Part 11: Tunnels of Death
Big empty silo, echoes, tunnels stretching for miles, slowly meandering like those in an ant farm. Tunnels of death, human bodies transported to her. Her brood, her workers, her little drone ants, carrying carrion, corpses like bites of bread crumbs, human trash dropped at picnics.
I could feel the tunnels, the vibration of hundreds of broodlings beneath my feet.
I must’ve run over 20 miles to get here. We really were in the middle of nowhere. Farmland and trees and nothing but snow drifts.
Did it just take me one night? Did I lose more time on the way?
Don’t know, not sure. Don’t care. Had to act, had to move. Had to stop this, end his pain…and my own. But how? She was surrounded by her broodlings. The place was crawling with them. How did I draw out ants from their hill when I was a kid? Oh. Right. Sugar water.
Shit. I had nothing like that. I’d need fresh human bait, alive and screaming and thrashing. Couldn’t pretend to be one, they’d smell me, smell the black tar for blood in my veins.
“Stay down wind, fuckers can’t smell you that way.”
I looked around. No one there. I was alone. Could see across the snowbanks for miles and miles and miles. Empty, save for the bleak, sad sounding wind scuttling bits off ice across it.
Not my voice. Not my own thoughts. Whose then?
“Always stay down wind. Always keep your weapons ready. They’ll strike as soon as they smell your sweat, your musky balls. Your saliva. Soon after they’ll zone in on your heartbeat, by then, it’s too late and you’re good as dead. Understand?”
A memory. But, not mine. That merc. The one whose soul I devoured.
It was HIS memory. Not mine. His voice, talking to the new recruits at someplace he called “The Compound.”
They were training…children? He was talking to kids like that? What the hell?
Did Mal know about that?
How could I have someone else’s memory in my head now? I couldn’t even keep my own in there…
Oh my God.
What did I do?
“Jonah,” Mal said. He voice weak in my head, a hoarse whisper, startling me. I looked around again, out of reflex before I realized that I was hearing his thoughts. He must’ve woke up when I thought about him. Still trying to figure that part out. Didn’t make any sense, but there it was, happening all the same.
“Mal. I’m here.”
“Don’t come down here. It’s a trap. Let them kill me. Let me die.”
“No. Can’t do that. Won’t.”
“Quiet, they’ll hear us.”
Nothing followed. I closed my eyes, tried to visualize where he was. I could feel him, below. At the bottom of the silo, command control office, or something that looked like it.
I checked the building that I had hid in, waiting for nightfall. Couldn’t sleep. Too on edge, too wired. Too worried. Too scared.
Scared of what? Dying? No.
Scared of HER.
Could remember when IT happened. How she looked, wild matted hair, tattered dress blackened from dirt, old blood, grease, decay. Eyes like fire, pits of hell, bright, bright burning coals. Face contorted in rage. Anger?
SHE was angry? Why?
“I hate the living. I hate you. Soon, you will be like me. You will hate the living as well.”
Shivered, the recall of her voice chilled me to the very core, more than the winter cold ever did.
That was Mullo. And I was about to come face-to-face with her. I was shaking, not shivering, shaking. I wasn’t cold.
I was afraid.
SHE did this to me. SHE did this to US. Ruined our life together. Ruined everything.
This wasn’t living, this was a slow, inevitable death.
For once, I wished I couldn’t remember.
Panic, alternating with utter fear kept me completely still. Back and forth. Breath caught in my throat. Cold pit in my stomach. If I had a heartbeat, it’d be racing and pounding in my ears.
I couldn’t decide what to do. I wanted to run. To hide, to get as far away as I could, across the world is need be, anything to be away from HER. And then…
Mal’s screams cut through the air. Snapped me out my panic.
They were torturing him.
Images of the feral vamps leaving bits of Mal in a trail of breadcrumbs to the inner nest flashed in my head. If they bit off his fingers, or tore off his extremities, torturing him, yet keeping him alive because he was bait that they were using to draw me into the nest…
That thought alone was too much.
Mal. I had to get to him. Had to get him out of here. That’s all that matters now.
I shook my head, tried to stay focused, and ran downwind, outside, avoiding the ground above the tunnels instinctively. Staying down, low, the knife burned against my thigh where the hilt stuck out of the sheath.
I ripped off part of the bottom of my shirt, wrapped it around my hand. Took out the blade.
It hummed, low, soft, barely audible, but I could hear it.
It wanted blood. It wanted to kill the abominations, those soulless monsters in waiting beneath the earth.
Kill the vamps, the bloodsuckers, the leeches; parasites of mankind.
Is that what I was? Don’t know. Not sure…
No time to freak out now. Keep moving.
I ran fast, silent, bare feet on frozen ground, broken concrete steps. Sidewalks, pavement, the wind rushing in my ears. I stopped when I came across a huge metal blast door. It covered the top of the silo where it opened up at ground level. A corner of the steel door was bent, rolled back like a crimped ribbon of an aluminum gutter.
Something strong did that.
Deep scratches, long nails, gouged the metal as it was rolled, bent, folded back to make a small crawl space through it.
The sound of that metal folding must’ve been ear piercing, a screeching like when you scrape your fingers down a chalkboard. I grimaced at the thought. Hated that sound. Always have.
I held the knife hilt in my mouth and crawled through the hole in the silo door. I used the metal beams to climb down to the remainder ladder rungs. I hung on, curled up, trying to stay as small as possible while I took a look around.
Two catwalk stairs switch-backed down the sides of the silo. One rusted through and broke off; half of it had fallen to the depths below years before. The other was still intact, occasionally groaning as the metal shifted.
The moonlight filtered in from the crack in the silo roof, snowflakes lazily fell like dust motes down, down, down, into the deep, into the dark, where countless pairs or red eyes glowed and stared up at me.
They weren’t moving. They were just waiting, watching. Reminded me of a cat about to strike, except there was hundreds of them.
How many people did SHE kill and turn? Why even bother? What was the point?
I could smell rusted metal, and what remained of stale, standing water. This place must’ve flooded at some point. Couldn’t hear the water much though, so maybe the broodlings dug enough tunnels through here that they drained most of it. All that remained was dying algae and flakes of rusted iron and steel. The missile silo was a tomb, a monument to wasted tax dollars and the fears of the cold war.
It was a good place for a nest, really. No one lived close by, the huge missile silo and underground operations building could fit a good number of bodies easily, and since most humans were superstitious about the missile silo sites being radioactive, there wouldn’t be a lot of trespassers snooping around.
The silo shaft was very wide. I wouldn’t be able to leap across it easily. I had to plan my route down. Zigzagging around it to find the remaining stable crossbeams and catwalk sections.
Mal’s pained whimpers bounced off the metal walls, made me flinch. Almost lost my footing a few times. It distracted me. I was worried. I wanted to get to him as fast as I could. Instinct urged me on.
Was she doing that on purpose? Did she want me to fall and land a shattered mess on the silo floor, where her brood would rip me to shreds and end my miserable not-life?
Don’t know. Not sure.
I could hear long nails tapping on metal here and there, along with the occasional scuffle of feet as some of them inched closer to me.
So many. How was I going to kill them all?
I spotted a small maintenance tunnel, big enough for a grown man to crawl through. It was still grated over.
Maybe I didn’t have to kill all of them. Maybe I could bypass the main group and deal with the ones brave enough to confront me.
It was as close to a plan as I was going to get.
I climbed over to the grating and gave it a close look. It was rusted, fused to the metal tubing of the tunnel.
The broodlings knew I was here, so not making noise wasn’t going to save my hide much, so I just went for it and, gripping my toes on the iron cross beam so that I wouldn’t fall, I slid my fingers between the grate holes and yanked it back, hard. I strained, banged on it a bit with my fists to knock loose some of the rust and then it ripped free. I fell backwards, my footing slipped, the grating dropped out of my hands and plummeted to the floor below with a deafening clang. I grabbed onto the metal beam, clung to it for a moment before I managed to scramble back up and into the maintenance shaft.
A thin puddle of water remained inside. It was so rusty in there. The rust covered my hands and coated my clothes as I crawled. It reminded me of the smell of blood. Wet copper. Liquid gold.
I wasn’t hungry, but the thought of it made me want more.
It’s all I thought about, aside from Mallory. Maybe, one day, it would be the only thing I could think about. That made me a little sad, but relieved at the same time. If I couldn’t think about Mallory, I wouldn’t remember him, and I wouldn’t come looking for him anymore. He could try to live a normal life, if he wanted.
Even so, the thought of just NOT existing anymore, of not being able to think in words, terrified me.
Would I be like the rest of those broodlings? Feral? A wild animal, limited to a handful of words? Or would I not have any words left at all?
I could hear them below me, almost a mile down. Crawling over each other, some dragging things--probably human bodies, fresh kills--others fighting for space.
I felt that if I closed my eyes and focused, I could see what they were doing.
I didn’t want to though, so I didn’t try it.
I hated them. I didn’t want to see them. I just wanted them to die.
The maintenance tunnel ended in a room. The red light from my eyes cast long shadows into it; an eerie glow bisected by black nothingness.
I looked around, not seeing anyone in there, I kicked the grated hatch loose and hopped down. It looked like a storage room for cleaning supplies. There wasn’t any of them left in there though. A broom or mop handle would’ve been useful right about now, but at least I still had the knife. I had a feeling I was going to need it.
The door to the room had been removed. The place had been stripped of just about anything that could’ve been reused. I paused at the entrance and listened, looked around.
Stray drops of water plopped onto crossbeams. The hallway, or what was left of it, was metal walls, ceiling, grated floor, half of which was missing, or about to fall off. I was going to have to stick to stepping on the support beams that remained.
I just hoped it didn’t slow me down too much.
Mal screamed again. Closer. In much more agony than before. Sounded like they were ripping something off him.
Worried, I rushed forward, shimmying over treacherous parts, walking sideways on others, using the overhead pipes and beams like monkey bars where I had to, just to get to the next area where they were keeping him.
I made it to the blast door. Thick, heavy, rusted partially open. It wouldn’t budge. I tried to slip through it, but it was barely wide enough for me to fit. I could get halfway and then could go no further.
I tried pulling it back, but that was a no go.
“Jonah!” Mal screamed. “For God’s sake! Run!”
"Where are you?"
"Get the hell out of here," he shouted up to me from the depths below. He was in a lower level, beyond the blast door. I was close enough that I could hear his voice echoing through the dark, rusted tunnels. "Just go!"
"I'm not leaving without you! Just hold on!"
A large clawed hand, twice the size of a normal person, reached through the blast door opening. Before I could react, it grabbed my head and slammed me into the door.
I saw stars. The claws dug holes into my skull, the hand so strong it threatened to crush my head entirely. I could hear the bone starting to fracture under the pressure. I had dropped the knife when it stunned me. Felt around with a foot until I touched something that burned my skin, picked it up with my toes, and transferred it to a hand and stabbed, repeatedly, at the arm.
Something very large roared; deep, pained, like a pissed off lion. It dropped me.
I scurried away from the door.
The huge thing on the other side slammed into it, enraged. Nowhere for me to hide. The only option I had was to rush back and find another way to the next area.
I scurried to the open floor, gripped the platform, and lowered myself down. Felt around with my feet but there was nothing to step on. I looked around. The closest beam was a few yards away.
I bit my lower lip out of habit, and swung my legs back and forth to gain momentum, then launched myself towards the next beam. I flew across the open space, rusted water dripping in my eyes, stinging, blurring my vision for a few seconds. My fingers grazed the beam and I fell.
I was falling, falling, falling. I kept reaching out for something, anything, but it was no use.
Suddenly, I slammed into a huge metal support beam that crossed the expanse. My ribs broke, my hips broke. Bones stuck out of my legs and arms, shattered.
Above me, a huge shaped loomed, breath ragged, the rage it emitted was an almost palpable heat.
What was that?
I coughed up thick, black tar blood. Sat up, bones grinding against one another as they shifted back into place. The wounds knitted back together. It hurt like hell. Made my eyes water.
I rubbed them, cleared up my vision just as the giant beast landed on the wide support beam a few feet away from me and got up on all fours.
A tower of rippling muscle that used to be a man, but was no longer. It had gray-white skin, completely naked, black hair lined the outer edges of its arms, covered the groin enough to hide its sex. A pair of large serrated dagger teeth, like hog tusks, protruded out of its lower jaw. Huge hands and feet, twice the size they should be for the body and arms they were attached to. It glared at me with eyes black as midnight. No whites, just jet black with pinpoints of red light in the center. Its head was covered with a massive mane of hair, spiked mats of it jutted out everywhere.
It reeked. Smelled of death, of suffering and rage, of shit and piss and rotting flesh.
The face was all distorted, the lower jaw jutted out, pulling the cheek skin taught almost to the point of splitting. Nose was upturned, thin, reminded me of a bat.
There was a thick leather collar on its neck.
“I take it you’re her pet?” I asked.
It grunted, glowered at me.
I wasn’t sure if it could talk or not. I couldn’t hear its thoughts either. Not like the broodlings. Not like I could hear HER violent whispers.
It was blank. It thought nothing. All it could feel was rage.
Did that mean that there were others that changed like that? The broodlings didn’t grow larger when they were turned into vamps. Was that guy always that big? Or did something happen when he turned?
I wiped the black clotted blood off my face and stood up, back and ribs cracking as they healed over.
The voice in my head. HER voice.
The arm that I stabbed with the vampire hunter’s knife was still sizzling, the skin bubbling and popping around the wounds. Black blood splatted onto the support beam as it changed its grip.
Ah. That thing was a vampire. That meant that I could kill it with this magic knife or dagger or whatever the fuck it was actually called. I was never to keen on the differences of blades to be honest. If it cut, it was a knife.
I smirked and held up the blade, got ready for it to rush at me again.
It growled at me.
“Well? What are you waiting for? Kill me, mother fucker. Come on!”
It loped towards me, roaring, mouth distending impossibly wide, strings of spit dripping down its chin.
I ducked as it took a swipe at me with a clawed hand, and I slammed the knife into its armpit and yanked back. It yowled and stumbled forward, almost losing its footing and slipping off the beam.
I glanced down. The huge black expanse went down quite some ways. It would seriously hurt to land down there.
Black sludge oozed down its arm, slicking up its hand and puddled on the beam. It smelled awful. I fought the urge to throw up and backed away from it, slowly, keeping one eye on it as I looked around.
There was a spot where I could jump up and grab onto another crossbeam near the backside of the expanse. I just needed to get over there, and haul ass back up to the blast door.
It stared at the knife in my head, before glancing at my face.
“What’s wrong? Afraid?”
It glowered, growled, shook its head and charged at me.
I ran as fast as I could towards the back wall, and as I jumped up to grab onto the pipe that hung down, it grabbed my legs and yanked me down, slamming me face down into the support beam, repeatedly. Stars in my vision. I dropped the knife again. It slid away from me, dangerously close to falling off the edge.
I kicked back at its belly, knees, wherever my feet could connect, pushed my face away from the rusted metal surface and struggled to stop it from smacking my head into it again. I reached up and dug my clawed fingers into the sizzling stab wounds, ripping through arm flesh like tissue paper until I found a tendon and sliced it. It let go then, used its other hand, the one with all the blood oozing down the arm from where I sliced open its armpit and slicked up my head with it.
It smelled so bad. I felt the gorge rise up from my stomach, chunks of human flesh that I didn’t chew up as well as I should’ve. I forced myself to swallow it. I couldn’t lose that. I needed it for fuel. I needed it to stay strong. I briefly wondered how long it would take to digest all that before I pulled my head away, trying to get free. The vamp tightened its grip on me, long claws raked across my face, cut open a corner of my right eye and the side of my mouth, sliced through an ear and down the back of my neck and shoulders as I scrambled away and got back on my feet.
I wiped off the black blood as best I could. The sight in my right eye was fuzzy. The other eye burned from getting that crap in it, and was watering up.
Still facing it, I picked up the knife. The huge beast of a vampire was panting and looking its hand, the one with the cut tendon, trying to figure out why the fingers wouldn’t close anymore. Its feet and other hand slipped and slid in its own blood.
I had to act fast, before it healed.
I booked it over to the wall, jumped up, kicked up off it and grabbed onto a small cross beam. I shimmied across it with my hands a ways before I swung up and over it. I teetered a moment before catching my balance, and carefully tip-toed on the slender beam over to the next pipe and leaped up and grabbed it.
I just kept climbing. I didn't look back, but I could feel the vibration of the vampire's weight as it followed me, slipping, struggling to keep up.
I didn't have to out-muscle it, I just had to be faster.
I was smaller, not hindered by wounds. I could make it to the top before that thing could.
I scrambled up to the blast door platform, almost losing my grip and falling for a moment--I flailed my legs, and clawed for my life to get back up there, gripping onto small surfaces that cut into my hands and hauling my ass up to the platform.
Once on the surface, I let go of the breath I was holding and sighed.
The tusked vamp, it leaped up and grabbed onto the platform with its good hand. The claws dug slits into the metal. They were impossibly sharp and strong.
It was reaching up with its bad hand, trying to grab me and toss me off.
I ducked under it, and in a downward arc, I sliced through several of the fingers that had cut hand-holds into the metal platform.
It screamed and fell.
Loud clangs and bangs followed.
I looked over the edge. Watched it bounce off surfaces and scrambled to grab things before it landed hard on the floor below, rebar and broken pipe ends skewering it. It struggled, but couldn't get free. It roared and twisted, and the more it thrashed, the further down the rebar its body slid until it was good and stuck.
I hope it withered and died down there.
That vampire was strong, but man was it stupid.
Satisfied that the monstrous thing wasn’t going to climb up after me again, I walked through now fully opened blast door.
That very full feeling in my stomach was leaving me. I was using up a lot of blood. I had to be careful. I needed to stay strong until I got Mal out of here. But I wasn’t sure if I was going to be given a choice in the matter.
As soon as I got through the blast door, I was jumped by the broodlings that were waiting for me. They were staying quiet, I didn't sense them. Hell, I didn't even see their glowing red eyes. Either I was losing my grip, or they were still smart enough to ambush me.
So many. Claws and teeth dug into me everywhere. I dropped the knife, screamed in pain and rage. I was seeing red. I lashed out, ripping and tearing and biting and fighting with all my strength to break free. I almost got away from the group once, and they dragged me back down. I was slick with black, noxious smelling tar blood. It filled my eyes, my ears, my nose, my mouth. I gagged, threw up and kept biting. They screamed and howled and some backed off after I ripped off fingers or lips or whatever I could get a hold of.
One tried to pick up the knife and it burned it so badly, that the skin lit on fire. It screamed and ran in panic, the fire spreading to the rest of its body. It ran down a side hall and the screams stopped. I heard a thud and a juicy explosion as the broodling just popped like an over-ripe grape.
I couldn’t see the knife, but I could hear its hum. I kept reaching out in the direction of it until my fingers found it. It burned, but I didn’t care, I grabbed the blade and started hitting the one on top of me with the handle until it let go. I pushed away from them, panting, gripped the knife the right way and started swinging it wildly. I hit a few of them, some lit on fire, some just bubbled, others backed away, cautious.
Why it was igniting some and not others, I had no idea. But I wasn’t going to question it.
“The new ones, they’ll like up like a firecracker, and just blow up on you. So keep your distance if you see one catch on fire after you cut it. Because it will explode.”
Another memory, of that man, the merc I ate. He was teaching a teenage girl how to hold the knife right, where to hit on a dummy with fangs drawn on the mouth in black permanent marker.
Ah. Well then. That makes sense…I guess.
Was I always going to have that guy’s memories intruding my thoughts like that?
It was disconcerting. Jarring. Jolted me right out of what I was doing, because I not only heard his voice, I saw the memory, like it was just happening right then and there, and I was that man--it was from his perspective.
Would that happen if I ate others like that?
My God, I am such a monster.
I kept wandering down the hallway, limping, wiping black tar blood out of my eyes, spitting it out, digging it out of my ears and nose where it clotted up into a nasty mess of snot and black goo.
I smelled it.
My heart, I could feel it beat. Once, twice, It continued beating. The sensation confused me. I put a hand on my chest. I was breathing, my heart was beating.
What the hell is this all about?
I kept the broodlings at bay, occasionally taking a swipe at them with my knife as I limped forward. My wounds were sealing up, but not as fast as the bones when they broke. I was getting weaker. My strength was leaving me.
I was covered in black foul smelling gore. It almost drowned out the scent of Mal’s blood, but I think I would’ve noticed it no matter what odor was stinking up the place. I could’ve traced his position by scent alone.
The thought of drinking his blood again, it made my teeth grow longer on instinct. They grated against the top and bottom gums. So sharp. I swallowed the saliva that built up in my mouth. God did I want a taste of him. I craved his blood. Smelling it make me hungry. So hungry.
My jaw ached to bite down into his flesh and rip it off. I wanted nothing more than to devour him, body and soul.
But…if I did that…would he be in my head like the mercenary?
Would I be able to live with it?
Don’t know, not sure.
Couldn’t do it, even if I wanted to.
Mal was my life. My everything.
My clothes were shredded, bites and claw marks covered my skin, showed through the rips in the clothing. I was a mess. Smelled worse than I looked though. Half of that black blood wasn’t mine.
I got to a stairwell and could hear Mal’s ragged breath. It echoed and bounced off the metal walls. He was down there. It was dark, so dark down there. The only light was from my own eyes, glowing red.
I could feel a blackness down there as well. Empty save for rage. No joy, no desire, just pure hatred. And it was cold. So very, very cold. Not a hot rage like the tusked vamp. It was a cool, calculating, sadistic anger.
SHE was down there. With Mal. Hurting him. Making him scream.
I tightened my grip on my knife and limped down the stairs towards them, and quite possibly, my own death.
Part 12: Mullo
Mal was panting, his blood-so watery and thin-ran in rivulets down his arms and legs, dropped into her mouth. SHE had him hanging from the ceiling on hooks made of bent metal pipes. No doubt her pet made those for her. It was strong enough to bend metal, no problem.
The ends of them stuck through his chest, right below the collar bones. It skewered muscle, nothing else. It was done on purpose. To hurt him. To make him scream. Not to kill him, but to give him pain.
He was covered in bite marks, his arms and legs. The bites were puffed up, the edges black, like the tissue was infected and dying off.
A quick glance told me that he still had all his extremities. All his fingers and toes, even his cock and balls were intact. Bitten, but still there.
SHE was lying lazily across a table, like it was a chaise lounge, and Mal was a group of grapes she was plucking from and popping into her mouth.
He was naked, pale, shivering, eyes wide, his fear so strong I could taste it in the air.
It smelled so good.
Made me hungry.
I wiped the drool off my lips.
I was standing in the doorway to the room. It was where they used to have all those old computers, but was nothing more than empty rusted space now.
Piles of human bones surrounded the table. This is where SHE ate. It was HER dining room.
Old blood crusted dark on the floor, making the rust spots look bright in comparison.
The room was a big circle.
She was wearing the same tattered gray dress she had on when she attacked me. Her hair, black and mattered from dirt and blood, shaggy hung over her shoulders. Her mouth was too wide, crowded with teeth, cut up into her cheeks like a shark’s mouth.
Her gaze was lidded, cool. She was smiling. Enjoying herself.
I was terrified.
My palms were sweating. I wiped them off on my pants.
Mal looked up, as though he sensed me, but he couldn’t see me. It was too dark. All he could’ve seen would have been a pair of red eyes in the dark below him, and another pair in the open doorway.
“Jonah?” he said, voice weak, soft. It made my heart ache. He was in so much pain.
Mullo cocked her head, curious, and then rotated 350 degrees like an owl it to look my way. Her neck vertebrae cracked as she did it. I made a face in disgust.
“Ah….yeth. At lath-t,” Mullo said and licked her lips. Her tongue was long, more of a serpents tongue than a human one anymore. It was purple with black tip, slender and forked.
Her S’s were a th sound, like her tongue and the shape of her teeth gave her a lisp. I didn’t remember that. Maybe she had changed since last I saw her.
She turned her head back to it’s normal position by twisting her body around on the table. She was tall, taller than I remembered. Close to 7 feet--just like the tusked vamp she had sicced on me.
Her arms and legs were long, thin, but stronger than they looked. Her ribs and spine stuck out of her back--I could see it through the thin dress material.
Her fingers, spindly, ended in needle points; thin, sharp nails. Same with her toes. Her feet and hands were elongated, with extra joints, just like my new foot had grown longer.
She probably lost them at one point or another and they grew back.
I gripped the vampire hunter’s knife tight enough for the handle leather to make a sound.
“You killed Marco,” she said in disdain, like I had killed her pet goldfish. No attachment, just annoyance.
“Didn’t stick around to watch him die. Good to know he’s gone. Fucker had it coming.”
She hissed, stood up, towered over me, slender, powerful, a black aura of hate and rage spilling off her. I could see it, a black cloud filling the air. I blinked, unsure if I was hallucinating or not.
“Let him go,” I said, my voice guttural, almost growling--a dark, gravelly edge to it that surprised me. I tried not to let it show.
“You think I lured you here, just to let you keep your little plaything? Are you that dense?”
“I’m pretty stupid. Must be, to come all the way down here into your lair like this. Now, let him go, or I will kill you.”
She laughed--it was an ugly, bitter, hair-raising sound. Cold, unfeeling, as though it was a practiced sound that had no true emotion behind it anymore.
“You? Kill me? Jonah, I MADE you.”
“And?” I asked and slowly stepped into the room, bones crunching under my bare feet.
“I can make you do anything I want.”
“Oh? You hear my voice all the time. Egging you on to kill and murder all those people. You are so good at that. Making them scream before you drink your fill.” She ran her freakishly long, pointed fingers down Mal’s chest, and across his waist, lingered on a hip, gripped him there, pinpoints of blood welled up under her fingers. She leaned over and licked the blood from him. He shuddered, tried to twist his body away from her and she bit him, hard.
He screamed. His face contorted in pain. The agony…my god. It HURT him to be bit by her. He loved it when I did it, but when she bit him, it actually hurt.
“Stop that,” she said and gently smacked his face with the palm of her hand.
He whimpered and stopped moving. Breath shallow, terrified. Eyes so wide in fear.
The bite mark raised up on his hip, the broken skin puffed and then started turning black. His flesh was dying where her teeth cut into it. It was so fast, like she was killing him, one chomp at a time. Made me incredibly angry. Made me want to cut her up into little pieces and set them on fire.
I limped forward a few steps, her head swiveled in my direction.
“Any closer, and I will gut him in a flick of a wrist. Understand?”
I hissed at her and growled. The sound surprised me.
“Starting to lose yourself? It’s about time.”
“I hate you.”
“What the hell do you want from me?”
“I want you to suffer. I want you to lose your mind to the rage. I want to free you from your human desires. I want you to hate everything, as I do.”
“That is the dumbest fucking thing I have ever heard. And believe me lady, I’ve heard some pretty stupid ass shit.”
“Your mouth is foul. Stop swearing. It doesn’t suit you.”
“You aren’t the boss of me. I’ll say whatever the hell I want, when I want to.”
She smiled, flashed her sharp piranha teeth at me. I ran my tongue over my own. They were just like hers, only shorter, not as bulky. Mine didn’t change the shape of my mouth that much. Hers made her lips protrude--she couldn’t close her mouth all the way now, the pointed ends of her serrated teeth stuck out beneath their edges.
“You’re starting to accept the change, aren’t you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what you are. You know what you are becoming. You should stop fighting it, it will only make you suffer more. It’s a kindness to yourself, really, to just let it all go. Give in to the darkness inside you, to that animal that keeps taking over. End your misery now, while you still can make a conscious choice to do so.
You keep forgetting who you are, don’t you? You keep forgetting WHAT you are now. You’ve been pretending that you can feel love, that you feel protective over this piece of meat,” she patted Mal on the stomach and he pulled back in revulsion. “Mmm…so tasty,” she said and licked the trickling blood off his chest.
He shuddered, screwed his eyes shut, turned his face away as she wrapped her creepy long fingers around his throat and ran her tongue up the side of his cheek.
“You’re going to kill him one day. You know that. I don’t even have to say it. One day, you’ll devour him whole, just like you did that mercenary.”
I stared at her.
“How did you know that?”
She chuckled. “I can hear him in your head. I can hear all of my children’s thoughts. Your’s have always been messed up, a jumble of sensations and words, but now…now, you have something else there. Something much more dangerous is living in your head now.”
“And what’s that?”
“You have the memories of a sociopath lying in wait. What would happen if, the next time you blacked out, HE took over instead? What would he do? Hmm?”
I hadn’t even thought of that.
“I’m not even sure how you managed to do it. It really shouldn’t be possible. But you did. You certainly made a mess of things this time Jonah. I shouldn’t be so surprised though, you were always really good at fucking your life up.”
She was right. Of course she was right. My grip on the knife lessened. I regarded it. It wouldn’t be too hard to end it. I could kill myself with this, rather easily.
“Do it,” she said, her voice in my head. “Kill yourself. End this. You’ve suffered so much. Just DIE already.”
My hand shook as it raised the knife to my chest, over my heart. Tears fell down my face and for the first time in a long time, I cried. Sadness overwhelmed me. I didn’t even know what that was. I didn’t realize that is what I had been really feeling all this time. Not anger. Not fear. Just, an incredible emptiness of despair. I had ruined Mal. I had ruined us. It was all my fault. And now…now, I could stop the cycle, before I hurt anyone else.
“Jonah, don’t listen to her,” Mal whispered. “There’s still a chance. We still have a chance to be together. Please. Don’t give us up just yet.”
“Hush,” she said and dug her thumb into his hip. He cried out in pain. His body was weak, it wouldn’t be able to take much more of it before he either passed out, or had a heart attack.
His screams snapped me out of it. Rage flared up in me, and I was ready to kill her where she stood.
“Leave him alone!” I screamed and leapt at her. She caught me mid-air. I was trying to stab her in the chest, I ended up slicing the inside of her arm instead. She hissed and dropped me and I scrambled to my feet on the other side of the table.
“You dare!” she said and knocked the table aside as though it weighed nothing and grabbed at me. I rolled out-of-the-way, over the piles of bones.
The sharp end of a broken femur pierced my arm. I rolled up and ripped it out and threw it, pointed end first, right at her head. She caught it and crushed it with one hand and dropped the pieces.
“Why do you fight me? I made you. I OWN you!” You’re mine! Mine! Not his! MINE!”
“You own nothing. You’re nothing but a monster. An empty black space. A void.”
“You will do as I say!” she screamed in my head. It was so loud, so painful, I dropped to my knees, put my hands over my ears.
“Jonah!” Mal yelled.
I looked up just as her hands wrapped around my throat.
“Kill you! I’ll kill you,” she said and snapped my neck. My body went limp. I couldn’t move.
She tossed me on the table. Picked up the knife, held it over my face.
“This is a very useful toy. I will keep it.”
I tried to speak, but couldn’t.
“Oh the hatred in your eyes. So lovely.” She ran her sharp fingers over my cheek, an almost loving gesture.
I could move a couple of my fingers on my left hand, that was it. I could blink, and move my jaw, but I couldn’t speak, and I couldn’t move anything else.
I closed my eyes.
This is it.
I am going to die here.
She is going to kill me, and then kill Mal.
That’s what she wanted.
That’s why she lured me here.
Now Mullo is going to get her way.
I felt Mal moving…somehow. I opened my eyes. Could barely see him, he was almost out of my peripheral vision where he was hanging from the ceiling above us.
He was reaching up, trying to figure out how to get off the hooks. He looked around, his eyes lit up. He saw something. I couldn’t move my head to figure out what though.
“I never should’ve let you out of my sight Jonah. If I had known that you were going to become like me, I wouldn’t have let you survive the attack. I would’ve ripped your heart out and ate it in the alleyway.”
"Sucks to be you," I thought.
She narrowed her eyes. They were red--the whole thing. No whites, no black in it like the other vamp. Just blood-red and glowing.
“I heard that.”
I smirked. It was all I could do, until my neck healed. The vertebrae were starting to slowly shift back to their normal position. It felt awful, like they were tiny gerbils crawling under my skin. Made me grind my teeth and hiss in a breath.
“Not only did you become like me, you made a human pet. You soul-bonded with a living mortal man. That is unacceptable. WE don’t do things like that.”
“Why?” I thought to her.
“We don’t soul-bond with living things. Only dead ones. Otherwise, you end up with this situation. A human craving your bite, addicted to being fed on by you, and one that my broodlings can’t enjoy for food. You TAINTED his body Jonah. I am sorely disappointed.”
"So why not just kill him and be done with it?"
She leaned forward, pressed her forehead against mine, forced me to stare into her blood filled eyes. Tiny green veins stood out in them like little worms.
Her breath was rank, smelled of rotting flesh and decay.
“Because I want you both to suffer, that’s why.”
She dug her fingers into my arms until the sharp needle nails scraped against the bone. I shuddered.
It hurt. So much.
She moved her fingers inside my arms, scraping this way and that against the bone. It was worse than scraping my nails against a chalkboard. The vibration ran up my arms, into my skull, where the pain just hit me and I started to scream.
My head moved back, lolled side to side, my neck realigned with my spine in the process, clicking audibly, making me see white stars from the pain. It was horrible.
I couldn’t think. All I could do was scream and howl. My legs began to twitch as the nerves reconnected and healed over.
She pulled down, cutting deep gouges through my biceps muscles.
“Yes. Scream for me. Scream!”
“Fuck you!” I spat at her, tried to get free, and she grabbed onto the bones, inside my arms, through the flesh. She just cut through it all like it was room temperature Jell-O and gripped the bones, snapped them in half, and ripped off the lower parts of my arms. She tossed them back, and they hit the wall in a fleshy, wet slap before landing on the floor in the piles of bones.
It hurts! It hurts!
I screamed until my throat was raw.
Mal was yelling at her, furious. Even drained as he was, he still had enough energy left to do that. He struggled to get free. He wanted to kill her for hurting me.
She laughed, and laughed and laughed, and I wanted to die.
She started clawing into my stomach, and pulling out my insides, my pale white guts slippery in her hands, like giant worms. I coughed up blood, and whatever remained in my stomach, it was a mess of black ooze and red chunks of human meat.
“Ohhh…what’s this? Been eating your food whole, have you?” she asked, and skewered a chunk with a finger and held it up. “Even I don’t stoop that low. You are nothing more than an animal.”
Mal fell from the ceiling above us. She looked at the floor in disdain, then back to me.
“Your pet fell down. Should I help him up?”
I moaned. Tried to scoop up my guts but my hands were gone, I was just moving bloody stumps in front of me.
She tsked and tossed my innards at me. They heavily slapped on my chest. They were moving, like worms, pulling slowly back into my body. If it didn’t hurt so much, I would’ve been fascinated by it.
I couldn’t see very far at the moment, the pain for some reason made my eyesight weak. I was surrounded by black nothingness. Cold, alone, I shuddered, and prayed for a death that wouldn’t come.
I wanted to die.
I actually wanted to die.
That made me panic.
I started hyperventilating. Scared. So scared. A pit in my stomach, swallowed me whole. The room narrowed to a small pinpoint of dim light.
No. No. NO! I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!
I won’t! I won’t go! I won’t!
Someone slapped my face, hard.
I blinked. My face stung.
“Get a hold of yourself. You’re embarrassing me in front of your food.”
Tears fell down my cheeks, cold and wet.
I was sobbing uncontrollably.
I was scared.
I didn’t want to die.
I didn’t want to live.
What did I even want?
What did I want?
Why was I even here?
Why did this happen to me? To us?
Then, I remembered.
The memory flooded my senses and it was like I was there, all over again. Reliving it.
We were at a swanky night club. Mal had ordered us drinks. We were hanging out at the bar, the music thudding around us. Hot gay boys sweating and grinding in the dim light, we were getting a little too old to come here, but it was where we met, so we wanted to have one last night at the club before we left town.
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into coming here,” I said. He flashed me a brilliant smile--a smile that made me fall in love with him several years ago.
“I have my moments,” Mal said and handed me a drink. We walked over to the booths that lined the walls and grabbed a seat. We sat in the middle of the U-shaped booth, cuddling, drinking, smoking, watching young couples hook up and make out.
It was fun.
Mal leaned over, said in my ear, “I can’t wait to take you home.”
I laughed and shook my head. “Isn’t that my line?”
“Not tonight. Hey, I’ll be right back. Drank too much.”
I watched him go, and the smile fell from my face. I wasn’t very happy, but I was trying to make it a nice night for him, so I was faking it.
We were celebrating his new job. High paying, great benefits, they were even going to pay for him to move out to Colorado. I didn’t really want to go, but I was happy for him, so I didn’t say anything.
I’d be leaving my family, my friends, the life I built here before I met him behind. I was trying very hard to convince myself that it was worth it, and decided not to tell him that I didn’t want to go. I’d love it once I got there. I knew that the sadness I felt was more from being nervous about living so far away from where I grew up than anything else. At least, that is what I told myself.
Mal left his phone on the table. I couldn’t hear it ringing over the blasting dance music, but I saw the screen light up.
A text message flashed in the notification bar on the lock screen, “Hey cutie! Heard about the job. Congrats! Can’t wait to see you tomorrow night. I bought something to play with, just for you. Think of it as a going away present.”
What the fuck?
I unlocked his phone, opened up his messages. The guy’s name was Brett. He had texted him for weeks. They made plans to hook up, on the nights when Mal said that he was working extra late and to not wait up for him.
Brett sent him several dick pics, and others where he was inserting various toys in his ass.
The last message had an image attached. It was a ball-gag.
Mal told me he wasn’t into that kinky stuff. Guess he lied about that too.
I was so mad, I was shaking. Tears blurred my vision. I looked at his other text messages from other guys. Brett wasn’t the only one he was seeing.
“What you doing?” Mal asked. He stood at the end of the booth, looking a little pale.
I threw his phone at him. He caught it before it fell to the floor.
“I think I should be asking you that. I thought you said we were monogamous. What the fuck is that shit huh?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Bullshit. I saw the texts Mal.”
“Brett just sent you one while you went to take a leak. Just a little tip, next guy you date, don’t leave your phone with him if you’re hooking up with tricks on the side. That way he won’t get curious and find out what you’ve been doing behind his back.”
“Jonah, I can explain.”
“Oh? This ought to be good.”
I stood up, folded my arms--otherwise I would’ve punched him.
College boys shoved their ways past us as they went to the dance floor. It was getting super crowded in there.
“I can’t believe you would do that. Why would you invade my privacy like that?”
“You wanted me to move across the country and live with you, and I can’t look at your phone? Come on Mal. I’m not that stupid.”
“OK, so I had a few nights out. What’s the big deal? It’s just sex. They didn’t mean anything to me.”
“Just. Sex? Just sex?! You know what? That’s it. I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. I put up with you being busy for months while you finished med school. I tolerated your long shifts at the hospital. I didn’t even bitch about us not having sex for two months, but this? You doing that, and not coming to me for it? You think that I would just roll over and ignore it?”
“No. No I didn’t. I just…I thought this would be a chance for us to get away from that, start over. New life. The whole thing.”
“If you’re doing that here, you’re going to do that no matter where you are. No. I…I can’t do this any more Mal.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m breaking up with you. We’re finished. You put the nail in that coffin. Not me. You did.”
“No, please, come on. We can work this out,” he grabbed my arm.
I shoved him from me.
“Don’t touch me!” I shouted and ran out, shoving past people, trying to hold in the tears until I got away from the crowd. I didn’t want anyone to see me cry. I just wanted out.
My whole world shattered in an instant. He didn’t come after me. He didn’t run into the street and shout for me to stop. He didn’t do anything.
That’s how I knew it was over.
I gave up so much, and he just threw it all away.
Sobbing, I ran away from the main street, I just wanted to run and run and never look back.
And then, I turned the corner to the alleyway. It started pouring rain.
I ran right into a tall thin woman and apologized. She turned around, grabbed me by the arms.
I screamed as she lifted me straight up into the air, slammed me down on the pavement and leapt on me. Claws digging into my arms as she ripped my throat out with her teeth.
"Oh God. I’m going to die. I’m going to die here," I thought.
I didn’t want to die.
I just kept thinking in a panic that I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to die. I was terrified of it, of just…ending.
She drank her fill, and when she saw that I was struggling to stay awake, she smiled.
“Don’t worry little one. I won’t let you die. I’ll let you be like me. Forever, and ever, and ever.”
She slit open her own wrist and forced me to drink her burning hot tar blood.
"I hate the living. I hate you. Soon, you will be like me. You will hate the living as well.”
I screamed until my throat was raw, my veins were on fire, everything on fire. My body was dying.
I didn’t want to die. I didn’t! I refused to go. I could’ve, but I didn’t. I pushed myself back from the brink of death somehow, and then blacked out from the pain.
I came to and threw up, and she was gone and I was in a dark place, hiding from the sun. I was hungry. My stomach was empty and in pain, like I had starved for days, even though it had only really been a few hours.
I went to stand up and searing hot pain flooded my body. My torso was sliced open. It forced me out of reliving the memory. It ended and I was thrown back into that dark, cold room again.
Mullo loomed over me.
I was getting hungry.
So very hungry.
My stomach growled.
It was hard to think.
Soon, I would black out.
I could feel it coming on.
It frightened me.
I didn’t want to forget anymore. I didn’t want to wake up after I killed and ate my fill.
I just wanted to black out and never, ever wake up again.
“Ah. You recall that now. I was beginning to wonder. You know, you were by far the most delicious man I ever ate. Your pain and sorrow?” she closed her eyes and shuddered. “So yummy. I wanted to keep you around, as a reward for being such a good meal. Looks like I was too generous, seeing as how you aren’t like the others I’ve turned.”
“Why? Why aren’t I like them? Why do I keep forgetting things?”
She shrugged. “I have no idea little one. Perhaps it is part of your curse.”
The ends of my arms, the bleeding raw stumps, were starting to tingle, I could feel the sinew and muscle and bone grow back. My innards finished crawling back inside of my stomach and the skin grew over it, thin, pale, white, covered in veins. Almost see-through. It was gross.
“Either your mind is genuinely Swiss cheese or you have discovered absolutely nothing about your condition. Ah, ah, ah! None of that,” she said and kicked at something on the floor. A man grunted in pain. She kicked someone who was crawling towards her.
Who was down there?
Did I know?
Should I know?
What am I forgetting?
I had the feeling that it was incredibly important to me, but I couldn’t remember what the hell it was.
A man cried out, I heard bones snap under her foot.
“Stay where you are like a good dog, or I’ll break your other hand. Understood?”
“Yes,” someone said, quivering in pain.
I know that voice.
Where did I know it from?
Who is that?
She saw the confusion on my face and laughed.
“Oh, this is too precious. You forgot him already? What is it? Out of sight, out of mind?”
“Who’s down there?”
“Just an old friend of yours. No one overly important.”
The man on the floor, I craned my head to see who it was and she stood in front of him, blocking the view.
“See?” she said to him. "He doesn’t even remember you. How can someone love you if they can’t remember your name, let alone your face?”
“He’ll remember. He always does.”
“Who is that?” I asked. I felt the panic threatening to take over again. “Who’s down there? Who are you?”
“Jonah, it’s me. it’s Mallory.” His voice soft, pained. “Try to remember. Please.”
He was crying.
His name was Mallory.
She smiled, showing off her wide mouth, those awful huge sharp-pointed teeth.
“And this is how you both shall die, one pathetically begging to be remembered, the other trying to figure out why he forgot him to begin with.”
“What are you saying?” Mallory asked.
“Why do you think he forgot about you? Forgot himself? You think it was just a fluke? Oh no. He wanted to forget. He wanted to lose himself in the madness, in the frenzy of bloodlust. He didn’t want to think about you. About what you did to him. How you hurt him so badly.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” he said.
I struggled to keep my eyes open. I was tired, hungry, and in pain. I just wanted to sleep, to slip back into that black abyss and never wake up.
She slapped my face again, startled me awake.
“Stop that. I’m not done with you yet.”
“Just kill me and get this over with,” I said, miserable. I was so sad, so scared; I couldn’t take it any longer. I just wanted it all to end.
“Fine. If that is what you truly want, I shall,” she said and got on the table, straddling me with her knees.
“Thank you,” I said and closed my eyes. Braced myself for death. I was terrified. I didn’t want to die. But the pain, it was too much. I couldn’t deal with it any more. My heart ached, there was a huge lump in my throat; the sorrow; the pain; the memories; the hunger; the suffering. It was cruel. Best to just let her end it than keep on like this. Right?
"No." Mallory’s thoughts came to me. "I won’t let it end. Not like this."
I heard him struggle to his feet. She ignored him. She was intent on my reactions now.
“So afraid aren’t you? Don’t worry, it’ll be a blessing, not existing. There will be nothing there. Nothing at all. No pain, no sorrow, no heartache, no forgetting. Just, nothingness. The abyss and nothing more. Blacker than black. No thoughts. No feelings. No memories. Nothing at all,” she purred. She was enjoying it, saying those things.
They drove an ice dagger of fear into my chest and squeezed. I panicked, bucked under her weight as she slowly pushed her razor sharp fingers into my chest. She ripped out some ribs, cracking them and tossing them aside like they were flimsy fish bones and wrapped her grotesque hand around my heart.
“It’s still beating. Can you feel it?”
“Yes,” I said, tears slipping down my cheeks. I sobbed. I didn’t want to die. Not like this. Not ever. I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t. I wanted to live.
“Mine stopped doing that decades ago. Why is yours still beating? Do you know?”
I shook my head, not sure what to say. I was waiting for the end of it all. I was waiting for the Abyss to welcome me into her cold, uncaring arms. I was waiting for the nothingness to envelop me and destroy me utterly until not even a single shred of thought or feeling or sensation remained. I waited. And trembled and sobbed.
So fucking scared.
Why was I scared? Wasn’t I already dead?
A warm hand on the table, near my foot. I could feel the heat radiating off it. Mullo was too engrossed in teasing me, in making me terrified. She didn’t notice that Mallory stood up behind her.
I remembered then, who he was to me. He was my Mal. He had brown eyes. He was the reason I came here. I was trying to save him. I couldn’t die. Not until I finished it.
I saw a flash of the vampire hunter’s knife, I could hear it hum.
Maybe he would kill us both and end it.
That would be nice.
To die in his arms. For his face to be the last thing I see.
That wouldn’t be so bad.
She licked the tears off my face. Her tongue rough, bumpy. Slimy. Disgusting.
“I can taste your fear. Makes me want to eat you all over again. Too bad I can’t.”
She caressed my heart. I jerked away from her sharp fingers, the pain was intense.
Mal slowly, softly, was moving closer, step by step, until he could reach her back with the knife.
She was having too much fun, and he knew it. He was trying to hit her hard in one go of it. He knew she’d lash out, and he wouldn’t get a second chance.
“Or maybe I can eat you again…I never tried it, honestly. Maybe your fear would make your disgusting black blood tolerable. Should I try it?”
“Just kill me already. What are you waiting for? Huh? Just do it!” I screamed. I was going from intense fear to rage, back and forth, back and forth. It was exhausting.
She made a face. “So impatient. Fine. Let’s end this already. I’m getting bored of you.”
She let go and bent over the side and picked up a sharp bone and slammed it into my chest, piercing my still beating heart. My body went rigid. I couldn’t move. I was frozen in place.
She smiled and wrapped her fingers around my head and went to twist it off, and that is when Mal struck her.
He shoved the knife through her back, on the left side and she screamed and thrashed. She threw him off, he hit the wall hard and fell in a lump on the floor. She tried to reach around and pull it out but she couldn’t. It was just out of reach of her hands. She struggled, her skin bubbled and boiled as she whipped around this way and that. She knocked me off the table, the bone fell out of my heart, and I could move once again.
I felt like shit. Everything hurt. I gasped over and over and struggled to my feet. My arms and hands had finished growing back. They were a bit clumsy, but they were there. That’s all that mattered.
Globs of black blood oozed out of the gaping wound in my chest and slapped onto the floor as I stood up on wobbling legs.
I could see Mal, unconscious on the floor. Mullo was thrashing around, screaming in rage.
I shuffled over to Mullo and shoved the knife blade deeper, and moved the angle of it down, and she screamed, high pitched, enraged as it pierced her heart.
She fell to the floor, face first, unable to move. I left the knife in her, let her skin bubble and burst open, black blood oozing out of the sores on her back. I looked around, couldn’t find anything to use to cut off her head.
I shrugged to myself and grabbed her head and started twisting it around and around and around and around until it couldn’t go any further, then I pulled.
In an ear shattering scream of pain and rage, her head ripped right off her neck. It twitched, the tongue lashing out. Teeth gnashing together. Eyes rolling around. I slammed it down onto one of the hooks that she had put Mal on, and shoved the hook deep into her skull until it came out the other side. The skull cracked, and the mouth stopped moving. The eyes went dull, stopped shining.
Behind me, a black mass, a dark energy boiled out of her body, blacker than black, a dark shadow of hate and rage. Her soul. That was what remained of her human soul.
I moved so that it couldn’t touch me. It tried to go into her head, but it couldn’t.
The black cloud hissed at me, and was suddenly sucked downward and disappeared into the floor.
Mullo’s body shriveled up, like a mummy, and crumbled to dust. The knife fell to one side.
I picked it up, put it back in the sheath and went over to Mallory.
I knew him.
He was why I was here. Why my heart was beating.
He was my Mal, and I loved him.
I slumped down next to him, grimacing as my chest knit itself back together and the gaping hole closed up. Mal didn't wake up. He was out. She hurt him badly.
I picked up his limp body and slowly made my way out of the missile silo.
The broodlings stayed away from me. They were afraid. They had no one to tell them what to do. Maybe they thought I would boss them around. But I wasn’t interested in that. They were on their own. Whether they survived or not, was on them. I couldn’t care less what they did now.
The crisp winter air woke Mallory up. He was shivering. I was running as fast as I could through the snow covered fields. His lips were turning blue. He clung to me, said he was cold and tired and just wanted to sleep.
That wasn’t good.
I found an abandoned house to break into, and started a fire in the fireplace, and wrapped him up in a faded, torn blanket I found and sat him by the fire until he warmed up.
I lay on the floor next to him, my head in his lap. He kept running his hand through my hair.
It was nice.
“I’m sorry I forgot you.”
“I tried, I really did, to save you.”
I sat up.
“I remember the argument now. The one we had at the club? We broke up, didn’t we?”
He pursed his lips, wrapped the old dusty blanket around himself more.
“Yes, we did,” he said, tears in his eyes.
“I was an ass. It was my fault. This is all my fault,” he said and started to cry. “I was so selfish. I didn’t even think about how you felt. I got everything I wanted, and got cocky about it, and I wanted to tell you, that it wasn’t serious. It meant nothing. It was only sex. Honest.”
I grunted, looked out the window. The sun was just starting to make the night sky blush with light.
“It doesn’t even matter anymore,” I said. “It really doesn’t.”
“I know. I just wish I had handled that better. I should’ve told you. If I had, you never would've run out of the club like that, and she wouldn't have attacked you.”
I shrugged. “Don’t care.”
"Just don't. None of that matters now. We’ve been through a lot. I’m tired. I’m not sure what is going to happen to me. I can feel it coming on. I pushed myself too hard. I’m going to black out from the hunger. I might not be able to stop myself from hurting you when I come to.”
“I think you should stay here and I’ll go find somewhere else to stay for the day.”
“No! Don’t go.” He grabbed my hand. He was so warm. “Stay with me. Please. I don’t want to lose you again.”
“I could kill you.”
“I don’t care. Please, just stay. You were ready to die, you were willing to risk everything so that I could stop her. I know Jonah. I know. I could hear your thoughts. You were terrified. And yet, you were going to do that for me. For us.”
He stood up on wobbly legs and wrapped his arms around me and held me close.
“I love you,” he said.
“I know,” I whispered. “I know.”
I stayed there with him, waited until he fell asleep before I left his side. He needed clothes and food and medical attention.
I fought off the blackout as hard as I could. I didn’t even know it was possible, but I kept myself awake long enough to find a car to steal, drive it over to him, and get him to a hospital.
It actually took a few days of driving. Somehow, I had enough willpower to remain conscious.
I ate whatever animals I found, made him eat some too. At first he wasn’t going to have any of it, seeing as how it was raw meat, but once he got hungry enough, he ate it all the same.
He slept a lot. When I dropped him off in the ER, he was sleeping. I didn’t wait to see him get taken care of. I knew that they wouldn’t turn him away. He was naked, covered in a ratty old blanket, and seriously injured. They would take him in, patch him up. Get him better. That was all that mattered to me.
I didn’t wait to say goodbye.
I thought it would be better that way. He could start to move on with his life, and forget about me. The way that I was going to soon forget about him.
By that point, I was staggering around like a drunk. It was so hard to focus, so hard to think.
But, I did what I set out to do. I saved him, and got him to safety. I was proud of that.
Tears spilled down my cheeks.
I was crying.
It felt good to cry.
I curled up in the trunk of the car I stole, and cried myself to sleep.
The Abyss took me into her arms, and everything went black.