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I strained against the collar that held my neck in place, trying to get a better look around. My hands and feet were both cuffed, with thick metal bars connecting the cuffs to each other, resulting in no give at all. I had a gag in my mouth as well, but that was a little bit looser.

Five seconds ago, I had been passing notes in fifth period English.

I could see other people bound just like I was in the dim red light that came from regularly spaced bulbs. We were in two lines that faced each other. There was a loud droning sound that I imagined would be hard to talk over, if I hadn't had the gag. That sound, along with the vibrations in my seat and the curved walls, told me that we were in a plane, though I had no idea where we were going, or where we were.

I didn't see anyone that I knew. I had been in English class, so given that I was abruptly transferred into bonds aboard some barebones airplane, it stood to reason that perhaps others from my class had been too. The other boys and girls were around my age, but they didn't look like they went to school in Bumblefuck, Kansas. Part of it was the hairstyles, which over-represented mohawks and bright colors. But more than that it was the hard looks on most of their faces, a defiance that I associated more with terrorists on television than high-schoolers.

The exception was the guy opposite me, who had a gleeful grin visible beneath his own gag as he shook his head from side to side. He made eye contact with me, winked, then my view of him was blocked by a man in army fatigues who walked down the middle aisle of the plane and stopped just in front of me.

The military man was cleanly shaved and grey at the temples, with a scar that ran from the bottom of his chin up to his nose. His eyes were filled with an intense, burning hatred as he looked at us, which was accentuated by the way he grit his teeth.

"Rebels. Traitors. Murderers. Dissidents. Thieves. You are the scum that has floated up to the surface. A less civilized society would have put you to the sword the moment you were caught. We believe in our ideals. Strength through adversity, righteousness through struggle. If you survive, you will be stronger for it. Make it to the outpost, and a place in the Host is waiting for you, your crimes forgiven."

With that he walked away, and I got the sense that my questions would have gone unanswered even if I could have raised my hand or spoken through the gag. I was already bewildered and his words left me scared and even more confused.

The boy across from me was shaking his head again and had built up some slack in his gag, which he hooked onto a piece of metal next to his collar to pull it down from his mouth. He wore a look of intense satisfaction.

“Where we dropping boys?” he shouted over the din of the plane. “Let’s team up, get out of –”

He was drowned out by the airplane opening up its belly. A mile below us were farmlands in the half-light of an overcast day. I struggled against my restraints and prayed that I would wake up, even though I knew in my heart that this wasn't a dream. My feet were dangling into the open sky now.

Some loud mechanism was making a clank. I still couldn't move my head much, but in my periphery I could see people dropping down into the sky below us. As the sequence got closer to me, I saw that none of them were wearing anything resembling a parachute. What the army guy had said was ringing in my ear: strength through adversity. That seemed like the kind of thing you might say right before you murder someone.

Then the mechanisms released me and I fell, free of restraints.

The wind rushed past me. My stomach lurched at the feeling of weightlessness. I spread myself out, almost instinctively, trying to brace myself against the wind. I had let out a scream when I'd first started falling, but stopped when the wind started trying to force its way up my open mouth. I was going to die, just like all the others, and there was nothing that I could do to stop it. From this height, even an impact against water was sure to be as hard as against concrete.

I looked to the others that were falling, hoping that one of them had a solution. The boy who had been opposite me was nearby, and he made eye contact again before tilting his head towards the ground and tucking his arms in to accelerate towards it. He seemed to know what he was doing so I followed his lead, though it took me a few seconds to stop myself from spinning and once I was moving faster it was a lot harder to track the dot he had shrunk to below me.

Tracking him distracted me from the sight of the ground rushing up towards me at an alarming rate, at least until the perception of speed was heightened as it got closer. When I looked back behind me, I could only see a few of the others in the air. Some of them were tumbling, and I hoped that just meant they were worse at skydiving than me.

The ground had gotten really close, close enough that I could start to make things out beyond just the irregular grid of farmland and a smattering of houses. To my left was a vast cloud so close to the ground that it must have been fog, but in the general area where my body was going to splatter was what looked like a gas station, and I could see the other guy aiming for the roof. Not wanting a preview of my imminent death, I closed my eyes as my heart hammered away in my chest. As deaths went, at least it would be fast.

I kept my eyes screwed shut, right up until the point where I realized the wind was dying down. When I looked around, I saw that death wasn't quite so imminent as I had thought; I was slowing down. There was a glowing rune on my right hand which I would have sworn wasn't there five seconds ago. By the time I finally got to grips with the fact that perhaps I hadn't been thrown out of the plane to my death, I was sliding down from the sky at a rather sedate pace. I was going to land maybe a hundred yards from the gas station in a big field.

There were no cars around, but there were people; they were looking up toward me with glowing red eyes. The boy on the roof of the gas station was jumping and waving at me, but my attention was caught by two of the red-eyed people moving toward a girl who had also touched down. I could see now that these people had pallid skin and torn clothes, which, along with their shuffling gait, screamed ‘zombies’ in ten foot high neon letters.

As soon as my feet touched the ground, I heard a pleasant chime and words popped up in front of me.

Achievement Unlocked: Down, But Not Out …

I blinked twice and the message vanished. I had no idea what the hell that was about, but I hoped that the gas station guy could answer some questions. I made my way over at a jog, trying to conserve my energy.

It had some of the hallmarks of Midwest gas stations, like the cheap cinder block construction and the unadorned metal doors. Where there should have been gas pumps, there were instead black shards of obsidian jutting up from the pavement. If they hadn’t been surrounded by cheap concrete curbs, or so evenly spread apart with metal trash bins between them, I might have thought that they had sprung up from the ground.

There were two zombies leaping at the sides of the building, and a third stumbled out of it to join them. The boy standing on the roof hefted a loose brick and threw it down at them, crushing one of their heads with a sickening crunch. I slowed my pace, shocked by the sudden violence and the dark red blood that splashed against the unpainted wall, and watched as he stomped the fingers of the next zombie to get a grip on the gutter.

“You gonna help or what?” he yelled at me, and I hesitated. I had only managed an orange belt in middle school karate, which is what they hand out to basically anyone who sticks with it a few weeks.

“Keep quiet and look for a weapon or something, I’ll keep these idiots busy.” He threw a bottle down, making noise and scattering glass where it struck zombie skull.

I nodded and crouched down, sneaking towards the gas station door. All of it was in a total state of disrepair; the grass I’d been moving through was two feet high, helping me approach without being spotted, but the building itself had two of the windows busted out, with shards of glass visible on the ground that I had to carefully step around.

Skill unlocked: Deception!

The chime that came with the message caused me to tense up for a moment as my heart hammered in my chest. I could hear the zombies on the other side of the wall, jumping and scrabbling, and the sounds of exertion from the guy on the roof. (I really needed a better epithet for him.) Nobody reacted to the sound, and it vanished after I blinked it away.

Inside, everything was long since rotted or looted, but I spotted a rusted machete in the middle of an uneven patch of dried blood that filled the aisle. I picked it up by the hilt, feeling the blood flake off against my palm, and tested the weight.

Skill unlocked: One-handed Weapons!

“Hurry it up in there,” I heard from above me, followed by another disgusting crunch and splatter. “I’m running out of bricks to drop.”

I grabbed a long screwdriver off a shelf but there was nothing else in the store that could serve as a weapon, not unless I resorted to using the empty greeting card rack as an improvised club. I crept outside again and circled around to the back of the building, machete in hand.

The zombies further away were shuffling closer, red pinpricks swaying above the long grass, giving me a second time limit to deal with. The three active ones were still trying to climb up, even though two of them now had crushed heads, blindly leaping at the loud footsteps of the guy on the roof.

“Finally! These things are persistent. You have any idea how to finish them off?” he asked, not taking his eyes off the trio. He stomped on the roof again, but the remaining one with a head still turned to face me and peeled off, staggering towards me with more speed than I’d expected.

I’d always been far at the ‘fight’ end of the ‘flight or fight’ spectrum. As he charged me I swung the machete two-handed, trying to take the head off, and the blade bit deep into its neck.

Skill increased: One-handed Weapons lvl 1!

The zombie kept coming, and only my grip on the machete embedded halfway into its neck kept him at bay. I could feel the rusty blade grating against its spine.

The crazy messages that kept popping up were like something out of a videogame, that much I had noticed. If I were playing a game, and literally crushing someone’s head with a brick didn’t kill him, what would I do? Well, that was a sign that the designer was trying to be a clever little shit by subverting the expectations of the player. Come to think of it, I had done that in a D&D session once, a first level dungeon crawl.

Halfway-Headless was still coming toward me and I was thinking about D&D for some stupid reason. What had I done, when I’d made the zombies’ heads irrelevant? I’d moved their weak point to their heart, that was it. And I’d given them glowing red eyes, just to have some descriptive flair.

Holy shit.

I pulled the screwdriver out of my pocket and rammed it into the zombie’s chest.

Skill unlocked: Improvised Weapons!

He kept coming, and I tried to keep him at bay with one hand on the machete while I stabbed at his chest again and again, mostly glancing off the ribs, until he got loose and the momentum of his charge drove my next thrust in up to the handle. The zombie stopped moving almost instantly and slumped to the floor with the screwdriver stuck inside him, and his red eyes finally faded to a milky white.

Critical hit!

Skill increased: Improvised Weapons lvl 1!

Zombie defeated!

Achievement Unlocked: Rambo

Level Up!

That last message came with a sensation that I can only describe as orgasmic. Golden light burst forward from me in a wave that kicked up wind and I briefly lifted up off my feet. It was like someone had jabbed a live wire directly into the pleasure center of my brain. It was over in less than a second and left me trembling afterward.

“What the fuck was that?” The guy on the roof said. “You figure out how to kill them yet?”

“Aim for the heart!” I told him breathlessly. At the sound of my voice, one of the crushed-head zombies shambled over towards me. I picked up the machete as he blindly advanced and stepped to the side, holding my breath as he walked on to where I had been standing.

Treading carefully to avoid making any more noise, I moved behind the zombie and swept his legs out to trip him. Before he could get up I put a foot on his back and jabbed down repeatedly with my machete, making wet cracks as the blade cut through the ribs of his back. The broad blade was meant for chopping through undergrowth, not stabbing at hearts, but with the fourth strike the limbs stilled.

Skill increased: One-handed Weapons lvl 2!

Zombie defeated!

When I turned around, the other guy was standing over the remaining zombie, a cinder block embedded in its chest, splattered with its blood. He looked about my age, blond and muscular like a Nazi recruitment poster, and gave me a breathless grin.

“I don’t want any trouble,” I said, trying to sound intimidating.

Skill unlocked: Intimidate!

Critical failure!

He laughed.

“Yeah, no shit, me neither. Want to team up?”

“Okay, but I have questions,” I said warily.

“You and me both, I get the feeling we’re not in Kansas any more. I’m Vince.”

“Joon. On the plane, did you know what was going to happen?”

“Kind of? Let’s keep quiet and keep moving, I made a lot of noise up there and the zombies are getting closer.”

He was right, I could see the red pinpricks in the fields coming towards us at a slow walking pace. There were about thirty of them, the closest was twenty feet away. The gas station was on a road, and in one direction I could make out distant buildings instead of endless plains. I pointed towards them, and he nodded.

Vince and I kept up a brisk walk down the road, fast enough to outpace the zombies without tiring me out. It apparently counted as athleticism, because I unlocked and increased Athletics along the way. Once we were a few hundred meters from the ones following us, we resumed our conversation in hushed voices.

“First thing I knew, I was on the plane, just like this videogame, Fortnite,” Vince said. “It’s a battle royale, all against all, so teaming up is a big advantage. I assumed this was something similar, some kind of hyper-real simulation.”

“Do you have any kind of game interface?” I asked. Does everyone get level-ups?

“I got this magic smartphone.” He pulled it out to show me. It looked more like an Android than an iPhone, unadorned and without any distinguishing features to mark it as special. “I’ve got points and a whole catalog of things to spend them on.”

“Have you tested it out?”

“I don’t know when I’ll get more points, so I’m saving it for emergencies. How about you? What was that glow earlier?”

“Uh,” I said slowly, not sure whether to share. If we were going to be a team we’d need to know what we could do, and he’d opened up first. “Yeah, I’ve got skills that level up with use. I got a level-up when I killed that zombie.”

“Sweet! Do you recognize the system? What kind of skills are available? Can you grind them while we’re on the move?”

“One-handed weapons, improvised weapons, intimidation, and athletics,” I said, trying to recall all the pop-ups I’d blinked away during the fight. And Deception.

Skill increased: Deception lvl 1!

I looked behind me but the zombies were still following us at their slow pace, and I hadn’t been making a particular effort to be stealthy. Did it cover deceit in conversation too?

“There’s also deception, which I think covers both sneaking and lying.”

“Well that’s broken,” Vince scoffed. “Try grinding it by lying to me, maybe you can become a ninja before we hit the town.”

“Um… my name’s Joon, I’m eighteen, I’ve got a car back home,” I lied, sticking to plausible ones and starting to come up with a fake persona, like when my players took an unaccountable interest in a random throwaway NPC. “I fixed it up myself, I’ve got an apprenticeship at the local garage and I’m training to be a mechanic. That was my first big project, it’s nice to just drive around under the stars because there’s not much else to do in Bumblefuck, Kansas.”

“Bullshit,” said Vince. “No way there’s a town called Bumblefuck.”

“What about that town called Boring, or Hell, Michigan? There’s a lot of stupid town names out there. The main lie was that I’m a mechanic, I should probably tell you now in case you expect me to fix up a vehicle later. I do know how to fly a helicopter, though.”

“Yeah, right.”

“That one’s true!” My dad had been a pilot in the Gulf War before moving to the private sector, and he’d taken me up a few times.

Chatting to Vince and throwing in random lies helped keep me from thinking too hard about the fact that I’d been dropped out of a plane into a zombie-infested wasteland. It was difficult to keep a straight face whenever Deception leveled up, and it was unclear whether there was any improvement in going from level 1 to 4 because he called bullshit on about half my lies the whole way through.

The settlement we approached looked like the kind of tiny town that you could find all over the Midwest in general and Kansas in specific, a place that existed mostly because there was a limit to how far farmers were willing to drive for groceries, gas, and a haircut. Three giant grain elevators dominated the town, but again there was a note of the exotic, because each had a large antenna rising up from its side, marked with floating, rotating sigils that were barely visible by the unearthly blue light they cast.

It was with a start that I saw people moving across the main road. They were running, a girl with a dark red braid in the lead and two guys with pink mohawks chasing after her. Or at least, that’s what I thought at first, until I saw the thing following them. It was a blackened creature of corpses, with eyes as large as headlights and a body so big it would had have a hard time hiding behind a gas station. It was moving far faster than the zombies had moved, slamming down its fists and dragging itself to make up for a back leg that was crooked and broken.

“Come on, let’s help them,” Vince said, starting to run after them.

I hesitated, gesturing at the composite zombie with my machete. “How?”

New Affliction: Cowardice!

I blinked away the message calling me a coward, but I could feel my cheeks flushing with anger. We had no way to take down the monster by ourselves, which by now had chased the trio into the nearest building. It looked like some kind of mechanics shop; there was a large folding door by the road which the corpse-creature was wedged halfway into, trying to squeeze in further to catch its prey.

“Okay, new plan, we circle around and rendezvous with the survivors when they run out the other side,” I proposed.

Vince nodded, and we got moving, following the street then ducking behind the rusted vehicles in the parking lot to stay out of sight of the zombies that made up the composite creature as we circled the building.

When we were halfway round, there was a sequence of subdued pops, almost like bubble-wrap but louder. Vince and I froze as we heard them, and they were immediately followed by a human scream from inside and the sound of creaking metal. I took a wary step back from the wall of the building, and watched as half the roof sagged under its own weight and collapsed inwards, drowning out the voice we’d heard. Did the monster take out a support pillar?

We waited for a moment more, but once the wreckage settled the only noise was an odd thwip sound that came at four-second intervals. Vince and I crept forwards, and I wondered if it was coming from some kind of machine that had been activated or broken by the damage. The dirt-clouded windows were too grimy to make out anything useful inside the shop section where the sounds had issued from, but further along I could see into the empty reception area that looked a lot like a Midwestern waiting area, full of uncomfortable chairs and with a tea kettle resting on a small pile of rocks instead of the usual coffee pot.

The room was empty, so we walked in over the front door that had been knocked off its hinges and moved deeper into the building. It had the usual garage stink of wheel skins and car guts, but as we got closer to the shop I could also make out the scent of blood in the air. I couldn’t hear my own footprints over the sound of Vince’s, and with a silent exchange of glances I took the lead to slowly open the next door a crack to look inside.

Standing by a workbench, among various car parts, tools, and cans of unidentified fluids, was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen.

I don’t want to sound like a creep, so maybe I should stay as generic as possible and tell you about her dark red hair pulled back in a braid, the glacial blue of her eyes, how starkly alert she looked as she peered over the parts in front of her, or her grease-smeared clothes. She was injured, blood flowing down from a scrape by her temple and a deeper gouge out of her shoulder, but my mind was consumed by tracing her curves, the swell of her tits in her blood-stained t-shirt, the fullness of her lips and the delicate way she had them parted, at least until I noticed how fucked-up it was that she was having such a powerful effect on me, at which point different parts of my mind were given over to marveling at the sensation of being so attracted to a girl, and others were still focused on her.

She was in a shooter’s stance, holding a strange flat gun the shape of a deck of cards with a handle, and at four-second intervals was taking shots at the mass of zombies buried under the collapsed roof on the other side of the room. There was the same thwip sound I’d heard earlier, and a small dime-sized hole appeared in a zombie with each one. Next to that corpse-pile was a noticeably fresher body, one of the guys with the pink mohawks, and whatever had killed him had taken a huge uneven slice out of him along one side. His left arm was gone, along with maybe a third of his chest and head, and his left thigh was reduced to just a strip of meat on the inner edge. The missing body parts were nowhere to be seen, but there was a pool of blood from the wound beneath him. There was similar damage elsewhere as well, shining bare metal where the effect had eaten away at surface layers of rust.

There was a part of me that was afraid of how pretty the girl was, because I was back to watching her take her next shot even though I’d only just noticed the gory mess in the room. Another part was angry that someone could provoke such a reaction from me, and a small, mostly unexamined part was instantly distrustful of someone that could hijack my brain in the way she did.

Skill increased: Deception lvl 5!

The chime from the skill increase made me tense up again, but she was focused on killing the trapped zombies and still hadn’t noticed me. I turned back to Vince and raised a finger to my lips, gesturing for him to move out of sight, then pushed the door open fully with a creak.

“Who are you?” I asked her.

She turned smoothly and pointed the gun at me. I raised my hands, aware that I probably looked kind of threatening with the machete, then lowered it onto the floor instead.

“Don’t move,” she said. “Name.”

“Juniper Smith, but I usually go by Joon,” I said.

“Background?” she asked, staring at me with her teeth set. In my peripheral vision Vince was listening intently, ready to move, and I tried not to show any sign of it.

“Uh, student,” I offered, unsure what she wanted from me. For all I knew, everyone else in this world ran on D&D 5e rules and she would ask me my class next.

She looked me up and down. “Which athenaeum?”

“I’m not an athenaeum student,” I said. It wasn’t necessarily true when I said it because I had no idea what an athenaeum was in the moment, but right after a memory sparked and I recalled the term; it was a fancy term for a place of literacy and learning, taken from the name of the Greek god Athena. I’d used it in a D&D campaign before, when the party had been tracking a goblin ranger through the halls of the abandoned Athenaeum of Quills and Blood.

“Why did they put you on the plane?” she asked with a curl of her lips. Her gun was still pointed at me, which only slightly dampened my attraction.

“I have no idea, the first thing I saw of this world was the inside of the plane just before we dropped. I don’t know if I was magically transported here or what, but I’m from Bumblefuck, Kansas.”

Achievement Unlocked: Full Disclosure

“Which world are you from?” she asked.

“Earth? It orbits the sun and has a moon, we don’t have anything magic like zombies or whatever your pistol is,” I said, trying to think about what the most pertinent information would be as she frowned. It was a very pretty frown, and I immediately felt annoyed at the attraction. “We also don’t have game overlays there, not in real life, but I got one when I came here.”

She slowly lowered her pistol, blue eyes searching my face. “You’ve been dream-skewered. All thoughts and memories wiped away in an instant, replaced by the dream of Earth and a different life there. It’s a fate only slightly better than death.”

“Are there many of us? Does it happen a lot?” If it did, that would help explain why things like the garage were so similar.

“There have been perhaps a thousand of the dream-skewered, they are cared for and studied at the Athenaeum of Speculation and Scrutiny,” she said. “The Fuchsia Coterie came down with us. They have a mission in the Risen Lands, and part of that mission is putting down anyone who sees them. We’ll have to work together to make it out, and once we do I can get you the help you need there.”

Well, that was a pretty shockingly straightforward hook.

“I’m in,” I said. “What needs doing?”

Quest Accepted: Straddling Worlds!

“That is an XC-class soulcycle,” said the most beautiful girl in the world. The thing she was pointing at sat off to the side of the auto shop floor. It looked more or less like a motorcycle, but it had metal wheels instead of rubber and where a gas tank would normally go there was a thick glass barrel which stood completely empty. “Comfort has been picked clean and I think that’s our best chance of getting workable transportation. I can’t do it without you.”

“Okay, we might have a problem here,” I said. “Vince, time for introductions.”

Vince stepped out from where he had been hidden into the doorway behind me, hands raised and a sheepish grin on his face. “Hi, I’m Vince, I’m also dream-skewered, and I got a magic smartphone instead of a game interface.”

“You’re right, this is a problem,” she said, lips pressed into a thin line. “You can call me Cypress. I can fix the soulcycle and drive it, but it can hold two people at most, and that’s with one of us riding pillion.”

“Can’t we stick a sidecar on it?” Vince asked, looking around the shop.

“Not if we want to have any chance of outrunning the umbral undead.”

This felt unfair. Just when we found a third person, one of us was going to have to be left behind?

“You both claim to be dream-skewered,” said Cypress, in an even, steady tone. “On Aerb, there are nine thousand hells. The highest hell is slightly better than Comfort, in its current state. Our infernoscopes can penetrate only down to the five thousandth hell, but there only brief reprieves from torture and pain exist, and those reprieves are marked by fear and anguish. I have a dejang that can be used to extract souls to dissipate instead, saving you from that fate. If you want to avoid going to the hells, having your soul bottled now under controlled circumstances to dissipate is perhaps the safest way out available to you.”

Holy shit is this world grimdark.

“No, fuck this, nobody’s dying here, I’ve got a third option.” Vince said, firm but quiet. “I’m going to slowly take something out of my pocket to show you, so don’t shoot.”

He pulled out the smartphone from earlier, unlocking it and swiping through menus.

“Alright, check it out -” He pointed the screen towards me. It showed a picture of an off-white Volkswagen Beetle with red, white, and blue racing stripes and the number 53 painted on each side.

“It’s a car?” I said.

“It’s Herbie, the magic car! Have you not seen the films?”

I vaguely remembered coming across that franchise while browsing TVtropes.

“You can summon this vehicle with your device?” Cypress asked.

“I can buy it for five credits, I don’t know how delivery is handled. Yeah, I’m not seeing a better way out of this, let’s give this a shot.”

He pressed another button, and the interior of the shop was lit up by blue light coming through the grimy windows. I hurried over to one of them and rubbed away at it. Outside, a Beetle just like in the photo had driven out of a glowing blue disk in space. The portal shrank down as the car left it, disappearing to nothing, and then the car’s headlights turned on. Other than the sound of the vehicle, the whole process had been silent.

“Is this normal for the dream-skewered?” I asked.

Cypress shook her head, already gathering up items from the workbench. “No. No, it is not.”

Outside, the car’s horn beeped twice.

“Well, let’s not keep him waiting!” Vince said. “Remember, he might not be able to communicate easily but he has feelings, try not to hurt them.”

He headed back out to greet our new ride, and I went to help Cypress pack. She gave me a look of suspicion, then pointed to a canvas rucksack for me to start filling.

“Do you trust Vince?” she asked quietly.

I thought for a moment. “He hasn’t given me any reason to distrust him yet, as far as I can tell he’s been eager to cooperate from the start.”

“Careful with these,” she said, handing me a few small purple crystals in a soft leather bag, and I caught myself looking into her eyes instead of listening to her properly. “They’re void crystals, detonated with electricity, all I have left from the stash after I used the rest to take out my pursuers just now, and we’ll need them for weapons.”

“Got it,” I said, taking the pouch. Our fingers brushed for a moment, and I did my best to hide the thrill that went through me at the incidental contact. In about a minute the bag was loaded full of tools and machine parts, with nothing else meriting an explanation.

We left the building to find Vince in the driver’s seat of Herbie, hunched over because he was too tall to fit comfortably in the car and rooting through the glovebox. I took shotgun and Cypress climbed into the back.

“We need to get moving,” She said. “We’re not safe here and we need ample daylight left when we start looking for a place to spend the night. I’m not sure that it would be safe to drive at night anyway, since the roads in the Risen Lands haven’t been maintained.”

“Herbie has headlights if we need them,” Vince said, patting the dashboard affectionately. “What about the zombies and the people who came down with us?”

“Don’t use the z-word. The walking dead are less of a concern now we have an enclosed vehicle, but the Coterie are all the more reason for us to get moving before they can regroup and find weapons.”

Quest Accepted: Comfort Zone!