Chapter 19: We Had This Coming
"Cure save us? Cure good?" The eyes of the lifeless often had a sort of depth and darkness that left the ones who stared petrified, easing their status as prey to feast into. But what Clint noticed in Frederick's eyes right then was something else: a glint of hope, perhaps.
"Cure good." He left his retort short but with a reassuring smile. Patting him on the shoulder twice, Clint stood up, raising the bottle in his hand above the centre of the table. "To the cure, my friends!" Though only Jules managed to repeat the little chant after him, and the rest were indistinct but excited mumblings, he could feel things were going back to normal again. If there ever was a normal.
The night was one of celebration all around Charon's camp. From the very next day then, everyone on the site would start receiving their antidotes, and all of that zombie apocalypse stuff was about to be wrapped up for good. There was a part of Clint that wished the cure was developed earlier. Back when he met his sons for the first time and lost them.
But there was no time to stay miserable due to all that happened in the past. There was only time to be concerned about rebuilding what once was, even better than the way it was from the lessons learnt. A brighter future. Maybe, all of this was nature helping them set things straight-- Like floods that once cleansed it all, a virus that brought out the worst in each.
Clint grabbed another bottle, leapt over the bench and gestured for Jules to come over. Treading through the lifeless forms roaming around with newfound energy. one that seemed to give them wings, he settled down at the foot of the oak for the night. Jules, much slower to follow him, crashed beside him and let out a sigh. Both of them were yet to get drunk enough for a celebration, but what better entertainment than deep philosophical discussions for a good drink? And what company better than a man who always looked as if he had it with life?
"So," Clint laid down on his back, watching the night sky, "what now?" After enough grunting and shuffles, Jules settled himself too, "I guess I finally get to rest. Drink beer all day, live on a beach, maybe." They both let out a small giggle yet were unwilling to look at each other. Perhaps, if they did, the grown men would have broken down into tears knowing everything they did pay off in the end. That it was the right decision not to give up. So instead, they decided to crack jokes one after another, staring at the moonlit sky.
That was when all hell broke loose.
Every lamp in the basement laboratory went off in a quick flicker, leaving Dr Elizabeth Harlem in the creeping darkness. Right beneath the composed Charon and the fierce Margo, she used to feel this protective armour in the friendly camp until then, but something about the night felt off. Not even being in a healthy state to make a run, and the eerie silence from the floor above made her requestion the need of checking up on the well-being of her mutated friends. Ensuring that the regular creaking of the floorboard was not to leave the room, she slowly stepped her way towards the few samples of cure she kept away.
"So, you must be the infamous virologist, Dr Elizabeth Harlem." Elizabeth froze right where she stood. The stuttering, husky voice belonged neither to her sentient accomplices nor the unaffected ones. She couldn't turn back for her life, but the throbbing curiosity to identify the unwelcome intruder nearly unpetrified her senses.
"I read about you. A cure for the incurable virus." In the faint gleam of the moonlight that seeped in from the vents, she could see the silhouette of the tall figure making patterns inside the room. He was not attempting to come any closer, but he neither moved farther away, disallowing the tension to break free, "Who are you finding the cure for, Doctor? The mindless or the ones without a heart?"
Elizabeth sensed a lump against her throat, holding her back from uttering a word. Amassing all courage that she could, he shuffled her feet to confront the untimely stranger in the dark. The shadows in the room hid his frame above the chest, leaving her unable to discern his face, "Who are you?"
The silhouette let out a little chuckle, but it was soon cut short, almost on a note of despair, "For a woman of Science, mademoiselle, you are not asking the right questions." His trembling hands held one another tight, attempting to conceal his weakness, "Does it matter who I am, Miss Harlem? It hurts, though, doesn't it? To not know what's behind the shadows."
This was a game. A vicious game of cat and mouse. Elizabeth knew it, but her chances of escape were too trivial. She had to find another way. "What did you do to Margo and Charon?" She asked as she put one more step closer to the drawer of cures.
"Oh, your friends. I asked them to wait upstairs. Do you want me to invite them over?" Lizzie was right. Her worst nightmares had come true. Whoever this was, he had sentient control over Margo and Charon too. Even if she was to run away, she would be strangled to death by her own friends. She took one more step towards the drawer. Her only means of escape was curing three possibly barbarous beasts with her weak, injured physique. Only if Clint and Jules were here.
Clint and Jules could barely feel their feet touching the ground, one after another, speeding away from the hordes of impending doom that chased them. They had no idea what induced the sudden switch among the mindless. It could only mean one thing, and that was a possibility they were not ready to reckon with yet. But it was the only thing that made sense: Something happened to Charon.
But what concerned Clint more was that the devastating consequences would be far worse. Charon and Margo were together. Things even Charon couldn't hold back against would have still been an easy drill for Margo. And if it was indeed something wrong with Charon, it could only mean one thing: It wasn't just Charon who went down. Margo did too.
And that was terrifying. All the way from the beginning, running away from things that barely made any sense, they could rely on Margo to appear out of nowhere and save the day. If there was something that even Margo couldn't hold against, it meant that all their battles and sacrifices were to be lost for the day that preceded the morning that would have set everything straight.
Clint could no longer hold all the thoughts in. Amid panting like a hound affected by rabies, he yelled at Jules that they needed to go back at once. Whatever it was that set everything wild, it demanded a confrontation. But leading a massive horde of zombies to a constricted house with barely an escape plan seemed like a definite suicide.
There was only one way. They had to split ways: One to distract the mindless, the other to brawl with the worst of them. It was suicide nonetheless, but it left a chance for at least one of them to survive. One of them had to be alive to protect the cure. They fought and defended too long to lose it all, only a few hours till dawn.
When Clint looked up at Jules, he knew, at once, that he wouldn't make it till the end of this run-- it had to be Jules who got the final brawl. A fragment of him wanted to seek revenge for all that happened in his life, but it was no time for decisions based on emotions. It wasn't something Jules would have accepted if they had any other choice, but it was apparent from his features that he knew it too, "I'll come back for you, boy."
The headlamps of the vintage Corvette lightened up the murky alleyway for a brief moment. And as soon as the wiper blades came to a standstill, the windshield turned misty by the light drizzle. Unfastening the seatbelts tucking him in, Cory stepped out onto the mild rain, a faint smile stuck against his facade. Fingers sliding smoothly over the hood of the vintage car, he walked over to where the crippled frame laid, shivering.
Pulling up the sleeves of his chestnut suit, he squatted on his knees beside the figure, rubbing his cold arms against each other, "Well, hello, Captain Raymond. Long time no see. Had fun?" Agitated, Clint tried to grab Cory by the collars, but he was too weak and slow to land a blow. Laughing out loud into the silence of the night, Cory took a few steps backwards from him, fully intending to further infuriate him, "The angrier you get, the faster the virus takes over, you know. Makes things easier for me."
Seating himself on top of the grey garbage can, Cory let out a deep sigh, "Did you seriously think that there would be a--" His hands swished in the air, seeking for the right word to fit right in the statement, "timeline where you and your little gang save the world?" He could not keep in his laughter, only pausing once in a while just to continue even louder, "Ah, such a mess."
Hands skimming over his glossy hair, he took a deep breath, putting on a mask of earnestness, "You would not have taken that ridiculous cure either way, would you have, Clint? You have things left to do." Leaping out of his seat, Cory started walking around his newfound prey in circles, "As calm as you pretend to be, you, Mr Raymond, are vengeful. You need to tear someone apart right from the core, but who? All those who were responsible for everything that happened to you-- they are all gone. But all that anger, all that spite, it's eating you away from the inside, isn't it?"
Cory, once again, squatted right beside him, offering him a chance at vindication, "But I-- I can help you. You know it. And I could use someone like you, Captain. We would set right what's wrong with this world. Together." Clint shuffled away from him, groaning in pain, seemingly striving his best to keep the manipulative monster away from him.
"It's useless, Clint, and you know it! Give in already."
Silence. Cory slowly stepped closer and closer to the weakling. Sitting beside him for one last time in the night, he stretched his arms towards the mangled figure. And when his hands felt the coldness of the once-righteous Captain, he knew he was closer than ever to his final triumph.
Well, that was way longer than I intended it to be. To be honest, I was struggling to finish even a single paragraph when I began writing this chapter. But then... something happened. However, there might be a bit too many grammatical errors up in there, but bear with me, won't ya (: I hope you guys enjoy the chapter! Love y'all ^-^
Cover Image: https://media.istockphoto.com/photos/zombie-hand-holding-old-wooden-board-empty-space-for-text-or-draw-picture-id1166085591b=1&k=20&m=1166085591&s=170667a&w=0&h=gLTbukgnaRJAnMoOh8CADejzDz5uEuIMv8ODexRhHss=