The Emerald Necropolis



Elder Commander John Hamblin took one last moment to admire the range of steel towers gleaming in the sun against a boundless blue sky and over the crashing waves of Lake Michigan. It was a moment that perfectly captured the majesty and might of the iconic skyline.
It was in stark contrast to what remained. Time had ravaged his emerald city. The low howl of the icy winds racing through the concrete canyons was the only thing that could be heard in the frozen necropolis. The roaring winter engulfed the sky with the drab gray shroud that hid the sun like an eternal curtain that was covering the world in white.
The steel leviathans built generations ago with summits that reached into the clouds were now just hollow relics. They were nothing more than rusted out steel skeletons that peaked out of the snow covered landscape like corpses buried in shallow graves.
The Mid-West winter had closed on them like a trap. The Ammonites, the rugged regiment of the Helaman army that had traversed the western plains, scaled the mountain of the west, and forded the Mississippi were immobilized by the mounting snow and wind that felt like the serrated teeth of a knife carving into flesh.
Gunshots rang out from the cluster of buildings. John recognized the clattering of the standard issued Mormon guns. More joined the first but they quickly fell silent, there was the sound of screams, and then the desolate silence settled in again.
This pattern had repeated itself again and again. The indomitable savages who occupied the ruins were systematically destroying the positions his scattered troops occupied in the urban maze. The enemy roamed the rubble like rats, silent and unseen. Even in the blinding snow they seemed able to navigate their way through every corridor, unhindered by the piles of concrete and twisted steel that choked what remained of the city's streets. They emerged from the white and struck with a speed and frenzy the Mormon soldiers were unprepared for.
The massacre went on for days. John and his men could hear the slaughter even from the depths of their concrete shelter. Usually, they happened at night when what little light was allowed to filter through the gray sky vanished.  After the fighting stopped. They could hear the chilling pleas of men being dragged to a fate unknown somewhere deep in the bowels of the devastated hellscape. There were morning when they found crimson streaked snow gleaming in the soft light of dawn only feet away from the entrance of the garage. They could see the fires flickering in the distance the billowing black smoke carried with it a nauseating stench rumored to be human flesh.
John took a good hard look at the abandoned citadel and his heart sank. Ever since he was a child, it had been his dream to capture Chicago and bring back the treasures from the crossroads of the old empire.
As the Mormon soldiers stretched the borders of their holy kingdom the way from central California to the plains of the Midwest heroes were being born with every new campaign. Men who would be remembered as the masons who layed the foundation for the Terrestrial Kingdom, John was certain he would join the ranks of legendary soldiers. His legacy would be cemented when he captured and restored  Chicago.
 The idyllic image of this lost city is what had inspired his belief in destiny. Entering the city was going to be the pinnacle of his years on earth the summation of a life's mission.
He slipped the picture back into the pocket of his coat and sighed. The icy wind gusted and froze the tears running down his cheeks. He lowered his head and the dejected commander walked past the perimeter guards and descended back into the dark mouth of the concrete cave where what remained of his regiment was buried.
The ramp opened up into a wide area filled with the rusted remains of cars abandoned there decades ago. The vast underground facility was now only silent catacombs buried beneath the city. They were a mass grave, dark, drafty confines littered with human remains that even the rats saw as being no longer edible.
They gathered up what they could and dumped it down into the pitch black level below. It wasn't long before they were leaving their own dead down there. They were sitting on top of a corpse pit. Where things even more awful then the vermin plaguing them feasted on the decaying scraps of humanity they discarded into the impenetrable black.
The soldiers gathered around in the center of the wreckage in a circle around a fire. Their bodies shivered, and they kept their numb and reddened hands just inches from the flames.
What was left of them was withering away from the constant hunger and their flesh was blackened with frostbite. They stared off into emptiness with eyes every bit as hollow as the ruins they were trapped in. They were no longer men but fresh corpses in an ancient graveyard.
John crumbled up the old picture and tossed it into the fire. The flames flared and devoured the portrait of the past.
 Finn was a full 11 years younger than his brother the Elder commander. He was the last boy their parents had after John. His older brother requested he were there when his regiment captured Chicago, so Finn complied and found a place among his brother's staff officers. The ambitious young officer hoped this would be a learning experience for when he had a regiment of his own, but his field trip turned out to be as big a disaster as his brother's pipedream of a Lazarus-like miracle for the abandoned city.
His brother hadn't led them to the new center of the kingdom like he promised. He had marched them into a slaughter house. Finn watched with childlike helplessness as the pathetic remains of the disease ravaged army was massacred by unseen assailants that attacked them from the dark conclaves of the looming buildings that surrounded them on all sides.
The frightened soldiers opened fire in every direction, but it did little to stop the attack. Heavy jagged chunks of concrete began to rain from the peaks of the crumbling towers. They crushed soldiers below. In mere moments, the regiment ceased to exist.
The men scattered in a mad dash for safety.
He had never lived in a moment so vividly yet remember it so dimly. He was rushed away by his brother and some soldiers through the snow. They were herded into the tunnels honeycombing the earth beneath the city descending so deep it was like falling into hell.
The hapless officer survived the ambush only to be fatally wounded by the bite of a  rodent inhabiting the darkness. Just like that Finn had been condemned to die.
The virus moved quickly. It used his blood stream like a river and flowed through his body, crawled up his spine, and began consuming his brain. It wasn't long before the sickness induced its terrifying madness.
He would spend the last of his days in an old utility closet was where the commander's younger brother Finn was being quarantined. His body shook with chills, but his flesh like it was on fire. He convulsed, and his tongue spoke the language of insanity. His hair was matted, and his clothes clung to his skin with a cold sweat.
 There were times when his hands would claw at the material of his sleeping bag and his chattering teeth felt like they were about to shatter, and suddenly there was darkness. He would awake to a hazy world, his muscles sore with the pain of the contraction. He existed somewhere on the line between life and a dream, somewhere in the light of life and the shadow of death.
The boys days were quickly growing shorter. He was in and out of seizures; his convulsing body expelled his infected blood into the air during long bouts of coughing and choking on the saliva flooding his mouth. His moments of lucidity were rare
 John and his last remaining medical officer watched in despair and impotence wondering when he would finally slip away into peaceful death or irreparable insanity. He talked when he was alone; the men could hear him through the rusty steel door conversing with shadows and screaming at his memories.
His perceptions were often blurred in a confusing mixture of hallucinations and dreams Something his slowly swelling brain could no longer distinguish.
Guilt tormented him as much as the illness and his deteriorating brain exasperated the feelings of despair. For better or for worse he was still rational enough to know he may have been able to save them all.
Dreams begin much as life does. Somewhere along the way we become sentient, we can never remember when or how and none of us ever recovers from that amnesia, but there is little time or inclination to think about it. Dreams like life propel us forward to a conclusion that may either be the chaotic machinations of chance or something already foregone. It's never clear if what happens is by our will or if we are just floating through a story already written.
 His eyes opened. He was back on the plains and only a few hours march from the city. Save for a few foundations and patched of cracked asphalt there was almost no trace of the city in the fields of grass laying wilted in the dirt waiting to arise again in the touch of the vanished sun.
 The wet ground and constant rain made fires nearly impossible, so the soldiers slept in the cold. They shivered in their tents. The horizon they were marching into seemed every bit as vast as the tapestry of the ebony sky that blanketed all of creation it was vast void dotted by distant lights, burning fragments of time swallowed by the emptiness.
Finn looked up at the eternal night sky and wondered who or what those lights used to be and what it was like in their distant domains in eternity. The full moon hung like an ornament in the clouds glowing bright enough for the silhouettes of the grave diggers to cast their form in the pale light. Thier frozen breath rose into the air like the steam from a working engine. The grave diggers always started their work before dawn. They made their rounds through the camp collecting the dead and hastily burying them as if they were a dirty little secret.
Finn watched them with detachment but not apathy. He had watched before, close enough to see the dirt fall across their faces. He watched shadows bury other shadows and thought about the day the ground would take him.
There were five diggers churning up the dark mud trying to work against the flow of the viscous dirt from falling back into the hole. Lined up just behind them were five human-sized cloth sacks. The soldier just left from the center. Heaved a shovel's load over his shoulder and exchanged glances with Finn before going back to work. Finn shuffled over. When they saw him getting close, the soldiers stuck the blades of their shovels into the mud and stood at attention.
“As you were,” said Finn. They lowered their hands and began digging again.
“how many is it today?” He asked the group.
“Five today, one hole for each man.” The same soldier who had glared at him before answered.
“Was three day before yesterday.” he added.
“What's your name?” Finn asked
“Elder Corporal Mitchell Stance.” The soldier answered.
Finn studied him for a second. He was slightly older than the other grave diggers. He had graying stubble on his face and somewhat tanned leather like skin presumably from a lifetime on western ranches.
There were a lot of soldiers from the ranches. The dwindling water resources in the West made ranching impossible, so they were obliged to join the Helaman Army on its drive to capture the vast lakes to the east.
“How many burials have you been on?” Asked Finn
“I was assigned to burial duty sir. I've been on all of them. These five make 67 altogether.” mumbled the corporal.
Finn didn't answer. The gusting winds crescendoed into a frenzied shriek, and he quietly took his leave. Once his back was to them, he could hear the diggers coughing. It was the same raspy phlegm-filled hack that came right before the fever. 
As Finn walked through the camp, he could hear the sounds indicating the invisible enemy of plague was decimating the regiment. The sickness was spreading like fire and every day they spent in the chilling air was a day it would claim more victims. The Ammonite regiment had a long history.
It eradicated the heavily armed bandits marauding through central California and had overtaken innumerable enclaves protected by some of the most lethal and horrific weapons left behind by the old word, but now their time was running out.
Finn's brother and acting commander of their regiment had led them on this perilous and futile journey. He seemed to be the only one ignoring the omens of the coming winter. The icy rains and dark, swirling skies of late fall weren't the only warnings John had. His lieutenants weary of the fabled perils of the midwestern winters were also beseeching him to flee the descending doom.
Nature itself seemed to be warning John away from the city, but the distant skyline still called to him. The impatient commander annoyed by his bogged down soldiers ignored them as they worked their way over the soft yielding earth. With every mile, the regiment grew every smaller. They stopped frequently to bury the dead in hastily dug graves that would mark the trail on Johns long march.
Finn found his brother standing alone at the edge of the camp's perimeter. John held the photo of the skyline up against the dark horizon. It would soon be his. No obstacle was insurmountable when the objective was the culmination of fate's plan. His mind crafted fantasies about the day when he would triumphantly march into the city. He imagined carrying the treasures back to the temple, he could already see the day when he would preside over the resurrected bastion of old world prosperity as its savior. The mystery growing within the ranks was inconsequential to him. He was certain those who survived this trial would be eternally grateful to him for being able to be a part of his triumph, and he promised them and himself they would
“Elder commander Hamblin.”
Finn's voice pulled John from his day dream. He answered with a glare.
“Oh, Finn,” he said sounding almost relieved.
“Yes, Edler Commander.
“Nevermind that Elder commander stuff right now.” John scoffed. “Take a look at this.”
Finn stood beside his brother and gazed with him. He wasn't as moved by the dark jagged figures of the crumbling collapses as his brother was, but he tried his best to seem awe struck.
“It is amazing isn't it?” Muttered Finn.
“Yes, that city was the heart of the most powerful nation in the world. It was the hub that linked places as far away as Utah and even California with the east coast, and soon brother it will bear our family crest."
Finn watched his brother stare with reverence as he struggled to think of the right words to broach the subject of a march back to the nearest outpost.
“Another five were buried tonight.” he finally blurted out.
John's glance snapped his way, and Finn felt his breath stop.
Finn could hear his heart thumping in the heavy silence as he waited for his fanatical brother and commander's response.
A grin broke across John's face. “So you're starting to have doubts?” he asked rhetorically before chuckling. “Its ok I'll keep this between us when we're telling our children the story of how we won and restored this city.
“I'm just concerned.” said John.
“About what?” replied John carefully.
“Every day it's getting colder, and we've already seen the first frost almost two weeks ago. I'm afraid if we don't think about turning back we might not be able too later. Just like...just like Wendell's frozen army.”
“They were much further north,” John said dismissively.
Finn was incensed by his brother's apparent indifference “what makes you think it can't happen here?”
“Ok.” said John. Let's suppose a winter as bad as the one Wendell marched into happens this year and we're trapped by the snow and frozen into ice sculptures in the sub-zero temperatures. We could march back to Morni that's about 75 miles to the north. Now, what do you think the winter will be like there?”
“We'll be safe inside Moroni.” Finn answered.
John looked amused. “Finn, do you really think, if the planes are covered with five feet of snow any resupply of Moroni let alone any farming is going to be possible? If the winter hits as bad as you think it might then we were all doomed the moment we crossed the Missouri.
“We could turn southwest towards Joseph town and march back in the spring.” Finn suggested.
“Head to Joseph town if you want,” snorted John. “I'll even give you a horse. Wouldn't that be a great thing to take to Nauvoo that you ran away because it got cold. Then you can inform the regiment everyone who died did so because your feet got chilly. They'll probably give you an army for that one.” John said condescendingly.
Finn cast his eyes down and subconsciously took a step back from his brother. John looked at him and sighed.
“I'm giving not just us but every soldier here a chance to be a part of a tremendous glory. If it's anywhere everything, we need to rebuild the railroads we'll be in that city, and then we can reclaim this entire continent for God. Proclaimed John. “Everyone who survives these trials will be glad they followed me here.”
John sighed. “I'm sorry I said that Finn I really am. You just have to trust me. The rest is up to God. whatever happens is part of his plan.
Finn quietly nodded. He couldn't speak further. Even imminent doom wasn't enough to continue the confrontation with his brother.
John peered back into the sky. “Pray with me Finn,” he said
John lowered his head, shut his eyes, and clenched his hands as he began a prayer
Finn did the same but opened his eyes to watch his brother, who was delivering a tearful thank you to a creator that was killing his soldiers
Finn looked down at the handle of his service pistol. He felt his fingers on the holster, but they didn't move any further.
Finn's tremoring body shook the whole cot and move saliva began to pool at the corners of his mouth. He could see John watching him the medical officer Phillip Lee at his side. The lantern light cast twisted shadows that snaked around the room like crawling vines.  He clenched his eyes shut and turned away.
“Finn?” said John
He knelt down and put his hand on Finn's shoulder, but Finn quickly batted it away.
John jolted back. “What 's happening to him?” He demanded.
“I'm sorry Elder commander, but its worse than I feared.”
"What is it?" John persisted. 
“Whatever bit him was rabid.”
John blinked. “Rabid?” he repeated
Lee nodded his head. “I'm sorry Elder Commander.”
A sudden uproar on the other side of the door startled the commander.
“You sick abomination!” someone shouted over the rambling. John drew his pistol and went to investigate.
The soldiers had formed a ring around two of their own. They were raining down blows with their heavy boots and swinging their rifles and the two cowering men.
“Please don't!" One of them shrieked before the butt of a gun crashed around his jaw sending him to the floor.
“What's going on here!?” Barked john.
The men at the outer rims of the circle backed away and stood at attention. While a few other continued beating their comrades.
“I said stop!” John roared, and the beating stopped.
“ElderCcommader we caught these two down in the pit!” A short, barrel-chested soldier huffed.
“What?” John said confused.
“They were eating Jacob.” Growled Eldar Corporal Haley.
John looked down at the two boys. They had been accused of something so horrific that any trace of sympathy the others might have felt instantly evaporated. It did not matter to them how young these two were or even the fact they were all starving. Thier desperation had led them to betray their comrades and more importantly spit in the face of God's law.
One of the privates was a young man with curly blond hair and fair skin that had been turned pale as the belly of a fish. He was writing on the floor sobbing into his hands, blood flowed from between his fingers and dripped onto the floor.
The other young man was a well known private with beady black eyes and a fiery red beard named Donovan. He was down on his knees but still kept his back straight and faced everyone with a piercing gaze. His face swollen and blood continued to run from the fresh wounds.
“Is this true?” John asked Donovan.
“Yes, Eldar Commander. It's true.” Donovan said flatly.
The wind bellowed, and the mob fell silent. During John's tenure in the Mormon Army, he had carried out corporal punishment, but this was the first time death was the consequence.
John's eyes locked with the unflinching Donovan's. “Why?” He asked the painfully obvious questions.
Donovan silently threw off his coat and opened his shirt. He revealed his emaciated body, his ribs looked like they were going to burst through his scared and frostbitten flesh and his stomach had all but collapsed in on itself.
As Donavon put himself on display John was the first to break eye contact. He looked around at his men, all of whom were in the same miserable condition. Death might have been a relief for not just this man but for everyone left under his command, but he still could not pull the trigger. John stood up tall as he could and addressed the two men.
“For your crimes and your sins I banish you two from the army of Helaman and the Ammonite regiment. Leave this camp immediately. I will allow you the grace to die at the hands of the enemy or of the cold. We will not tell your family about what happened here, but if by some miracle you do survive don't show your face at any Mormon encampment or settlement or I'll personally kill you. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Elder Commander,” Donovan replied coolly while his accomplice continued his wailing. 
“The same goes for him too.” Donovan said pointing to the man-boy still sobbing on the cold ground.
“Yes, Eldar Commander”! Replied Corporal Haley.
“Get up!” He shouted at the crying private as he grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and begun dragging him along the ground.
“Please no don't send me out there! Don't send me out there!” The boy cried.
His pleas fell on deaf ears. Haley dragged him away. His face left a smeared trail of blood on the ground as they went, but Donovan, Donovan went quietly. With his head held high, seemingly unapologetic he marched up the concrete ramp and into the embrace of the cruel winter. As a soldier, he was a pack animal, and now he was alone, but death did not make him flinch.
When John returned to Finn's makeshift infirmary, he found his younger brother in a rage. His blankets had been strewn all over the room, and he was half dressed in his winter gear. Aldman was attempting to restrain him while trying to keep his distance from the foam building up around Finn's lips.
“Help me! Lee shouted.
John rushed over and grabbed Finn by the shoulders. Finn pushed him away.
“Stay back!” He barked. “Get away from me!”
“Finn what the hell are you doing?” John demanded.
“I'm repenting John I'm repenting. My blood only my blood can save us!” Finn howled.
“What are you talking about!” John shouted back.
“It's your fault we're here!” Finn said pointing his finger into John's chest as he staggered forward. John pushed him back. “Finn I order you to stand down and get back onto your cot right now!” John commanded.
“I should have shot you back on the plains.” John hissed.
John didn't respond. He stared at his brother for a moment, watching him struggle to keep on his feet.
“You ungrateful bastard.” John growled.
“You ungrateful bastard,” John's repeated as his heavy boot crashed into Finn's stomach.
“Where do you get the balls?” he snapped delivering another kick into Finn's ribs.
The sentries at the entrance ramp watched in silence as the condemned men disappeared behind the falling curtain of snow. There was something unfulfilling about it. Executions by their very nature have an ending, but this felt somehow incomplete. The best they could do was imagine every grisly scenario for themselves. In the empty silence, it was easy to get lost in these grim day dreams. Neither one saw the dull green glass bottom falling the ramp. The glass shattered on the ground and fragmented into a fire that spread with the shards.
“Their attacking!” The left sentry yelled.
“If I'd killed you most of the men would still be alive.” Finn said in a crackling voice as he fell against the cinder block wall and slid down to the floor. “Most of them would still be alive”. He repeated against as he broke down sobbing.
“Shut your god damn mouth!” John bellowed his fist pounded into the side of Finn's head. His other fist was in the air when he heard the gun fire echoing in the garage.
“Quick get him back onto his cot!” John ordered.
“Yes Elder Commander,” Lee replied even as the door was closing behind John.
“C'mon you need rest.” he said walking over with an open blanket to wrap Finn in.
“Stack back!” Finn shouted spitting at the ground by Lee's feet. The medic recoiled. “Stay away from me Lee.” Finn repeated picking himself off the floor. “I swear to God almighty I'll bite you.”
The garrison was racing to the entrance to repulse the coming assault.
There was no time to check their frozen weapons. They loaded the magazines and prayed. One soldier's weapon was stuck. The chamber was jammed. With numb fingers, he frantically tried to fix it. He couldn't hear the footsteps creeping among the bodies in the pit below. The Molotov cocktail was a diversion, whether or not the young soldier on guard figured that out the enemy was coming up from the below before the rusty metal bar burst open his cheek, no one will ever know. By the time, the others saw the raiders flooding in they were already at point blank range.
Phillip's heart was pumping terror through his veins and it flooded away his military training. There was a quick eruption of gunfire, but it quickly died out, and the screaming began. He could hear it, he could hear their blunt instruments of torture smashing their bodies, he could hear their gargled pleas, blended with their defiant challenges issued right to the face of death itself.
He quickly extinguished the later light and cowered against the wall on the far side of the room gripping his pistol. The massacre was fleeting, and soon there were only the muffled murmurs of the enemy dragging away the butchered remains of his comrades.
Every breath was a moment, every time he blinked it got a little quieter, and the room got a little darker. He could feel the cold air pressing against his bulging eyes, it was the only thing that reminded him they were still open in the absolute darkness. He waited in the timeless black, his exhausted mind drifted away in its void, towards a numbing nothingness.
He felt the distinct feeling of the cold stinging his eyes again, and he realized he had just woken up. He stood up, and his legs burned. The familiar bellow of the wind racing through the chamber was the only thing he could hear on the other side of the door. He quietly tip toed over and pressed his ear against it straining to hear anything he could.
He opened the door the slightest bit and peered out. It was almost as dark as inside the closet save the dim light bathing the bottom of the entrance ramp. Lee pushed the door open slightly further and slid out.
He took care to close the door slowly and quietly behind him before slowly walking towards the ramp. He appeared to be alone, but there was something, something that felt like electricity on the back of his neck. He felt death's cold finger on his flesh. He picked up his pace. His legs felt heavy, and his feet were numb, it was like moving at a crawl. Something squeaked, and the air left Aldman's chest. He felt himself falling backward and he hit the ground with a thud.
Something wet and sticky coated his gloves, he quicky picked himself back up and ran for the ramp. Even the faint light of the gray world burned his eyes. The frigid air immediately seared his face red, and he lowered his head into this coat.
Birds circled above the ruins. The feasting scavengers were congregated around faint columns of smoke that steadily billowed into the sky. The flapping of their wings could be heard through the entire city it was the only sign anything was alive. Lee looked down at his hands, a dark shade of blood was smeared like syrup on his palms.
He crept around the city careful to stay close to the long shadows of the slumping towers. Lee needed a place to hide until dark, but not matter what it could not be the garage.
Much of the snow had melted into a dark water sludge that went up to just past his ankles and the icy slush found its way into his shoes. He trudged through the rubble-choked streets looking for a suitable cave. Many of the buildings were mostly hollow frames now you could almost see right through. Every so often the birds would reorganize themselves at the peak of the towers, and their fluttering wings would startle Lee and send him scurrying into the debris. The day was being quickly washed away be the dark flood of the night sky. The wind was channeling itself through the concrete corridors in long, painful blasts.
Lee realized he could not last outside long enough to leave the city. His flesh would succumb to frostbite before his stomach collapsed in hunger. He was going to die in this city; his mortal remains nothing more than another decaying pile.
Walking and fell to his knees. It was over.
He clenched his eyes and clasped his hands and cried out one last time,
“Our father who art in heaven hollowed by thy name.” his voice shook as the tears welled in his eyes. He stopped there. He drew in a deep breath. He had never contemplated the last moments of his life with much detail. It was an eventuality he always dismissed, under the assumption there was always enough time. Death had caught him off guard, overwhelmed he couldn't draw all the words of the prayer he had repeated countless times throughout his life.
“Heavenly Father please this is the path you chose for me. I....I don't know if I'll be worthy to enter heaven.” I'm sorry father I was so scared I couldn't even move. I wanted to help them, Lord. You blessed me with a gift for medicine” Lee said sobbing. “You know I only wanted to help my brothers” The medical officer's voice cracked. His lips quivered, and before he could continue he last words, he began to cry. The indifferent world offered no response to his anguish and Aldman could only wait for the God that never answered to take him into eternity.
“Hey, Aldman that you?” Someone said in a low voice.
Aldman looked up. There was a Mormon soldier walking towards him. His face was wrapped up, but his voice had a faintly familiar tone.
“Elder Lee are you alright?” The soldier asked.
“Who are you?” Lee asked
Let's get you inside.” The soldier said helping Lee to his feet.
“Thank you, God.” Lee whimpered before he slipped away.
It wasn't quite death, but it was deeper than sleep. When he opened his eyes, he was inside one of the steel towers. The ransacked hollows were empty and looked like they had been looted decades ago. Lee's body was wrapped up in a sleeping bag stuffed with a few field blankets. His weakened state made crawling out a difficult proposition.
“Thank God you're awake.” Someone said.
Lee looked over. The first thing he saw was the amber red beard.
“Donavon?” he muttered.
“Just try and rest Elder Luitenant. You nearly died out there.” Donovan said.
“I can't believe you're still alive.” said Lee.
“God has looked out for me,” Donovan said.
“No one else...no one else made it out of the garage,” Lee said.
“I know.” replied Donovan.
“How?” Asked Lee.
They climbed the dark staircase built behind the cinder block walls. Lee followed Donovan to a floor high enough to look down on most of the other buildings. Lee gasped they were standing just below the clouds.
“Look out there,” Donovan said pointing to a large opening in the wall where presumably windows used to be. Donovan handed him some binoculars. Lee walked over slowly, being this high up made him nervous. It felt like the wind could suck him into the sky, and he was still weary of Donovan
. He lay down on his stomach so he couldn't be pushed from behind and pressed the cold binoculars to his eyes. He could still see the plumes of smokes lazily rising into the sky. He scanned the ground until he found the smoldering pile. He couldn't make out what the charred mass was. He squinted his eyes and adjusted the sights. Finally, it the entwined mass of limbs came into view. Those were bodies.
“What's happening out there?” he asked.
“I saw the whole thing.” Said Donovan” “I saw them storm the garage, and I saw them taking the bodies back.”
“They ate everyone,” Donovan said after a pause. “Including Elder Finn.”
“They ate Elder Finn?” Lee gasped.
“Yeah, it didn't take long for rabies to spread throughout their camp. It was as if they had no idea what was causing it. After a few days, they were killing each other and in about a week they were setting up these large pyres.
“A week...it's been that long?” Lee muttered.
“Yean, congratulation Elder Lee we are the heroes of Chicago.” Said Donovan.

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