Chapter Twenty Three
She couldn’t help but fight back when they grabbed her, but Chris just stood there. He let them grab him and just didn’t move. He looked like he was in shock.
And then he moved. He threw himself away from the other group and tried to run the other way, but it was too late. Too late.
He was grabbed, sent face first into the pavement. A knee in his back held his thrashing body down, but hardly subdued him. It took a hard hit to his head to get him to stop fighting against them and he fell limp.
Maybe it had been because she had seen far too many dead bodies in her life, but a shrill cry escaped from her throat and she fought even harder. He was unmoving, but a hit to the head shouldn’t have killed him, right?
“STOP.” Nick shouted at her, the muscled man looked unamused at the situation. He had four people grabbing him, two on each arm. They looked small compared to him and Gwen knew if he really wanted to he could probably shake them off and get a good head start. She wondered why he didn’t. Sure, he was loyal to Chris, but so were the others and they had ran off without a second thought. Even the dogs had fled at the command.
“Listen to him.” Leigh said loudly enough for her to hear. Her face was bloody and already bruises were forming, but there was a determined look in her eyes that reassured Gwen enough to stop fighting. If she had learnt anything in the last few days, it was that these people knew how to survive and they would find a way.
“Good work.” A man from the other group said. “Shame that we couldn’t get the others but this will do for now. It won’t take long for them to break to tell us where the others went.”
“Go to hell.” Nick spat at him. “You think we’d tell you that?”
The man smirked, looking far too confident. He was obviously the leader of the group and was far too proud of that fact. “If we can’t break you physically or mentally, we always have the other groups that we found earlier today. Thirteen of them, four of you. There are seventeen of you in total. You can’t tell me that all seventeen of you people will be able to keep a secret for long, especially under the... strain you’ll be put under.”
“Obviously, you don’t understand loyalty.” Nick growled, but the man just laughed.
“I like you,” he said, “you’ve got spirit. Let’s hope it doesn’t get broken too soon.” He laughed and turned to the rest of his group. “Bind them and take them back to the hospital. We’ve got work to do.”
The rope was coarse and rubbed Gwen’s skin raw, digging in deep and drawing blood. They didn’t want to take any chances with them at all and Gwen guessed that it was because the others had fought valiantly against them. Judging from the bruises on the man who had a death grip on Gwen’s shoulder, whoever who had been bound by him had made his life hell. She felt a swell of pride in her chest for whoever had done that.
“Chris!” Cheyenne’s voice called out, echoing loudly off the tiles. She felt panic rise in her throat and leave a metallic taste on her tongue and tried to fight against the man. He cuffed her upside the head and left her disorientated for a few moments.
Once her vision had ceased to blur, she surveyed the room trying to take in every detail. The room was dull and the colours reminded her far too much of life before she had been infected. There were two people to a cell and thankfully their group looked to be okay, if not a little bruised and shaken. There were a few other people who Gwen didn’t recognise, but they looked sickly, as though they were inches away from death.
It was just Gwen’s luck to be thrown - quite literally - into one of the cells with one of the sickly people. She couldn’t see how old the person was or if they were even still alive. They had curled up in the corner of the cell, arms covering their face. The only thing that she could make out was that whoever they were was a male, guessing by the build.
She felt relieved when they finally cut the bonds off of her, though she resented how they had made her stand with her back straight up against the wall. She had to stand awkwardly to avoid stepping on the sickly man. As soon as the door to the cell had clicked shut, she immediately went and stood at it, hands grabbing at the bars and shaking them. The door merely rattled at her in a mocking way, as though it were chuckling at her feeble attempts.
Gwen didn’t even want to begin to think about why a hospital would need a room like this and renewed all the force she put behind shoving at the door, but no matter how much she tried, it refused to give.
“Gwen.” A soft voice to her left called and she turned to see Kel and Ariana. They looked tired, Ariana had an impressive gash on her temple and Kel was standing stiffly with one arm wrapped around his chest, but they otherwise seemed unharmed.
“Are you okay?” Ariana whispered, reaching through the bars and holding out her hand. Gwen immediately took it, finding herself feeling reassured at the strong grip.
“I’m okay.” She whispered back. “Everyone else?”
“Everyone seems to be okay.” Kel said in a low voice. “We’re all worried about Nia from our group. She got hit pretty hard and hasn’t woken up since. Your group?”
“Most of them ran before they could get caught. Chris was hit in the head after he tried to fight and he hasn’t woken up since. Other than that, I think it’s just minor injuries.”
“At least we’re all alive.” Ariana whispered, but Kel shook his head.
“But for how long? This can’t be anything good. They’re not keeping us as pets.”
“Help will come soon, especially because people got away. There are nine people who aren’t here.” Gwen said, lowering her voice towards the last part. She didn’t know if they were being watched but she didn’t want to accidentally tell those who had captured them any information that they didn’t need to know.
“So we hold out and we hope we don’t turn out like them?” Kel asked, with a nod towards the man in her cell. “He was crying in agony when they brought us in and he hasn’t moved since. I don’t think I want to know what happened to him, but we might find out first hand anyway.”
“Stop talking like that.” Ariana told him, reaching out and grabbing his arm with her free hand, but he pulled away from her.
“It’s possible. We have to be ready for that.”
Gwen squeezed Ariana’s hand tightly before she could lash out at Kel. “We don’t need this.” She said firmly. “Do you guys know anything?”
Ariana sighed and shook her head. “No. Every once and a while they come down here, maybe every fifteen minutes. I couldn’t tell you anything other than the fact that they’re wary of us. They stripped us of everything, hell I had a bobby pin in my hair and they took that.”
“What do we do?”
“Wait it out. Like you said. There’s gotta be someone who made it back to camp. I’m assuming that if the dogs aren’t with you, they would’ve gone back to camp. Anyone back at camp should be smart enough to put two and two together.”
“But what if they don’t want to risk it and won’t send help?” Kel asked, his voice a little harsher.
“They will. Have hope.”
“Hold on to hope, for letting go will lead to darkness.” Kel murmured. “But aren’t we already in darkness?”
“Not yet.” Ariana told him. “There’s still a light at the end of the tunnel.”
It was just a pinprick of light like a far-off street lamp, but at least it was there.
The man in Gwen’s cell woke abruptly, sitting up and letting out a sharp cry.
“Holy shit.” Gwen gasped, instinctively moving away from him. She watched as his chest heaved with every breath, his face sheened with sweat. Besides from his whistling breathing, he was silent.
“Are you okay?” Gwen asked after a moment, and the man’s eyes flicked toward her, looking surprised and fearful. It was obvious that he hadn’t noticed her there. He pressed himself further into the corner, reminding Gwen all too much of a wounded animal retreating to lick at its wounds.
“Who are you?” He asked instead of answering, and his voice was rough, cracking half-way through the sentence. He swallowed and it looked painful, as though there was something caught in his throat.
“Gwen.” She told him, trying her hardest to sound calming. “What’s your name?”
He stared at her for a moment looking untrusting but soon he heaved a sigh. “Anthony.”
“Okay, Anthony.” Gwen said, trying the name out. “Are you okay?”
“No.” The bluntness of his answer shocked her, and she was quiet for a moment, not sure of what to ask next. He saved her from having to do that though. “You’re new here, right?”
She nodded, and he choked out a barking laugh. “You’ll be like me soon enough.” He promised her. “They’ll tell you it’s all for the greater good and all that shit, that they’re doing it to save the world, but it’s not.”
“What did they do to you?” She asked softly, but he shook his head.
“You don’t want to know.” He told her, suddenly sounding very tired. “Just try your fuckin’ hardest to get out of here.” He collapsed back against the wall, and soon enough he was once again unconscious.
“Still holding out for hope?” Kel murmured, and Gwen felt ready to hit him. When had he become like this? So frustratingly hopeless. Gwen had expected him to be the one who was trying to pick locks and trying to squeeze his entire body through bars like a cat, not sitting here and saying nothing other than desolate sentences.
“What is wrong with you?” She hissed, whirling around to him and he looked shocked for a half moment before turning his face away from her, staring at the ground.
She wanted to stay angry, demand answers from him, but her anger was hardly even simmering. The rage she had once unleashed at Riley had become a flame in the wind and she couldn’t be bothered in trying to protect it. She threw herself to the ground and glared at the tile.
“Don’t worry about him.” Ariana whispered to her. “He’s just moody at the moment. He’ll be right in a few days.”
She didn’t know what to say to that, so she didn’t answer.
It was night, and the only reason why Gwen knew that was because it was too dark for her to even see the outline of her hand. Anthony hadn’t woken again, and no one had wanted to talk. The room was silent except for their breathing and the occasional shifting and Gwen hated it. She was used to these people being full of life and energy. She wanted to see them be themselves, attempting to be escape artists. Hell, she was waiting for someone to shimmy through the bars and make a daring attempt at escape, but no one did.
A beam of light shined down the room, but Gwen paid little mind to it. Every so often, ‘guards’ had come down here, shining their lights into each cell. She did however, look towards the guard when he started to walk away but paused, turning back into her cell.
“Show me your arms.” He demanded, and she paled. They had apparently thought that she had been one of the healthy people. She had no choice but to hold her arms up directly into the beam of light, there wasn’t enough fight in her at the moment to even think about disobeying. She didn’t look at the man, knew that his face would be twisted into an ugly smile.
“Liam!” He called. “We got an infected!”
There was the sound of footsteps that were annoyingly slow. She waited with bated breath, swallowing. She felt Ariana reach through the bar, gently grabbing her hand. She looked towards the other female.
“It’ll be okay.” Ariana mouthed to her, and Gwen offered a smile in return, though it wasn’t sincere. Neither of them wanted to even think about what would happen to her now, but they were both stupid to think that it would be okay.
Finally, Liam had stopped out the front of the cell, whistling appreciatively. “I didn’t expect to get an infected in with this lot, but I’m not complaining. Get her out and relocate her.”
Oh shit. She didn’t want to be separated from the group. Who knew where they would take her? There was the chance that she would be alone, or worse, surrounded by other infected who were out of their minds.
The guard unlocked the door, and in the heat of the moment, Gwen knew she had to take the opportunity. She waited a second for it to be opened the slightest bit, and then she threw herself against it. Both men were taken by surprise, the guard knocked off his feet from the force behind her attack, and the noise that had been absent from the cells earlier met her ears. Her group had obviously been just as shocked at her actions.
She didn’t stop for a moment and just forced herself to run, her breath already turning into sharp shards that dug into her lungs and ripped at the tissue. The guard had been quick to get back on his feet and was catching up, but she pushed herself forward. Her running wasn’t graceful in the slightest, and she would trip if she slowed down but she didn’t let that hinder her.
She had never been an athletic one in school, but the adrenaline from such a daring action gave her borrowed speed. After all, she was a teenager and all teenagers lived for the moments that made them feel invincible.
She heard shouting from the cells, the others trying to create a distraction. Hands reached out of the bars, but not grabbing at her. A grunt and the faltering in the guard’s footsteps told her that they were grabbing at him, giving her that little bit more of a head start.
She flung herself through the entrance of the room, startling the few occupants. The guard was close behind her again, yelling orders out to others as they both ran but Gwen ignored them. Right now, she had to focus on running, had to focus on her escape
She rounded a tight corner and was forced to an abrupt stop. There, another member of the hospital stood, looking confused. She tried to step around him, but it was too late. The guard had caught up to her, sending them both crashing to the ground.
Shit. She had been so close; she could actually see the stairs at the end of the corridor. If it hadn’t been for the man who was still standing there looking stupid, she would’ve made it. She would’ve been free.
What she would’ve done when she was free was beyond her, however.
“Thought you could get away, eh?” The guard asked, his breath hot against her ear, forcing her to try and squirm away. His breath was absolutely horrible. The world had all but ended, yes, but it wasn’t exactly hard to get your hands on a tube of toothpaste. “Try it again, and you’ll lose your legs.”
She fought the urge to snarl; instead she focused on acting limp. If she could get the drop on him again, she could make it to the stairs.
“Lukas!” The guard snapped at the stupid man. “Why didn’t you do anything?”
“Well, sir.” He said the word sarcastically. “Had I been aware of the situation, I would’ve done something about it. I apologise that I failed to react, but we aren’t exactly trained in situations like these.”
Maybe the stupid man wasn’t so stupid after all. Had he not been a part of the hospital group, Gwen could see him being good friends with her, and probably many others.
“Don’t take that tone with me.” The guard snapped.
“If you aren’t already aware.” Lukas said, sounding exasperated. “I’m higher ranked than you and I am the one that orders you around, not the other way round.”
“I don’t see why.”
There were the slow footsteps again of the Doctor, and the guard was obviously distracted with Lukas. She braced her hands against the floor and in one swift movement; she pushed herself up and onto her feet. The guard was off-balanced and was sent to the floor, and Gwen quickly ducked past Lukas before he could do anything though by the lack of footsteps, he didn’t plan to stop her anyway.
She reached the stairs, well aware of the guard that was furious and running after her once again. She started to descend but before she was even halfway down the first flight, she found herself trapped. Two guards were making their way up, not in any particular hurry. She went to turn around, but the other guard was at the top. Unless she wanted to jump the banister, fall several floors and probably die a tragically embarrassing death, there was no escape.
For a moment, she actually considered jumping, but if she didn’t die, she would be severely injured and either way she would be useless.
Better dead than trapped here for the rest of my miserable life like some lab rat. She told herself and braced both of her hands on the banister getting ready to vault over, and then hands were grabbing at her clothes and pinching harshly at her skin, pulling her away and grabbing her in a headlock.
So close. Another few seconds and I would’ve been out of here. She growled to herself in frustration and fought against them, but there were three of them and she was much smaller than them, far too weak against their combined strength.
That knowledge didn’t stop her from fighting and screaming the entire time that they dragged her to her new location.