All I Could Do
A/N: Things wrap up in this chapter. We catch back up with Issac 6 months into his imprisonment. How has he managed in this cruel environment? He’s prone to that darkness he hates so much. So perhaps he is fine? Find out and read on! The two remaining bonus chapters will be released on the usual schedule. You can either read them or wait for a little more mystery!
“He thinks I’m the real deal.”
I eyed my quarry as he limped across the road of the town with some assistance. I’d done it and pulled it off somehow. It took him some time to trust me enough to go beyond the walls and return to him. But when he did lady luck shone on me. Leaning against the post I stood up to get a better look as he and a woman that had been looking after him sat at a picnic bench for lunch. What I’d done was sinister; one of the most cruel things I’d ever done to someone. I poisoned him with a chemical I’d gotten from a chemistry lab at a research university. Something lethal and a slow but certain killer. No one knew what was wrong with him but me. And I’d kept my lips sealed being that supportive “friend” he’d made me into. All the while I was actually a crow stalking a wounded animal until it keeled over. He thought I was the real deal.
What I’d found was risky. A double-edged sword without a blade. I’d poisoned him slowly while increasing doses of dimethylmercury; something I’d learned to be quite lethal in my chemistry classes. I had to handle it with so much care each time I dosed him with it in various ways. The first was when he’d sent me to his room for his riding gloves. I drenched the lining of his gloves in the stuff. So far he’d had two in a short window of time. I had to make sure I wasn’t taking on any. It had a sweet smell. But once you’d have smelled it you may have been poisoned as well. So I poisoned him last around roughly five months ago judging by how long my hair had gotten. And he was showing symptoms while I wasn’t. So I might have dodged the bullet.
“How’s it goin’ Issac?” A man asked me.
I think he was one of the men who beat me all that time ago. I’d had my collar off for about a week now. But I hadn’t grown used to talking again.
“I’m fine.” I said, my voice feeling foreign to even me.
“Go out on a patrol with me and the boys?” He asked, taking me off guard. They trusted me to go on supply runs. But never enough to give my weapons back for a patrol.
“Is there a catch?” I asked quizzically, wishing I could honestly sink my tantos into his heart.
“I don’t think so?” He asked, seeming just as confused as I was.
“We’re short a guy.” He added.
“I’m no good at fighting. But I’ll help if you need me.” I agreed, my guard instantly up.
I’d kept any fighting ability I had secret so far. Pretending to be helpless all the time in combat situations. That acting on my part has gotten a few men killed. And another handful injured. Did I care at this point? Not at all. That meant fewer people I’d have to kill myself later on. And if I had to use what I knew to kill they’d never see it coming.
“Well you can just be an extra pair of eyes.” He shrugged, jerking his head for me to follow him.
I did just that, waving at Ronald as I went, getting a feeble one back as so many of the symptoms had begun to set in. He looked gaunt and pale from the weight loss. And his mental state was deteriorating nicely. I suspected he might not make it through today at this rate. Or his death would come soon. We’d passed the place I learned where my weapons were. So I assumed I wasn’t yet totally trusted. They piled into a truck, one of the women in company handing me the binoculars as I took a perch in the truck bed. Escaping was futile. They’d gun you down if you tried running and I’d seen it more times than I’d have liked. We took off into the desert, all the while I let my mind wander. Nothing but ways to end the lives of each and every one of these people flooded my thoughts like a surging river bursting its banks.
I’d been so bent on getting revenge. I realized that. My abuse has been constant. None of the other “helpers” as they called them could be spared either. They’d do anything if someone whispered in their ear that they could be freed. Some have tried to kill me to avenge that man I killed months ago. I’ve had to practice so much restraint as urges to lash out have been powerful. To them I was a tepid young man who was soft-spoken. When in actuality I’d let the monster within me out to stalk the depths of my mind freely, the only thing keeping it inside being a wall of glass.
“See anything?” I was asked from the front of the truck.
I picked up the binoculars, scanning our surroundings as we came to a stop. We had wandered near the river, and judging by its flow and curvature it had been upriver. I’d only ever been downriver so I knew its landmarks quite well. I saw a few infected on our side of the bank. Looking in the other direction my eyes landed on something. Then my heart leaped in my chest. It was the bridge that landed me here, blown up in ruin. Further up the road was a sign being buffeted by the wind. We were miles off so the naked eye wouldn’t see it.
“Some infected directly north.” I said, wanting them away from that sign for some reason.
Once I made my escape I’d go there first. I knew something was wrong with me by this point. But there was a disconnect stopping me from seeing it. I’d been fixated on the death of these people. Normally the loss of life would have bothered me. The death of children. But at this point I didn’t care. I wanted the pain to run like blood from an artery in this place. For it to wind so deep that those that do survive remember me as the embodiment of that affliction. We all headed north towards the infected.
“You can stay back.” The man who invited me out offered.
I shot him a fake smile that melted away to nothing the moment he and the others went to take down the infected. I’d watched and studied them closely. I don’t think they knew that when they died that they became infected. The man I killed hadn’t changed after killed him. It worked in my favor as I’d picked out everyone who had been exposed to lurkers. I watched as they clumsily took on the infected. It went on longer than it should have. But no casualties this time. I’d instill fear in them with what I had planned. All I needed was for a single man to die. He’d turn and infect someone else. Starting a violent chain reaction that I’d nurture.
“Can we head back soon? I had to help Ronald with his treatment later today.” I shouted to them as they’d finished off all of the infected. It was a lie. But I was feeling a little antsy; wanting to get things rolling with this taste of freedom today.
“Sure thing.” They agreed.
This patrol went on for quite some time, finally ending at about midday. Coming back in to the compound, I hopped off of the truck, making my way to Ronald’s place. Entering the building I eventually made it to Ronald’s room. Where I’d knew he’d be at this time of day. I knocked on his door.
“Who is it?” He asked, his voice frail. The sound made me giddy with anticipation. I wondered if this is how a predatory cat felt when it had made a clean kill. It was almost time.
“Its Issac.” I replied, adding what emotion I could to my tone.
“Oh come in.” He said between a few coughs.
Opening the door I slipped in making my way to his bedside to give him medicine that was equivalent to taking sugar pills. No one knew what he was struck by but me. And I knew that in a world like this he was going to die eventually. Heck, death was inevitable once poisoned by what I’d used if things were normal. I gave him his medication, sitting in the chair near his bedside. I’d become a demon to slay demons in this death camp. I’d purge this land of this atrocity no matter how much blood I’d had to spill.
“Y’Know.” He began, turning to look at me as I switched out my facial masks to something more emotive.
“Yer a good kid. I beat the shit outta you and yer loyal as hell.” He smiled, seeming proud. If only he knew.
He was hanging on for far too long. And I was growing impatient.
“Thank you sir.” I replied softly, offering him a smile as he reached for my hand.
I took it, rolling my eyes internally. He’d scarred my face and beat me within an inch of my life. He was foolish to believe he had my loyalty.
“You’ll beat this.” I told him, giving his hand a squeeze. The lies piling up more and more.
“I sure hope so.” He chuckled, flashing that devilish smile he was known for.
“I have to go. Much to be done. Need anything before I go?” I told him, getting up.
“I think I’m all good here. I’ll have to give you a day off sometime soon. You bust your ass ’round this place.” He smiled, shooing me off.
And off I went, making changes to my plan. I wanted freedom now more than ever. And being so close to it was tantalizing in every way. If I died I’d still be free. If I tried and succeeded I’d be free. If I was recaptured I could take my own life if I had to. What I was about to do was reckless. But I wouldn’t make it out of here without taking risks. I was confident in my ability to fight. And if anything it had gotten better here. Every night in the confines of my room. I would practice. Slowly building strength. Becoming deadlier and deadlier. Waving to others as I’d made my way through the rustic town, I’d eventually made it back to where this all started. I didn’t see anyone nearby. But I still walked around the back, slipping into a little alley. I drifted around so quietly that no one really noticed me on a regular basis. I spotted an open window on the side. I vaulted into it, landing inside fully prepared to kill anyone in here. Though the small building was inhabited by one person. Calaveras. She became an ally; the one person I’d warn when I put things into motion.
“What are you doing here?” She asked quizzically, her tone telling me she was alone in here.
“Leaving. I came for my weapons and knee pads.” I explained to her as she was sorting through some items in a crate.
“Funny thing. I was going to find you and tell you now would be a good time to get out. With his health failing.” She sighed, pulling out a strange chest holster and two other items I found familiar.
“Come with me. We can leave together. Its hard being out there on your own.” I suggested.
She took off her mask, something she didn’t do often. Her uninjured eye looked troubled. I was lucky, left with a nasty scar over my right eye. Though I could still see out of it.
“I don’t know Issac. Its risky for us both to try.” She said.
“But if I can get you out I’ll be okay.” She smiled.
She set down an array of items before me on a metal table. A pair of studded gloves, the studs sharpened into spikes. My black tantos bloodied and left outside of sheaths. And my spiked knee pads.
“You did this?” I asked, confused.
“I said I was going to find you. I gave you some extras.” She smiled.
“The blades are infected. Careful. Just stab someone, create a panic and you can slip out while they’re busy fighting off infected.” She rambled.
“You should come with me. After I get things started. I’ve had a plan of my own too.” I insisted.
She looked frustrated. For a moment. She slipped her mask back on, tying her long black hair into a ponytail.
“You know what. I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.” She smiled, handing me the chest harness.
“Let me help you suit up. Slip out the back and we can get started.” She sighed, still seeming uneasy.
I slipped on the fingerless gloves while she laced the harness around my chest. The sheaths for my blades were right under my arms, making them a pretty easy reach with some flexibility and dexterity. She tied it tight and I felt a little constriction.
“And it looks good on you.” She chuckled.
When she was done I secured my knee pads to my knees, going through the long laces of my boots to tighten them around my shins.
“What did you have in mind for your plan?” She asked.
I trusted her. She wanted out of this place as much as I did.
“I poisoned Ronald.” I admitted.
“I was going to wait until he died and turned.” I went on.
“I knew that wasn’t a sickness. Just what did you use?” She remarked, walking over to a window
" Mercury. I could have killed myself using it. But it was a risk I was willing to take. I believe it has an always lethal mortality rate.” I mused.
“I like your style. Never took you to be a mad scientist.” She chuckled, loading her odd crossbow with bolts.
“I’m not. I would have been a clinical psychologist had none of this happened.” I replied, a genuine smile creeping onto my face for the first time in a long time.
“So are you off to kill Ronald now? Its a long walk there and you aren’t supposed to have your weapons yet.” She asked as I picked up my tantos, the sensation of the weight they had making my heart pound in good ways.
“Yeah. I’ll give the signal. Meet you at the west gate?” I explained.
“Sure? Will you like, shout for me?” She asked, hanging her crossbow from her shoulder.
“Sure I guess.” I shrugged, stepping out of the back door, casting one last look back at her.
I closed the back door behind me, already hearing my first victims. With cold killing intent, I picked out two voices chatting in an alleyway.
“Hey Issac.” They greeted, their eyes suddenly filling with fear as I stalked towards them with murderous intent. With all the agility I could muster I bound off the wall of a building, incapacitating one man with a kick to the throat, crushing his windpipe. I spun and turned on the other, slashing his throat before he could aim his gun.
I pinned him down, snapping his neck to kill him. I turned to the other man, stabbing him with my blade to infect him. I picked up the handgun the other man wanted to shoot me with, putting it in my pocket. I stalked off, checking myself for blood as I went, being clean. No one paid me any mind as I purposefully walked along the street running through the town. I dipped off into an alleyway, knowing there was a side entrance in the building Ronald had his room in. Though coming out was a teen. He’d tell on me if he lived, so I committed fully. I pinned him to the wall, muffling his mouth. His eyes filled with terror didn’t deter me as I inserted my blade into his skull through his ear. I’d kill him but not let him turn. It wasn’t fair. Moving passed him I slunk into the building, keeping low. I slipped up into the hall he was on, whistling a tune as he’d be pretty much alone in this big house all on his own now. I let my blades scrape against the wall.
A gunshot outside told me things must have started. I kept up my whistling, as a surprise leaped from behind a door. Though I had my hand on the pistol I’d gotten already. I quickly drew and fired, shooting down that older woman seeing to Ronald. As I passed I dipped down and stabbed her with my blade. I continued the tune, rounding the corner into Ronald’s room as he had been standing shaking in the corner.
“Are you scared, friend?” I cooed softly, rounding the bed after I closed the door.
“What are you doing kid?” He asked, that smile coming and faltering.
“What I was going to do since the day you laid eyes on me.” I replied simply.
He was frail and helpless against me now. The strong and domineering man left a shaking coward before me. It was time. It was my turn to dish back what I’d felt. Though unlike him I wasn’t the monster he was. I was something darker and more sinister now. I threw him onto his bed with ease, being right on him and pinning him down in an instant underneath me.
“Don’t do it kid. We were onto somethin’.” He attempted. But I was beyond him saying things to me. I stabbed my blades into the palms of his hands, pinning him down further as I reached over for his nightstand where he kept my collar. I turned it on before securing it to his neck against his pitiful attempts to fight back.
I retrieved my blades after I cranked it up to the highest setting.
“How about a little payback?” I asked, wrapping my hands around his throat to make it hard for him to speak.
He of course couldn’t speak. So I came at him with one of his lines.
“Speak when spoken to boy.” I growled angrily, pleased with the fear I was getting in those hazel eyes.
He glared up at me indignantly, trying to fight back even now.
“I’ll make you talk then.” I drawled, taking one of my blades and running it up his forearm, digging in deeper and deeper as my patience was all but gone. I wanted to finish and leave. But I wanted him to feel everything I felt.
Digging a little deeper his resistance to keep any sound in the confines of his throat he finally cried out in pain, being greeted by a powerful shock that granted yet another cry until he shut up.
“Imagine that so many times you lose count.” I growled, getting off of him.
“So many times you’re dizzy from the pain and just wishing you’d just fucking die.” I continued.
“Why.” He croaked out being wracked by another shock.
“You took me from what I was to return to. Kept me here. Hurt me in more ways than one. So much so that every single day I’ve spent here I wanted to die.” I shouted, stalking right back up to him.
“I had made a promise before you took it upon yourself to take me in. And I have to keep it.” I growled, ramming a tanto into his chest, twisting the blade into his heart, getting another pained scream.
“A shark in the water is how you found me. Little did you know I’d drag you into the ocean to drown you.” I spat.
“And now I’m leaving as you sink into those depths.” I told him, taking my blade back, stalking out of the room without another word. He would die. And after his death, he would roam the world endlessly as an infected. It was a fitting fate for someone like him.
Something in me shifted as I left. I felt remorse seeing the dead bodies I’d slaughtered. Though I countered these silly thoughts with this. I had to survive. I had to do what I could to live. Whatever it took, no matter how gruesome. I rounded the corner, being taken by surprise as an infected collided with me as screams of terror rang out in the air. I reached for the pistol, inserting it into the tweaker’s mouth. I let loose all the shots the gun had until it clicked empty. Shoving the corpse off of me, I reached the western gate.
“Calaveras!” I shouted, night starting to fall.
“Over here.” She grunted, forcing back an infected before putting a bolt through its skull.
I ran to her side, bullets collided with the ground just behind us.
“Someone saw you kill Ronald.” She explained quickly as we slipped through the gaps of the gate as shots rang past us.
We broke off into the desert, honestly hoping to not be shot while being so close. Suddenly Caleveras went limp beside me, a bullet impacting and bloodying the ground in front of us. I looked over and saw a massive bullet wound that went straight through her chest. Then in another instant, I felt a pain in my thigh. But still, I struggled on, hauling Caleveras’ body alongside me as she slowly shut down against my shoulder. I limped on until the gunshots became less and less and the sky darkened around us. When I’d got us to the safety of being behind a boulder I laid her down, my heart racing.
“Caleveras!” I called, my throat tight as I tried to rouse her.
As if the sky wanted to weep for me, rain began to fall in that moment. I gave her another shake, growing desperate. I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted nothing more than for her of all people to be alive. She didn’t deserve to die. She too was taken from something she was supposed to return to.
“Caleveras.” I called again, tears escaping my eyes as I hugged her clearly lifeless body to me.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen.” I sobbed, feeling a surge of emotion I hadn’t felt in so long.
“You were supposed to get out of there with me.” I went on, though life turned its back on me as I heard a growl in my arms.
I barely had enough time to recover before she sank her teeth into my neck. I pulled back before pinning her down as she tried to chomp at me. I couldn’t seem to do anything the right way. Always making a mistake. I was truly reckless. I couldn’t even stop her from turning. I sobered up, not able to stand seeing her like this. I drove the blade of one of my tanto’s into her skull, her movement ceasing.
“I’m sorry...Caleveras.” I sighed, the rain drenching me and thunder roared overhead.
She deserved to be honored as I was filled with something different. People did this to her. People who thought they were good. I removed her mask, eyeing the haunting black skull adorned by bright red jewels. One of the horns snapped and broke off a little while ago, making her upset. I closed her eye that looked at me in anger as the last thing her body tried to do was sink its teeth into me. I would honor her. The mask was something important to her and it too deserved to be cared for. I took a shaky breath, putting it to my face. Drawing another shaky breath I tied it on, my vision partially obscured by red-tinted lenses. But this felt right. I’d carry her with me. I felt filled with purpose. One I may come to regret. I spent some of the night out in the rain digging her a grave, burying her as I took her crossbow; something else she valued greatly.
“You were a lot braver than you knew. Someone kind among monsters.” I sighed, uttering my final words.
“I’m sorry Caleveras.” I uttered, marking her grave with a final stone I’d left carefully stacked.
After I tended to my wounded leg, I set off into the desert, limping through the roaring rain. I walked until it felt like my body would fail. I was in so much pain; perhaps more mentally than physically. I felt like giving up as I trudged on. The rain had died before I saw something that made my heart flutter. It was the road this all began on. What took me away. The bridge lay in ruin as I stumbled to a sign that had been made out of scrap wood and metal rods. I studied the words, their origin foreign to me for a moment before I picked out little details. In a language I had a patchy knowledge of, It was one of my father’s people. Though the handwriting was even more familiar as I looked at the flourishes on the letters I knew only one person to add. My mother’s handwriting, faded by the sun in red paint. Translated, I saw that it read “Come to Colorado if you’re still out there”. I looked down in the mud below the sign, seeing a glimmer of something of the dullness of the watered-down earth. I reached down, digging up a bag. In it was a map.
I opened it unfolding it and seeing a location on the map circled in the same red paint that was used to write on the sign. I scoffed, folding it back up and putting it in my back pocket. I couldn’t bring myself to go back to them for some reason. It had been about six months. Perhaps they all thought I was dead anyway? What I’d become was something different. I wanted freedom yes. But after a while, I stopped caring about escaping for them. They didn’t even come out to look for me. I looked at the vast expanses of land around me, heaving a shaky sigh. I spun around a few times, feeling something settle in. People were no good. I’d find myself sometime later I supposed. But until I reached a place where I could rest. I’d do whatever it took to live. I didn’t care what it took or what I had to do.
Instead of going north. I turned from where I came, wading into the river to cross it. I swam across, reaching the other side of the bank. Instead of going back I wandered, my mind blank as I was finally at peace. I drifted east. I’d go back to where it all started. Maybe I’d find what I craved there? Though I didn’t know what I craved. I pressed on through the rain down a vast expanse of road. I kept up a limping pace as I felt my body grow hot and my head light. I risked a look down at my leg. It looks like I’d lost quite a bit of blood. I looked ahead of me, seeing a group of four people. I studied them as my vision swam.
“We don’t want any trouble!” A voice called out to me.
Sure my brain felt dull and foggy. But my drive to survive was strong as ever. I reached up for my tantos, drawing them. I put everything I had into instilling fear. I began to whistle my tune loudly, casting the melodic sound out over the roaring rain. As I walked my vision swam and spun. I could kill them and rest. And then press on. I chanted that line of thought to myself over and over. This was all I could do.
A/N: So it ends here. Next chapter will be a short little set of teasers of what’s to come There will actually be a few snippets of various small parts of the next book. They’ll maybe be about a couple hundred words each. Nothing long as I don’t want to give it all away. There was an alternate ending. Though this is the direction and the headspace I wanted Issac to be in. Caleveras originally would have lived. But she needed to die right in his arms to push him in the direction I wanted for the end of this book.