Serafi lifted the pistol, and shot a woman that was about to take a bite out of Husk’s shoulder. The blood splattered, soiling the people sitting nearby, Jerry and Tzar among them.
“You always know how to ruin a good time Loki..” Jerry complained, as everyone started to rush from their seats, total mayhem breaking out around us.
“Tzar and Granny, grab Sera, take her to the Betty..” Bloodhound commanded, he turned to Jerry and pushed a gun into his hand, taking on a threatening tone. “Jerry, you and Patience back them up.. when I check this mag later it better be empty, I mean it, don’t fuck with me!”
“But wait! What about you guys?” Balthazar protested, as he grab hold of Serafi, worriedly taking hold of her injured arm.
“No te preocupes.. we’ll be right behind you, keep the engine running.” The handsome Hispanic replied softly, pulling him in for a quick kiss near his lips.
Husk picked up a gun off one of the fallen soldiers, and brought it to me, I nodded and started clearing a path for them, letting loose a spray of bullets into a hostile part of the crowd. The infection was spreading quickly, faster than it had before, especially since most of the Risen were going for the kill first bite. Just as we were about to make a run for it, the Lieutenant came bursting through the kitchen doors, ramming through anything unfortunate enough to be in his way.
His mutation was a sight to behold, with upper limbs extended into grotesque clubs, the swollen forearms barbed with spikes of overgrown bone that burst through the skin. The bend of his knee was inverted, and such a predatory stance befit a beast more than a man. He was such a gargantuan creature, I could only assume his transformation from man to monster must have been a torturous pain to endure, one could almost pity the human being he once was.. If there was anything of him left, that is. The soldiers that were left in the room, descended upon him with a blaze of gunfire, only enraging the creature further.
At that very moment, the General ran into the room with the Doctor, Wolf, and Caiden in tow. The man looked around with a mixture of fury and astonishment, his grand schemes unraveling around him, his eyes eventually settling on me, and it was as if he already knew my part in it. The creature roared and started running towards them, the General in his sights, this caused a rush of people to come running in our direction. It was getting harder to tell who was infected and who wasn’t, people were pushing and pulling at each other, all stuck in survival mode.
Husk grabbed my arm and lead me through the rushing crowd, my eyes searched frantically for Caiden or Wolf, even the Doctor, but I couldn’t locate them in the crowd. People were looking for a way out, but the havoc and chaos they caused, ensured there was none.
“Loki, look over there.. I see Karishma and Wolf!” Bloodhound yelled out to me, pointing near the exit.
I could see the Doctor pulling at the Wolf’s arm, trying to get him to leave, but what I couldn’t see was of more interest to me.
“Where the fuck is Caiden?! I don’t see him with them, we can’t leave..” I asked, starting to worry, but Husk tapped my shoulder and pointed behind us.
There was Caiden, he had a group of children with him, they appeared to be free of infection, were with them two women as well. He was blasting into the pack of undead that rushed them, but they just kept on coming, more waking up as time went on. I ran to help him, not looking to see if the two Mercs were behind me, a woman tried to pounce on me from the left but a bullet to her skull, stopped her in her tracks.
I had to duck as a table, accompanied by a body or two, went flying over us from the Goliath’s rampage on the other side of the room. His sole obsession seemed to be the General, like he could taste the man in the air around him, he could sense him wherever he was at. I let off the rest of my mag, before reloading, but just as I was about to shoot, something crashed into me. It was a soldier, but he wasn’t infected, his eyes were as clear as day.
He pummeled me with his fists, landing blows to my face a few times, but I was able to flip him. As I enacted my revenge, I was soon interrupted by another of the General’s men, he pulled me up into a vice like choke hold. He had me for about thirty seconds, before Bloodhound pistol whipped him off of me, and I fell to the ground gasping for breath. My initial assailant stood to his feet, and got a few good kicks to my ribs, before Husk put two shots to his kneecap. I tried to rise but I could immediately feel the broken rib, and my jaw might have been dislocated as well, I was too numb from the pain shooting through me to tell.
“Loki, take my hand.. you have to get up!” Husked commanded, pulling me to my feet, and helping me support some of my weight.
Two more soldiers came running our way, one was about to shoot us, but got distracted by an infected child that latched to his ankle. The other was able to knock us off our feet before Husk could let off a shot. My skull hit the ground hard when we fell, and for a moment, I saw stars. I felt a kick to the head and I was suddenly dragged across the floor, away from the fighting, before being pulled to my feet once more.
There were gunshots and screaming all around, the chaos and pandemonium was disorienting, but still I fought my captor and I struggled to turn in his arms, I was shocked to come face to face with the General himself. I tried in vain to break free from his grip, but for an older man he still was able to keep me off balance and at his mercy. He gave me a punch to the rib, causing the break to slightly puncture my lung, I coughed up blood and could barely breath as he pulled us toward an exit.
“Did you think I would allow YOU, of all people, to escape me? Then all this sacrifice would be for naught, I could never accept that! You were sent here for us.. sent by God as the answer to this plague. One final sacrifice to end such suffering, and it will usher us into a new dawn of man, equipped for the desolate world that awaits us on the outside!” He continued to rant, but I hardly paid mind, I was too busy fighting to remain conscious.
We burst through the double doors, entering a hallway, he dragged me down the passage till we reached another set of doors. I tripped and fell to the floor, my body weak and ready to give, but I fought the oncoming darkness. I refused to leave myself to the whims of a mad man, it was such a struggle to stay lucid. I received a stinging slap to the face, and got yanked to my feet by the collar, he shook me a bit as if to waken me.
“I won’t allow you to die, I need you to live as long as possible.. for us to take in the flesh, we need it as fresh as possible.” He whispered heinously in my ear, as he pushed me forward, causing me to stumble on out the door.
Once outside, I could see we had come out through a side exit I’d never noticed, several vehicles could be seen driving pass, as people evacuated the academy as fast they could. The front lawn was utter chaos, as the newly infected feasted upon those unlucky enough not to catch a ride, and on top of that, more corpses were rising by the second, further adding to the calamity. I could see the Betty, and I felt a spark of hope, only for it to be dashed when the General pulled out his gun.
He shot a young boy that was running our way, the child didn’t look infected but the man didn’t even bother to wait and see. He stuck the gun in my back, and pushed me towards the car he had waiting. A young guy no older than seventeen, was behind the wheel, the Jeeps engine revved to life as I was tossed into the back seat.
“Get us the fuck outta here Private, the boy won’t last much longer.. I won’t let this chance slip from my grasp! Go!” He yelled, desperation in his voice easily recognizable, causing the boy to hit the gas hard.
I felt a familiar burning in my chest, and howled in pain as my broken rib bone swiftly snapped back into place, the surrounding tissue started to stitch and mend itself together. I fleetingly wondered if the regeneration process would ever become less painful, and as if in answer, I felt another excruciating spasm course through me. The tears streaked down my face, as the wails and cries of pain, were trapped in my throat. My dislocated jaw had yet to begin healing, so it was further agitated from every move I made.
When we started moving, the General went to inspect the severity of my wounds, only to jump bag in shock. He watched me as I writhed in pain, the sight of my body mending itself held him in fascination. He soon snapped out of it, and grabbed my collar, bringing my face close to his just in enough time for him to witness my jaw, snap and lock into place. His lips curled wickedly, and his eyes grew cold and dark, I didn’t dare to imagine the fiendish thoughts that cross his mind.
Even though my head was spinning, I was able to make out something approaching fast, closing the distance, just outside the window behind him. My vision came into focus, as the Goliath came barreling into the side of the jeep, sending us high into the air. The vehicle flipped twice, and we crash landed hard on the top side, sliding several yards before we skid to a slow stop.
I was sure I blacked out a moment, because when I awoke my body felt a world of pain crushing down on me. I could see the General was unconscious, his brow wet with blood, and his arm was bent at an odd angle. The young driver was in the worst condition, his neck partially severed, and I could hear his last dying gasps for breath. I went to move, but a shocking pain enveloped my body, I looked down to find a sharp jagged piece of metal embedded in my abdomen.
My breath was hard and short winded, it sounded like i was hyperventilating, immediately, I tried to calm myself and regulate my breathing. With the metal embedded, the wound didn’t bleed much at all but I knew the severity of the wound, and I couldn’t stop the salty flow of tears that streaked my cheeks.
That’s when I heard a monstrous echoing roar, and the sound of footsteps stampeding toward us, I tried my best to move but my foot was stuck. I could see my boot wedged between the General and the seat, I made an attempt to kick free but it was no use. Suddenly, it felt as if a freight train hit us, and the vehicle flipped right side up. I found myself laying atop the General, as the hood of the jeep was peeled back like a tin can, I made another attempt to flee but the Lieutenant grasp hold of me first.
The mutated beast clutched me around the throat and lifted me high, till we were face to face, it was then I noticed his lack of eyes. They were gouged out and scabbed over, but that didn’t make him any less dangerous, the monster brought me close enough to gather my scent. He could smell the blood that came from my side, and it caused him to salivate heavily, like a dog hearing a dinner bell.
His hands started to roam my body, until it came to the long shrapnel lodged in my side, I cried out as he licked around the wound. The sound of my cries soon turned to a shriek as he ripped it out, tearing tender tissue and flesh with a swift movement. I watched in horror, as he licked it clean of the scarlet liquid that stained it. I could hear gunshots and screaming, coming from all around us, but this only seemed to frustrate the beast further. He roared in my face, the hot breath smelling of rot and decay, made my head swim.
“Noooooo, Godamnit! He belongs to me!” The General screamed from behind me, as he let off several shots into the mutated Lieutenant.
The beast seemed to lock right in on the man, and I was unceremoniously tossed aside like trash on the freeway. As I sailed through the air, my last memory before I finally blacked out, was of the constellation Orion crossing the inky night sky. I followed the hunter’s belt, and the trail lead me to Sirius, the brightest gem in the ominous dark tapestry of this part of the universe. I marveled at its peaceful beauty, wondering if there were anything out there, looking back in the same wonder.
When my head hit the pavement, my vision was suddenly flooded with shooting stars. I felt a familiar burning in my side, as the darkness crept in close to overtake me, I tried to put up a fight but it was no use as everything faded to black.
I could feel myself being lifted up, fire coursed through me, burning me even in such a state. I eventually became numb, my mind transcending the physical, almost like an out of body experience. I could feel myself dipping in and out of consciousness, even though I struggled through as best I could. There were sounds of chaos around us, and scattered gunfire could be heard in close proximity, I barely was able to make out the voice of Bloodhound as he yelled out.
“Come on Wolf, we got to go! The flesh eaters are going to block us in if we don’t leave now!”
“Omg! Is that Loki!? Quickly, get him inside!” Dr. Jhedav screamed, as I coughed hard, blood bubbling into my throat.
I looked up at the burnt cinnamon eyes of the Wolf, they were focus straight ahead, the determination to get there readily visibly in the gaze. I leaned into his chest, trying not to let him see me cry, I wasn’t prepared for the new rush of burning to my head, it felt like a punch from a world class fighter. I put a hand to my forehead, to find my brow wet with sweat, I battle the urge to hurl and soon an overwhelming darkness snatch hold of me.
“Holy shit! What did they do to my cousin, I’ll kill those fuckers!” Tzar ranted as they brought me to the back.
My eyes opened for just the slightest moment, my vision blurry and full of spots, but I Seemed to catch focus on something. I could see two frightened brown eyes, they were wide and soft, tears currently flowing from the edges. The black faded in swiftly, overcoming my will to hold on.
“Husk hit the gas, we’re getting the fuck outta here now!” Caiden yelled, to the Merc behind the wheel, and we shot off like a rocket. “Jerry get up! Help me clear the bar..”
“Caiden, there’s so much blood. I don’t really know what to do!” Balthazar cried to him, sounding absolutely frazzled.
“Holy shit! Look at this hole in his side.. somebody find the first aid kit, Doctor, I’m applying pressure to the wound, what else should I do to stabilize him? ..Doctor? ..Karishma are you fucking listening to me?!”
“Granny, is Loki gonna die?” I could hear Patience, as she whispered to the old woman through broken sobs.
“Ssh.. You relax child, and just stay over here out of the way.” She replied soothingly, before turning to the Doctor, with venom tainting her tone. “Do your job and help him! What the fuck are you just standing there for?!”
“Just look at him, I don’t know what injury to address first..” Karishma cried out, pointing to where they laid me out on the Betty’s bar table.
“I refuse to let Loki die, even if I have to sew him the fuck up myself! Now you better get your act together and save him, dammit!” Caiden replied to her, as he pushed her towards me, everyone expecting her to pull off a miracle.
“You think I want to see him die?! He’s an integral development to my life’s work, essential!” She screamed back in retort, quickly getting defensive from feeling ganged up on.
“Just get the fuck out of my way you soggy cunt..” Granny spewed viciously, pushing pass her to get to me.
She grabbed some nearby scissors and cut my shirt up the middle, the blood making the material stick to my chest. She went to tend to my wound, but she jumped back, causing the group to begin looking at her funny. That’s when I felt the first spasm course through me, and my body convulsed in seizure like episodes. Everyone just watched in shock, as they witness the side effect of my infection I’d hidden for so long. There was no way to spin this into anything other than what it was..
This was MY mutation.
“Is everyone seeing the same thing I’m seeing?!” Jerry screamed, as my body started regenerating before their very eyes, several of them speechless at the scene before them.
“This changes everything.. This is..” Karishma started, but she trailed off as she watched me in wonder.
“This is, what?” Granny asked suspiciously, but the younger woman ignored her, fully transfixed with me.
Everyone watched in silence, as I wailed and contorted spastically, the burn of life anew was akin to what I imagined a Phoenix rising from the flames would experience. My eyes opened wide as saucers, the pain reaching it’s catalyst, it left me laying there, surely, looking as if the true death had taken me.
As my head hang to the side I could see Serafi unconscious on the couch to my right. She looked so peaceful in her sleep, it made me question what I was fighting for.. Why couldn’t I join her? I could just let the sleep take me, but could I truly be sure I’d wake up after?
My body decided before I could make up my mind, and the final darkness took hold of me, but before I drifted away I could hear Karishma finally answer the old woman’s question, so low I don’t know if anyone else but I, heard her.
“This, is only the beginning..”