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“Isn’t this dangerous?” Jen asked. She was standing off to the side, staring at me with a spear in her hands. “Can’t we, like, wait for the nightshift crew to do this?”

I was standing in front of a cell with a scrap of boar meat on the ground by my feet. Inside the cell, there was someone wriggling on the ground, pressing his face into the chain-link wires. He was biting at it, reddish-black blood leaking from his mouth. There were cuts and scrapes on his face, but as an infected, he didn’t care. Normally, I’d be carrying a spear and the infected would be dead. However, the chief sent down orders to the prison. He wanted to test something on a freshly turned person, so instead of killing the infected right away, Jen and I are going to catch it. “Open the fence.”

“You really don’t want to wait?” Jen asked but undid the lock on the fence anyway. She took it off and stepped back a few paces before fiddling with the latch with her spear. When she positioned the spear right under the latch, she looked at me. “Last chance.”

“Do it.”

“There has to be a safer way. We could get more people or have the chief come down here instead.”

“It’ll be fine.”

“For fuck’s sake, you only have a ball gag.”

Since Jen wasn’t going to do it, I walked up and kicked her spear, forcing the latch up. Then I retreated a few steps back behind the scrap of boar meat. The infected pushed against the fence with his face and wriggled out, his arms and legs bound. Like a worm, he compressed and extended his torso to travel forward. The plan was to position the ball gag in front of his face as he was about to bite down on the meat. Of course, I wore the standard warden gear that couldn’t be bit through by an infected. I’m not sure why Jen’s freaking out so much. Even if something goes horribly wrong, I can still safely kill the infected without a weapon.

Jen didn’t say anything after I kicked her spear. The people in quarantine kept their mouths shut too. Any sound could distract the infected. It crawled forward, heading straight for the meat. It wasn’t even a big piece of meat either, just a scrap still attached to the bone, the little tendons that’re a pain in the ass to bite off. Right when the infected was about to bite down, I crouched and jammed my arms forward, smashing the black gag into its teeth. It groaned and shook its head from side to side, but I pressed my thumb knuckles against the hard part of its face behind its cheeks right in front of the ears—not too sure what that section’s called. As a result, the ball gag swayed with the infected’s face, always positioned in front of its mouth. After a brief struggle, the infected tried to bite the gag, and I forced my arms further back, jamming the ball gag deeper inside. Then I tightened the buckle behind its head, locking the gag into place.

“It’s done.”

“You crazy bastard,” Jen said.

“Pass me some rope.”

Jen sighed and stepped away. A moment later, she came to my side and gave me a coil of rope. I slid it underneath the wiggling infected and made a loop, tying its arms to its torso at its elbows. Then I undid the rope tying its legs together before pulling it up onto its feet. It stumbled towards Jen, but I reeled it back by tugging on the rope around its body. I wonder if this is what walking a dog feels like. The infected groaned and turned to face me. It moved its head towards me, trying to bite me despite the gag in its mouth. The rope only let me pull the infected not push it away. So I kicked its stomach, forcing it back.

“Alright, let’s bring this to the chief.”

Jen closed the door to the cell with the butt of her spear. “You look like an S right now.”

“A what?”

“You know, S&M? Actually, would this be more like pet play?” Jen looked around the prison. “Everyone, your thoughts?”

“Just get outta here; no one wants to hear that shit.”

“Who said that? I’m spitting in your dinner tonight.” Jen shook her head. “Alright, let’s go.”

Since it’s an order from the chief, it’s fine to leave the prison unattended. People can’t get out of their cells anyway. The worst thing that could happen is someone not being let out to use the bathroom. I’m not thinking that to jinx the situation. Anything beyond someone shitting their pants probably wouldn’t have been solved regardless of whether I was there or not.

“Do you think the chief can do it?” Jen asked. She was walking next to me, the butt of her spear poking into the infected’s back. Instead of leading it along, she was pushing it ahead.

“You mean cure him?” I gestured ahead of us. Luckily, there wasn’t anyone in the way. I wasn’t afraid of anyone panicking; I just didn’t want to be seen doing this after Jen’s earlier comment.

“Yeah,” Jen said. “How many years has it been since the outbreak? There hasn’t even been a rumor of a cure.”

“If someone cured it across the ocean, we’d never know. Someone would have to go there and back. Or someone from over there would have to come here, but why would they do that after finding the cure?”

“I guess,” Jen said. She angled her wrists to the side, steering the infected down a corner. “I hope the chief succeeds. I really miss life before shit hit the fan.”

“Life’s pretty cozy right now: got a job, got a place to stay, got a cute girlfriend. What more could I ask for?”

Even though Jen was wearing a helmet and I wasn’t looking at her, I could tell she was rolling her eyes. “Electricity? Running water? Internet? Or, oh, I don’t know, say, not have to worry about being eaten alive? That’s a good one.”

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