I’m in pain. That’s the best way to describe it. Goddamn pain. But somehow I’m alive. Somehow I’ve beaten the odds again.
“Figured you’d be up soon, Sunday,” a voice states.
I jerk back when I realize who it is. It’s Nixon. He hardly looks the same to me. He is dirtier than when we traveled together and I didn’t think that was possible because we got pretty filthy. His eyes pierce into me. I try to get up but I see him tap his gun a few times, as a warning perhaps or maybe just a reminder of the fact that he was the one who shot me in the first place.
“Where’re my friends?”
“Oh, you mean the Little Americans. The CDC has them…” He states, “They have Iggy as well. I saw it happen. Really weird how they were able to pick up Iggy and the others so fast. Almost like they knew right where they were.”
“What are you talking about?”
He shrugs, “Seems like the CDC is scrambling. This outpost isn’t too far from them. They are in panic mode. And then Iggy shows up. Strange. Why are you out here? Shouldn’t you be in your little American Paradise?”
He didn’t know. He didn’t know about the Horde coming our way. He couldn’t know. I look at his face and see that he’s suspicious. I don’t know where he’s getting at with Iggy but it’s clear he had been watching the CDCs actions. But why? Who was he with.
“You not looking so good,” I state, “Clearly you aren’t with the CDC…”
“This coming from a dead guy?”
“I feel alive, even though you have a habit of killing me,” I realize.
“You have a habit of coming back,” he responds, “What is it? I want it…”
“Whatever keeps you coming back to life,” he states, “Whatever keeps healing you.”
I give him a look.
“Doubt you want this.”
I look around. Compared to Little America this place felt like I had woken up from a Cryo-chamber. There are all these people walking around that I can see from the area that I’m in. I didn’t know these people but they might as well have been zombies by the defeated looks in their eyes. Not too far from me two boys are fighting over a can of soup. I see one hit the other so hard that a tooth comes out.
“Not in Oz anymore, huh Dorothy,” he says, with a smile.
“Where am I?”
“Nowhere. With a bunch of idiots. They call themselves the Remnants. A ragtag group of people who lost it all. Really we are raiders. Steal shit. Kill shit. Do whatever to survive. No regrets. We are what remain. I barely survived when you sent me out there. I thought it was a joke when I saw the swarm all around me. I didn’t get it. You can sense the swarms. So why would you send me there? And then it all made sense.”
“Don’t fucking feed me one of your lies,” he states, “Admit it. ADMIT IT! You left me out there to die.”
I pause. A part me honestly felt like I would never have to see him again. What were the chances? Right? How could he find me? But then I look at his eyes. Even with the grime, he was sexy. Somehow he survived whatever he survived. Somehow he was back. And I knew I would be the first one he would come looking for.
I sigh a little bit.
“I—I shouldn’t have done what I did but you lied to me. You lied about Alaric.”
“Alaric. Back to him. You always loved him more than me,” he states tapping his foot.
That’s when he grabs me kissing me. Forcing his tongue down my throat until I gag on it. He sucks on my tongue and ends the aggression biting my tongue so hard that I headbutt him to get him away from me.
He smacks me after realizing his forehead is gushing with blood and then says, “I should have buried you back then when I shot you the first time so deep into the ground that you could never dig yourself up. Maybe that’s what I’ll do now…”
He’s angry. He taps his gun a few times. I can see that whatever part of Nixon that I knew before was completely gone. All traces of love was gone. Now there was only anger. There was only pain.
“May I ask about Quest and Power?”
I think for a moment that he’s going to be too angry to even give that to me, but he turns to me. It’s almost as though he wants me to feel his anger through his eyes.
“Quest is alive. He doesn’t want to see you.”
I pause. He gets really awkward.
That’s when I see his face wrinkle up at that moment. It was painful for him. I honestly feel for him at this moment. I feel how angry he can be. I see how angry he looks. His face wrestled in pain in a way that I can’t even fucking understand. The way that he just edges out all sense of humanity until he looks like something otherworldly. Even worse than the zombies.
He snarls the words out spitting as though he was choking on them, “I wish I could say the same for Michael Power. He was bitten. Turned. I saw it. I was there for all of it. At his side, as he began to change. The veins turning different colors. The breathing stops. It’s replaced by something else. the raspy scratchiness of the throat. The eyes turning. The skin rotting. The reanimation occurring…”
“The skin crawling. The mouth biting. The teeth gnashing. The nails clawing. The fingers reaching…”
I can’t take it anymore. My heart has begun to beat heavier and heavier. That was the worst part. It was always the worst part. The dying was sometimes simple. The dying was natural. It’s the reanimation that I couldn’t take. It’s those things that Nixon was describing that I couldn’t take. Nixon wants me to hear it though. He looks up as I clap my hands against my ears. He has a sense of satisfaction in all this.
“You did this,” he lets me know.
I’m the one angry now. I don’t need to be described these horrors. I’d seen them myself.
“Funny how you could watch Michael all the way to the end but you convinced us to leave Alaric,” I state.
“Michael Power was my only friend,” he states looking at me harshly, “He’s the only one who cared about me. GET UP.”
“Where are we going?”
“Wait…wait Nixon please…”
Nixon points his gun at my back and forces me down some steps, “Get naked…”
“Nixon…I am going to kill you. Iggy is going to—-”
“Iggy?” he asks, “Your knight in shining armor. You think I’m scared of him?”
I think about Iggy. Right now I wish he was here. He’d know what to do. I missed him. I missed his face. I missed his smell. It’s funny at the worst times in your life you start thinking about some of the best times. Some of the best times of my life were with Ignacio Serrano. And the thought of Ignacio is the only thing not making me lose it.
“Ignacio is twice the man you ever will be,” I state.
And I couldn’t wait to see him. I couldn’t wait to tell him that in his face. I should have appreciated him when I had him. I shouldn’t have been calling him Alaric’s name. I loved Ignacio and he needed to know that. I was just hoping I had the chance to tell him to his face.
“You think he’s so perfect. How’d you guys find that radio?”
He nods, “Exactly.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You can ask him in hell.”
“So you going to kill me?”
“You think death was bad? I’m going to treat you like the whore you are. Do you ever wonder how horny people get at the end of the world? Look at you—-all clean. And smelling so good. Is that booty still tight? I remember how wet you would get. I remember how you would cream on my dick. I used to live for it. Literally, wake up every morning for it——oh, yeah—— My boys are going to have a field day.”
“Your boys?” I ask.
I’m marched down at that moment into another part of the building. Civilization as we’d known it had ceased and the only clues lay in the derelict buildings. The concrete giants bore cracks and the wooden structures were gone, overtaken by the forest that was reclaiming the once sprawling city. And so it was in the apartments that Nixon marched me out to found the last remaining evidence of how the human race met their final days.
“Whose this Nixon?” a guy says.
The man is heavy set. He stinks. He grabs on his disgusting crotch and gives it a long hard pull outlining just how hard he was as he looks at me and licks his lips. He’s not the only one. There were others.
“I brought you boys dinner,” Nixon says, “KD, tell the boys I got a hot piece of ass.”
“On fire,” Nixon states, “Trust me. He’s my ex. I had it before. The best piece of ass I ever had in my life.”
“I knew you’d be an asset,” KD says.
I watch the disgusting looking man name KD run off and beat on a drum. More men come out of the woodworks. No women. Just men. I wonder what happened to all the women. I am assuming though it’s probably what’s about to happen to me.
“Nixon please…” I’m begging, “Please…”
I’m getting more nervous as more and more men appear. They come from all their empty rooms. Most bore the signs of having been looted, others were mausoleums for the unburied, crumbling bones amid plastic furniture that never decomposes. In those that had open doors, animals had made nests and brought in mud and leaf litter. Each one of these guys had a disgusting odor. One that I had gotten used to not smelling at my time in Little America.
“You want to beg me now…?” he asks, “You call that begging.”
That’s when I see someone else I recognize. Quest. I notice something that I hadn’t noticed before. Quest doesn’t have an arm. Where his arm once was had nothing left but a blunt knob. In the other hand, he held his gun. When he sees me I make eye contact with him desperate to get him to see what Nixon was about to do to me.
Quest doesn’t do anything though. He just looks at the ground.
“Just kill me,” I state, “Bury me. Deep underground like you said so that when I wake up I can’t escape. Anything but this…anything but this…”
I notice just how many men there were. Not dozens. Hundreds. An entire stadium coming out and staring on. All seeming to clutch to their guns while they should be clutching to food instead. They all looked sickly. All looked disgusting. All looked like they were barely surviving out in this wasteland.
That’s when I see Nixon smile.
He is enjoying this.
He is enjoying his cruelty.
“After you left me out to die? Do you expect mercy? No. Hell no. I’m going to enjoy this. I’m going to nut when I see you get passed around and raped. And then when you least expect it…I’m going to put a bullet in your head. Then I’m going to go to the CDC and finish what I started. I’m going to kill those so-called friends of yours.”
“Let’s see the goods…I want that ass…” I hear KD say.
A couple of the guys seem to agree. Before I know it dicks are coming out of nowhere. I’m surrounded and Nixon himself is the one who begins to rip at my clothes. I fight back as best as I can managing to draw blood from Nixon. This pisses him off even more and he backhands me. I fall to the ground hard and realize I’m being stomped out.
I crawl up into the fetal position. Just at that moment, they rip all the clothes off of me. I’m naked and bloody laying there and that’s when I hear a voice.
I turn and see Quest. He’s looking down at me. He keeps staring and for that’s when I notice that he isn’t a monster. Not like these other strangers. He was different. I just didn’t know how different based on our past.
“What are you doing?” Nixon asks Quest, “You better not be fucking getting soft again, Quest…”
“No, it’s not that. He deserves to die…and worse,” Quest explains, “But look how clean he is. Look how healthy he looks!”
He says this loud enough so that not only Nixon and KD can hear but everyone else as well. He wants to point this out for a reason. And I’m getting those hungry stares. I’m not sure why he’s doing this. It’s making people seem even more hungry to touch me and ravage me. Already I can see several of them pulling at their dicks. Some short some long. Some big some small. But I don’t think I would survive a train running on me by these people. Not physically and not mentally.
“What’s your point?” Nixon asks seemingly annoyed by the interference.
“He came from that place. That place KD was talking about…”
“Little America,” KD states, “The fucking safe haven that Neo-CDC set up.”
Quest nods, “Exactly. So why hurt him now? Why not use him? He’s been there. He can get us in. We don’t have to live the way we are living now. We are raiders. Why not raid? We can TAKE Little America from them. We can make it ours.”
Fuck. The idea that Quest was giving meant an attack on innocent people. I notice how they start nodding though. The Raiders are definitely agreeing to this.
“He needs to pay for what he did to us,” Nixon reminds Quest.
Nixon has his mind dead set on punishing me. That’s the only thing he cared about. I wonder if he planned this. He seemed so content before Quest started talking. Was he so cruel that he would premeditate my rape?
“We’ll get him back another time,” Quest states, “We don’t need to destroy him before. We can wait until after he shows us where Little America is.”
“Waiting isn’t an option for me,” Nixon states.
“Well, it isn’t about you,” KD responds, “I like Quest’s idea. Take the prisoner away. We’ll question him tomorrow about how to get to this paradise of his.”
The idea of paradise seems to blow my mind. I can see now how I’ve taken for granted just how amazing Little America was in a world like this. It was more important to them than draining their dicks at least.
That’s when I notice Nixon. I notice the anger in his eyes. I notice the viciousness. This man would do anything in his power to hurt me. He would do anything in his power to make sure that I suffered.
I’m laying completely naked in a room with only one section. It’s clear KD is in charge because he orders no one to come visit me and that seems enough to keep even Nixon away. KD also stations guards outside of my door. Most likely so that I wouldn’t escape or maybe so that Nixon doesn’t come in and try to kill me before they were given a chance to question me.
I’m in the cell naked when I hear something going down outside. A bit of a struggle. A bit of a muffled scream.
Then nothing. Silence.
What the fuck?
in the next moments, the door opens and I see a familiar face looking down at me. It’s Quest.
“Get your ass up and follow me now—-” Quest states, “If you want to live.”
I don’t hesitate. I follow Quest outside noticing that he’s disabled two of the men who were watching me. He has a gun in his hand. Stealthily he began to approach one of the doors. He stood by the climbing rose of the porch, listening. He heard voices upstairs. Perhaps there were more raiders downstairs.
“Shh…” he tells me.
He listened intently. Voices were upstairs only. He quietly opened the door and signaled for me to follow. He crossed to the hall and that’s when we hear a voice.
“HEY! QUEST WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING!” a voice screams.
It’s one of the raiders. Quest grabs me, “JUMP!”
I don’t have a choice. I find myself jumping the wall onto the stairs to get down faster. Quest is right behind me. Gunshots break out!
BANG! BANG! BANG!
My heart is racing.
My feet slip outwards on the leaves as I round the corner, the cold evening air shocking my throat and lungs as I inhale deeper, faster. With each footfall, a jarring pain shoots ankle to knee, ankle to knee. Perhaps jumping that wall onto stairs wasn’t so smart. My heart beats frantically, all or nothing. Fail and my whole body will pay the price, run and the damage is limited mostly to my shins and knees.
So I push myself, pushing as hard as I can. Pushing until we get to a car that Quest already has ready for us. Pushing until I get in the car and Quest steers off—one arm and all. And I look back in the rear-view mirror to Nixon. Angry, smoking and ready to get his revenge.
Saying things are awkward between Quest and me is an understatement. He doesn’t speak for most of the time. I want to but he seems to be concentrating. It isn’t until I see him roll down the window of the car that I realize he’s calming down a little bit. If anyone was following us they’d probably lost our trail by now.
“What happened to your arm?”
”I was bitten by a biter. Not sure if it was infected. I took it off. Just in case.” He says quickly turning to me and saying, “Put this on,” he states taking off his shirt and handing it to me, “You’re completely fucking naked.”
“Thank you,” I say.
“It’s just a shirt. Besides, when I get to Mitchell I don’t want him to think that I fucked his best friend,” he states.
It’s weird that Quest cares about Mitchell in a time like this. It’s weird that Quest got with Mitchell in the first place. They were complete opposites. Quest was this cool, black thug who just so happened to be doing court-ordered community service at a camp when he met Mitchell, a goofy, skinny, shy white guy who couldn’t go three steps without almost committing unintentional suicide.
“Thanks anyway,” I state, “Not for the shirt. For saving me.”
I almost whisper it. Too low to really matter.
“Thank you for saving me,” I repeat.
When he realizes what I say seems to irritate him a little bit more. I can tell that he’s upset.
“I didn’t do this for you,” he states, “You ain’t SHIT and you want to know some real talk? You deserve to die…”
“I’m sorry,” I state.
Again it’s low. Too low. I say it again a little louder. A little more eager. I know he doesn’t give a shit. I know he isn’t going to forgive me. He can’t even look me in the face. He hated me. What I had done was something that he would never forgive.
“You know the funny thing?” he asks, “I never liked you. You go around pretending to be this innocent guy but honestly, you’ve always been a piece of shit. Stringing along Iggy, Alaric, and Nixon all at the same time. You drove them crazy…Alaric literally lost all his pride because of you. Then Iggy. Oh god. You drove Iggy to start talking to himself.”
“Iggy didn’t talk to himself.”
“Well he talked to someone,” he shrugs, “I used to watch him all the time leaving in the darkness and just talking. Whispering in the darkness.”
I feel like shit at that moment. Was I that bad? Had I really caused mental breakdowns with the guys who I was interested in? Maybe he had a point. Maybe I was just a horrible person.
“I…I didn’t know…” I state.
I remember Iggy sneaking off sometimes to get away. Even when Nixon was around. I sometimes just assumed he hated seeing me spending time with Nixon. I just didn’t realize it was affecting him so badly.
“You knew. You just didn’t care. You liked having a collection of boys who can protect you. If Mitchell hadn’t come into my life you know what? I could have been one of those boys. One of those idiots who would literally die to protect you.”
“I’m not sure what that means.”
“You know what that means,” Quest responds, “I had a crush on you. Yeah. All physical. Thank God for Mitchell. Everyone who loves you gets fucked. And honestly, the only reason I’m helping you is that I want him back. So stop looking at me. I’m not into you.”
He seems desperate. Was he trying to convince me or himself?
The way he spits at me makes me feel even lower. Quest was never really the one to mince words. He was always that “say it as it is” kind of guy. He wasn’t from Savannah like the rest of us. He was from Atlanta and the parts of Atlanta where he was from was rough. He’d survived the ghetto but that was nothing compared to what he was surviving now.
As though I didn’t hear him the first time he repeats himself, “The only reason I did this is for him. For Mitchell. You’re his best friend and he would want me to save you. So don’t look at me. Don’t talk to me. If you rub me the wrong way this rescue mission can easily become an execution. And trust me—I’m not Nixon. When I kill you—there won’t be any healing.”
His threat is loud and severe. He means it.
We drive quietly until we arrive at our destination. I can tell it’s our destination because he’s slowing up.
“What is it?”
The building really looks like a wind tunnel lab. Sure enough, there are other cars and a few soldiers at the gate. They don’t see us and I think Quest goes out of his way to avoid them from seeing us. I notice them clearing out the Biters in the area. Shooting them with military precision to get them away from the gate. Half of the tunnel is built in concrete outside the building. The two test sections are made of steel clearly made to survive the end of the world if need be.
It makes me think one thing. The Neo-CDC had planned all this.
“The NEO-CDC outpost in the area. There’s a few but this one has the most activity recently,” Quest states, “Something’s definitely going down.”
“I can’t go in there,” I state, “You know I can’t go in there Quest.”
He had been there. He had been there when we got to Atlanta. I barely got away with my life. If it was up to Dr. Serrano I would have been ground powder that she could use in her experiments. The Neo-CDC was the cause of all of this. They wanted to play God and they finally got their wish. There was no way they would be OK with me being free to come and go as I please.
“Did it look like I was giving you an option?” Quest asks me pointing down at his gun.
“You going to shoot me?”
“If I need to,” Quest states, “And don’t look at me like that. The sweet stares don’t mean a fucking thing to me.”
“This is a mistake.”
“You’re going to stay here. Stay low. I’ll go in there and see what I can do.”
“You’re a raider.”
I look at Quest. He looked rough. Real rough. Just like Nixon and the rest of the Remnant Raiders. If he thought the CDC would have been cool with him just strolling in then he had another thing coming.
Quest knows that and I can see him swallow his spit a little.
“If the others are in there then maybe I have a chance. You stay out here.”
“What makes you think I won’t run away?”
“You’re not a prisoner. Do what you want. Go out there and take your chances. Die for the third time for all I care. Or you can sit your stubborn ass right in the seat and wait until I come out with the others and we can all get the fuck out of here.”
I nod, “I’ll wait.”
With that Quest leaves me and I’m left in the car waiting patiently. I have to admit even though he hated my guts I was worried about Quest.
It was clear Quest had one thing and one thing only on his mind. He wanted to see Mitchell again. Seeing how Quest would do so much to get to Mitchell made me jealous. I kept wondering if Iggy would do the same thing. Of course, he would. But would he do it because he was my lover or would he do it because he looked at me like a little brother?
I keep thinking more of the latter.
I would always be Iggy’s little brother, no matter how much I tried to change it into something else.
The rain is getting heavy as hell. 20 minutes pass, 40 minutes, an hour—–I was getting thirsty, I really needed something to drink——an hour and a half, 2 hours—–shit now I needed to pee. Maybe I should try to leave the car. I wonder if the sentries at the gate would try to shoot if they noticed movement in the bushes.
“Surprised you listened—-for once…”
“You’re back, thank god.”
Quest shrugs, “It was harder to sneak into that facility than I thought. Thank god for my days as a juvenile delinquent paid off.”
Quest isn’t talking to me when he makes the comment about juvenile delinquent. Not fully at least. He turns behind him. That’s when I see who Quest is with. Quest is with Iggy.
“Holy shit,” I state.
My mouth is dry. My heart is beating fast. I’m desperate to fix myself. Try to make myself look more attractive for Iggy. I don’t know why I do it but I lose it when I see Iggy. Tears are running down my face.
Iggy looks amazing. I was so worried he was going to be hurt but when I squeeze him jumping out of the car he holds me and he’s stronger than ever. His hands surround me and I feel this heavenly draw. He just keeps squeezing me. Just keeps holding me as I cry into his chest. I’ve never felt so at home as I did with Iggy at this moment.
“Damn all that?” he asks, “You know how to make a guy feel special.”
“You are special,” I tell him.
He leans me backward, staring at my face. My heart is beating so hard seeing him again. And that’s when he does it. He leans in and kisses me.
He kissed the droplets from my lips, and I felt his lips smile against mine. He swept Quest’s shirt away open and kissed me just over the collarbone. He nibbled at my ear and then sank himself into my arms. I hung my fingers on his waistband, dragging him closer. He buried his face in my shoulder curve, his hands flexing around my back. He gave a reduced groan. “You came looking for me?” into my hair.
“Of course I did. I’ll always come looking for you, no matter where you are,” I state.
I notice he’s crying.
“Nothing. It’s just with the end of the world I don’t think I’ve been happy for a long time. This is the happiest moment that I actually remember having.”
“I love you…” I state, “And not as a friend Iggy. I’m in love with you.”
He seems shocked to hear me say it. I mean Iggy was always that macho kind of guy. The kind of guy who was calm until he wasn’t. And when he wasn’t calm oh hell…just go hide somewhere because he could explode. And I found that so sexy about him. Romance wasn’t really Iggy’s thing. He was awkward at it. He was better at being tough and being strong. So to see him standing there struggling to find his words to say to me I know I need to give him time.
Unfortunately, it seems like it’s time we don’t have.
Just then I hear a horn and find myself standing on a road waiting for a bus in the cool drizzling rain falling on my face.
“What’s happening?” I ask.
“Shit. I think we are caught,” Quest states, “Iggy—-didn’t you say the others were right behind us.”
I’m confused, “You didn’t bring them?”
“Iggy said not to. We separated. I went to keep watch while he went to tell the others. He returned and said they would follow us.”
I look towards the gates. The guards were getting antsy. Seemed like someone had gotten alarmed. No one was running towards us though.
I’m confused, “Iggy are you sure you told them we are out here? They should have been out here by now…”
Quest and I turn.
Iggy is facing us. Except he has something in his hand.
“I’m sorry,” he states.
That’s when I see exactly what he has in his hand. He has a gun.
What the fuck is happening!
“Iggy, what are you doing?” I ask him.
He’s pointing the gun at me and Quest. I am more confused than ever. What the fuck was he doing this for? Why was he pointing the gun at us?
“I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you. Goddam Mama’s boy…” Quest mutters lowly.
“What is he talking about?” I ask, “IGGY! What is he talking about?”
“You were never supposed to come out here. I was going to return to get you from Little America once I talked to my mother and found out what the new plan was,” Quest states, “Now my mother knows you’re here and I have no choice. I have no choice but to bring you to them now. Goddamnit Sunday…”
“Your mother’s plan?” I ask.
“Little America is doomed,” he states, “She has a new plan.”
I don’t get it.
“Iggy, what are you saying?” I ask, “Why are you listening to anything your mother has to say?”
“Don’t you get it?” Quest asks, “Are you really that much of an idiot for him? It was always his plan. Us escaping from Atlanta was HER. She wouldn’t listen to the CDC and kill you——her precious cash cow. So she had her son escape with you. Did you really think it would have been that easy escaping from the CDC? I knew that shit was just a little too convenient.”
I think about when we escaped. Iggy was the one who saved me in Atlanta. I thought back then he was going against his mother. That wasn’t what Quest was assuming though. I think Quest is bullshitting. He’s trying to turn me against Iggy.
But then I see Iggy’s face.
He’s not denying it.
“A new world is coming. Little America was a nice hope but it’s gone now,” Iggy states, “We need to move on. We need to leave the past behind, Sunday. Come on.”
I notice something he has in his hand. A walkie talkie. All those times he snuck away I wonder if he had that with him.
“Iggy. Stop talking like that,” I state, tears in my eyes, “We have to return to Little America. Something is coming.”
“Like I said, doomed,” he states, “Time to leave the past behind. Fuck Little America. All I care about is keeping my family safe. You, Valentina and my mother.”
He never believed in Little America.
It never meant anything for him. All of a sudden I’m pissed. My anger is building up.
I shake my head aggressively, “No…”
“I’m staying with Quest,” I state.
“As I said—-” he starts.
That’s when he shoots. He shoots and my mouth drops when I see Quest hit the ground. He shot QUEST. Iggy SHOT Quest right in the head.
“—-We need to leave the past behind, Sunday,” Iggy states, “Come on.”
Quest is dead.