Out after dark...
You hear a faint signal from Sam, who is calling out to you. He doesn't know where you are, or if you're even alive to hear him. All he knows is that you didn't get captured by New Canton, but that you haven't yet returned. It's the middle of the night - the most dangerous time to be out, and the area is swarming with zombies. If they reach Abel before you, the gates will be barred and you'll be left outside the Township with the zoms.
Sam tells you he'll keep talking, despite the fact that he may be talking to the zombie you've become. He muses about the effect of the apocalypse on the survivors. He comments that he can barely remember what "normal" feels like. He wonders about your life prior to the outbreak, and about whether ice-cream rolls were cake on the outside and ice-cream in the middle, or the other way around.
Sam returns, having been chastised by Janine for leaving the comms shack to check about the composition of ice-cream rolls. He tells you that before the outbreak he was an engineering student. Though he hated the subject and had no aptitude for it, he studied it to please his parents. He confesses that some days he's grateful for the apocalypse, as it has let him do what he always wanted to - work in radio.
Sam thinks about his sister, who may or may not have survived the outbreak. She was studying law. His parents were very proud of her success, which made Sam jealous. He reluctantly admits that she's unlikely to have survived the plague. He muses about people from his past life whom he barely remembers, and wonders if anyone will remember you when you're gone.
Sam tells you that he's been advised to go to bed, and that they're losing hope in your safe return. He says you have little time to return to Abel before they have to bar the gates. He thinks that, if you don't have to be around to rebuild the world, you may be one of the lucky ones. At the last moment, Sam spots you heading towards Abel.
Sam has you on the scanners, and begs you to run for safety while the soldiers give you covering fire. Finally, you return to Abel.
[static fading in and out]
SAM YAO: Runner Five, Runner Five, come in, Runner Five… Can you hear me? … Runner Five… Come in, Runner Five, if you’re out there…. Runner Five, calling Runner Five, come in, Runner… [static fades away]
Runner Five… I don’t know if you can hear me. Our scanner’s down. It never works that well at night anyway, and a couple of bits of equipment have broken down, so… so there’s no way to see where you are. Truth is, I… I don’t even know if you’re alive. Odds aren’t good, right? [laughs] Hey, odds aren’t good for any of us, but I’m still… well. I guess I’m still alive, and that’s about all I can say.
Runner Five, we… we don’t know where you are. We know you didn’t get taken by New Canton, we managed to track that much. But you haven’t come back. It’s the middle of the night, Runner Five, and there’s a reason we don’t send patrols out at night. If you’re where we think you might be - to the north - the area’s swarming with zombies. And they often head for us at night. If they get here before you, we’re… we’re going to have to bar the gates. There’ll be no way for you to get in, and we’ll… we’ll have to watch…
You’re not even my second Runner Five, you know that? You’re my fourth. I guess there’s no better reason you’d make it back than any of the others. But we’ve put the red beacon on top of the tower, so if you can see it, my best advice is… run.
SAM YAO: So… I’m just going to keep talking for a while. I mean, for all I know, I could be talking into the ear of a zombie. But, hey [laughs] undead fiend who used to be my friend, Runner Five - at least I can irritate you with the sound of food you can’t get at. [laughs] Over here! [laughs] Look at this tasty human meat! [laugh fades]
Yeah… we’ve all gone a bit crazy these past few months, haven’t we, Runner Five? I-I mean, you know. That’s the thing you don’t really think about during an apocalypse. How it’s going to affect your ability to like… be normal, ever again? Do you think we’ve just… forgotten… how to be normal? Do you even remember what normal felt like?
I called you my friend just before, didn’t I? Is that cool with you? I mean… well, I’m definitely not your friend if you’ve gone gray. But I feel like we have a kind of… simpatico… something? Not that we’ve ever really talked. I guess we’re talking now. So… yeah, well, let’s just talk like normal people, like… buddies, or something. [laughs]
Yeah, before all this, I bet you had a pretty good life, eh. Someone like you, yeah, I can see it - people you cared about, job you didn’t hate. I know, lots of people don’t like to talk about that stuff. “Think forward,” the Major says. “Rebuilding is key.” But, yeah, I feel like… We have to remember what it was like, so we know what we’re building, don’t we? Now, I don’t mean escalators, and shopping malls, and frozen yogurt… ooh, although I could really go for an ice cream roll right now. Do you remember those things? Cake outside, and ice cream in the middle… or was it… was it the other way around? I don’t even remember anymore! Hang on, wait, wait, hang on - I’ll go and check.
And um, uh, yeah - if you’re still Runner Five - keep running.
SAM YAO: Okay, hi. Right, so, yeah, um… two things: A) Well, I was right. It was cake outside and ice cream inside. B) Apparently, checking this is not a good reason to wake Janine up in the middle of the night, okay? Yeah, okay, got it.
So, um… where were we? Ah, yeah, right - before! Want to know what I did before this? [laughs] Well, I’m imagining you’re brimming over with enthusiasm. With these mad skills, I expect you think I was a DJ, or a radio host, or something like that, don’t you? Nuh-uh! I was a student, man! Fourth year, engineering degree. I was, just for the record, really, really, REALLY… terrible at it. I didn’t even enjoy it, that’s the sad part! I tried SO hard, and my parents, they wanted me to be good at it so much, and I… Yeah, well, I… I guess at least they died not knowing I was probably going to fail the course. My dad would have been SO angry… he was so angry when I failed French, and he didn’t even care about French! He’s Chinese. He was all, “you have dishonored the family” et cetera, et cetera. My mum wasn’t angry, she was… just sad.
You know what’s really bad, Runner Five? You know what’s really, really just, well, horrible? This - what I’m doing right now - is what I wanted to do. I used to mess around at the radio station at uni. I wanted to talk on air, or work behind the scenes, or something. And I thought… well, I thought maybe, if I failed my degree, my parents would just let me go and do what I wanted, but… [sighs] Yeah… no, probably they wouldn’t…
What’s really, really bad, is… some days… some days I’m grateful for all this. Because I don’t have to get up in the morning, and go to classes, and pretend… pretend I care about engineering… I… [shaky breath] I’ll be right back.
SAM YAO: Hey! Hey, hi! I say “hi”, possibly I mean, “Damn you, fiend, who has taken the body of Runner Five and is using it for its own horrifying purposes.” Or… possibly I mean… “So, are you dead, Runner Five?” That stuff’s weird, isn’t it? Not the people you actually know are dead. I know my parents are dead, because I… um, yeah, well, I-I know they’re dead, and it was pretty horrible. But like, my sister? No idea.
She’d, uh… just started her first year at uni. Law. She was actually good at it, liked it. Made my parents proud. No “besmirching family honor”. [laughs] Came home with top grades in the class after her first term. You remember that Christmas before the… well, the fall of civilization? All the praise for her. I was jealous, man! And then… the thing happened, while she was staying with her boyfriend, and we couldn’t get her on the phone, and she… well, she never knew our parents had… had turned, and… [sighs] Oh, I dunno. She’s probably dead. But you never know, right?
You know what else is weird? How… some person you barely knew will just suddenly come floating into your head. Like this guy, this guy I used to see in engineering lectures. This really tall guy, red hair, gangly-looking. I think his name was Steve, or um, maybe Simon, or something. Dunno if I ever spoke to him once. He used to pick his nose in lectures! [laughs] As if no one could see him - we could all see him, man!
And uh, you know, I hadn’t thought about him for a minute, and then today, this morning, I just woke up from dreaming about him, and I realized I couldn’t remember his name! And he’s probably dead, and maybe I’m the only person left alive who remembers him at all anymore, and… and maybe, you know, well, maybe that’s how it’ll be with you, Runner Five. If you’re gone, who’ll be left to remember you?
Ooh, yeah, ugh, sorry. Guess that’s not too inspiring. [laughs] Uh, what I mean is… run, Runner Five. Run on home. If you can.
SAM YAO: Oh, I dunno, Five. They said to me just now I should probably hit the sack sometime soon. [yawns] They’ll send on someone else to keep sending out pings through the night, but I’ve gotta be honest… we’re losing hope here. A couple of zoms have arrived at the gates, and that usually means the bigger horde is on its way. Maybe only a few minutes ‘til we bar the gate.
Another good runner gone. Another piece of equipment lost. And we’re… [sighs] The next time I see your face, maybe I’ll have to shoot you in the head.
No one stays sane through this, Five. Whatever the future is, it’s not going to be like the past. No ice cream rolls will make it better, no… no one saying they’re proud of me would make it okay.
Maybe you’re better off, see, is what I’m saying. I know we’re not supposed to say that, but… but sometimes I think… [sighs] Maybe, if you don’t have to try to build the future, you’re one of the lucky ones. Maybe… [to someone in the background] What? What is it? I told you, the scanner’s down, we can’t… [back towards microphone] Oh my god, is that… Runner Five! I can see you!
SAM YAO: Runner Five? Runner Five, if you can hear me, I can see you! Oh my god, Runner Five… You can’t see them, but there’s a tail behind you. Zombies, about thirty of them. They’re getting closer, I-I dunno, they make that sound at night. Run, Runner Five! Run, run, run! [to gate guards] Raise the gates! [gate siren, gates raising]
We’ve got you, Runner Five! You’re home!