To Death: Book 1

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All He'll Know

A/N: Blah blah blah. Symbolism. Look for it and question everything.


Issac:

I’d gotten much less resistance from Jonas when I said I was going for a solo supply run. He’s been trying to be more positive since yesterday I noticed. He even got up early with me to see me and the others off while Darren slept. He’d actually wanted me to take his truck. But it was too high profile and loud for what I would be doing. So I opted to take something smaller, being given an old jeep Jericho used to drive around town.

“How long will you be gone again?” He asked, sounding a little worried, that bad boy persona having mostly vanished by now. Instead, it was replaced by something more tepid; soft even.

“No more than four days. If I’m not back or don’t call the radio something is up.” I said to him, giving a good buffer period.

I was confident in my ability to track people. And hopefully, my prey was in his usual location. I’d been able to coax a few details of Darren’s experience and what went down. Sure it added fuel to the flame. But I’d just have to give it all to this masked man.

“I’d come with you but I’m crippled.” He joked, catching my attention as Alisha came up to him and gave him a hug before joining Daniel who she was going on the patrol with.

“I’ll be back. I promise.” I assured him, taking hold of his free hand.

“Don’t do anything reckless like you normally do in a pinch. Be patient.” He instructed, sounding like a father.

“Okay, dad.” I drawled, rolling my eyes playfully under all his affectionate worrying.

“Y’know I like it when you call me daddy.” He joked, going to lean down to give me a kiss.

Not wanting him to struggle, I stood up on my toes to meet him before he had to bend much further. It was something deep, an innocent and loving passion lurking just under the surface.

“Well, maybe I’ll be able to join you again soon. Ellis and Oscar are working on making me a prosthetic leg.” He said, sounding and looking a little hopeful.

“I can’t wait. I’ve been missing your company.” I cooed, giving him a few more pecks on the lips.

“Likewise Bambi. Likewise.” He smirked.

“Now go kick some ass and bring back some good shit.” He cheered, his mood infectious.

I did as he said, climbing into the jeep, starting it up. Rolling down the window to say my final goodbyes I felt a slight pang. I had to come back alive at all costs. Jonas might not cope well with losing me. But he was trusting in my ability to look after myself.

“I love you.” I said, getting an instant response that lit his face up.

“Make sure Darren gets to bed on time too.” I fretted.

“Okay, okay.” He complained, shooing me now.

Pulling off I headed down the desert roads of the ranch until I got to the exit leading to the northeastern part of the property. There was a hard uncomfortable irritant digging into my back. Slowing to a quick stop, I reached back, remembering Mr. Doddson had given me a Colt Anaconda; something large and obnoxious. But it was the only thing he had a ton of ammo for to spare. In addition to that, I took some rations to last me about four days, with ample water. As far as weapons went I had a gun, my bow, my sword, and the spikes on the knees of my new boots. I had a few goals to accomplish as well. Though I couldn’t let my emotions get the best of me.

Sure I had been fueled by anger. But I also did need to bring back the other items on my list. Once I’d collected those items I’d stalk my prey. Driving further into the property I stopped off at the cottage I stayed in when I first arrived, old memories flickering in my mind. I’d still had the key and I did have extra clothes there. So I got out, sword in hand. For some reason the infected weren’t near this side of the property anymore, only a few cases popping up over the past few weeks. Unlocking the door, I stepped inside, quickly collecting my things that I’d left here since I rushed out.

After that I headed back out, driving down the same path me and Jonas had taken to get to the Wal-Mart. Stopping before just driving into the parking lot, I surveyed my surroundings. Being alone meant I had to be much more careful. Sure the infected were formidable foes. But what happened to Darren proved the living could be just as deadly. At the door were dead bodies of the infected. And what looked to be bullet shells. New additions. People had been here after Jonas and I. And they had guns. Hugging the outskirts of the parking lot, I’d do what we did last time, driving the vehicle into the store itself.

Once inside I heard the characteristic shrieks greeting me. Hopping out with my full arsenal, I took out the three that ran at me from range with my bow. I debated getting my sword out, but decided to keep it sheathed. A question wracked my brain as I lined up another shot taking down the final screeching infected. If I fired a gunshot, It would draw in more infected. But would it scare away people nearby? It was too much of a gamble, so I returned the pistol to its holster at my hip. Relying on my ears, I didn’t hear anymore infected. I guessed it was relatively safer than last time as there were hundreds swarming around. But that didn’t mean there weren’t lurkers stalking around the gloom. I made my way over to the pharmacy first.

I wasn’t surprised to see the shelves were bare, save for a few back braces and band-aids.

“What if I wanted the pretty pink princess ones?” I huffed to myself, decided to take them anyway.

There was a blockade of baskets blocking the main aisle as I was going to try making my way around. I went to climb over them, freezing just before I placed a hand on them. Jonas’ words came to mind. I stepped back, not knowing if it could be a trap. Suddenly there was a pressure at my ankle, my body being jerked into the air aggressively. The clanging of metal told me I was still alive as I swung back and forth slowly. A bolt of fear ran through me as I saw two men making their way towards me.

“What do we have here Casey?” One of the men asked the other as they paused about 4 meters or so away.

“Just let me go please.” I pleaded, already sinking my claws into their mind.

“Is that your pretty jeep? Wanna let us take it for a spin?” Casey, the other man asked.

They thought they had me as I had dropped my bow and my sword had slipped off of my thin body. They had guns I was sure. Their confidence told me they had an ace up their sleeve. I made a few intentionally failed attempts to reach for my legs to stop the blood rushing to my head. And luckily for me, they hadn’t suspected me to grab my gun, keeping it in a dark shadow of empty boxes near where my arms were hanging.

“Stop your strugglin’ boy!” The first man shouted.

I took a deep breath as time seemed to slow as they loomed ever so closer. With everything I had, I aimed, taking fire, shooting Casey in the throat, while shooting the other unknown man in the chest. The shots were deafening in this store, leaving my ears ringing and my wrists aching as I hadn’t expected that kind of recoil. Though one thing that shoved the ringing aside was the shrieks of infected. I reached down for my sword, the handle being just out of reach as I stretched my body to its limits. Looking up, I’d seen that the men were now lifeless, something strange happening as their bodies twitched with unnatural movements. Another cold bolt of fear rushed through me as they too shrieked like an enraged tweaker. Reaching down I felt my shoulder would pop out of its socket grasping for my sword. I reached it, using everything I had to haul my body up, grasping the length of rope secured to my leg. I’d just barely saved myself, as I caught my breath, infected milling around beneath me, my legs barely out of reach. Using the tension of the rope around my ankle to essentially stand, I gave my arms enough of a break to slash the rope with a sword swing.

I took my time. If I fell into that I’d die in seconds from all of those bites. And Alisha warned against me taking bites left and right due to other infections. Taking some calming breaths as I hung I needed to hurry. I’d fatigue and fall into them if I didn’t think fast. And in addition to that, I didn’t know people turned after death. My sole arm began to tremble holding up all of my body weight, making me regret cutting myself free so quickly. The men I’d just killed were among the gathering of infected clustering beneath me. I was running out of time and this could be the end of me if my muscles failed. Slowly rocking my body I started to swing, my arm almost giving out a few times. But eventually, I gained enough momentum to swing clear of them, leaping from the rope and landing in a clumsy roll. But I was up on my feet in an instant, my body fueled by copious amounts of adrenaline. Though before I could proceed to cut down the crowd I was knocked forward, dropping my sword. The weight of an infected came down on me brutally leaving me winded.

Reaching for my pistol I tried to take aim to shoot it off of me as its teeth sank into my shoulder painfully, my sword strap protecting me from a bite. Suddenly the pistol was knocked from my hand, sliding across the ground away from me as an infected rushed past me joining the quickly growing pile I was trapped under. The only thing that protected my body from being bitten was the burly man pinning me down. I didn’t want it to end like this. It was a fear of mine to be pinned down like this. Fight or flight instincts kicking in I fought and squirmed, trying to turn around. I however did manage to create some space, driving a knee into the chest of the burly man as more on top of the pile crawled towards me. Kicking them back as I slowly slipped from under all of them I stumbled for the pistol, emptying all the rounds the revolver held. I missed the majority of the shots as I was trembling. Diving out of the way of a tweaker I scooped up my sword, slashing and cutting them down with all my might. It wore on for what felt like ages and I wondered how Oscar survived for three days on his own on a supply run.

When I was done, my body was trembling from exhaustion as I struggled to catch my breath. I had questions as well. I never knew people could turn even after death. Making my way over to the bodies of the men I’d killed I nudged over their bodies with my boot. Crouching down, they still looked pretty alive. I’d have to ask Alisha if this was something she’d known about. I was forced to move as I heard more screeches further off in the store. I debated holing myself up somewhere and plan. But the longer I stayed the more chance there was for me to lose my form of transportation. Picking up my bow, I vaulted over the blockade of shopping carts, taking off into the store, heading towards the back where things for the babies could be. I remained vigilant as I heard various sounds around me, exchanging my pace for something more cautious I slowed down. I had people wanting me to return. So I’d play this smart. I was still feeling flighty. I needed to think. I handled the last situation recklessly and wastefully. The infected were milling around in the shadows, making me more and more fearful. As luck would have it, some were lurkers in the middle of being engulfed by stalks of fungi.

Steeling myself I braced for remaining here when I honestly wanted to leave. I’d stirred the infected in this building and it was like a ticking time bomb. Making it to the baby section, I was grossed out by the fuzzy fungus growing over all of the clothes. They likely couldn’t be used. There were still a few canisters of formula and packs of pampers so I took those.

“Calm, calm.” I chanted softly, briskly walking towards the exit, the jeep in sight.

Though my calm was thrown from the window as I heard shrieks coming at me from behind followed by multiple sets of rapid footsteps. I spun mid-sprint, turning and seeing four infected after me. Casting my cargo aside I came to an abrupt halt.

“Each one of you I kill the less there are!” I shouted, drawing my sword and pistol.

The first to arrive was impaled on my blade as I raise the pistol up to its jaw, firing a shot through its skull. I yanked the blade out, swinging with all my might at the next one, lopping off its head. I dove forward into a roll, slashing out the legs of a tall infected man, standing with a spin and stabbing him through the skull from behind. Raising the gun I prepared to fire, being greeted by nothing. Scoffing I tucked the gun back in its holster as I readied my bow. Taking aim I fired, putting down the final infected. More shrieks could be heard so I spun on my heels, collecting the items I discarded and heading for the Jeep. I had just loaded things inside as they came into sight. Climbing in I shut the door as bloodied hands landed on the window beside me. Starting up the vehicle, I tore from where it sat, into the parking lot. I didn’t stop driving until I was on the main road. The Doddsons said there was a mall near here. Though a portion of it burned down a few days after this all started. Some malls had vitamin shops. So maybe it would be worth trying.

But would people be there trying to survive? Or would it be abandoned, as much of this town seemed to be. Taking the map I’d be given of the whole town I drove up to an intersection, looking at the street signs and finding my location on the map.

“Okay good, not too far away.” I huffed.

It was a few blocks away and arrived pretty quickly. Before driving into the parking lot I surveyed my surroundings. The parking lot had quite a few abandoned vehicles in it. Looking to my right there was a towering parking garage, with little to no cars there. I’d park there and booby trap my car in case someone tried to steal it. Making my way to the parking garage and then up to the top floor, I slowed down, seeing a busted open blockade of cars.

There were several decaying and dead bodies strewn across as I drove through the open blockade. There were weathered tents, remnants of bonfires. Had people holed up here? And infected gotten in. It seemed like a story. If I had time I’d examine for clues and try to piece things together. Just when I was about to get out my radio came to life, Darren’s voice coming across.

“Are you okay da-. I mean Izzy?” He asked, causing my heart to flutter at his slip-up.

Composing myself, I replied.

“Doing just fine. About to head into a few stores.” I said.

“Jo-Jo wanted to know if you were okay. I’ll give the radio to him.” He said, the line going silent before I heard it crackle to life again.

“How are ya’ doin’ out there.” He asked calmly as I heard the sound of a video game being played in the background.

“Pretty good so far. Going to head into a few more stores for some more stuff. Hopefully, I’ll be back soon.” I explained.

“Oh shit, I didn’t even think about if you were doin’ somethin’.” He cursed.

“Language.” I warned playfully, crawling to the back seat to look for something to cover me as it was starting to rain.

“Have you run into any tweakers and lurkers?” He asked, reminding me of our late-night phone calls for some reason, though the context was current.

“Quite a few. Nothing I couldn’t take care of though.” I assured him, feeling relieved as I found a poncho. I’d left out the part about the two men that almost got a hold me. He didn’t need the extra stress atop what I was sure he was already feeling.

“Well, we’ll let you go. Alisha and Daniel will be back soon to talk your ears off later.” Jonas chuckled.

“Alright.” I huffed, a smile etching itself onto my face.

“Take care out there Izzy.” He said, his voice holding so much emotion.

He sounded happy, for me? Would he have liked to be out here with me? I knew he would. But still, he seemed to be accepting what cards he’d been dealt.

“I will. I have to go now though. I’ll reply in about an hour.” I explained, placing the radio back in the car’s glovebox.

Getting out into the now pouring rain, I hadn’t needed to worry about getting drenched due to the poncho. Stepping around to the passenger side, I loaded up the revolver, opting to leave my bow as this poncho would mess up my shots. Taking a spare arrow, I positioned it on a piece of wood I’d seen nearby underneath the front passenger tire. Should someone back out as I’d parked right at the wall they would pop the tire, leaving them stranded until they changed it.

Content with my work I set off into the rain, having to make it all the way through the parking garage. There were a few infected on the various floors. Unsheathing my sword, I continued on, the roar of the rain fading as I was undercover. It was silent on this floor so far, only the sound of my footsteps there. Feeling that itch again I picked up the crushed soda can I spotted nearby. Tossing it against a parked car I was instantly greeted by screeches. Steeling my body, I braced for action. Tucking my sword’s sheath as tightly to me as possible, I set off, approaching the first that screeched around the corner. I rammed my knee into its abdomen, knocking it back and pinning it under me. A lurker, I could tell by the sprouts of fungus emerging from its skin. Stabbing it through its skull, I barely managed to unhook myself from it in time as another came at me.

Side-stepping I cut it down as well, more shrieks coming as I made it down to the next level. Taking my sword I tapped on some metal piping, drawing more and more.

“Come on people.” I called out.

Though when I rounded the corner I was stunned by how many I’d seen. Perhaps I was a bit cocky in my approach. There were far more than I’d seen initially. From the looks of it, quite a few were lurkers, a few tweakers breaking off and charging me. I’d been learning quite a bit about them. Thinking quick, I figured I’d need to lure them all out. And perhaps this would help gain some insight as to how to lure large groups of them away from things. Gathering myself I ran for an SUV, climbing atop its roof.

I then put all my effort into a wolf whistle, banging my sword on the roof of the car, drawing them like moths to a flame. The tweakers made it faster than the lurkers, forcing me to cut them down as they started climbing up.

“Come on. Just a little further.” I urged, brushing aside the pang of horror as some of them screamed help.

I’d known from my travels that this was a trap. Something we all didn’t fully understand. But we’d seen how it lures good people to their deaths. When they’d gathered all around me I heaved a breath, psyching myself up. Clutching my weapons, I launched myself forward and over the crowd. I barely landed clear, stumbling to my feet as I fought to recover. But that was all I needed as I was ahead of a vast portion of them.

“Come and get me.” I shouted, drawing the hoard.

I risked a glance behind me, seeing more coming from that direction. Two more floors to make it down I told myself. Weaving my way through the slow-moving lurkers I called for their attention with another whistle, shrieks, and screams almost deafening as they came for me. To say I was terrified was an understatement. By the time I made it to the second floor I was shaking. Taking a calming breath after I created enough space I had another wild idea, running over to the ledge. Looking over at a support column I saw a metal pipe that I could potentially climb down, deciding to test our idea of luring them all into the canyon. Wiping the blood from my sword, I returned it to its sheath climbing onto the ledge. It took everything in me to not run from obvious danger. Only when the lurkers were close enough did I reach of the pipe. It was slippery; more so than I thought. I clung to its surface with everything my hands and legs had until I stopped sliding down. Opening my eyes I saw lurkers pouring over with snarls as they reached for me. It was like a rain of bodies as they all fell to their deaths.

I was amazed, our plan should work in theory. Though as the bodies started to cease, I was glared down at by several tweakers who refused to jump like their counterparts. Their faces conveyed emotion, something I’d never taken note of before. They looked furious, shrieks that shook me ripping through the air. I’d had my fill of fear for the moment, sliding down the pipe to the ground. Some of the lurkers had survived though their bodies were broken. I backed away from the parking garage, taking a mental note of the tweakers here. About ten of them; nothing I couldn’t deal with.

I turned, making my way towards the mall that looked to be in ruin. I wondered what went down here to have made it this way. Though my question was answered when I saw broken down temporary fencing and military vehicles. Looking back over that the parking garage I started to string some ideas together. Perhaps this was a safezone and it was overrun. It was lit ablaze in the chaos and people fled, some running to the parking garage. It seemed likely. Quickening my pace as the rain pelted me relentlessly I made my way under more cover, removing the hood of my poncho to clear my line of sight. Forcing my way through the sealed door where charred bodies were left I made my way inside. It was quiet, the only light being from a massive glass ceiling. Before all of this, I hated malls. They were far too easy to get lost in. I’d seen a directory, making my way over to it all the while listening to my surroundings. Seeing just what I wanted to find my heart lit up with hope.

A Vitamin store was what I needed to find for Jonas. His injury was healing well but he’d lost a lot of blood. Leaving his iron levels pretty low. Getting my bearings I headed off. The mall that was probably once sparkling clean was left in ruin. Some stores showed signs of people sleeping there. The silence was eating away at me as I looked around for the nearest escalator up. Spotting one I jogged over to it. Though the moment I stepped foot on it I slid back, the whole set of mechanical stairs sliding down. I would have thought there was a locking mechanism in these things; perhaps it was broken. Finding something large enough to hold it still would prove to be impossible for me. I’d have to be physically strong enough to move it here. All while watching my back.

Looking at the floor below a light bulb flickered on in my mind. It was intentionally broken. I’d seen idling bodies of infected lurking in the depths below. I’d have to be quiet on my way up. Should that many wake I’d be in some trouble if they eventually made their way up. I made my way to the escalator leading down, pressing a foot on its surface, being greeted by that same slide effect.

“Okay safe at the moment.” I sighed softly. Making my way through the mall I looked for a way up, all the while ducking into the occasional store that caught my interest. It was a miracle how this floor alone proved to be safe.

The third level still held mystery. But I was almost sure it was safe. I eventually wound up at the food court area, this floor overlooking it. But something that told me what happened started revealing itself. Through the vast wall of glass that allowed light into the food court lay a crashed helicopter. In the shadows below there were lurkers standing idle, a few sprouted into stalks. The ground was scorched and rubble lay strewn across the floors below. Looking to my left I saw a metal rod, advertising some sale. I wondered if I jammed it into the escalator it would support the weight of me walking up them. No better way to find out than to try. Grabbing the metal rod, I tore the paper from it, grabbing another. Making my way back up to the escalator, working them into a gap, giving it an experimental press with my booted foot.

Taking stairs would be so much easier. But it ran the risk of fighting in a confined space. And with my sword and this gun, it wouldn’t work to my advantage. Heaving a shaky sigh I drew my sword as I made my way onto the first step. It creaked louder than I’d have liked but it held my weight. Proceeding up I kept my steps light yet purposeful. When I got about mid-way it creaked and slid back about ten or so inches, causing my heart to race as I gripped the handrail. I remained still for a moment, listening for sound. When it felt safe I moved on carefully.

When I made it to the top of the escalator, my heart dropped. It wasn’t that there were a ton of infected. But what made my heart hurt is that there was a cluster of infected children up here. What’s worse is they looked emaciated, faces gaunt and lifeless. I was starting to wonder if lurkers could come to be even after the death of the person. That overwhelming sense of emotion came over me again, my throat feeling tight. It was as if it was fate trying to test my resolve. The store I had been looking for was just beyond them. Sheathing my sword I couldn’t bear to be the one to strike them down. The sound of my sword returning to its sheath alerted them, high-pitched shrieks piercing my ears.

“I’m sorry.” I whispered, my breath hitching in my chest.

I wove through tiny grasping hands, shaken more and more as their shrieks alerted the whole mall of my presence. It was a sea of sound that drove me up a wall. It was sad and painful knowing what caused this. And how helpless I felt to do anything about it. My body held the cure but was there something that could be done for the lives already claimed? I felt my pace quicken to a sprint, running into the store as my heart started racing. I jumped up, grasping the metal gate that closed the store, dragging it down with all my might locking out the growing crowd of infected children. There was a snarl coming from behind me, running into me and pinning me to the gate, little fingers slipping through the gaps as the children tried to bite at me.

Judging by the size it was roughly someone of age, I elbowed my attacker coming to my senses, unsheathing my sword, and almost slicing into him when I realized he was a teenager; no older than 15.

“Stay away from me!” I shouted, feeling torn as I couldn’t strike him down either.

I wanted nothing more than to help children and adolescents with my profession. I felt children shouldn’t have to suffer or go through endless amounts of pain like I did growing up. It drove me to want to help them. But the boy was beyond reason, attacking me again. I dove out of the way, my body wanting to protect me but my mind torn. I stumbled back, slipping and falling. I moved to scoot back but I was greeted by a shelf preventing me from doing so. Shakily I readied my sword, holding it forward and hoping it would deter my undead attacker. My heart dropped when he dove forward at me, the blade running right through his skull. The fighting stopped right that instant, leaving me rubbed emotionally raw.

Tossing the body aside, I couldn’t contain my feelings any longer, softly sobbing as I cast my sword aside, hugging myself as tightly as I could as my thoughts ran wild like a herd of feral horses.


A/N: Mental anguish and plot hints. We find that in this chapter Issac is in a funny place psychologically. Having moments of confidence; able to fend off attackers of various kinds. Only for his streak to be ruined by a trigger. He’s not aware but he had held onto a hope and driving factor that some of the others have abandoned.

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