To Death: Book 1

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What Follows

A/N: A bit of an intermission as we transition into the next chapters! This story and series will be the most work I’ve ever put into one of my creations. Each chapter I strive for perfection and as much detail as possible. Don’t be shy! I’d love to know what my readers think!

Today was the day after my awakening. And to say things around the campus of NTIDC were tense was an understatement. It was as if everyone I encountered knew who I was. Ellis suggested that me and Daniel always stay with someone. They didn’t know of Daniel’s resistance to the pathogen. But my immunity was news as Ellis and everyone protected me while I was out. Jonas went as far as nearly breaking a man’s jaw with a mean left hook. We were all on thin ice. Wrapping up my shower routine I laced up my boots before I left the bathroom. Jonas was with me at the moment, a silent fuming cloud.

It had me antsy not knowing what he would say when he said something. I had an idea of what had him in such a bad mood. And it had me pulling down the sleeve of a flannel I had borrowed from him. I knew he was mad at me. And my guess was seeming more and more correct as he didn’t even look at me when I exited the bathroom and stood before him. I wanted him to say something, but would that do me any good?

“Why’d you do it?” He finally asked, seeming to break before I did. I felt apprehensive in this moment. I didn’t know how he’d react if I kept this dialogue open.

His hazel eyes were angry, brows furrowed as he burned into me with a stare. He cocked a brow at me with a clenched jaw as he seemed to be fighting back his anger. I still felt mentally fragile. And I tried to even stay away from windows as I didn’t know what seeing the outside world would do to me psychologically. So I shut myself off to it. Was it a healthy way of coping with all of this? Probably not; but it was working at keeping me from slipping again.

“You went from healthy up there in your head to cutting yourself just like that.” He growled aggressively, taking a step towards me.

I took a glance on either side of the hallway, seeing that it was empty, heaving a sigh. I could handle this. Yet another thing for me to cling to unhealthily. It took my mind off of everything going on around me so I’d just go with it; I’d just let him tear into me and rip me apart.

“You always insist on confusing me about what we are.” I huffed.

“I don’t know what the hell we are! But I don’t want to see fresh cuts on your wrist. Or see you sad.” He retorted, gripping me by the arms and backing me up to the wall behind me.

I took an internal breath; one that didn’t leave the confines of my thoughts. He wouldn’t hurt me. I was already in the middle of recovering. I repeated that over and over to calm my nerves.

“And you always wanna change the damn subject.” He barked, applying a little pressure to my biceps as he shook me gently, his hazel eyes simmering down as tears welled in their depths.

He never cried in front of others. That was something only I was privy to seeing. He had this planned. He must have wanted to talk to me so he offered to go with me while I showered. And the hall being abandoned and empty must have been something he checked for so he could let this go.

“Well, it’s the truth. I never seem to know where I stand with you now. You’d show up at my dorm at odd hours when we would be on good terms.” I shot back with just as much fire.

“Either just for sex or to dump your mental problems on me! And then you’d just up and leave. Or be ashamed to be around me with others.” I tacked on venomously.

“I’ve never not cared about ya’ Bambi. I would show up at those odd hours for you. I would go to see you since you’re always isolating yourself you asshole.” He growled, the flames in his eyes sparking up a bit again.

“Maybe because you left me so fucked up all the time. I was so close to finally being okay until all of this shit happened. Plus you just had to show up and add to the strain I was already going through!” I snapped, feeling feral as my heartbeat rapidly in my chest. I was beyond caring about him hurting me physically. I wanted to be heard right here and now. No matter that cost.

I should have picked my words to be softer. As I could see the sting in his face as his grip on me faltered, his hands falling to his sides. I didn’t want him to think he was the sole reason I did that to myself this time. He already blamed himself for when I almost took my own life the first time. He fell silent, the void eating at me as I knew he wasn’t done with me quite yet.

“Y’know,” He began out of the silence between us.

“I’ve been a dick. But I’ve never hated you, Bambi. And I’m sorry if it was me again. I’m sorry I’m a fuck up. A shitty boyfriend if you still consider me that.” He went on, his gaze lifting back up to meet mine.

“But this shit here that we’re going through.” He continued, his jaw clenching as he gestured to our surroundings making me shudder as I forced the newly acquired demon back into its cage.

“I won’t let anything harm a hair on that pretty ’lil head of yours. You’ve got two lives no matter what you think of me as.” He assured me, resting his hands on my shoulders.

“You will be okay.” He said, offering me a small smile, his signature gold-plated canines making an appearance and bringing a small and reluctant smile to my face as well.

“I owe you an apology. I’m sorry. It’s not your fault for what I did; either of the times.” I sighed, feeling myself about to cry.

“I know that now Bambi.” He smiled.

“I do care about you though. With your silly ass.” He smirked.

“You are literally such a dick.” I gasped through my tears.

“Plus what ya’ got can end all of this. So you’re one of my priorities.” He added, looking like he was going to bend down and kiss me; something short and simple, no more than a peck.

“Still trying to wrap my head around all of that.” I sighed.

“But look. I don’t give a fuck what you think about me or if you hate me. I’ve got your back Bambi.” He sighed.

“And I’ll have yours.” I asserted.

“Whenever you get better at fighting those things.” He joked.

I knew he meant it in a light-hearted way. But it still made my heart flutter as I didn’t want to think of those things yet.

“I’m kidding, I know you’re a fighter.” He sighed, seeming to take my silence for offense.

“So where is everyone else?” I asked, trying to change the subject.

He went silent; his face like stone as he looked around skeptically. He reached into his pocket, pulling out his phone. He typed away for a few moments before handing it to me casually.

It was a note on his dying phone that read: Gonna take you back to them and then go check on my truck for when we leave. I gave him a nod as I gave it back to him. I felt tired after all this. Ellis was practically shoving rest down my throat and for once I wanted to listen to him. I guessed Jonas had learned the layout of the building as we got back to the room we had all called “home” since arriving quickly. The feeling of exhaustion was stronger as I had walked quite a ways. And sure my body was on the mend and I could start doing light things like walking without issue now but I still had a ways to go. Just as we neared the door, it opened, Daniel and everyone else filtering out.

“Where are you guys off to?” I asked.

“Getting food.” Ellis shrugged, wincing a bit as the bullet wound in his shoulder reminded him of its presence.

I felt a nudge from behind me, causing me to look back at Jonas who gestured for me to follow them. He was so lucky it made him unkillable it seemed. I knew he would be okay on his own here. Hell, he could do things to people I could never fathom having the guts to do. So I joined them nonetheless. Once in the cafeteria, things were still tense. The men and women who seemingly ceased this place watching our groups every move. And Ellis being with us made it even more awkward. I guessed he and Jin picked different sides if it was something known. As she sat at a table alone, staring off into space into the outside world.

“Where is Alisha?” I asked, looking around and not seeing her among the sea of faces.

“Showing face in the lab. She can handle herself in there.” My dad assured me, calming my nerves as I was just about to jump headfirst into the sea of anxiety.

I sat down between Daniel and Ellis while my parents and Oscar sat across from us.

“So what’s on the menu today?” I questioned, trying to break the silence.

“The same slop as usual.” Daniel sang cheerfully, offering everyone a meek smile as he attempted to add to me breaking the tense mood.

It was as if I were on high alert as I felt an ominous presence behind me.

“There you are Mr. Shrink. How are you?” A familiar sinister voice asked.

I turned seeing the same soldier from before; Argos according to his nametag.

“I’m fine. What can I do for you?” I asked, turning to him.

I kept my tone inquisitive and bright. I learned a lot from my military parents. And seemed to inherit a lot of the tact my biological father had.

“Can I borrow him for just a minute? I’ll bring him right back.” Argos smiled, his voice velvety as I looked to my parents.

My mom’s gaze flickered to mine, before staring at Argos directly, a protective hand placed over her belly that was carrying a set of twins.

“I don’t see why not.” She said, her tone reminding me of my own.

My mom was arguably the strongest woman I knew. She was sharp-witted, always twenty steps ahead of everyone and everything. She probably didn’t want to make a scene so she was willing to let me go just for now. My dad and everyone else however seemed against me going as I could feel their silent protest.

I got up to follow behind Argos as he clicked his tongue at me as he began sauntering off. But my arm was caught by Ellis. He slipped something in my hand, his soft brown eyes serious as he gave me a silent nod. It didn’t take me long to figure out it was a knife. I tried my best to slip it into my pocket as I could without raising suspicion. I quickened my pace catching up with Argos.

“You know. I was waiting for you to wake up. I was thinking we’d lose you for a second.” Argos spoke as we entered the long corridor that lead to the basement.

“I got lucky I suppose.” I replied, my eyes scanning his body for anything that would help should things go south.

I knew the kind of man he was the moment he uttered his first-ever sentence to me. The kind of man that couldn’t be trusted. A cold-blooded killer. The thing about men like him is that they were predatory. Seeking out meek, tepid people as their prey. Though the downfall of some predators was their hubris. The ones that calculate every possibility and consider every outcome are the dangerous ones. I knew this and I think he was falling right into my trap of manipulation. It was something I hated doing to people. But if it would protect me and the people I cared about I’d do it without question. Lulled from the fog of my internal dialogue, we had entered the stairwell, his shoulders tight and tense as we descended.

Suddenly something putrid assaulted my nose as he slipped on a gas mask.

“Ramirez kicked the bucket and I wanted you to tell me what you learned about these fuckers.” He spoke, his voice sounding weird behind the mask.

“Shouldn’t you have brought me one?” I asked, covering my nose with a sleeved arm.

“You’re immune. And these are rare here now.” He explained.

“So what did you figure out shrink.” He asked aggressively, seeming to show his true colors now that we were alone.

I was a little shaken, my heart thudding in my chest as my eyes landed on the slumped over corpse of Ramirez. Just do this and get back to your family, I chanted to myself in my head.

“Well, they respond to visual stimuli mostly. Well, a light sensitivity. As I don’t think they can see that well. So sight is limited to light and shadows maybe.” I began, trying to collect my racing thoughts.

“Attempting to rationalize is pointless and it will only be met with more aggression the closer in proximity you are to them.” I went on.

“And in darkness or if you’re out of sight activity drops and they calm down.” I concluded.

“You didn’t cut on him? You could have figured out so much more.” He huffed, kicking the metal chair his fallen comrade was still tied to.

“That’s sick. I would nev-” I spoke, being cut off by a glare.

“It gets shit done you pussy!” He shouted, causing me to take a distancing step back.

“You truly are a monster.” I gasped, continuing to back away slowly, inch by inch.

“And such a gift was wasted on you. I told them we should just kill you and take what we could get from your body.” He growled.

He seemed different. In our first encounter, he was more calculating, calm, and collected. Something was off. It seems all would reveal itself to me as he tore off his gas mask tossing it aside. His right sclera bloody red as he smiled wildly at me. I placed my hand on the blade Ellis had given me. Large enough to do some damage against an unarmed man. But I wasn’t 100% yet compared to him. He was obviously infected. The bloodshot eye, the copious sweat from a fever, and the aggression checked off quite a few boxes. Heaving a sigh, I’d match his darkness. I had to or he would kill me at this rate. I thought back to what Ellis had told me that night. It’s you or them.

Snapped from my thoughts he lunged for me. My body reacted before my mind could and slashed out with the knife Ellis had given me, leaving a dripping gash in his arm. A front is what I would put on. If I could get out of this with us both alive I’d take that option. If just maybe I could scare him enough by coming across as more wild than he was I could win and restrain him.

“I’m not who you think I am.” I said, keeping my tone empty of fear.

“I knew just who you were from the start. How you got infected alludes me. But your life ends here.” I added, readying my knife.

He ran for something, my injured body not able to turn fast enough to keep sight of him. By the time I saw it coming it was too late. I had the top of a wooden crate thrown into me, knocking me back and down to the ground. Luckily my right arm caught the brunt of the impact, saving my healing abdomen. Before I could recover he had the very blade I intended to use for defense was being directed right at my throat. I was decently strong, but he had the size advantage. I was losing quickly as he pushed down harder and harder as I struggled against him. As he repositioned himself I had a small opening. I drove my knee into his groin as hard as I could. Kicking him back and off of me as I stumbled to my feet.

I attempted to run up the stairs to get away but my ankle was caught as I was dragged back down. Just out of reach was the very lid he used to stun me. And while he was busy trying to drag me back down the stairs I caught hold of it. Raising it into the air as I tore my legs from him. Holding it like a wedge I drove it down with all my might onto his back, a sickening crack followed by a pained scream echoed off the concrete walls of the basement.

I reeled at what I had just done. His body was still as he tried to roll over. I however was frozen in shock.

“You broke my fucking back!” He screamed as I pulled myself away from him, terrified at what I had just done.

So many thoughts flashed through my mind as my breathing picked up and my heart pounded in my chest. My throat felt tight and dry as I gripped at my neck. I attempted to hug my knees to my chest as that could calm me down from a panic attack but my arms and hands were too shaky.

“Such a fucking pussy. I’m guessing you’ve never been in a fight. Always had someone coming to your damn rescue.” He taunted as he managed to roll over onto his back.

“I don’t even know how you managed to keep anyone safe like that.” He went on.

His words stung me, something seeming to click into place like a switch being switched on for the very first time. The truth is, I wasn’t as innocent as I had become as of late. My mind had been so steeped in depression and being hurt over and over that it had grown dark. I forced those demons into a box, locked into a cage, and at the bottom of an ocean. My trembling stopped as I shakily rose to my feet, something else filling me. I never acted on this aspect of myself; deeming it as bad. For people I cared about I would become what Argos was to protect them; a monster. Was this the time that part of me got to run free? Would it be okay? I believed empathy was something that should be held onto in trying times.

Spotting the knife I bent down to pick it up, walking right up to my attacker. He looked pitiful down on the ground, unable to move. Only able to glare up at me.

“I told you. You didn’t know me.” I said softly, crouching down next to him as I ran the knife over my palm ever so slightly.

And for once, I saw terror in the blue depths of his eyes.

“For those people up there. I’d do anything. Especially during a time like this. Where people are eating one another already.” I went on, running the blade softly across his cheek, careful not to break the skin.

“I don’t like this side of me.” I continued.

“It’s dark, repulsive. Cruel and evil. To be completely honest it terrifies the hell out of me. Which is why I bury it so deep within me that it’s never seen the light of day.” I whispered, raising a perfectly composed finger to my lips as I shushed him.

“Fuck you!” He cursed spitting blood logged saliva up at me.

“I am sorry you had to see this. But you’re a threat.” I said calmly, swishing the blade over to his throat.

“But this death is out of mercy at this point.” I soothed, jabbing the blade up through his jaw and into his skull before he could utter another word.

And just like that, I had done it, my mind seeming to come down from the high. His eyes grew empty and void of life the instant I had done it. I removed the bloody blade from him, running my fingers over his eyelids, shutting them. I stood up, thoughts slowly picking up in pace. Only then did I fully realize what I had done. I killed him. I drove a blade into his skull. I was a monster. In fear and frustration, I threw the blade aside, a hand clutching at my head as I felt sick. What came next was me emptying the contents of my stomach aggressively. I did this? How could I? Should I have? My head was spinning. I looked down at my hands, seeing a few drops of blood staining them. I felt dirty, impure. Forcing down the demon I let free for just a moment I was left fragile, reminded of just what was going on outside of this building.

I was spiraling out of control further as my head swam. I needed to run. I couldn’t fight so I had to run. Pain nothing but an afterthought I took off up the stairs, clumsily running into the walls of the stairwell. My breathing ragged and labored as I wanted to get away from it all. I couldn’t be here anymore. Not among people when I was capable of doing something like that. I burst out of the doors of the basement, glancing around wildly, taking off in a random direction. I don’t care where I went. I just needed to get away. As if fate was against me I ran slam into someone, falling back.

Once I collected myself I looked up and saw it was a shocked Jonas.

“The hell happened to you Bambi?” He asked, pulling me up as I tried to slow my breathing.

“I-I -I-I....” I stuttered, unable to form words I was shaking too much.

He looked down at my bloody hands, his eyes widening. He didn’t say a word as he caught me by the wrist, pulling me behind him. I was barely able to pay attention, tripping over my own feet countless times. He then pulled me into a restroom, leaving me for just a moment as he kicked open every stall. He came back, his hazel eyes questioning.

“What happened?” He asked again, this time more softly.

“I-I...killed him.” I finally uttered, his eyes widening in shock.

“Who’d you kill?” He asked, as he glanced around the empty bathroom.

“It was one of those men.” I stuttered.

“Shit. We have to go.” He cursed.

“I can’t do this Jonas. I killed him.” I began sobbing.

“Listen to me Bambi.” He began, leading me over to the sink.

“I don’t want to know who it was. But I have to ask you why you did it.” He tacked on calmly, starting up the water in the sink.

“I-He attacked me. He wanted to kill me.” I blurted, feeling lightheaded as I hyperventilated.

“Did you try to get away?” He questioned, hugging me to him from behind.

I couldn’t think straight, images blurring and flashing past.

“More pressure or less?” He asked, knowing just what I was going through.

“M-more.” I blurted, my breath hitching as he hugged me tighter.

It was an unusual tactic to stop a panic attack. But contact in the form of a hug grounded me and stopped me from losing my grip. And with that, I calmed down, his hug loosening as my breathing normalized. I felt shaky and fatigued as he began washing the blood from my hands as I swayed on my feet.

“Have you done anything like that Jonas?” I asked out of the silence as he turned off the water, looking at our reflection in the mirror.

“Nah. I’ve beaten the shit outta a few guys though.” He smirked.

“Did I mess something up by doing that?” I asked, still feeling repulsed by myself.

I felt like such a mess. Unable to stop crying over what I had done.

“Well. We gotta go before they find that.” He sighed.

“When?” I questioned.

“Maybe tonight. The sooner the better.” He soothed, resting his chin atop my head.

“Ellis is going to be so mad at me for getting into that kind of trouble.” I scoffed.

“Don’t tell ’em you killed someone Bambi.” He began.

“I’ll keep your secret until you want to tell it.” He added hastily.

“I’m just still trying to figure out if it was justified. Or if I should have tried harder to run.” I sighed, looking down at my hands.

“You’re dangerous when you have to be. I think it was okay.” He tried to soothe as I just felt more and more vile.

“We should just find everyone and leave. Where was my bow?” I asked with a sigh.

“It’s in the room. I’ll go find everyone.” He explained, seeming to know I wanted distance.

But he seemed against leaving me alone as he paused before leaving the bathroom. I had an idea why. And we already had a talk about that today. I couldn’t do that to him again.

“I won’t hurt myself. I’m just going to find my bow and then find you all.” I replied, dragging the empathy from the hellish depths it had currently been drowning in.

All while dragging down the monster within; locking it back in its place and intent on throwing away the metaphorical key.

“Are you sure? Bambi?” He asked.

“I’m positive.” I assured him, trying to drag up a smile.

And only then did he leave as I left after him moments later. It took me a moment to get oriented, making my way up a flight of stairs onto the floor our room was on. I silently passed lab-coat wearing men and women as I stalked off to our room. Entering I saw just what I was looking for right away. Picking it up, I collected the extra new arrows Jonas must have left here. Forcing the extra arrows into the built-in quiver I did a once over. Our supplies were locked away in Jonas’ truck. I knew that much as we hadn’t taken them out. And the room was empty save for my phone which I collected. No service as expected. But the battery was fully charged. So at the least, I’d have music for a little while longer.

Leaving the room for what would be the last time I made my way through the halls. I was armed so I felt safe around the militia that took over this place.

A/N: The first kill made by the protagonist. Was it justified? It may have come sooner than expected by some. But it all plays a role as humanity loses its grip against the infected.

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