An End To Me
A/N: Death, gore, yadda, yadda. This is a pivotal chapter. It starts abruptly and the intensity will only build as it progresses. This is the beginning of goodbye for this book of the series. I may or may not have discussed this. But this book will turn into a series. There will be a total of three books in the series; including this one. Time context? A month after the events of the last chapter. This time is all for a reason. A year into death.
My heart was racing as wind rushed past my face. Alisha sped up and passed me as she urged her horse faster and faster. My heart was beating a million ticks a second and I felt myself questioning everything. Looking behind me I saw the horde keeping pace with us. Urging Night to gallop faster and faster I felt everything crashing and falling apart around me in this moment. Me and Alisha had been out on a routine patrol before we noticed a massive converging horde. We tried to split them and lead them away from the ranch but was stopped by yet another gathering of tweakers and lurkers. So our best bet was to outrun them. But that wasn’t working and we were effectively leading them to the ranch; where they were already headed.
Urging Night we leaped over the fencing of the ranch, galloping up to the main house. Alisha and I wasted no time bursting into the house.
“We have to go everyone!” I shouted, people, streaming from different parts of the house.
“What’s up Bambi?” Jonas asked.
“Infected, coming everywhere. We have to go.” Alisha rambled, pacing around, peaking outside of the door.
I followed suit, my heart dropping as the first got here. I felt that strong urge take hold of me again as my body felt antsy.
“We can’t leave here.” Jerry said stepping past me, his voice in full denial.
“No choice with all that. How big is the horde?” Ellis asked, keeping his calm, far better than any of us were so far as I was an anxious mess.
“At least a mile long.” I replied, ready to bolt into action.
My final straw was the tweakers lunging at Alisha and I’s mounts. I rushed forward, in a bout of reckless abandon. Though before I could reach them, some loud shots fired past me shooting them down. Looking back I saw it was Ellis that reeled me in with some well-placed shots. I got to the horses, leading them behind me closer to the house as more infected streamed in. Shots rang out as they flew past me, anxiety flaring all the while.
It felt like it took forever for me to make it to the porch, fending off tweakers trying to attack me and the horses. The battle was endless as Jerry fired off shots into the horde with the support of the others.
“We need to go.” I told Jerry, taking hold of him as I glanced at how hopeless this all was.
“I can’t leave here. It means everything to Donna.” He returned, firing off more shots as he brushed me aside.
This was doing no good. Only drawing more of the already massive horde. I looked to Daniel who was frozen, his face torn. I felt a tug at my arm, looking down I saw Darren looking terrified.
“We’ll be okay. I’ll protect you. I promise.” I assured him, offering him a smile as I gripped him by the shoulders.
“I don’t wanna die.” He replied tearfully.
I wanted to leave. But Jerry and Donna would stay. And I was certain all the other families needed warning. Drawing upon all the aggression I had in my body. Storming up to Jerry, I cocked a hand back, slapping him across the face to catch his attention.
“We need to get the hell out of here! If we don’t we’ll all die! So will the other families if we don’t warn them!” I shouted at him with all I could muster.
I seemed to have struck a chord; glad to have done so as that was all I could think to do.
“Now is that understood!?” I said firmly, not yet simmering down.
“You have sons and a wife to live for. Don’t throw it away over something material.” I asserted.
I locked eyes with Donna and Jericho, who tearfully nodded in agreement with me. It was relieving, to say the least.
“We load up the horses. The truck is already latched to the trailer.” Jerry stuttered.
“Who is staying outside while the others gather stuff from the house?” I asked, picking up the reigns of the shocked people around me.
“I’ll stay and help.” Jonas offered.
“Gather up what you can with the others.” I told him, forcing him off as I wanted him safe for as long as possible.
Ellis and Oscar were with me as we worked on splitting them off and away from the door of the house. I’d have really liked to have my bow at the moment. Alisha’s wasn’t a match for me. I committed to cutting down the infected with my sword. I saw an infected running for Oscar from behind, his back turned. I took a tanto from my hip, taking a chance. I spun, throwing the blade. Lady luck shone down on me at that moment, the blade lodging itself in its skull. Oscar turned and shot me a thankful smile as he fought on. I turned just in time to fight off another infected coming for me. Looking around, I heard the sound of a diesel truck, one ramming through the line of infected before us just moments later. I ran to the tweaker I struck down, picking up my blade.
“Load on up boys!” Donna called from the driver’s seat. I ran to the porch, seeing Jonas limping out alongside my mom and Darren. I did my best to defend them as I escorted them to Jonas’ truck.
I wanted to be the last one to go to ensure everyone was here. Running around avoiding infected I got a headcount, a wave of relief washing over me. I slipped into Jonas’s truck just as he started it, pleased that he kept his cool. We followed behind Donna and the others while Jin followed behind us in the hummer with Ellis and Oscar. We tore across the desert as I finally released a breath I’d been holding when we put some distance between us and the infected. The horde was still on our tail but at the very least we were safe in this moment. I looked back to see Alisha consoling Darren who looked to be shaken as my mother gave me a look that told me this would all be okay. The terrain slowed us up and made traveling fast hard. Though that changed when we broke out onto a road. But suddenly we came to a stop. I looked ahead, seeing Donna put her their truck in park. I hopped out, sword drawn, walking around to the driver’s side.
“What’s going on?” I asked calmly, not getting a response as she just pointed ahead. I looked ahead seeing a few cars blocking the way.
As if it couldn’t get any worse, I looked back as I heard the shrieks of the infected drawing closer.
“I can shove them out of the way with my truck.” Jonas offered, scaring me as he approached from behind me.
“We need to hurry.” Jin said thoughtfully as we all gathered beside the truck.
The others set to work as me and Oscar kept a lookout. I was nervous, wanting to get away from all of this. The infected were quite a ways off, still too close for comfort as we got Jonas’ truck at the head of the pack. He forced the cars out of the way, giving me some peace of mind. It took everything in me to calm the flightiness I felt. In the face of danger like this, I wanted to move and run. I felt a hand rested on my shoulder, catching my attention and calming me down as it distracted me. It was Oscar, giving my shoulder a squeeze.
“Calm it down. You’re shaking.” He offered, his voice of reason assuring.
“I feel like I should be doing something. Fight or flight instincts for me are strong. It doesn’t feel right standing here.” I rambled.
“We have to do that sometimes. For the greater good.” He told me, his attention being called to something else, dragging mine in its wake.
The infected were right on us. I reached for my bow on pure instinct, having grown used to having it. Even after all this time of it being broken I still hadn’t grown used to its loss.
“We’re ready to go!” Alisha called, Oscar taking off.
I looked across the bridge, my heart dropping. The cars were still blocking the other side, we’d be slowed down. And the infected would be right on us.
“Issac! C’mon!” I heard Ellis call.
A wild idea came to mind. One that made me uncomfortable. One that could be the end. I was snapped out of my thoughts when I heard an angry growl right before me. I snapped to reality again, defending myself and turning to run. I ran to Jonas’ truck, opening his door, stopping him from pulling off.
“I’m staying behind.” I told him, sheathing my sword.
“What the?” My mother exclaimed.
“I’ll catch up. But we need to stop these infected, we’ll never push past the cars to get away from them. We need to stop them here.” I explained, my heart racing.
“That’s stupid. Get in the truck Issac.” Alisha scolded.
“We won’t all make it if a distraction isn’t in place. I will catch up.” I told them.
“Bambi that’s a suicide mission.” Jonas commented, his face telling me he didn’t like any of what I said.
“Maybe. But if it keeps us all on track I’m okay with that.” I replied.
“Don’t go Izzy.” Darren called, catching my attention, tugging at my heartstrings.
I didn’t want this. But I could return. I’d live if I didn’t give myself the option of dying.
“I have to. I’ll be back.” I told him, walking around to the other side of the truck.
I risked a glance at my mother who stared off blankly. I knew it was hard having the thought of losing someone else she loved so soon.
“What if you don’t come back?” Darren asked, tears welling up in his eyes.
“I will and you know what. I’ll leave this with you. I always come back for it remember?” I told him, taking my sword off, and giving it to him.
I looked back, seeing some infected getting even closer to the mouth of the bridge as the massive horde followed us. We were running out of time.
“I have to go.” I said quickly, getting complaints from my sister and mother now.
I approached Jonas, grasping him by the nape of his neck and pulling him into a deep kiss. It was the deepest I could manage. There was a chance I’d never see him again. And I wanted it to count.
“Look after Darren. I’ll catch up as fast as I can.” I assured him, giving him one more kiss as I left him speechless.
I walked around the truck to Darren again. Pulling him into a hug.
“Look after Jo-Jo. He can be a mess. And take care of grandma and Alisha.” I told Darren seeing he was fully crying. Though he seemed to have accepted me leaving by now.
“I love you more than anything Darren. I’ll be back. Okay?” I told him, getting a nod from him.
Right when I was about to turn and leave. I was grasped by the wrist.
“I-I love you dad.” Darren said tearfully, making my heart swell.
“I love you too.” I replied, partially shaken by the name he called me.
I closed up the door. Smacking on the truck.
“Get the hell out of here!” I shouted, walking past Donna’s truck getting strange looks from them.
“I’m going to slow them down so you all can get away.” I explained, quickly, sprinting down to the hummer where Jin and the others were.
“I’m staying behind, leave me the grenade launcher?” I asked.
“Woah there. Get in the truck and let’s go.” Ellis replied, cutting me off.
“If I don’t do this they will be right on our tail. If I blow up the bridge they won’t be able to cross.” I explained.
“How will you survive that?” Oscar asked.
“I’ll make a jump for it into the river. I should have enough time.” I said.
“He will. Pull the pins out of about four grenades and you’ll have roughly five seconds to jump.” Jin shrugged, seeming to be the most chill about me staying behind.
“Thank’s Jin.” I sighed.
“I’ll catch up. I’ll land in the river, climb up onto the shore and we’ll move on.” I assured them, getting an uneasy look from Ellis.
“You all need to get to safety.” I tacked on.
“Fine.” Ellis huffed, Jin handing me four grenades as promised, pointing out the pins.
“You’ll wanna be in the water well before these go off.” She said.
“Okay. Go. Go.” I told them, before I talked myself out of this.
My wish was granted as they took off, Jonas plowing through the cars. I set the grenades onto the trunk of a nearby car, facing off against the infected that were coming. All I had to do was buy them enough time to clear the bridge. And everything else would work out as I planned. Unsheathing my tantos I set to work. I slashed, cut, and stabbed my way through the horde with all the aggression I could muster. My body was fueled by the urge to protect the others. I gave it my all, eventually being dragged down by a few of them.
As chomping jaws tried to rip through my clothing, I fell to my knees under the weight. I looked back, seeing they had crossed the bridge. I couldn’t give up now. I had to get back to them no matter what. I dug deeper, pulling my blades from the infected, cutting through them as I forced them off and back with the mightiest heave I could muster. I made a run for the grenades, scooping them up. I studied them for but two seconds, running up to the railing of the bridge. I ran along it, reaching the middle. The infected were right on my heels in that moment. I took yet another moment to sheath my tantos, collecting myself.
“Boom.” I said simply, hooking my index finger through all the pins, tearing the grenades from them.
I tossed them further onto the bridge, leaping from it in the next instant. The moment my body touched the water I heard a loud series of explosions as the grenades went off. I wasn’t able to see in the murky water. But I’d made it. Rushing to the surface, I was knocked back under, my world going black in that instant as a sharp pain sprouted in my head.
Cold and darkness, the occasional feeling of something tugging me with an ethereal grasp. I couldn’t breathe and that was what roused me. I came to, my head aching. I struggled to the surface, paddling over to the shore I saw in sight. The current didn’t make it easy as I hauled my body up onto the sandy riverbank. Crawling onto its surface I dry-heaved, and then heaved up a surge of water. Body growing limp and weak I collapsed, my eyes flitting closed. I had no idea how long I was out, but it couldn’t have been too long. Using my last bit of strength, I turned to look upriver, the bridge nowhere in sight. I turned back around, seeing shadows approaching me. My mind willed my body to get up and run. But my body had other ideas. It hadn’t responded as I felt a wave of exhaustion lull me into that dark place again.
That comforting darkness ran on until I was jolted awake by an intense pain around my neck. I woke with a start and a scream. But that scream caused even more pain. I quickly learned and shut up. My senses slowly came back. I was tied to a chair in a musty building. Slow clapping caught my attention as I looked towards the source of the sound.
“Look who’s awake now. Our newest member.” A man greeted me with a devilish smile that chilled me to my core.
“New-” I attempted to speak, being greeted by a pain around my neck as my whole body tensed up.
“Shhh.” The man said simply, that same toothy grin greeting me again.
“Don’t you think he’ll make a fine addition to our budding society Caleveras?” The man asked a masked woman who stood beside him.
“Yes.” She replied simply, a voice cold and empty.
Matters were made worse as I couldn’t get any emotion from her face as it was obscured by an ornately decorated black sugar skull mask.
“Untie him for me will you love?” He asked her, his tone switching to one of something more dominant despite the smile he wore.
“Names Ronald by the way. And welcome. You’ll be here. I would say for a while but I don’t think you’ll be wantin’ to leave.” He smiled.
I reached within myself, finding the courage to speak.
“I have to leave. I can’t be here.” I gritted as my throat was wracked in electrifying pain.
Ronald’s bright expression darkened in the blink of an eye. He stalked over to me pushing the woman aside, cocking his hand back as he back-hand slapped me, knocking me senseless and leaving me seeing stars. I tasted something metallic in my mouth; the taste of my own blood.
“People are valuable. And I suggest you earn yer damn keep or I’ll make your life a living hell.” He growled, his hands wrapping around my neck as he glared at me. My jaw and neck hurt as his hands clamped down onto my neck, cutting off my oxygen supply.
Just when I felt myself slipping again. He smiled brightly, releasing me and switching to that sickly sweetness of before. I noted that behavior. I’d keep my mouth shut until I could get out of this strange place.
“Show him around Calaveras?” The man asked; though it sounded more like a command.
“Yes sir.” She replied flatly, making me feel even more uneasy.
“Give her any trouble and she will put your ass down with that shock collar ’round yer neck.” He smiled, looking at me over his shoulder.
I’d cooperate. If she was to show me around. I could look for a way out. I was snapped out of my thoughts when Ronald was right next to me yet again, that same devilish smile on his face that made my heart skip beats. He grasped for my neck again as I shied away. He cocked back and slapped me again, knocking me senseless once more.
“I wasn’t gonna hurt ya damn it!” He growled, the smile back before I could even register it was gone. He reached again and I fought to keep still. I didn’t want to be struck again as he was heavy-handed. He reached for the collar around my neck, turning a dial.
“Give her trouble and the shock she gives will put you down like a baby.” He smiled, patting me on the shoulder as I fought to not flinch.
I did ever so slightly, but I don’t think he picked up on it.
“Enjoy the rest of your fuckin’ day.” He smiled, leaving this time with a fist pump and a little dance to his step.
I let out a silent breath I hadn’t known I was holding. I was feeling hopeless. How did something like this happen? The others were bound to be looking for me. Yet here I was, stuck. I calmed myself down to the best of my abilities. Getting irrational wouldn’t get me out of this. If I paid enough attention I could probably get out later tonight. My body tensed as I felt a presence near me. It was the masked woman from before, untying me as I looked for any semblance of emotion. The only thing I had to go off of was her mouth as the mask left the lower half of her face revealed. But even that was blank. The mask was intimidating, to say the least. A black sugar skull mask with red decor and lenses. And out of the top of it sprouted short and curved horns.
“Let’s go. And if you give trouble I will shoot you.” She said, holding up a peculiar-looking crossbow.
Shakily I got up, my legs trying to give out underneath me. But I stood firm, not wanting to subject myself to any more of these strange people’s abuse. She jerked her head, urging me to follow her. I realized as I was walking how banged up I was. My blades were gone, as well as the spikes on my knee pads. I’d been stripped of any sort of weapon. I saw something on a desk, that might prove useful later. Casting a few quick glances I hadn’t seen anything looking. I picked up the bobby-pin and followed after her again. The moment we left the rustic shack, I took in my surroundings. The sun was beating down as spring was drawing closer and closer by this point in time. There were other people going about their day. Though I looked even closer as I walked, seeing others wearing collars around their necks as well. Some were feeding animals in a stock-yard of sorts. And others were gardening.
“You, will be a gardener. Your first day of work starts at sunrise. Someone will come and fetch you.” The woman I knew to be Calaveras said, turning to me. In the dark depths of the rather demonic-looking sugar skull she wore I saw the glimmer of eyes.
“O-” I started, being silenced and wracked by a shock. I fell to my hands and knees as I felt eyes on me.
When the shocks ended I was roughly hoisted up by my clothing.
“Don’t speak. Good behavior gets that off.” She spoke, her voice portraying no emotion, though I saw the corner of her mouth twitch as if she were about to smile.
I nodded once I gained my composure, stealing glances as she lead me to various parts of the walled-off old-west-themed town. It was fortified by tall walls of rusted sheet metal. Perhaps I could slip through a gap?
“This is the infirmary. If any of the townspeople need help you assist them in getting here. If you are hurt you go here.” She spoke, yet again with that distant tone.
I took a risk as I saw a few collared people coming into the walls carrying large bags and crates through a gate with escorts of gun-toting men. I pointed them out to her, after I silently caught her attention.
“They go on supply runs. You won’t get the chance to go on them until you prove loyalty to Ron.” She explained monotonously.
“You will stay here.” She said, jerking her head for me to follow as she tapped her foot impatiently.
I caught a glimpse of something as we changed direction. A gap in the sheet metal near the animal pen. I might cut myself up on the metal getting out. But if I got through I could be out and free. I looked higher up the wall, seeing a walkway at its top, men and women patrolling it. Guards, so that meant a watch. I nearly ran into someone had Calaveras not caught me by the shoulder. She suddenly caught me by the back of the neck, essentially manhandling me as she forced me ahead and into another building, one that looked like an old western inn. The theme of this town made me gag as it was gaudy. But with some luck, I’d be far away from it in a few hours.
This manhandling went on until we arrived at a door to a room. She opened it, hand still clasped around my collar with a strong grip. She shoved me into the room and I clumsily stumbled into it, choosing to just fully submit. She closed the door behind us quickly after casting some glances outside of the doorway as I retreated into a corner in the room, clutching at myself as I didn’t want to know what she had in mind.
She approached me, instead of assaulting me, she reached for my collar as I flinched away. Though unlike the man before, she didn’t slap me. She reached for the dial again, turning it.
“You can speak. I’m sure you have questions. Be quiet though.” She said softly, her voice more kind than before.
I was uneasy doing so. But after some coaxing from her, I spoke.
“W-Where are we?” I asked, pleased I wasn’t greeted by a shock.
“Arizona.” She said vaguely, a small smile on her face now.
“I can’t stay here.” I whispered.
“I have people waiting for me.” I tacked on quickly.
“Once you’re in this place you’re in for good. If you try to escape you’ll wish you never attempted it.” She warned, her face serious.
“Why are you so different now?” I whispered to her as she sat on the bed in the room.
“People listen and ears are everywhere. I was once in your place. I don’t want to go back there.” She replied, a small smile faltering and flickering.
“And if you want life to be easy here. It’s best you submit. Never speak.” She warned, getting back up.
She stepped towards me again, her hand reaching for the dial on the collar, locking it with a key she’d had. I assumed I was back to not being able to speak. And with that, she left me, the sound of the door locking making me glad I picked up the pin. Sure I’d never used one to pick a lock, but it was better than having nothing. My spirits weren’t broken quite yet. I had to get out of here no matter the cost.
A/N: Not sure how this one turned out. Was anyone surprised? I may have either been too cryptic in giving hints. Or I was too blatantly obvious. Or the writing was bad. I don’t know. But anyway, it gets darker and darker. No holds barred from this point on.