1 Chapter 1: Marcus

(Feb. 23, 2021, Tuesday, 07:39 AM)

(Meycauayan, Bulacan)

If there's anything that a miserable man could wish for, it's not to wake up anymore and be in eternal sleep.

After all, this reality is bullshit. Monthly bills, family issues, failed relationships, bad decisions—everything in real life is bullshit. No wonder why people tend to escape through several means.

The man changed his mind. What he didn't like is the world he was living in. If he has a choice to live somewhere else—even between an apocalyptic world or a fantasy world, he'd be glad to choose any.

Anywhere where he could make a name for himself, where his efforts would be rightfully counted on, earning his place in that world.

But what if one of these worlds manifests into reality?

Marcus jolted out of his nap from the jeepney that he was riding home. The bustling noises around brought his consciousness back to where he was sitting. Furthermore, a commotion seemed to begin several blocks away from them.

"What's that?"

"What?"

"The people seem to be running away from something," the jeepney driver went out of the vehicle along with his conductor. People started running towards the opposite direction.

The driver and conductor went back to the jeepney.

"Give 'em their remaining fares," the driver said. "This traffic might take longer than usual."

Marcus took a glimpse outside. There was a mass of people running, and it seemed that everyone was panicked and scared.

It was as if they were running from something sinister.

Is this what I think it is? Marcus thought.

The driver and the conductor began to return some coins to the passengers. However, Marcus excused himself to get out of the jeepney without getting his.

"Hey, Pogi! Here's yours!"

"Ah, no, thank you, Boss. I know that's a small amount but surely you won't be able to get more passengers within this traffic. Please keep it." Marcus bowed and took off.

Hearing his words made some of the other passengers refuse to accept theirs as well before taking off the vehicle.

The driver scratched his head, a bit touched about the act.

"Ah, that kid..."

"Kuya, are you touched?" The conductor stifled a laugh.

"Stop it, you prick! It's rare for people to be like that nowadays..."

Marcus snickered as he fixed his black face mask and transparent face shield. He still heard the banter between the two. Normally he'd just receive it back without a word to get it over with. However, he happened to eavesdrop on the conversation between the two before he drifted to a quick nap earlier.

It was something about the driver saving up for his wife's delivery. Another baby is coming into his family!

Marcus sighed. "Family…"

Marcus began to walk ahead. But as he walked closer to the entrance of Malhacan Rd, he encountered more people running away from it. His eyebrows crossed.

Something's definitely wrong here.

He grabbed the arm of someone who ran past him.

"Hey, bro. What's happening out there?" he asked, his eyes fixated on the main road ahead.

"I don't know, man, but people suddenly started attacking other people."

"Attack? What? How?"

"I don't know, man! A man from the bus bit me here!" The guy showed the bite on his wrist.

Marcus stared at it, seeing the teeth marks of a human. The bite did not sink in that much but Marcus thought that the bite was enough to let the man's skin redden and let the saliva seep into his skin.

He removed his hold from the man's arm and the man immediately ran, but Marcus already knew what would happen to the man after a few hours—no, maybe just a few minutes.

Dammit. It's happening.

Marcus saw the jeepney driver and the conductor who was still sitting inside the jeepney. He quickly sprinted back to them and tapped the vehicle's windshield.

"Boss, do you still wanna live?"

"You idiot, of course, I do!" The jeepney driver was surprised. "Why would you ask that?"

"Then get the hell out of there and follow me!" Marcus said, his voice exuding all sense of urgency.

The driver and the conductor looked at each other and then at him. They seemed to hesitate at first, but the driver could tell that this young man in front of him was serious. He immediately snatched the belt bag which contained his earnings for the day and followed him. The conductor grabbed his knapsack beside him and did the same.

Instead of going ahead or even turning back to where they came from, Marcus led them towards the street on their left, entering a small residential area. Malhacan Rd was connected to the other side's Pacheco Street, but they needed to cross at a part that should be a bit far from Malhacan Rd. Luckily, there was another road beyond this street.

They just passed by a crowd gathered from the residential area. These residents were trying to make sense of the commotion from the road where they came from. While they were used to some commotion and some accidents around, this was the first time where they saw a huge amount of people running in the opposite direction. However, considering that there's a pandemic, mass crowds like this is not advisable, too.

"Pogi, what's happening?" The middle-aged driver asked as they continued to walk, breathing heavily.

This damn face mask… the driver thought. If it wasn't for the safety protocols, he could just remove this.

But his wife is very prone to the virus, too, as a pregnant woman. He wouldn't risk anything for her and their whole family.

"To be honest I just have a faint hunch that something's going on there. Something dangerous," Marcus said with a straight face.

However, it was a half-lie. It was not just a hunch.

He knew that this would happen.

Luckily, they saw a cab parked in front of an eatery. Marcus looked around, and his eyes locked to the taxi driver who just finished eating his breakfast.

****

"Boss, what's your name?"

"My name's Edward. But people call me Manong Ed."

"I see. Can I call you Kuya Ed instead? It seems you're not that old to be called as such," Marcus laughed.

"Ah, you humble me!" Edward snickered and scratched his head. "But go ahead."

"How about you?"

Marcus's eyes moved to the conductor who was startled at his question. It also seemed that this guy is around Marcus's age, the same as the cab driver.

"Ah, I'm Edrick."

"Got it. I'm Marcus. Where do you both live?"

"Malolos," Edward replied. "Just around the corner of City Hall."

"Wow, lucky!" Marcus laughed. "That's my destination, too."

"Is it the house with the grilled chicken station over there?"

It was the cab driver, butting into the conversation.

"Sorry, I haven't introduced myself yet. The name's June."

"It's fine!" Marcus grinned. "Just don't let your attention slip away from the road."

"Haha. But yes, that's the one. My wife's sister owns that place—"

Edward was not able to finish what he was saying as they just passed in front of Malhacan Rd.

Several policemen barricaded the road, isolating the main highway—Macarthur Highway, the highway they were in—from Malhacan Rd. People were frantic all over, and the police were imposing orders on the people around by force.

"Goddamn," June cursed under his breath. Marcus, on the other hand, was busy taking photos using his phone.

I should send these to Jayden…

"Hey, kid, what's happening?" Edward tapped Marcus's shoulder. He knew that this guy had some kind of an idea about what was going on.

"I'll tell you all later. For now, contact your families and tell them to go to Malolos City Hall."

Edward nodded his head and grabbed Edrick's phone to contact his wife, much to Edrick's dismay.

"I… I don't have a family here," June sighed. "My parents and siblings are in Aklan."

Marcus nudged him. "Hey, that's actually good. These infected assholes would not be able to cross water—"

"Wait, you said 'infected'," Edrick interrupted him. "Are we in some kind of an apocalypse?"

Marcus closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. He was planning to tell them later, but maybe it was better to drop the bomb now.

He looked behind him to meet the curious Edrick.

"Yes, we are in an apocalypse. The early stages."

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