~ Chapter Thirty-Nine ~

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Perri opened the door to the outside world, the group squinted at the light as they cautiously followed her out.

They all stuck closely behind Perri when they were suddenly confronted by an enormous mass of infected.

But the dead did not attack. They simply remained still and watched with an unprecedented calmness.

It was so quiet in the outside world. All Perri could hear was the shaky breaths that she and her companions were taking as they stood utterly vulnerable before the horde.

Before the stillness became too overwhelming, the infected directly ahead of the group began to move. Parting down the center of the crowd creating an aisle.

Perri swallowed the lump in her throat. She was not so much worried for her own safety, but that of her friends, and she began to walk forward.

Gavin, with Madi in his arms, followed closely behind Perri as they walked up the aisle.

Norman held Skeet tight to his side but made sure to keep his son between himself and Gavin. Just in case.

While Luke, hand ready to pull out his gun, brought up the rear.

After walking about twenty meters, Perri came face to face with an infected who seemed to have been waiting for her.

Stopping before the male infected, the others gathered at her flank and Gavin set Madi down on her feet by Perri.

He was tall, wore a red shirt and blue jeans. His short, dark hair was messy but complemented his deep blue eyes.

There was intelligence in his eyes when he beheld Perri and her friends.

He looked to his left arm and twisted it up for Perri to see the rather fresh-looking bite mark on his flesh.

Their eyes met again.

You're still in there, aren't you... Perri thought when she gazed into those two blue pools and saw the soul of a man. A living man in need of help.

Perri looked around her, really looked. She didn't see dead eyes peering back at her anymore.

She saw hope.

They all need my help...

Then she tried not to flinch as the infected man slowly raised a hand to her face which startled her.

They locked eyes as he gently touched a finger to her cheek below her bloodshot eye. He held it there for a moment before drawing an invisible line down her cheek, to her neck, and past her collarbone, ending at her chest over her heart.

He softly pressed his palm to her chest and with his free hand he took her by the wrist to rest her hand over his own heart.

After placing his hand over the top of hers he gave it a tender squeeze.

Perri looked to their hands together over his chest, then down at his hand over her heart. She looked around at all the other infected that stood quietly watching. She looked over her shoulder at her companions.

Then Perri looked back to the man before her and said, "I understand. We're the same."

The man smiled at her and she smiled back.

Though she couldn't see their faces, Perri knew her friends were smiling too.

But the serene moment was not to last.

A gunshot sounded, accompanied by a thwack and a sickening squelch.

Warm, crimson liquid splattered Perri's neck and right-side of her face.

No, no, no...

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