A/N: Something fun and fresh for my lovely readers! But anyway, let’s get this started. Oh! A warning. This chapter contains triggering content. If you come across something that bothers or triggers you; you can skip this chapter. <3
Walking down the hallway, there was a set of footsteps behind me. I paused, feeling jumpy, spinning on my heels and confronting whoever it was with my hand poised on my bow. It was a man dressed in tactical gear; army reserves perhaps? He raised his hands in surrender with a small smile on his bearded face.
“It’s dangerous to sneak up on others.” I spoke, eyeing the man cautiously.
“You’re Alisha’s brother, right? You two favor a bit. She hasn’t shut up about you since she’s gotten here outside of the lab.” He explained, stepping closer. His words were obviously fake. Alisha and I only shared the same brown-skinned complexion. Other than that we weren’t often mistaken as siblings.
“I’m just here for her and my family.” I reasoned cautiously.
“But she mentioned something really important about you though.” He added.
“In this situation, the only thing remotely useful about me is being able to...kill.” I replied, my voice trailing off. I had a remote idea of what he was getting at. The one skill I had outside all of this is what he was prying at.
He smirked at my silence, catching on quickly. I knew I was caught, so I might as well have some sort of enjoyment.
“Let me guess. You want to talk about your stresses and problems?” I poked, crossing my arms as I returned my bow to my shoulder.
“Actually, there is something I want you to see. Something secret.” He added, coming closer and closer.
“Literally no one in sight or earshot. I’m not important; so just tell me. I have to find some people.” I huffed.
“Come with me. It could do just as much good as what those nerds are doing in the labs.” He smirked.
I didn’t like him; well he seemed rather forceful behind those smirks and smiles. It was time to flip the script up a bit. He didn’t know me well. He knew what I was studying in university though. I’d play the role of innocent and clueless though.
“Okay, okay.” I replied, rolling my eyes in a playful manner.
“Good. I figured your mind could do some digging.” He huffed, gesturing for me to follow him.
Through the building, we got strange looks that were sometimes diverted by a gesture. It was all very strange that these men were conducting themselves like this. Had infrastructure fallen and communication ceased? If he were about to use me for something, I may as well get what I could out of him. So I set my mind to work cooking up questions I’d had.
“So all of this. How widespread is it now?” I asked.
“It’s in other countries now. It’s spreading fast as hell. America is doomed and the rest of the world is too if we don’t make some headway.” He informed me as we descended down a staircase into what could only be the building’s basement.
“Why not just bomb cities?” I questioned, seeing him stiffen ever so slightly as he walked.
“Happened too fast. By the time we figured out how to kill them they dismantled our chains of command.” He replied, his wording sounding slightly cautious. I figured if I asked any more questions he’d grow too curious about me. I really wasn’t important but I was taught to not dig holes I couldn’t climb out of.
I had an unusual feeling about this; it scared me just imagining what this man was taking me to. I had my bow in hand, an arrow already notched should he try something shady. One might think I’ve already started changing in the face of a new dystopian world, but I was always this skeptical. It’s what kept me alive in a few life or death situations I’ve encountered.
Rounding the corner, my breath was stolen away. In an isolated area of the dimly lit room there sat a man in a chair under a lamp.
“This,” The man beside me began. “Is a tweaker. It’s what we call the twitchy ones.” He explained.
“An infected? Those things are....” I replied, choosing my words and how I said them carefully.
I was intent on melting away in this crowd of people for as long as possible. So if it meant coming across as tepid, i’d do just that.
“Don’t tell me you’re one of those meek shrinks.” He huffed.
“What would you like me to do?” I questioned, steeling myself with a shaky inhale.
“I for one think the behavior of these...things should be studied. If we’re in this for the long haul the more we know the better.” He responded, walking up to the man who was violently trying to free himself.
“Isn’t this risky? For risk of infection?” I proposed, keeping my distance as I was a little scared.
“This,” He began, gripping the uniform-clad man by the hair and tilting its head up.
“It’s a tweaker. They spread by bites; and bodily fluids in cuts.” He finished, removing his hand from the reach of gagged jaws intent on tearing into flesh.
Seeing his name tag sent a small wave of sadness through me. This was recent, and the fact that this man basically wanted me to experiment on a fallen comrade was sick; not to mention morally incorrect. It told me that maybe this wasn’t a safe-haven. If he was like this, perhaps more of these few men were just as twisted. Somehow I’d have to make it known to the group. But I had no intention of my family staying here.
“So? What will it be?” He asked, turning to me, seeming to scan my entire being with his eyes.
“Sure. It does make sense to learn as much as we can about them.” I replied with a small, fake smile; anything to get him away from me.
“How did you get him here by the way?” I asked as he turned to leave.
“He was bitten when we first got here a few days ago. I took him down here and tied him up before he crossed over.” He shrugged simply, shooting me a devilish smile as he turned to leave.
Logically he had a point. But the only way I could get to some of the contents of the infected was through physical torture. I had half the mind to end his suffering as blood had been trickling out of his eyes like tears, his skin pale and lifeless looking. I examined my surroundings now that I was alone. I walked over to a crate, pushing it over to just before the man before me. And I just sat there; the only movement being that of my blinking eyes. Eventually, his attempts to free himself slowed as angry eyes glared at me.
“Hello.” I spoke, the activity peaking again as he fought so hard against his restraints I heard the cracking of bone.
My sister was right about aggression. If he were free now he would easily kill me in the state I was in. But I’ve heard them speak before and I wanted to test that a bit further if possible. Just what was that behavior? This needed to be dealt with because something with aggression like this would rampage through the world like a wildfire. Putting my bow down; as it would be useless in such a close-quarter situation, I got up. I armed myself with an arrow, walking around to the back of the man. There were various cuts and bruises adorning the infected man’s arms and face. Had the uniformed man from before did this? Resorting to torture for the sake of science? I felt like I had to throw up at just the thought alone.
The fighting of the ‘tweaker’ as he called it increased as my proximity grew closer and closer. If somehow we could look at brain activity here we could determine whether they were dead or alive. Sure it responded to stimuli as simple as seeing me. But what about touch? Most people are somewhat comforted with light touching. So I ran my fingers through his hair, cooing softly. Though I only got an unexpected reaction. His head swung around dangerously in an attempt to bite me through the gag. Somehow I managed to react quickly enough to distance myself, dropping my arrow as my body shook under the rush of adrenaline flooding through it as all my senses came alive.
“What the hell am I doing?” I questioned myself softly.
I was playing with fire doing this. If he got free, I’m not sure I could get out of this alive as he was a much bigger man than me. Seeing the lamp above him having a switch, I flipped it, leaving us in darkness. It sent my anxiety wild not being able to see him well as my eyes adjusted. But I knew he was restrained in the metal chair by the sounds he made as he fought to free himself. I crouched down in the darkness, my eyes trained on where he was. And eventually, the fighting ceased, the room growing quiet. The room was dimly lit, and he should have been able to see me by now as even my eyes had adjusted; and my eyesight had been declining as of late.
Curious, I made a small sound, grunts, and growls leaving the man once more as his fighting began again. Going silent again the resistance ceased. I learned enough for now I decided. I’d leave before anything bad happened, not able to bring myself to kill this man out of mercy. I flipped the light back on, the fighting picking up to what it was before.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered softly, my throat tightening.
“I’m so fucking sorry.” I added, sniffling a bit as I turned to leave.
Getting to the stairwell my legs grew weak as I fell, my body wracked by sobs as I just laid there crying. I felt a strong mix of emotions; though sadness and grief fought them all and came out on top. Maybe I should just end all of this? I’ve suffered enough I feel. Or maybe I deserved it? My bow falling from my hand and echoing off the bare walls of the stairwell snapped me out of the dark thoughts I was being quickly pulled into. Had I slipped I could have done something stupid.
“Just when I thought it was okay to come off of my medication.” I sighed to myself, a wave of catharsis passing over me.
If this was the end I wondered just how long I would last. I pulled myself up, picking up my bow as my body shook from the demand. I couldn’t see a therapist anymore. And I didn’t have medication to stabilize my moods. So I knew I would decline; so why not end it here right now? I took an arrow from my quiver, studying the sharpness of the tip, my fear of blades and needles gone as I ran it across my wrist lightly. The cold sensation of metal stimulated my senses as images came rushing back of what I thought to be my final moments. I applied more and more pressure as I ran the arrow tip across my skin again, slicing over an old scar, bright red blood greeting me as I felt that oh so great purging sensation through all the pain.
I knew what I was doing this time. I knew if I went any deeper I would be in danger. I slipped down the wall in the stairwell, looking down at my wrist as it bled slowly. Taking a deep breath, I rubbed it on my jeans; which were luckily black. If my family or Jonas knew I cut they’d be pissed. Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out something I had kept for years. It came in handy for disguising cuts over the years. It was two wristbands Jonas had given me years ago as a gift. I slipped them on, the beads and leather stinging the small slash on my wrist. I just felt like sleeping, my body felt heavy and tired despite the nap I had on the way here.
I’d find everyone else and tell them what Alisha had wanted me to. With a grunt I got up, returning my bloodied arrow to its quiver after I had returned my bow to my shoulder. I’d just last up until I felt I couldn’t; when death looked me right in the face again. Looking back at the small drops of blood I had left on the ground I smudged it into the concrete with my boot before making my way back up the stairs. I had been in this headspace many times before. I knew just what it was. But when it came to fighting this side of my mind I felt helpless; fragile almost. It had me longing and wishing for those high days where everything felt okay.
One thing I never lost no matter how I felt was my appetite. And I guess my nose lead me to what was a cafeteria. Looking around at the few men and women here, I spotted a familiar face. It was Daniel; who despite this was a ray of sunshine. Not wanting to be questioned about looking down and out, I slipped on a mask as I had done when I was a bit younger. The appearance of happiness. I made my way over to him, seeing that he was playing a board game with a small group of kids. The sight made my heart hurt more than anything. I just wanted them to be happy. But the likelihood of them living was low if this got out of control.
“Hey, Dani.” I greeted, leaning against the table beside him.
“What’s up Bro?” He asked.
“Oh. Alisha just wanted to see everyone about something.” I explained.
“But we were having fun with him!” One of the kids replied, probably being no older than five or six.
“He doesn’t have to go right now.” I comforted, the innocence of these children bringing a tiny genuine smile to my face.
“But could you tell Oscar if and when you see him?” I asked, deciding to go and look for Ellis next.
“Uhh, sure thing.” He replied, being distracted by the children yet again as they stole away his attention.
I turned and left, basically teetering on my feet due to exhaustion. Making my way through the building I found my way to the parking garage we had entered through. There were a few armed men out there that were intimidating to say the least. But nonetheless, I approached one with a question in mind.
“What can I do for you kid?” Presumably, the oldest of the men asked as I approached him.
“I’m looking for Ellis. One of the scientists wants him for testing.” I explained.
“He’s somewhere along the border patrolling.” He explained; being a lot more kind than he looked.
“Thank you so much.” I sighed, offering him a small smile as I turned and left.
“Be careful near the fences. If an infected grabs you through it we might not be able to save you.” He shouted after me.
I turned around and gave him a nod before continuing on. The compound was partially dark, spotlights providing light. Wandering close to the fence, I instantly wished I hadn’t. Various infected men and women were reaching through the links in the fence. A sea of growls and snarls. It was all nightmare fuel that had me questioning if any of this was real or not. And I’d wake up from a bad dream in my dorm; late for class or something.
“I’m sorry.” I sighed, feeling the warm sensation of tears in my eyes.
I walked along the fence, wishing I could console them somehow. Surely they were suffering if they were still alive. It was as if they were magnets and I was a sheet of metal as my body gravitated towards the fence. I began to reach out when I nearly jumped out of my skin as my forearm was gripped tightly around my chest. I looked up and saw it was Ellis who was panting, looking at me as if I had just lost my mind.
“What the hell man. If they grab you you’re dead. You shouldn’t even be this close to the fence.” He scolded.
My brain was a fog as I tried to pull uniform thoughts out of its gloom.
“Have you ever killed anyone?” I asked simply, staring blankly ahead at the infected before me.
“Yeah.” He replied easily, prompting me to look at him.
“Have you?” He asked, flipping the question on me.
“Only the infected recently. I know it wasn’t many. But I’ve already lost count. I don’t like the feeling.” I huffed, crossing my arms.
“I’m a combat medic. And there came a time where I was treating some members of my platoon in a blown up building.” He began, turning to face me as he lowered his rifle.
“And just like that, the enemy was on us. I had a choice. Kill the five men coming into the building. Or let them kill me and my brothers in arms.” He went on.
“So I committed to it. I told myself it was for the lives of those I cared about. So I shot all of them dead while we holed up in that building until help arrived for two days.” He finished, shaking me with his story.
“But how. It’s been tearing me apart thinking about the lives I’ve ended. Can these people be saved?” I argued.
“They attacked you yeah? If you didn’t kill them you would have become one of them.” He asserted bluntly, that adorable soft country accent gone as he eyed me seriously and sternly.
“But that makes me a bad person. Killing instead of trying to gain understanding.” I proposed.
“It’s you or them. If you want to make it. If you want your friends and family to survive this. You. Will. Kill. Ending lives with no reasoning or understanding is when it gets bad.” He explained heatedly, taking hold of my shoulders and giving me a light shake.
I saw his point. But actually doing it was much harder. I was still reeling from having to end the lives of the infected.
“You’ve got it.” He added, some static coming from his walkie-talkie.
“There’s a breach in the west wall. Infected are getting in.” A man shouted, gunfire being heard over the device and in the air around us.
He shot me a look, gripping his gun as he took off. I readied an arrow and took off after him, my body protesting. I caught up with him, managing to keep pace.
“You should get into the building and protect the people in there.” He yelled as we broke through the parking garage onto the other side of the building. He said that as he thought I couldn’t fight.
I could; my mind would allow me. I had too much at stake. Those inside should stay inside. If I were to be followed by infected they could kill me and get inside. There was gunfire going on all around when we arrived as people were fighting off infected. Readying an arrow I locked onto an infected that leaped onto a woman. By this point, my aim had returned and I made a clean headshot, my heart lurching in my chest as the body fell lifelessly. Not now, I couldn’t give up now. I ran forward to help the woman to her feet as I heard a pained grunt and scream behind me.
“Keep moving.” I instructed her, turning around and seeing that Ellis had been struck in the shoulder by a stray bullet.
I turned to run to him but I was tackled to the ground. Somehow I wriggled around to fight off my attacker but was overpowered as yet another infected joined the pile. The only thing keeping them from biting into me was my bow which was under massive strain as my body was painfully squished. I couldn’t help but cry out in pain as my still-healing body was subjected to more abuse. It felt like it wore on forever, my head growing light. Then in an instant, the heads above me exploded in a shower of blood, dousing my body as I heard silenced gunshots.
“Up boy. Help them over near the breach.” Jin instructed as she turned to hoist Ellis up.
Ignoring protest from my body, I readied and arrow hastily, firing a crippling shot at an infected that ran at me. Grabbing another arrow my body tried to lock up on me. But I thought just as quickly about what had at stake. Taking my last arrow from my quiver, jamming it into the head of the angered woman. And just then I turned at the sound of a familiar voice cursing profusely.
Jonas was outside, struggling with two infected that had him pinned down. Readying the bloodied arrow I pulled from the previous infected I stabbed I took aim. I fired a clean shot, killing one and running to Jonas’ aid. With everything I had, I dropped my bow, tackling the infected. Though I overshot it and in a freak accident, I felt a pain in my ribs, a scream leaving my lungs and I cried out, forcing the infected back, pinning it to the ground underneath me. It was a struggle for what felt like ages as I was eventually overpowered, being flipped over and pinned down myself. A loud thud sound went off as a booted foot was kicked into the head of the infected trying to bite me again. My heart was racing, my breathing speeding up dangerously as what felt like a panic attack came over me.
“Shit.” Jonas said simply, his eyes widened in horror as he gazed down at me.
Attempting to get up my vision blurred as my head swam. And then in yet another instant, I felt a wave of cool rush over my skin, as if icy drops of sweat pushed out of every pore I had in unison. My eyes rolled back as I fell limply back down, being caught by who I assumed was Jonas. The world was spinning as Jonas carried me, calling out for help, shooting down the occasional infected. The world was spinning around me as I felt my body convulse weakly, my eyelids growing heavy as the world went dark around me.
I had blacked out before. But I never under such circumstances. The only thing that kept me certain I was still alive was the occasional phantom-like sensations of touch before everything got emptier and emptier before my grip on awareness waned and slipped, everything consequently going blank.
It was like short moments. And in the next, I was blinking my eyes open in a rather sterile-looking room. The beeping of a monitor lulling me into a state of sobriety. Going to move an arm, I was greeted by the sting of metal against my wrist. Looking down at my body I was dressed in a hospital gown. Though I was held down by heavy-duty leather straps. I looked around the room, seeing Ellis dozing off in a chair placed by a window in the corner of the room. Relaxing my body I exhaled, somehow becoming slim enough to pull my body under the straps and freeing myself; save for the handcuffs holding my wrists to the bed.
I still felt dizzy, almost throwing up the contents of my surely empty stomach. The sound of my soft gagging was enough to wake him. He had his gun poised on me, his eyes wary and ringed by dark circles.
“What the hell happened?” I questioned, leaning against the wall behind the head of the bed I was on.
“How you got out of those restraints is scary.” He commented, chuckling.
“I’m pretty skinny and flexible.” I explained, attempting to shrug, wincing as the cuffs dug into my bruised wrists.
“You went into shock after you were bit and roughed up. It was tough keeping everyone in the base from killing you so you didn’t turn.” He huffed, leaning back in his chair, returning his handgun to its holster.
“Am I out of the woods? I feel okay considering it’s the next morning.” I rambled.
“Well, I’ll let Alisha explain it.” He said, getting up, eyes darting around the room, blatantly avoiding mine.
“How long has it been?” I asked, growing wary of his reluctance to speak directly to me.
“It been five days since that night.” He explained sheepishly.
“Wai-” I began as he slipped out of the room, leaving me alone.
Heaving a sigh I moved to run my fingers through my kinky curls of hair, but my arms were still restrained. My brown skin that was usually lively looking was dull and a little on the pale side. I guessed I was still okay. I wasn’t in any pain aside from the gnawing ache of the bite wound I felt being gently rubbed by the fabric of the gown I was in. The door swung open once more, my family and Jonas filing in alongside the rest of my traveling companions; minus Jin.
Their faces were grim, causing my heart to race painfully fast yet again as every sense I possessed became aroused.
“What is it?” I asked, wanting to get anything bad out of the way.
“We have to leave this place.” My sister began, speaking up first.
“W-why?” I stuttered.
“Should we tell him the good news or the bad news first?” Daniel asked everyone.
“Well, the good news.” My sister began, clearing her throat.
“You are immune to the virus and the fungus.” My sister explained, sounding somewhat cheerful despite the mess our world was becoming.
My heart practically flipped in my chest. I wouldn’t die? This was arguably the best thing I’ve heard since all of this started.
“Well, Daniel has great resistance to the virus and fungus. But you’re immune and today your sample has shown zero evidence of the pathogen.
“Just when I was thinking I was the unluckiest man alive.” I sighed, looking down at my lap
“Well, I don’t know what would happen in a few other scenarios so I’d avoid getting bitten again.” My sister asserted.
“You can thank your father for helping you win the genetic lottery.” My mother smiled.
“So what’s the bad news?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve done some snooping. And it turns out the ‘miliary’ officials here. Are militia members setting out to find a cure.” Ellis began.
“And when they found out you were immune they basically don’t care that you’re a person. And want to experiment on you.” Oscar added, a cold shiver running through me.
“So where are we going?” I questioned, feeling sick to my stomach.
“We have a few options.” My dad began.
“There’s a safe-zone for politicians and their families in northern Texas.” My dad explained.
“But getting in is hard for civilians and veterans. And they’re already near max capacity for families they can take in.” Oscar chipped in.
“And my family has a ranch in Arizona. I know we can go there.” Daniel said a hopeful smile on his face.
“So one close and one far?” I asked.
“We can’t go anywhere yet though. You need to recover some more. You went into shock from internal bleeding and we could have lost you from that.” Ellis added.
“Have we decided where we’re going? If we’re going together that is.” I huffed, wishing my wrists were freed from the restraints.
“I’ll go with you all to the ranch if that is where we are going as it is along the way to my brother.” Oscar explained.
“My family is safe in a safe-zone in Colorado.” Ellis huffed.
I looked to my family, and it seemed we were all on the same page. So it was the ranch; with or without the rest of the group.
A/N: I’m sure a lot of you may have seen Issac’s immunity coming from a mile away. It was something I debated on for a long time. And I was torn between making it known early. Or towards the end of this book. But I figured the earlier the better. This however kicks off his character development and sends it into overdrive. Just how do you think our damsel in distress will progress? Sound off in the comments if you’d like! I’d love to hear some theories!