven't tried fighting their way out? Believe me, big groups of strong men and women have tried that. Big groups have failed. Big groups were slaughtered," Paulo explained as if it was nothing.

"Well, we can't just sit here and let this happen!" Max shouted to the entire room.

No one batted an eyelid. No one even glanced over at him.

"My friend, it is simple; you fight to survive. That's just how it is here. Hopefully one day we will break free but until then, just don't die," Paulo advised, and with that he was gone, off to his own section of the room.

Max could feel Lizzie's eyes on him, begging him for a solution. He wasn't ready to meet her gaze yet. He wasn't ready to lie to her and tell her it would be okay. For once, Max didn't think he could get them out of this; he was out of ideas.

He couldn't just give up. He had to look busy, keep trying at least; even if it was to just put Lizzie's mind slightly at rest. He pushed himself up from the sofa, ruffling Lizzie's hair before walking to the far end of the room.

As he walked away he could hear Lizzie mumbling, "What am I, a fucking child?"

Max strode confidently over to the corner in which the topless man still laid, curled up in a ball. His head was shaved short, and his features looked young. He couldn't have been more than twenty-five. Blood still stained his topless body, and as Max got closer he could even see dried blood under the man's fingernails.

Max crouched down, putting himself at the man's height. He seemed unstable. The last thing Max wanted to do was startle him.

"Hi, I'm Max, my friend Lizzie and I were wondering if you could answer a few questions," Max said softly, gesturing towards Lizzie.

The man looked at Max, then at Lizzie, then back at Max.

"She's scared man, she shouldn't be here," Max added.

The fact that Max was travelling with a teenage girl seemed to put the man at ease. It made Max seem a lot less threatening.

The man nodded.

"I'm Taylor," he spoke quietly, trembling still.

"Taylor, what happened out there? What did you have to do?" Max asked, trying to keep everything as calm as possible.

"I don't know man. I only got here yesterday. Then they led me out there and..." Taylor whimpered.

"Then what happened mate?" Max questioned.

"They put me in a ring, said I had to fight, and if I won I could come back here. I've never even killed one of those things. They were people man!" Taylor said, getting louder and louder, more and more worked up.

"How many were there, Taylor?"

"I don't know, like twenty, twenty-five maybe. At least I didn't have actual living person," Taylor sobbed, curling back up.

"Thank you Taylor," Max said, putting a hand on the man's shoulder and gripping it tightly for a second. He then patted him twice on the back and stood up once more, returning to the sofa he had left Lizzie on.

"What did you ask him?" Lizzie demanded instantly.

"Just trying to find out more about what we have to fight out there. Seems like Taylor over there had to fend off a whole horde," Max explained.

"Just clickers? We can deal with that," Lizzie smirked.

Max smiled back at her, at least her spirits were higher than his.

"I'm just concerned about who else we might have to fight," Max admitted.

"You mean if they put me up against one of these guys on my own?" Lizzie asked, easily reading Max.

Max didn't reply. How could he?

"Well we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Lizzie began. "Plus, I could beat the shit out of most of this lot anyway," she said a little too loudly.

A few nearby people turned their heads to size Lizzie up.

Max laughed.

"Let's not start the fight until we're out there, kid."

"At least we have time to come up with a plan," Lizzie suggested.

This was a good point; they should probably come up with some kind of game plan, Max thought.

Just as Max opened his mouth to agree, the metal main door screeched open and one man entered, with a few others standing guard outside.

The man had a scrap of paper. He looked down at it and read aloud clearly.

"Max!" he shouted.

Max's heart dropped, Lizzie gasped, and the two looked at each other. It didn't look like he would have much time for a game plan after all.

"Taylor!" the man continued reading.

Taylor shot to his feet immediately, unable to believe what he was hearing.

"What?!" he screamed. "No! There must be some kind of mistake! I was only out there half an hour ago! It can't be me again!"

The man sucked in a huge puff of air.

"Oh, I'm sorry sir, there must have been a mistake; let me check again," he replied to the shaking Taylor.

"Yes, yeah, that'll be it, a mistake!" Taylor stammered.

"Nope, Taylor it is," the man smirked, sadistically toying with the man in front of him.

Taylor collapsed to his knees, whimpering and crying into his hands.

Max despised himself for it, but part of him was thinking how easy it would be to beat him. Would he be able to though? To kill another man? He honestly had no idea; it was something he never wanted to find out. But he would...soon.

"You'll be fine Max, make sure you get yourself back here safe." Lizzie said, softly tugging at his jacket.

"Oh, I almost forgot; and Lizzie!" The man announced, reading from his paper.

He grinned evilly over at the two of them.

"You have ten minutes to prepare. Good luck," he winked, before exiting the room and locking the door behind him.

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