Wednesday, 30 March 2011
This will be critiqued in class tomorrow by my peers but I don't give a shit what they think. I care more about what you guys think. So tell me, honestly. Be as blunt as you want, or lie through your teeth and out your ass- I don't care; just tell me. For the record, I kept it as concise and short as is possible for me.
Cue up My Chemical Romance: Early Sunsets Over Monroeville.
Her voice reached Travis’s ears like a siren echoing off the brick buildings would have in the old world. Now that nothing was the same, it was only her voice- that scared urgency- that could bring him running into the street. She never called him Travis unless she was scared and forgot that she always called him Trav, like he always called her Junes instead of Juniper.
“What?” he said coming out of the back room, abandoning his search for edible food.
She pointed westward, down the street. He followed her finger and the sight that greeted him would have scared him a year ago, but not now. Shuffling down the street in a mindless trance was a band of infected corpses, more affectionately known as zombies. He grabbed her arm and pulled her back inside the door to watch from the window.
“Do you think they’ll pass on?”
He shrugged, “maybe, they usually do.” Just in case he got his pump-action shotgun ready for anything. They watched from the window as the zombies came closer, ambling aimlessly across the pavement. They never walked with any direction unless they smelled blood or fresh meat- then it was bye-bye ambling shuffle and hello super-speedy sprinting machine. Outrunning a zombie was as pointless and hopeless as outrunning a grizzly.
There were six of them shuffling down the street, all moving in awkward zig-zags. One of them, what still resembled a middle-aged blonde woman with a bad case of rotten face, came directly towards the house. Travis shrank out of sight, crouching below the window line, and Junes followed suit. Periodically, Travis would poke his head up and glance out the window to check where Blondie was located.
There was a brief, tense moment when Blondie stopped just shy of the gutter on their side of the street, staring towards the glass door, but then she moved on. Travis and Junes both exhaled sharply, neither consciously aware that they’d been holding their breath.
“Did you find anything to eat?” Junes asked when rotten face moved on with her comrades.
“I was before you called me away from the hunt.” He replied from his crouched position, checking to make sure the mag in his 9mm wasn’t empty and stowing it in the holster at his hip. There was a crash in the kitchen from beyond, it sounded like breaking glass. Both Junes and Travis exchanged horrified glances.
What was that? Junes mouthed soundlessly. Travis shrugged and socked the butt of his shotgun into his shoulder.
“Who’s there?” He called quietly, not wanting to alert the others on the street.
No answer from the kitchen.
“You’ve got thirty seconds to come out with your hands up or I’m blowing the wall apart.”
Junes shot Travis a quizzical look that he didn’t see, all his attention was focused upon the archway leading into the kitchen. There was a dying groan from the other side that made the blood in both Junes and Travis’ veins freeze, and then Blondie came around the corner faster than a streak of lightening. Travis was quick on the trigger and shot her full of lead. The gun’s spray sent bullets whizzing into the wall and the crack was deafening in the silent room. Blondie rocked backwards in a spray of blood and guts as the glass window behind Junes shattered and two rotten, decaying arms and a grotesque head reached through and grabbed her. The zombie sunk its mossy incisors into the flesh of June’s shoulder and dragged her backwards out the window. Travis turned as Junes was dragged out the window, screaming.
Travis started to take aim and pull the trigger, then realized he’d hit Junes too and barreled out the front door instead. The zombie tugging Junes out the window toppled backwards as her weight was added to his. They fell onto the sidewalk, Junes lying atop the zombie. It’s dried, scaly, rotten fingers dug into her flesh, holding its squirming prey captive as it feasted upon her flesh.
There wasn’t time for Travis to think, only act. The others were coming down the street now to join the commotion; nothing like a good party. With his right foot, Travis pinned the zombie’s boney shoulder to the cement underneath his heavy combat boot and drove the butt of his shotgun into the zombie’s skull three successive times- whap, whap, whap. He barely missed clipping Junes in the face, who was still thrashing against the zombie’s teeth digging into her shoulder.
The zombie’s skull caved in and that ceased it’s feasting. As its finger’s grip slackened, Junes rolled away from the zombie and Travis wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her to her feet. The other zombies were only a foot away now. With one arm around June’s waist, Travis socked the butt of his shotgun into his hip, wrapped his finger around the trigger, took a wild aim, and fired. The recoil sent a flare of pain like a bright rocket through his hip and down his leg, but there was no time to worry about the damage now.
The nearest two zombies collapsed, dragging themselves across the pavement by their fingertips. Travis and Junes retreated as the other two continued to advance, flanking from either side. No matter which one Travis shot the other one would be on top of them in seconds. As if in a dream (more like horrendous nightmare), Junes grabbed the 9mm at Travis’s hip and took aim with her left arm.
Blood was saturating her shoulder and slinking down her back, but there was no time to think of the damage- worse would be upon them soon if her aim wasn’t true. Junes went for the one on the left and Travis went for the one on the right. Junes zeroed in on the zombie’s chest, inhaled sharply to steady her hand, and pulled the trigger, knowing her aim was true. The zombie’s insane rush towards them stopped suddenly as it collapsed just like its fellow partners in crime. Travis’s shotgun ripped the other zombie in pieces.
There was a moment of stunned silence between them as Junes and Travis looked at one another, smiling, amazed that they were so lucky. Then reality reasserted itself as Junes collapsed in pain. Travis pulled her tightly to his side to keep her upright.
“Hang in there, Junes. You’re gunna be all right.”
Travis looked around wildly for a safe place to hide; the scent of blood was bound to draw more zombies from the bowels of whatever cave they called home. Sure enough there were four of them climbing up out of a man-hole thirty feet down the street, and two more climbing out a window across the street.
“We can’t fight them off, Trav. There’s too many.”
“Don’t say that,” replied Travis, moving down the street, tugging Junes along in his wake. “If we keep moving we have a chance.”
“You’ve got a better chance if you leave me here.”
Just then, as if brought out from their dialogue, two people emerged from around the house on the right. One was a female dressed like a bohemian and the other a lanky male with a scraggly beard; both of them were armed. The female went to Junes’ other side, wrapped an arm around her waist, and took her weight away from Travis, freeing him from carrying her so that he could maneuver his shotgun better.
“Follow me,” she said to Travis as she led Junes over the sidewalk and around the side of the house.
“Who are you?” Junes asked the brunette stranger.
“Missy, but that’s not important now. We’ve got to get you to safety.” She replied lifting up the door of a cellar and escorting Junes down into the darkness. Both of them could hear gunfire being discharged out on the street as Travis and the bearded man took care of the zombies.
Junes allowed herself to be led down into the darkness, her feet feeling their way along the stairs almost as if she’d been climbing down into this cellar her whole life. At the bottom of the stair case Junes caught her first glimpse of light coming from an overhead lamp casting a flickering glow over shelves of canned food. She looked back over her head as she heard the cellar door slam shut behind her.
“Don’t worry, that’s just Jerry and your friend; zombies never shut doors. C’mon, let’s get you on the table and look at that wound.”
Missy ushered a limping Junes over to the workbench in the middle of the room. Using her entire arm she knocked cans and bottles off its surface without hesitation, and then helped Junes lie down on it like an operating table. The overhead lamp burned inside her retinas and buzzed above her like a hive of wasps. She was losing consciousness inside the light making her squint. She heard the tearing of cloth as Travis came to stand at her side.
“Is she going to be okay?” He asked in the scared voice of a child in a hospital.
“I’ll do what I can,” Missy replied as she grabbed a bottle of rubbing alcohol from the shelf behind her and began to clean the wound.
“Trav?” Junes croaked through dry lips; her voice felt scratchy in her throat and faint in her ears. She felt his fingers entwine with hers on her left hand.
“I’m here, Junes. You’re gunna be okay, I promise.”
Junes coughed harshly and blood pooled in the corner of her mouth. Travis exchanged a panicked expression with Missy, who, never missing a beat, wiped the blood away and reached for a needle and thread.
“This isn’t going to be pleasant so keep her occupied all right?” Missy said to Travis, measuring the thread with the skill of an experienced nurse, and cut it with her teeth when she felt it was the right length. She threaded the line through the needle and tied it off quickly, her fingers moving with the dexterity and speed of a hummingbird’s wings.
“Look at me, Junes.” Travis said as Missy finished tying the knot and leaned over June’s shoulder to begin sewing. Junes turned her head sideways, eyes shut against the light overhead.
“Trav, I’m scare- ow!” replied Junes as the needle entered her flesh, her body jolting in response. Jerry appeared at the other side of the table and placed a warm palm upon Junes’ arm to keep her steady so Missy could do her job. Travis’ fist tightened around Junes’ hand.
“It’s okay, I’m here; everything’s going to be all right. Don’t worry about a thing.” Travis said putting a hand on Junes’ shoulder as well.
“That fuckin’ hurts,” said Junes in a voice gathering clarity, but only for a moment.
“Sorry, but I gotta close the wound and stop the bleedin’” replied Missy on her fourth time through. “I’m almost done.”
“Good fuckin’ deal, that really fuckin’-” but Junes couldn’t finish her sentence; she’d passed out.
Travis shot a wild glance in Missy’s direction, “What happened?”
“Damnit!” Missy cursed loudly as the thread melted under her fingers. Blood and a green slime oozed from the wound in Junes’ shoulder.
“It’s too late,” Jerry said with finality.
“What’s too late? Help her!”
“I can’t,” Missy replied stepping back from the workbench. “The virus is all ready eating through her veins.”
“What? No! Help her! I know you can!”
Jerry looked across Junes’ unconscious body at Travis warily. In the flickering lamplight he looked like a hollow corpse himself. “She’s beyond help now.”
Travis’s eyes travel from Jerry to Missy, as if trying to piece together the pieces of a difficult puzzle. After a moment his face breaks the paralyzed fear, it crumples in upon itself and a sob escapes his lips- the sound halfway between the caw of a crow and the sigh of a lion. The first of many tears cuts through the sweat and dirt caked upon his face from living upon the road.
“Junes…Junes…wake up, Junes…wake up…” he sobbed shaking her shoulder. She didn’t respond. Missy and Jerry exchanged loaded looks across the table from Travis, but he didn’t notice. Jerry’s determined glance cuts through the flickering light like daggers settling into Missy’s flesh; she turned her pleading gaze to Travis.
“There is something…”
“No- you remember what they said, not for any reason or anyone. There isn’t enough and we can’t be sure it’ll save her!” interjected Jerry.
“We have to try something,” replied Missy.
“What? If you’ve got something that’ll help Junes then help her!”
“There’s a cure-”
“We aren’t giving it to her!” yelled Jerry.
At the mention of a cure Travis lost all sense of rationality. He went for the 9mm at his hip but Jerry was much faster, he pulled a Ruger from the shoulder holster concealed beneath his navy blazer. Both men stared across Junes’ unconscious body, sizing the other one up. With the manner of a mouse, Missy stepped between the two of them, placing a hand upon Jerry’s arm holding the Ruger.
“This is insanity, you two. There’s no reason to shoot one another over this. Put the guns down.”
A tense moment proceeded her words in which Travis’ irrationality blazed from his eyes like the virus eating through Junes’ veins; both Missy and Jerry could tell he wouldn’t lower his gun first, he meant to have the cure at all costs. Jerry slowly complied, against his better judgment, but he saw no other way around the situation. He lowered his arm but he didn’t re-holster his weapon.
“We’re still not giving her the cure; we can’t waste it on one person.”
“So what are you going to waste it on?” Travis fired back recklessly.
“She deserves a fighting chance, Jerry,” replied Missy, ignoring Travis. “Besides, they’re the ones we were supposed to look out for. I recognized her the moment I saw her- she’s the one we saw in our dreams; remember Jerry?”
The look on Jerry’s face plainly states that he wished he didn’t remember. He folded his arms in front of his chest, as if he could block the guilt from surfacing beneath his face with physical action.
“What are you talking about?” asked Travis. He just wanted the conversation to end and the healing to begin; they didn’t have a lot of time to argue anyway, Junes was still bleeding.
“The cure was meant for one person only; that person was meant to save the world- that person is, uh, what’s her name?” Missy asked motioning towards Junes’ unconscious body.
“Yeah, Junes, we were supposed to give her the cure; I know you remember the dreams, Jerry.” Missy said as her eyes grazed over Jerry’s face, searching for the caring, gentle man she’d come to know since the outbreak of this disease.
At that moment a horribly inhuman screech made them all jump and lower their weapons- it was Junes. Her torso arched and her arms and legs locked up as she screamed in agony. Her eyes were open, glassy- not at all the eyes of the woman Travis had fallen in love with. As suddenly as the screaming started, it stopped. Junes’ body fell back against the table with a flump and her head lolled sideways. The three of them stood in horrorstruck silence around the workbench, staring at Junes’ unconscious body. Missy opened her mouth to speak, and then closed it with an audible click when she realized she had nothing to say.
The room was quiet for a moment, with nothing but the buzz and flicker of the overhead lamp to break it up. Junes’ eyes fluttered open and she immediately locked onto Travis.
“What’s going on?” She croaked.
Travis holstered the 9mm at his hip and took Junes hand in his.
“You’re sick but we’re going to get you the cure.” He said shooting Jerry a dark look.
“He bit me?” Junes asked unclearly; memory was slowly returning to her- that would have to explain the heat in her shoulder.
“Yeah, but you’re gunna be okay.”
Junes shook her head. “There’s no cure, Trav. Put me out of my misery before I turn.”
Travis’s fist tightened around Junes’ palm. “No.”
“You have to, I don’t want to become a monster.”
“There is a cure,” Missy said standing at Junes’ other side.
Junes’ head rolled to the left and she flinched as the muscle in her hurt shoulder tense.
“We found it with a group of doctors; they had just made their miraculous discovery when we were all ambushed- Jerry and I only just barely got away. The one doctor gave Jerry and me a vial with the cure with the instruction to protect it at all costs and then stayed behind to help us get away. Once we got here we both started having dreams about you; about how you were the one who was going to save us all.” Missy said with the undeniable, unshakable faith of a child.
“There isn’t enough to save her life and the rest of humanity!” Jerry said approaching the workbench.
Travis turned to him, his eyes narrowed in frustration. “What are you proposing then? We let Junes die and the cure go to waste?”
Junes shook her head, grabbed Travis by the wrist and spoke with all the strength she could muster. “You have to take the cure to the nearest Health Center; somewhere with lots of people in hiding, somewhere with doctors who will know how to duplicate the cure and fix this.”
Travis’s gaze softened as he looked down at Junes. “No, Junes. I won’t do this; not without you.”
“You have to, Trav.”
Travis shook his head in utter, child-like defiance. “I’m not going at this alone.”
“You won’t be alone,” Junes replied looking over at Missy and Jerry, “They’ll go with you. You have to, all of you; you’ve got to save everyone else. No, don’t start-” Junes replied harshly, or as harshly as she could through her raspy voice, when Travis looked like he was going to protest. “What is all this for if not for the good of humanity? Why did we survive so long if not so we could make this right? I didn’t live and die for nothing, Travis. Don’t let me die in vain.”
As Junes recited her speech tears welled up in Travis’s eyes. It wasn’t until she called him “Travis” instead of her accustomed “Trav” that he knew there was no talking her out of it. It wasn’t a slip of the tongue this time, it wasn’t fear that was driving him away from her, it was the fact that some things are greater than a single human life; some things are worth fighting and dying for.
Travis leaned over Junes face and Missy and Jerry stepped back to give them privacy. Travis’s hand stroked Junes cheek gently and he kissed her lips.
“I love you,” he choked through sobs.
Junes smiled and it obliterated all the pain in her face; to Travis it made her look like a new person.
“I love you too.”
The moment was over, her smile faltered and her eyes closed against the ache throbbing in her shoulder. A guttural sound emerged from between her lips, startling Travis and sending him backwards a pace or two.
Her eyes flared open again. “Hurry, Trav, before the change. Please…” she begged with her last exhale.
With tears in his eyes and a clamp on his heart Travis took the 9mm from the holster at his hip and placed the muzzle at the side of Junes’ temple. He cocked the gun and held his breath.
“Please…” she begged again.
I’m sorry, Travis thought and pulled the trigger.