Claim Victory (part 1 of 3)
A zombie apocalypse. A guy with a knife, a girl with a shoe, a junkie with a hunk of metal and a school teacher with an axe. The world has gone to hell and in the middle of it all lies Eden.
Mostly unedited. Feedback appreciated.
Sticky, bloody sweat sludges its way down his arms, over the line of his collar bone to pool and soak into the edge of his t-shirt. His breath is hard, wet sounding and he leans over the side of the dusty road to spit a mouthful off blood and saliva on to the ground. He coughs to clear his throat and wipes his mouth with the back of his damp hand.
The sun is burning hot above his head, soaking out every ounce of water in his system, pulling and pulling like a joyful kid and a tug-of-war. He's fighting a losing battle with hydration. He scoffs to himself as he stumbles another step forward.
A broken, rusty blood stained sign above him says "Kingston Hill, 10 miles" in faded white lettering. He shields his eyes from the sun and stares at it a long moment, as if absorbing the words and the faint hope they bring. Twenty miles back the lone truck with two missing doors and a couple of rotting corpses in the back had coughed up smoke and stopped running, leaving him with nothing to do but get up and walk.
It's almost hard to breathe now without the smell of the dead. The long stretch of road is wide and empty, sandy dirt on either side, little sick looking shrubbery that offer no shade scattered about. Fair enough, he thinks, considering the bastards can't survive without people to feed on. Two years ago the thought might have made him shudder (that's a lie and he knows it, this has never bothered him, not a single second has he spared a thought for how this is all so --) but today it's just another thing.
He's beginning to feel the strains of exhaustion join the sun's rays in zapping him of all his remaining energy. With a frown he fumbles into his dirty old backpack, tugging out a once-white Ipod and sticking the tiny buds in his ear.
The opening strains of a French accordion piece flood his brain and drown out the sounds of an eagle crying in the distance and with every step he takes, the foul screams that fill the air.
Cain looks up into the sun directly and lets it burn out the images in his eyes for a brief respite, smiles wide at the heavens and murmurs four words in the space where none can hear them.
"And so it begins."
run through the jungle
Concrete buildings, pathways, silver gleaming in the slowly setting sun. The roads aren't empty here but neither are they full. Broken cars that are spattered with brain and mud litter the once-busier roads, bodies litter the sidewalks. Some of them are mostly in tact, others are only recognizably human by remaining fingers or general shapes left in the blood stains.
Cain steps over them, sparing only the more complete ones a glance. They were infected, all the dead. Once upon a time that would have meant something. Most of the store front windows are smashed, broken in when the first strike of terror washed away the average man's morality and responsibility.
The bodies in the streets grow less numbered the deeper into the half-city he delves, deeper where the bastards had more than likely herded the good citizens like cows to a slaughter. The deeper they went, the faster the people gave up fighting. There is barely any sign of them now.
Six months ago the half-city had been thriving, untouched by all and human. Six months ago the carnage and ghost town had been a dream. Six months. Cain shakes his head and steps into a mostly ransacked corner store. The fridges haven't been operating for a long time by the smell of things but there are water bottles that will keep.
He tugs three down from the shelf and stows them in his backpack, opening another two and drinking them down slow and measured so his stomach stays settled. It's cool and perfect against the back of his throat and when he's sated, he tips the remainder over his head. It doesn't wash away the gunk and dirty sweat but it refreshes him enough that he feels almost cheerful again.
The sun is almost down, the light in the streets not enough to read by and he knows that he'll have to find somewhere to bunk down. He doesn't like to sleep in the cities, where disaster lurks at every turn but he has a schedule to keep. Kicking his way over a body (that, he notes, hadn't been there when he went in) that lays across the door front he steps into the street again, catching movement out of the corner of his eye. He tugs the Ipod buds out of his ears and switches it off.
He flexes his fingers, licks his dry and cracked lips and doesn't go for the skinning knife he has in his bag. Again, another flash. Gray shirt, a woman. She's hiding behind a post box, rather ineffectively but she's clean. Cain doesn't relax.
"Who are you?" she cries, quiet and hoarse, terrified out of her mind. Cain scans the streets for anything else but it seems this sector has been cleaned out. He knows better than to assume and keeps an eye out even as he crosses the street and approaches her.
She has a shoe in her hand. A shoe. A heeled boot and he wants to laugh but he knows well and good that you have to fight with what you have. As he gets closer he notes that the heel is caked in dried blood and he stares at the girl kneeling on the ground with a new kind of respect.
"Cain." He never offers a last name -- no one has any use for them now.
She peers up at him and beneath the layers of grime and red sin that coat her he can tell she's beautiful. Her hair falls in tangled waves around her hair, a dark deep brown with hints of red. Mascara is smudged beneath her eyes, down her cheeks, her lips are the bleached red colour that comes from bright lipstick days gone. She's shivering and he offers her an easy smile.
"Good thing I found you, huh." he reaches out a hand and she hesitantly takes it, "How'd you make it?"
She rises carefully to her feet (bare, he notes, and that will have to be fixed) and then takes her hand back, dusting both on her faded denim jeans.
"Step-father turned, I--" she tilts her head and pauses before saying in an even softer voice "-- we should get inside. Talk isn't for the streets anymore."
Cain nods, approves and decides that he won't have to get rid of her after all. It's a pleasing thought. Of all the survivors he hadn't found one yet. He looks up at the towering apartment building behind them and points.
"Top floor. C'mon darlin', we'll get you safe."
He ignores the mildly offended glare she gives him and makes for the swinging door on the building. Once through he pushes past the slew of bodies there, ignoring the elevator and making for the stares. Behind him he hears a muffled sob and knows she's following.
When they reach the top floor Cain breaks open the first door he sees and strides in, immediately sets about dragging the three bodies that had lay inside out into the hallway. The girl moves to stack them together but Cain grabs her arm in a tight grip and glares. He knows she's not stupid, but this is clearly her home town ands he doesn't know it all.
"Leave it." He grunts and spreads the bodies out, places them as though they were exactly where they died, haphazard and sprawled.
He can hear the question on her lips before she opens her mouth. "If we get a straggler, they'll be suspicious."
The confusion in her gaze is almost amusing, as is her haughty tone. "They don't think."
Yes they fucking do, Cain thinks but doesn't speak. There is a joy to be had in and of itself when she discovers on her own. He pulls inside and closes the door, immediately stacking the heavier furniture against it. After a pause she joins in, neither of them speaking as they work to secure the room. The curtains are draw, two bookcases pushed up to cover the glass.
The girl immediately goes to the corner of the living room when everything is done, sitting down and curling her knees up around her as if it will protect her from everything and anything that could barge into the room. It makes her look scared, lost and vulnerable but that's the human condition in times such as these. Cain has no real patience for it. Their time for being scared, lost and vulnerable is long since dead and gone.
He tosses a water bottle at her and settles down against two couch cushions he'd snagged, yawning now that he feels safe enough to do so. He's half fading into a dream of a soft beach and dancing girls when a voice breaks the developing quiet.
"Amy. My name, it's Amy." She looks as though she's been gearing up to say that for a long time and Cain snorts. Her expression immediately turns to annoyed.
"What?" she snaps and he laughs properly this time. It's good to laugh.
"Nice to meet you, Amy. Sorry, s'just you're the first decent survivor I've met in ten months and you got a name like Amy." He shakes his head, allows another chuckle and closes his eyes again.
He can feel her glare from the other side of the room. "What's wrong with Amy -- wait you know what, forget it. Ugh." He can hear her settling down properly on the other side of the room, the shuffle of clothes and the soft scratch of the itchy woolen blankets they'd found stowed away as she pulls it over herself.
"Mind if I ask where you're going?" She whispers, but her voice isn't shaking anymore and Cain thinks he might even tell her.
"Away. Ask me tomorrow. Go to sleep."
Cain tugs his Ipod free of his pocket again and puts a bud in his left ear, leaving the other free. The steady stream of music once again drowns out the slowly building symphony of horror, faces, blood and tears all meld away until Cain falls asleep with a smile teasing his lips.
unchain my heart
Amy is cold. It's the first thing she notes about the morning and it's enough to startle her into immediate wakefulness. She sits up straight, gasping for a lost breath that her dreams had stolen from her, eyes wide and unblinking as she takes in her resting place (but not the final one, it's a strange thought).
Crouched over a backpack is the strange guy from the day before, Cain he'd said. He's ruffling through what look like chocolate bars and if he's heard her waking he pays no attention. Amy swallows thickly and wonders how she'd even come to be in this situation. No one, no one is alive in the city. She'd looked. Day after day after day. Night after night. Nothing. Not since she'd killed her step father with the heel of her favourite boot and been left to rot under his disgusting body with nothing but her tears to comfort her.
A small wrapped package hits her in the cheek and she snaps open her mouth to speak when she notices it's a chocolate bar. She tears it open without saying thank you and takes a big bite, eyes closing in joyous sensation. It tastes deliriously good. Far too good, better than she'd ever remembered chocolate being.
When she opens her eyes again, Cain is watching her with a grin.
She nods quickly and wipes the back of her mouth, though it's probably a futile effort. She can feel caked blood every time she smiles or opens her eyes, feels it tug at her skin. She shudders and rises to her feet, steady this time.
"I'm going to go and clean up." she murmurs as she steps over Cain's make shift bed, moving into the bathroom. She wonders if the water is still on in this building and to her surprise when she turns the tap at the sink, water rushes free.
She cups both hands beneath it and splashes her face, scrubbing and scrubbing until the water stops running red with the mess of it all. When she finally risks a look to the mirror she looks better, and spies Cain behind her. She shakes her hands dry and turns around to face him.
"All yours," she adds but he doesn't make a move for the sink. He looks as cheerful as he ever does (he'd been smiling when he stepped out of that store, smiling like it was Christmas) but also thoughtful. She waits.
"I'm going to Eden."
Images flood her head from the beginning of this, the starting days, when the government was desperate and just as terrified but cocky that they'd come through in the end. A city, safe and secured with forces all around and wall as high as heaven. A severe quarantine. Eden, they'd called it. Heaven on earth.
She manages a weak laugh "Eden? But that's. That's."
"Not far." He blinks and then grins "don't worry, darlin', I'll get you there safe as long as you do your bit."
He'd be attractive he weren't so fucking creepy, she thinks.
"What do you mean 'my bit', I want to know exactly what you're asking." She's proud of how strong her voice is now. Amazing what a good chocolate bar and clean can do for your nerves. She blinks away the images of her step-father's corpse and steels herself for the worst.
But Cain is looking at her in a most approving way, another smile tugging at his dark lips "Just what you've been doing. Surviving. If we travel steady we can make good time, but we can't be slowed down by causes. We don't rid towns of their infestations. We take people who can keep up. Those who can't, find their own way. Assume everyone you see is infected. Assume everyone who isn't obviously infected is a carrier. Drink only bottled water. If you slow me down, you're gone."
She swallows again and feels sick "What do you mean, gone?"
He stares her down, gaze hard even as his mouth is fighting a smile. He has blue eyes, she notes, dark enough that they're almost black. Her gut squirms.
She nods jerkily and moves to walk past him into the living room, only to be stopped when he slings his arm across the door and grips the frame.
"Are you sane?" He queries, completely serious and before she can question or protest or get offended, he clarifies "I am gonna assume you killed your step-father when he turned. And probably a coupla friends too when you met 'em in the street. That messes people up. I need to know. Now," He runs his fingers through his hair and is looking past her at the mirror as if to check that it's all in place.
"Are you sane?"
Amy thinks of her step-father's screaming, his claws, the alcohol bottles she hadn't been able to reach and the shoe in her hand, the squelching sound as it had gone straight through his skull. She thinks of the burning in the streets, the screams of pure, basic terror that she'd heard all through the day and all through the night for three days. She thinks of bloody hand prints on her front door, thinks of how she'd had to mow down eight of the things before she could get her door closed. She thinks of how she was strong enough to do so.
Cain nods and the bright grin reaches his eyes this time. He presses another chocolate bar into her hands and pats her head. She raises an eyebrow but he lets her move past.
"We leave in an hour."
An hour to say good bye to the only home she'd ever known. Good riddance, she thinks fiercely as she stuffs things into a bag she'd stolen from one of the rooms, good fucking riddance to hell.
when you gasp at my bloody crimes
Cain finds a truck that will run on the outskirts of the half-city, close enough to a fuel station that it's almost a miracle. He goads Amy into helping him roll it up to the station, fills it up and refills his bag of chocolate, chips and bread while Amy tinkers around with the engine for a bit. He's proud of her, proud of his find. She's smart, she was strong enough to help him roll it, strong enough to understand.
She even knows a bit about engines. Yeah, he's proud of her alright. He throws his bag into the back seat, offers another smile to Amy as she slides into the passenger seat beside him, forgoing her seatbelt.
Cain knows her reasoning for it -- well hell, if you've survived an attack of almost undead and killed your own family members, it stands to reason a car crash won't kill you either -- but he snaps his on anyway.
The car starts perfect with a loud rumble and they roll on out of Kingston Hill as fast as the truck will go.
Kingston Hill is completely out of view by lunch time. Amy's sigh of relief is loud and makes Cain laugh. He's forgotten what it feels like to be rid of a personal hell.
"What's the next destination?" She asks, pulling her hair back off her face with a rubber band she'd found in the glove box.
He lets the truck drive itself down the long stretch of road, all that separates them from the next dead town and the last.
"No idea. I'm just headin' in a general direction. I recognized Kingston Hill though, the name was on the map. We're going the right way."
He lets the words sink in, waits for her to turn them over in her head. When no answer comes he turns his attention back to the road, tapping his thumbs against the steering wheel to some beat that he's long forgotten. He thinks of the map the last time he'd seen it. Crinkled and faded but still perfect in the line of things.
He can recall a handful of names, towns, cities, things to guide you to Eden.
When Cain was in the army he'd always wanted to quit, get out and go on a long road trip. He smiles to himself and plugs his Ipod into the truck with the extension he'd made sure to steal three towns back. The steady, upbeat sound is almost deafening and Amy covers her ears with a startled sound. They are roughly sixty miles from the next town, and Cain ponders this for a moment.
Cain leaves the volume right where it is and winds down his window. They're good for forty miles.
she said daddy oh don't you dare
The bar is empty, once seedy but now just abandoned. No one comes here anymore. No one alive. Shitty music still pours over the speaker, beer sits in the fridges, little bowls of peanuts are around, some upturned over cheap carpet.
The doors are boarded up, as are the windows and the bodies long since moved out, though the smell and almost black blood stains remain.
The air conditioner had stopped running almost a month ago, dying with a wheezing shudder and a couple of ice cold water drops over his head when he'd been sleeping. Summer had approached him hot, fast and deadly after that.
Luke sits on the carpeted floor and rings out his shirt, a green tank that had seen better days. He's shirtless and it's still too hot, far too fucking hot and he wants to crawl out of his skin and leave it behind. He shivers, muscles twitching as sweat drips and slides down over his back, his shoulders.
"Fuck," he groans and holds his head in his hands, leaving the tank in the bucket of water he'd been washing it in. His fingers are twitching too, wanting to claw at his skin, drag it off, rip it free and leave him bare for some sort of salvation. Nothing comes anymore but shaking muscles and tired limbs.
Faint scars tease at the soft skin on the inside of his elbows, tracking down his arms to his wrist like footsteps a dancer left in the snow. Uneven and deep. A heavy ballerina. He laughs, a bitter choking sound that does nothing to ease his suffering in the dark.
After a long minute of tearing at his hair the shudders pass, a ghost of symptoms he should be feeling but isn't, of feelings he's might just be making up, he pushes himself to his knees and reaches for the bucket again.
Once his shirt is clean he rings it out again, throws it over the back of a splintered bar stool and moves around to the counter to grab the clean bandages he'd hidden there. It's all routine by now, this, everything. It's become normal for him to set up the small jagged mirror on the edge of the bar, leaned against an almost empty bottle of whiskey and a full bottle of rum. He turns around, turns his head over his shoulder to get a better look at the thick swathing white bandages over his side, spreading out.
It takes a bit to remove them without agony, the bandages always stick to the seeping wound, teeth marks and the flesh torn away with the bite. He hisses when the fresh air hits it and quickly wipes it over with the alcohol he'd saved specifically. It's hard to do with one hand but he'd learned to adjust. That was the way of things now.
The new bandages go over, hot and scratchy against his skin as he tapes them into place, taking three layers of tape to stick, the sweat on his skin too damn wet for anything.
He takes the dirty bandages and stashes them in a garbage he keeps for trash, tosses it back under the bar and walks back around to the bucket of water, splashing it against his face, dirty or not.
The sun will be up in an hour, he thinks, I should move now while it's still only slightly intolerably outside. He knows that the world isn't as hot as it feels to him, but that doesn't fucking matter when he's the only one around to feel it anyway.
He takes the still completely damp green tank from the chair and grumbles to himself as he slides the wet cloth over his head, adjusting it down until it folds over the edge of his jeans. Two days ago in a fit of rage he had taken his knife to the ends of them, leaving them at a length he'd previously only seen on the beach babes, short and riding up. It's less hot this way and no one is around to accuse him of being a whore now.
It takes ten minutes to pry free the boards just enough for him to crawl out into the street but he knows it's better hard effort for him on the inside, than easy effort for both sides.
He slides his fingers through dark hair, licking his lips three times rapidly as he squints out into the streets. No movement today. He remembers, back when the town was still standing and the bar still full of useful people and the tv still got your basic news channels, that there was a report, of how They went through towns, not staying but leaving husks in their wake. Survivors were rarely found. Survivors were rarely looked for. No one could predict where they'd go next.
But the woman on the screen, pale faced and lips pressed in a tight line had said something that stuck with him.
"... has fallen among the listed desertions."
Desertion. It was a funny term, implying that the monsters had fled from some duty or another. But maybe they were. They came in droves, infecting what they could, killing -- eating, he'd heard - the rest, taking over entire cities, small towns, anything, everything. They raped it of all it's inhabitants and then moved on like traveling cannibalistic gypsies.
Luke thinks that if they went through so much fucking trouble to rid the place of it's occupants, they could at least occupy it after. The more he thinks about it, the more the term suited. Not that he wasn't glad they were fucking gone after the month long slaughter house but it was nice to know he wasn't the only disappointment in the grand scheme of things.
Another sharp, bitter laugh breaks free of his throat at the thought. Fucking perfect, now he's comparing himself to vicious man-eating monsters who took everyone down with them.
He scrubs at his face and gets a move on, sneaking through the broken streets, stopping only if he found something he'd need.
The sun is well over his head by the time he manages to scrounge up all he'd need, burning his skin and making him want to scream in frustration, in pain. He snarls to himself and turns around, viciously stomping back to his little bar.
A sound stops him in his tracks and immediately, on instinct, he scans the surrounding area, slowly and soundlessly moving towards one of the cars on it's side. He keeps his eyes out as he moves, kneeling only to pick up a large chunk of metal that had broken off of something as he hid behind the car.
The sound continued, getting louder and all at once he realizes it's a car -- a truck to be exact, pulling into the street and stopping with the build up of cars got too heavy to maneuver. Luke doesn't move.
He watches a man steps from the car, well built, like a boxer, with mean blue eyes and dirty blond hair. The guy slings a bag over his shoulder, over muscles that make Luke nervous, and says something Luke can't make out.
There is a girl getting out of the passenger seat, in jeans that hug her legs all the way to her ankles and Luke immediately begins to sweat in sympathy. Her hair is pulled up high on her head, and from what he can tell, she has green eyes. She's beautiful, pretty and fierce looking all at once. Luke wants to cry with relief of it all - they both look human, unaffected.
He pushes himself out from his hiding place, stumbles only a step and only barely stops himself from shaking as they both look at him suddenly. The blond guy has a knife trained on him, the girl stepping back behind the open car door to pull something from her seat.
He waits for the guy to realize he's clean and then crosses the space between them, reaches up and hugs the guy so tight he thinks his own arms are going to snap off. He's expecting to be shoved away (roughly, at that) but doesn't give a fucking damn. It's too much, too perfect and he's laughing wildly before he can stop himself.
He reaches again for the metal he'd grabbed before, holding it in one hand and resting the rest over his shoulder.
"Stupid move, I could have been a carrier. You could be. Why shouldn't I kill you right now?" The man drawls, but he sounds happy about it. Like he's talking about the weather. Luke hasn't heard anyone speak for so long that it's almost like hearing angels sing.
He laughs again, brushes his hair out of his eyes and answers, keeping his eye on the girl in case she tries to jump him.
"Wouldn't fucking matter to me."
The girl steps forward, eyes narrowed "What's that supposed to mean?"
He grins wide, feels the sides of his mouth splitting with the force of it. He runs his tongue over the tears and then lifts his shirt up, turns around.
"Got bit." he ignores the steps back they both take, the way their fingers tighten around their weapons, their eyes going hard "Nothing happened. Met two guys, stayed with them for a week and they didn't get turned by me. Not even when -- yeah, well there plenty of chances for them to get it in their bodies trust me."
The girl looks unconvinced but the man looks ridiculously pleased by something and when he speaks his voice is almost a purr "You're immune."
He nods, feeling some of excitement fading, settling into careful pleased silence.
The man turns to girl and they exchange glances. The girl shrugs after the end of their weird silent conversation and the grin on the man's face is blinding.
"I'm Cain, this is Amy. Just came from Kingston Hill."
Luke nods again, "Luke. Heard that it was deserted." He snaps his head around and gestures for them both to follow him. "Better get inside. Deserted means someone gets left behind, right?"
Cain looks upset at having to leave the truck but he doesn't argue it, or even pause to consider it, just follows Luke as he weaves through the wreckage. The three arrive at the bar just before lunch hits, Cain and Amy waiting patiently as Luke pries the boards off the bar on the outside, crawls through the thin space that even Amy is too big for and then pries the rest from the other side.
Cain has to struggle a bit to get through even then, but they manage, slipping into the bar and examining it. Luke lets them look around, turning back to make sure the boards are secure again. It takes longer but he doesn't rush, far too careful to let even the excitement of people ruin his chances.
At long last he turns around to face them.
"So when do we leave?"
a flash of dark interest steers us into this car crash
Cain watches the kid sleep. Amy is safe and sound, curled up on an old mattress Luke had wrangled out for her, snoring lightly. Cain himself is tucked away nicely on a couple of old blankets.
Luke was well stocked, young little thing that he is. No more than seventeen, sixteen more likely, eighteen is pushing it. He's thin as a rake, thin and spindly and should have been one of the first to go. The track marks on his arm explain a bit but not all -- fighting off the undead is not a skill most crack addicts possess.
From the state of the bar the kid has been there a long while though, and probably long since weaned off his life source. And then there is the bite. Cain is curious about it but trusts in the immunity and even though Amy doesn't understand why, when he's so damn constant about everything else, she still follows his lead.
Luke, Cain has to keep reminding himself of the kid's name, is a light sleeper it seems. Tossing and turning fitfully but not as though he's dreaming. Fresh sweat breaks over his brow, the sheen of it making his skin far more sickly looking than it was.
They'll have to leave in the morning he thinks, remembering the way Luke had been so eager to join them, not even asking as to their destination, or what they were doing out there, or why the hell they'd come from Kingston. Cain would have docked points for that if it wasn't for everything else.
He'll ask about fuel in the morning, Luke looks like he might no, a restock and then gone. Onward to glory, or whatever. He smiles and lets his eyes close. His Ipod needs charging too. It's to a checklist of things to get done that he finally falls asleep.
but that is only half of the score
The scenery flies by them, slowly fading from desert to greenery, as though the world is slowly coming alive the further they drive. The car they're in is new, has air conditioning and charges his Ipod as they drive. It also has cushioned back seats, safe and compact. The front seats aren't bad themselves, adjustable and clean.
Luke had told them that back when he wasn't alone in the bar he'd had a friend (though he hesitated on the word) who kept the car in good condition, constantly fueled up, drove it when they could afford to. Just in case they ever risked leaving. They'd been planning to, Luke had said, voice soft, but his friend had died when a straggling infected had caught them unaware. The thing had died all on it's own right after but the damage was done.
Cain didn't care because now they had full use of a stocked comfortable car.
Amy didn't complain about his lack of caring because she was now sitting peacefully in the front seat, going through a stack of maps that Luke's friend had saved.
Luke himself was indifferent about the whole thing, sprawled out over the back seat in absolute bliss, the air conditioning up high enough that it almost caused frost.
"If we take the next turn we'll be heading right for a small town called Brighton, going straight on this road we'll reach --"
Cain hears a scream in the back of his head and grins wide "No, no, Brighton. That's it, I know that name. We're getting close, Amy, we're getting real close."
Amy snaps her mouth closed, surprised but seems pleased by it. Cain notes it absently and focuses on the road ahead, glee written into every inch of his handsome features.
In the back seat, Luke moans and mumbles "Too bright, burning up, you're killing Icarus." in his sleep.
Amy looks over her shoulder at him oddly, turning to Cain with a raised eyebrow.
But Cain merely flashes her a wide grin full off teeth and thinks, hallelujah.
for I haven't slept a wink since you have been gone
Jessie lets the shower spray work the most of the blood from her skin, pausing only to search blindly for her sponge. It takes far too long to scrub the dry stuff away, it's in her hair, worked between her toes, in her mouth and no amount of toothpaste really gets the taste away.
She washes her hair with the last of her fruity shampoo, conditions it and sighs in absent relief. The water doesn't wash the memories away but what would she be without them.
The air is cool as it hits her damp skin in a rush and she reaches for one of her clean bath towels, wrapping it around her body and tucking a corner over the rest so it stays up. Bracing her hands against the basin she stares deep and hard into the mirror.
She's not sure what she sees anymore, a murderer maybe? a daughter still? a woman? a teacher? or just death in a bath towel. She frowns at her reflection but reaches for her moisturizer, uncapping it and spreading it over her fingers. She rubs it into her skin, feeling the water from her hair drip down her back.
Water moves much faster than blood, much much faster. It slides down, feeling clean and leaving refreshment in its wake. But blood just sluggishly drips, leaving a thick trail behind it, slowly moving until there is nothing left.
Her heart is beating far too fast by the time she's finished, capping the bottle again and reaching for her brush.
Just three days ago she had killed thirty of her previous students. All of them sixteen, all of them bright eyed only a month before. But when they had turned she had reached for the axe and didn't stop until every last had fallen. Her only thought at the time had been 'How do I tell their parents?' even as she felt their skin and bone give way to the sharp edge.
It took a day to trudge back to the town from the camp site and when she'd arrived she'd found it deserted - just like all the others. Brighton so joined the ranks.
She had dragged her axe behind her for ten miles before some belated survival instinct had sprung up and told her to not leave a trail.
For the next two days she had curled up in her bed and cried, pretended that nothing was wrong, that nothing could break into her house, that nothing would come back for her.
The brush falls from her fingers finally, and she moves from the bathroom into her room. The sheets are still messed and bloody, but she won't be sleeping there again. It only takes her a moment to repack her camping bag, filling it with fresh clothes, her brush, the canned food and whatever else she could eat quickly taken from the kitchen.
She feels so detached as she does, even worse as she goes through the motions of getting dressed. Underwear, bra, tight khaki thigh length pants that won't catch on anything, a white singlet that will stain but is airy. She braids her blonde hair, brushes her teeth for a fourth time, slips her feet into socks, and then into sneakers.
The axe, cleaned and sharp, rests on her dresser, ready for departure.
As she walks through her home, Jessie trails her fingers over all her belongings. Over her frames, photos of her family, the class picture taken with her students. She makes herself a cup of tea and sits down, quiet and calm, to drink it.
Inside Jessie is hysterical, screaming and clawing for the lives she'd been forced to take. Screaming, why couldn't they take me? Why must I live through this? but Jessie will strangle that part of her if she has to. She was not raised to give up and die.
If her father is out there anywhere, she knows he'd be disappointed. She's made a life time of not disappointing him and she won't start now. Standing, she reaches for her lip gloss, applies it carefully and then shoulders her bag, tightening her fingers around the axe.
She leaves the front door open when she leaves.
She's not coming back.
lying there with a halo in her hair, crying out through a rusted smile
Brighton is cleaner than most, Cain notes, the streets aren't littered with cars. Bodies, sure, but it looks as though the warning to keep inside and lock all your doors were heeded by the small town folks.
Or, he concedes, they just didn't have enough cars to litter the streets with.
Behind him, Amy is helping Luke out of the car, coaxing him through what appears to be severe muscle spasms and vomiting. He can hear the sound of Luke's retching from where he stands and sighs. It'll be hard to travel if it keeps up, but Luke had assured him that it was temporary and he would be over it soon. Cain is inclined to believe him.
He tugs free another chocolate from his backpack and takes a huge bite, smiling in satisfaction before polishing off another two. There has been no movement, no sigh of anything. Just the faint rustle of trees, the haunting look of of an old post office and corner store open to the wind and the world. It would look peaceful if it weren't for the flies. And the bodies, of course.
A hand at his shoulder distracts his attention, but he offers Amy a grin anyway.
Amy rolls her eyes, her favourite new reaction to his undying happiness.
"Luke's good to go, if you're ready." He looks over her shoulder to Luke who is standing shakily, looking exhausted but offers him a thumbs up. It's lackluster but the serene smile on the kid's face isn't, so Cain returns the cheesy gesture and turns back around.
"First, restock. Hand me that map though, I want to look it over. Take Luke with you -- pick up medicine if you can. Pain killers, bandages, anything useful. Bring everything back to the car and I'll bundle it up."
She gives him a mock salute and adds "Anything else, sir?" and Cain is pleased to note the sir is only half sarcastic.
"Chocolate," he declares "Lots of chocolate."
Cain is pouring over the maps, the screams in his head growing louder and louder with each familiar name that his eyes pass over, when Amy comes running back like the devil himself is after her. Considering he might be, Cain jumps to his feet, hand going for the knife but Amy shakes her head as she approaches, nearly crashing into him at the sudden stop.
"Girl," she pants, trying desperately to catch her breath "There's.. a woman, a woman at the edge of town. She.. didn't see us." Amy takes the water bottle Cain offers her and downs half of it before Cain can tell her to drink slowly. Choking she wipes her mouth and hands it back.
"Luke's keeping an eye her. Should we. I mean. Should we take her with us?"
Cain licks his lips and gestures for Amy to get into the car. She does without a word and Cain is beginning to enjoy the leadership position the other two have handed to him. It was good on his own but this is just fun. Proper road trip, with friends.
"Show me where Luke is, we'll drive over. It'll get her used to the shock. We'll see if she's useful."
Amy doesn't look at him and Cain wonders if it's because of their first proper conversation, what he'd told her about taking on others. He wonders if it bothers her, or if it's just a natural reaction -- or if it doesn't bother her and she's just concerned about why.
He shrugs and starts the car.
Luke doesn't even blink or flinch when the car comes around the corner and to Cain's surprise, neither does the woman. She looks curious as he steps out of the car, but says nothing until Luke comes out of his hiding spot and slips into the back seat. Clearly the axe in the woman's hands are bothering him.
"Cain, Amy and Luke." Cain says, abrupt.
The woman stares a moment longer and then lets the Axe dangle in one hand, freeing up her right to brush a strand of hair that had escaped her braid.
"Jessie. There isn't anything in this town. You should move on. Opposite direction though -- they left the way you're going."
No nonsense. Cain smiles, a softer one because he's well aware of how she'd take a grin at this point.
"We're searching out Eden, Jessie. You lookin' for something?"
Her eyes widen but then her expression is stern again. Such a strange look for so young a face. She can't be old enough to be so controlled. He likes her immediately.
"Nothing I can't find in Eden."
And that's that, deed done. Cain opens the side door for her and she lets him, sitting beside Luke and setting her axe on the floor.
Cain gets back in, slams his door shut and puts the car into Drive.
don't you worry about the distance
Amy leans her forehead against the glass window, watches the stars for a second before closing her eyes to stop the tears from spilling. She misses her step-father and the thought, the feeling, hurts more than his fists ever did. The sudden loneliness blanks out the satisfaction she'd finally felt at killing him, even if it wasn't for the reason she'd wanted it to be. It also blanks out the guilt she'd felt at the satisfaction.
She should be sleeping but it's too hard to let herself relax. As the French music Cain always plays starts up, quiet enough that it won't be a bother, Amy feels her eyelids grow heavy.
and i'm alive
Luke forces back the shivers, forces back the terror, forces back the craving he's not sure he's feeling. He thinks about Jed, and the way Jed had told him, right before the end that he was a useless crack whore who was nothing now, not even useful to him because he couldn't use. He remembers the way things used to be, when he'd do anything, beg, bleed, get on his knees just for his beloved drug.
And then the stupid monster had come along and proven he was more special than he'd realized. The first week was hell on earth, discovering that with the virus in his system he couldn't use. Forced abstaining. Jed had laughed so hard he nearly cried. Luke half wishes he'd been the one to kill him, but he hadn't. The monster that got Luke came back, scarily alert for something so stupid.
Jed died in pain because Luke didn't kill the thing at all. It died all on its own.
Luke sighs and lays his head against his arm, lets the steady movement of the car rock him to sleep.
but it's fine, you do this all the time
Jessie thinks about the medals her father used to wear at Christmas for no other reason than pride. Jessie had been proud too, of her father. 'These medals, Jess' he used to say 'they mean I'm a survivor. All the odds and I push through. That's in your blood girl.'
She hadn't been thinking of that when she'd slaughtered her class to save them, but she's thinking it now.
The boy beside her is shivering, he's so young, looks the same age as her students. He'd been bitten too. The exact same circumstances as her students and yet he'd survived enough. A little junkie kid had survived enough to be sitting beside her, miserable and shaking.
Jessie reaches out to him, pulls his upper body over to her side and lets him rest half over her lap. She strokes his hair as he falls into sleep again and thinks about all the things she was, and all the things she still is.
comes travelin' along, don't even break the branches when he's gone
Cain hums along to the music playing, sways a little in his seat and thinks about Eden. He smiles and thinks of a song his mother used to sing, about a lonely werewolf. Hurting people and crying because he nothing but a slave to the full moon. His fingers tighten around the steering wheel in a brief, rare pit of anger.
It fades as quick as it comes, softening into the same peacefulness the night is bringing.
No trouble yet, he thinks, none at all.