A/N: We flash forward a few days in Issac’s stay at the cottage. We’ll be finding out just how well he’s been doing out on his own. There will be some graphic scenes as we stray from the main genre of the story for just a bit. I just need to illustrate something and we can get back on track either by the end of this chapter or the next one!
Something I was blindsided by was how crippling this depression would be. I was so used to my mood being stable with medication and bi-weekly trips to see my therapist that I had went a while without feeling it full on. It had been three going on four days out at the cottage. And I haven’t left once. I found out there was a radio in the bedroom and occasionally I’d get a message from either Alisha or Jonas as they checked up on me. I didn’t want them to worry, so I tried my best to sound cheery. But I was growing tired of that. I didn’t have the energy for much these days. It was night, and I didn’t have the energy to climb atop the roof again to scan my surroundings. I suppose if something broke in I’d just let it run its course? That seemed easier.
There was a loud knock at the door, my senses on high alert. I grabbed my sword, my body filling with strength. I stalked up to the door as the erratic knocking came again. I wasn’t tall enough to see over the glass at the top of the door. So I chanced it. Letting the sheath slip off my sword I yanked it open, ready to cut down whatever had come to bother me. I almost went too far as my eyes locked onto what it was. And there stood Jonas, looking shaken.
“Woah there Bambi.” He said, holding up his hands.
I felt the overwhelming sensation of exhaustion take me again as I slipped down the wall near the doorway.
“You gave me a heart attack.” I sighed, dropping my sword, defenses lowering as I felt the relief wash over me.
“I come to see you and you almost chop off my head.” He remarked, closing the door and kicking off his shoes. He knew this was a rule of mine when he’d come over to my dorm room.
“I thought I made it clear that I wanted to be alone. I’m communicating with you guys.” I huffed, rolling my eyes as I stood up, almost losing my balance from some dizziness.
“Actually.” He began, his voice turning serious.
Just that single word just didn’t make things any better. I couldn’t just be left alone? Perhaps if I ignored him he’d go away? So I did just that, sheathing my sword and walking into the living room. But he was persistent, groaning with annoyance as he followed behind me.
“You’re not eating Bambi. Me and Alisha are worried.” Jonas said, prodding even more.
“And how would you know what I’m doing?” I retorted, feeling just as annoyed as he was.
“I asked some of the people at the community dining hall if they’ve seen you around. None of em’ have seen ya.” Jonas barked aggressively. I had quickly become annoyed. Though I somehow managed to keep my temper in check.
He was right. I hadn’t been there to eat in all my time being here. I just haven’t had much of an appetite. Despite the depression, I’ve been doing decent at taking care of myself in other ways. I showered every morning, got plenty of sleep, drank water. Just no appetite.
“I just haven’t been hungry.” I reasoned, rolling my eyes at his pressuring.
“Bullshit. You eat more than I do. And I’m hungry all the damn time Bambi.” He asserted, applying even more pressure.
That’s when I snapped, my depression melting away in that instant, filled with an anger of sorts.
“I just want to be left the fuck alone!” I shouted.
“Is that too much to fucking ask for?” I pressed, glaring at him
Jonas looked pissed, but for once I didn’t care. He couldn’t see that this was for the best. He kept pressing and insisting I come back. But he didn’t understand why I was doing this. Why it was a good thing that I was alone. He rubbed his face roughly, calming down, though his eyes told a different story. Suddenly I was pinned down to the couch as his anger rolled off him in waves. Though I was too beyond done to feel any way about it.
“I can’t just leave you alone in your castle of solitude Bambi. You’ll rot out here on your own.” He growled, his grip on my biceps tightening as his voice fell to a whisper.
It struck a chord, shaking things lose. I felt the intensity of his emotion.
“I can’t Jonas. I can’t just expose you all to what I’ve become in all of this. It’s gross, disgusting, and horrible.” I rambled, feeling tears form in my eyes. It hurt yes. But it was what was best.
“I don’t fucking care if you start murdering everything in sight for absolutely no reason. If everything you touch dies.” He bit back, his eyes burning into my own as his grip tightened even more.
It was so intense that I had to look away. Though that wasn’t enough for him. He gripped me by the jaw with one hand to look me dead in the eyes. At this point, it would be childish to focus my eyes on something else, so I submitted.
“Why? Because I fucking love you, Bambi. I don’t care what you become. I love you.” He asserted, striking the same emotional chord as before. He’d never said he loved me like this before in all our time together.
It would always be in a detached way if he said it at all. But even in my current state, I felt the intensity of it. Before I had time to think anything else a kiss was planted on my lips.
And that’s when everything melted into a blur. I vaguely recall making our way up to the bedroom. Every touch was like fire to what felt like a lifeless body, igniting a pile of ashes to sprout a pheonix. Everything felt so raw and I was treated like royalty. Every movement and action he made felt as if it was all for me and he was secondary. Just when I felt my body would break under all the attention I was being given we both reached our end, Jonas rolling beside me panting, his body glistening with sweat. Even I was panting, struggling for my breath as my body still felt as if it was tingling as I came down from a euphoric high.
“How was it for you? I know it was amazing for me.” Jonas asked, somehow I felt positive. Perhaps it was because I was still coming down.
“I’m speechless.” I panted.
“I got a lil’ carried away. I honestly just wanted to come and talk to you.” Jonas explained, pulling me to him.
“I’m not saying I regret it by any means.” I huffed, staring up at the ceiling.
“So ya comin’ back?” He snuck in, knowing full well I wouldn’t be able to think clearly right now.
But I had already resolved to all of this. I wouldn’t cave if he thought the moment and intimacy we had just shared would sweeten the deal. I couldn’t.
“No.” I said simply, hearing Jonas groan in frustration.
“Can you at least come and see us?” Jonas asked, sounding hopeful.
“Maybe.” I answered.
“Okay, I’ll try something else.” Jonas said, sitting up and looking down at me. If I rolled over i’d get the mess he shot all over my back on the sheets and I definitely didn’t have the energy to wash them tonight. And Jonas was no good with laundry.
“Ugh, go for it I guess.” I groaned, just ripping off the metaphorical band-aid.
“Cool. So two families on the property just welcomed in babies. But we need supplies from town. When this all started they dropped everything to come here.” Jonas explained, knowing full well I’d cave to this.
“Okay. And?” I replied as he got up off the bed.
“I was wondering if you’d come with me tomorrow on the run? I don’t want Alisha to have to be sent out so I volunteered us two.” Jonas smirked as I felt a bit of my old self returning. Getting up, I threw a pillow at him.
He was so cocky it was annoying. He was counting on getting me in a positive mood so much. But he was also confident in his ability to get me there.
“I know. I’m good at what I do. Maybe I should have went for psych too.” He teased.
Pulling up my underwear, I stalked past him and down the ladder, my legs still feeling like jello. He followed as well, shameless about his naked body.
“Put on some damn clothes.” I complained.
“Oh yeah, he’s back. Cursing like a sailor too.” He snickered.
“Oh fuck off.” I sighed, walking into the bathroom with Jonas right on my heels.
“Leaving first thing in the morning? Okay.” He piled on.
We shared yet another moment of passion in the shower together, both of us going at it like rabbits it seemed. And after that we were all burned out and spent, cuddling up in bed together for the night.
Sleep for me was uneventful; save for having to steal covers back from Jonas. He was never pleasant to sleep beside. But somehow I got enough sleep. One thing that never changed it that I woke up before Jonas. He said first thing, so I prodded him roughly, getting the usual complaints as he wasn’t a morning person by any means.
“Let’s get this done. I don’t want to drag it out.” I sighed, getting out of bed to quickly get ready. Brushing my teeth and throwing on some clothes, Jonas eventually joined me downstairs, brushing his teeth as he already had clothes on.
“What do they need?” I asked.
“Cribs, diapers. One needs formula, the soy stuff. Wipes and bottles. Shit like that.” He explained, rinsing out his mouth.
“Well let’s hurry. I don’t want to be caught out at night.” I urged.
“No worries. Daniel’s people say the outbreak was a bit slow to take hold here. Power only went down a week and a half ago.” He explained.
I caught onto his reasoning. But I liked being able to see threats coming. It was also interesting that it took longer to spread. I wondered how other places were doing. I could imagine the state of where we came from. It only took a few days for the power grid to fail. Jonas and I collected our things, leaving out. It was still dewy and cool outside; though that would probably only last a matter of moments before the heat scorched away the moisture. Not waiting for Jonas, I went through the metal gate of the cottage wondering at the same time how I hadn’t heard his truck.
“Someone’s feeling better.” Jonas commented.
I was feeling a bit better; like I actually had the energy to do things. Though I also wanted to get these items as quickly as possible. Me having killed all the people I’ve taken down were because they were more corrupted than me. I’ve gotten lucky with each and every encounter and I was wondering when it was going to run out. With Jonas with me, I felt safe. Sure I could look after myself to a degree, he was an extra layer of security I appreciated. Those thoughts grounded me as I climbed into his truck beside him. And with that, the truck roared to life; probably attracting every infected nearby.
“Shouldn’t you have taken a horse? To save fuel.” I asked.
“The Doddsons have diesel stored for farm equipment. Enough to last years. And they don’t want more than one horse out at once with all the Tweakers and Lurkers wandering onto the property.” He explained, yawning as we tore off into the desert in a seemingly random direction.
“Understandable.” I huffed, Jonas picking up more and more speed.
He was a speed demon by heart juxtaposed to my more conservative driving style.
“Did you run into any while you were out here?” Jonas asked, practically whipping and skidding around cacti.
“I ran into two on my way. I killed and buried them the morning after. While I was burying them four more showed up and I had to do the same for them that day.” I explained.
“Deadly.” He complimented, quickly realizing his poor choice in words.
“Sorry.” He sighed.
It was true, no matter how I viewed it. I became deadly in the two or so months we’ve been stuck in this. I wanted to think that I didn’t have to. To cast aside parts of myself in an instant to take lives. It became easy by this point from all the exposure.
“No offense taken.” I replied, looking ahead as a road came into sight.
“Ya’know. Everyone is worried about you. We actually had a vote for who could come out to see you for this supply run.” Jonas explained.
Yet another emotional chord struck. I expected Jonas and Alisha to worry. But everyone else? Sure we’d been through a lot together, supporting one another. But the fact that they were worried surprised me.
“I’m touched. But I won’t do what you want. It’s what I think is best. Just let me be selfish just this once?” I replied, desperate to be left alone.
“Alright, alright.” He huffed, admitting defeat for the moment.
We drove into the town, pulling into an almost desolate parking lot of a Wal-mart. Jonas looked over at me, seeming to form a plan.
“I wanna get this truck in there.” He said suddenly, causing me to do a double-take.
“Shouldn’t I go in alone? What if there are spores in there.” I reasoned, not wanting him to risk infection. Losing him or Alisha after losing my parents might be the finishing blow for me.
“What if there’s a lot of them in there?” He proposed, cocking a brow at me.
I groaned internally at his stubborn nature. Untying a red bandanna I had tied around my wrist, I gave it to him.
“Get at least three layers of it. I’m not sure how the spores spread but let’s be careful.” I said to him sternly.
“Alright. Now let’s get those yellow poles down so we can just drive straight in.” He explained, doing as I instructed with my bandanna.
“Your truck is too big Jonas. It’s almost as tall as the doorway.” I argued, rolling my eyes at an idea that was seeming worse and worse the more thought I gave it.
“If it’s in the store we can load up easy and get out if there’s danger.” He elaborated.
“Plus I used to ask myself all the time how I’d fit with you but I always made it fit if you know what I mean Bambi.” He tacked on, wiggling his brows suggestively.
The eye-roll from me was inevitable. Though he was probably just trying to lighten the mood. What we were doing was quite risky after all.
“So how are we getting the poles out of the way?” I asked.
“I have a big wench. Remember?” He prodded, that same grin on his face as his innuendo landed.
I got out of the truck, meeting him around front. Since Jonas was handy with a gun, I’d keep watch. So he could save bullets for when we’d need them. And since I was handier with silent weapons I wouldn’t draw more attention. Jonas had the cables fastened to the wench in minutes.
“Not gonna engage the wench. It’s noisy.” He whispered, as if we were surrounded.
He climbed back in the truck, the sound of it switching into reverse floating into my ears. As if it were snapping a twig, the truck lurched back in a mighty heave, tearing the concrete safety pillars from the ground, leaving stubs that could be driven over. They fell with a loud noise. When I had turned my attention back on Jonas he was outside again, feeding the length of cable back into the wench, moving with some urgency. When I looked out at the parking lot I saw why. A swath of infected were twitching into sight.
“Gonna whip it around and go in ass first, so we can get in safely.” He called, already back in his truck.
Readying an arrow in my bow, I took aim, sniping an infected that was too close for comfort. Jonas did just as he said, slowly backing his truck into the glass and metal door. The crunching and shattering of glass could be heard, making me more and more uneasy. He backed into it slowly, probably to avoid tearing too big of a hole and letting infected in. Hopping into the truck beside him before I was trapped outside he made it all the way in with a grimace.
“Just fucked up my paint job.” He sighed.
“It’s for a good cause.” I soothed, patting him on the shoulder before I got out again as he shut his truck off.
Shrieks could already be heard echoing in the empty store. And the putrid smell of either rotting people or rotten produce and food could be smelled. On the ground of the entrance were blood and signs of struggle as a story was told for those who lived out their final moments just right here. Rather quickly, some infected came into sight. They closed the distance too fast as I was knocked back and pinned against Jonas’ truck, the only thing keeping them from me being my sword blocking them.
“Batter up!” Jonas grunted, a sickening metallic ring echoing as the infected were struck down by a crowbar.
“Almost too late.” I huffed, leaving my bow in the open bed of his truck.
My sword would be more effective. Looking around in the gloom, I saw what I’d expected to see. Giant colorful stalks reaching up for the ceiling. It was as if the lurkers didn’t live long when trapped in buildings or exposed to darkness. Walking up to one I examined it, seeing just how large the spores were. About the size of a pinhead; maybe a bit smaller. What Jonas was wearing should be effective if he had it tied on right. I turned to him, checking to see how secure it was tied around his nose and mouth. Getting up on my toes, I tightened it, getting complaints.
“I don’t like the idea of losing you. So shut up.” I huffed, finished, and having peace of mind.
“What was that for?” He asked, more distant shrieks echoing towards us.
“The spores are massive. I don’t know much about fungi or whatever. But they’re visible with the naked eye.” I explained, turning just in time to cut down an infected that came running at us.
Back on our college campus I basically lived in these stores. The layout was roughly similar though it just seemed bigger entirely.
“Let’s get back there before we have more company.” I said quietly.
Roaming through the deserted store, various aisles were ransacked; as to be expected. Though some had been relatively untouched. One, in particular, I had an interest in. The coffee and tea. I didn’t care for coffee, and the tea here was usually garbage. But it was something that helped me wind down. I may need that.
“Go get your fix you junky.” Jonas chuckled, leaving me for a moment to go check down the aisle right next to the one I was staring down.
Surprisingly, the coffee was almost gone, save for a few cheap brands. The tea on the other hand was plentiful. Taking a few boxes of chamomile tea, I continued on. Though I guessed I overlooked something. Grasping onto my leg was a lurker, its jaws almost clamping down on me. My reflexes were quick with a clumsy sword swing. Though with me never being able to do things right, the sword flew from my hand comically. I essentially mutilated it, leaving its jaw slashed open and hanging grotesquely from its skull. I guessed my struggle could be heard as Jonas was here almost instantly, putting down my attacker.
“C’mon, let’s not live up to the nickname.” Jonas chuckled, helping me up, jerking his head for me to follow him. That bit of noise would draw infected. And it would be wiser to move on.
Following him through the mostly dark store, we made our way to the back; where the baby things would be. Clothes were ransacked, boxes ripped open and discarded on the floor. Pickings were slim. But I began collecting various articles of clothing; some small, and others the babies could grow into.
“Shouldn’t you pick a certain size?” Jonas asked.
“I’ve shopped and babysat more times than I’d have liked. It’s for when they’re older so we won’t have to go out again as soon.” I explained.
My being older than most of my cousins and the fact that Alisha didn’t have a parenting bone in her body meant I’d be asked to watch over my uncle and aunt’s children from time to time. It gave me quite a bit of experience as I was good with children.
“Yous’e lucky as fuck I can’t knock you up Bambi. You’d be a parent by now.” He chuckled, looking at the cribs above our heads on a high shelf.
He had this way of being overly sexual. It’s what used to drive me mad over him as his flirting never ended. It’s what kept me coming back to him for all these years. Had I been coming back to him now though? I was uncertain if it were a good idea, considering how I’ve been feeling about company lately. I just wanted to get this over and get back to my solitude. It was comfortable just being able to be myself, instead of having to interact with others in this headspace.
“It’s a good thing I’m not capable of bearing life.” I replied flatly with a dry sigh, zipping my bag.
“Can you climb up there and nudge those two boxes down just a bit?” Jonas asked, even his height not allowing him to reach.
“And why me?” I huffed.
“Because you’re lighter than me. I might drag the whole thing down.” He reasoned, a ‘duh’ expression on his face.
I’d call him immature. Then I remembered I was older than him by a few years. I did as he said, climbing up the shelving, almost losing my grip. Jonas was ready to catch me but I caught myself. Moving the boxes closer he was able to coax one off the rest of the way. Repeating the process he got both of them down relatively easily. Only then did I crawl down, flinching a bit as I heard a shriek in the store. It sounded a little ways off but it still shook me.
I wondered why they made so much noise. I’d have to find out later I suppose.
“Okay, formula and diapers. Then we can grab other stuff that’s valuable.” I explained as he somehow managed to carry the two boxes that contained the cribs. I’d have to fight for us should one of the infected in here attack us. It was nerve-wracking with others for some reason. I felt the need to show restraint.
And just like that I heard rapidly approaching footsteps and a shriek. I spun around, sword drawn. Though when my eyes landed on our attacker it was a child. I faltered, my grip on my sword falling. Jonas had dropped the cribs, restraining the child as he seemed to be having a rough time doing what I couldn’t either.
If he kept on, more infected would come as the child was screaming and shrieking wildly. I couldn’t deal the killing blow. Something about it just rubbed me wrong. Seeing more infected run into sight, I distracted myself by cutting them down, turning my attention back to Jonas who was struggling to stop the child from biting him.
“Do something Bambi.” He grunted.
It was Jonas or an infected child. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made to date. But I dug deep, stabbing my sword into the child’s skull, the fighting stopping in that instant. I kept breaking down when confronted with new situations. It was annoying that I couldn’t keep my emotions in check. But I couldn’t fight against them. I fell to my hands and knees, tears already falling from my eyes. I vaguely recall Jonas reaching out to me. I swatted his hand away, getting up, and feeling antsy and I remembered where we were. I made the mistake of looking at the dead child Jonas had laid on the ground, images of all the lives I’ve taken since all of this started. I hadn’t ever thought back to the infected I’ve killed but every face flashed through my mind. It was torture. I didn’t want to see these things. It had me so thrown out of balance I didn’t know what was going on.
Suddenly there was a sobering sting in my cheek, Jonas shouting at me to run as more infected than I thought was possible streaming from various aisles. I whipped around, grabbing a box of wipes and diapers, setting the items atop Jonas’ load. I had to dig deep. Sure his way of doing it wasn’t polite but he reminded me of what was important right now.
“Get that to the truck. I’ll keep them off of you until we make it there.” I commanded, readying myself.
He gave me a nod, taking off. Rushing behind us, I put down some that were gaining on us with brutal swings of my sword. More flashbacks came. They were shrugged aside as I kept forging on. Once they were cleared I turned my attention back to Jonas, taking off faster than I thought I could move. Ramming into two infected men I pinned them underneath the blade of my sword, decapitating them. I turned again, channeling all my aggression into protecting Jonas. Kneeing an infected in the chest it doubled over right into my blade. Catching up to Jonas I tore his pistol from his belt, taking aim at some that ran at us. Tripping one coming from our left I fired a deafening shot into its head.
We had to run in the open. If we ran straight through the middle of the store would could risk getting overwhelmed. My sword swings were weaker with one hand, though they still got the job done as I tore through the hoard coming for us. And I managed to keep a rough defensive circle around Jonas. But I was beginning to tire, my swings becoming more sloppy than usual. His truck came into sight as he took off even faster with a surge of energy as we were in the clear. I was right on his tail, helping him put the things we’d gotten in the open truck bed. We slammed it shut, stumbling around the truck to get in. We were in the clear as Jonas started his truck, tearing out into the parking lot.
“You are goddamn amazing!” Jonas exclaimed.
I was too tired to think of a response. He didn’t see just how much I was falling apart. That back there wasn’t me. It was what I’ve wanted to keep them from seeing. Suddenly I was thrown from my thoughts literally and mentally as Jonas slammed on the brakes, lurching me forward as an arm shot out to catch me.
“Seat belts.” He said, sounding serious as he looked out at something on the road.
I followed his stare, seeing that he was looking at a small body laying out on the road, a small puddle of blood forming. I was about to ask a question when he jumped out of the truck. I slipped out a bit slower. Nearby there were two more bodies; those of adults. I didn’t know what I was doing, I felt numb; empty.
“Shit kid. what happened.” Jonas urged, scooping the little boy up into his arms, ignoring the blood pouring from a wound in his shoulder.
My senses came flooding back. This was recent. I turned around rapidly, surveying our surroundings. And from the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of green. Without thinking I rushed after this person or thing. In a small alleyway, I saw what I was looking for rapidly outrunning me.
“Get back here!” I shouted.
They ignored me as to be expected. I was starting to gain on them a bit but suddenly I was knocked winded. An infected had launched into me, knocking me back into the brick wall with so much force it took me a while for me and it to recover. A loud gunshot rang out in the alley as the infected getting back up to attack me thudded to the ground lifelessly. Looking back down the alley I had seen that it was Jonas who had fired a perfect shot, potentially saving my life. Once I went to check myself over, I felt a sharp pain in my left shoulder. I could move it but the pain was intense. Gripping it I made my way towards Jonas who was turning to run back to his truck. And when I joined him, he was frantically looking over a man and woman who had both had their throats slashed. Well, the man had multiple stab wounds to the chest. The boy’s parents? Jonas had him in his arms again. I’d ask more questions. But that same feeling of numbness coming back. I locked eyes with the boy who looked terrified. I wanted to comfort him but I didn’t have the energy.
“Your shoulder. Were you bit?” Jonas asked as I just remembered I was still grasping at it.
“No. It might be dislocated.” I mumbled.
“We need to get you two back fast so ya’ll can get fixed up.” Jonas huffed.
“Is that okay with you kid? What’s your name.” Jonas fired off, making up for my coldness.
The boy didn’t reply as he just stared at who I assumed were his parents with an empty look to his eyes. If I looked in a mirror, our expressions would probably match. And after that, it was all a blur. I faintly remember helping Jonas patch the child up to the best of his abilities. Jonas got frustrated with my dull mood quickly, seeing as I was no good to sit with the child he told me to drive, and only then did I focus.
A/N: So this chapter changed rapidly. Going from a tender moment to this ending. Who the hell was this green bitch? What other plot hints were dropped in this chapter. I’ve repeated a major one multiple times in different ways in two chapters. I’ve got a few more twists as things heat up before they wind down for the conclusion. Buckle the fuck up loves!