|In a Heartbeat
Author: T.C. McClellan PM
A glimpse into Jim's mind as he seeks revenge against his captors. Follows the basic plot of the movie; starts after Jim scales the wall and escapes being shot.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Suspense - Words: 4,842 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 2 - Published: 07-24-10 - id: 6173044
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This fanfiction is a direct "account" of what I perceived to be as the character of Jim in the film 28 Days Later- his thoughts, actions, and consequent transformation. I've taken a little bit of artistic license with it, of which I hope Danny & Cillian would approve, and that readers will appreciate.
Reviews are very welcome, but I'm a sensitive sort so do please be gentle! Check my profile for my writing site if you like what you see here. More is coming soon!
- T. McClellan
Every muscle, every sinew, every scrap of the flesh that composed his body ached and burned- burned as deeply as if the bones themselves had caught fire. It was too much to bear in itself, let alone the searing sting of external cuts and gashes. His head was pounding a dull throbbing that blurred and distorted his surroundings. He rolled on to his back, as the haze of heat and agony, coupled with the second blow to his head, made him wonder for the first time since before the tower block if it was worth it. If going to sleep would be such a bad idea after all. If he could just close his eyes for a while.
He was so tired…
He couldn't run anymore.
He lay still for a time, staring into the expanse of gray sky as darkness tugged at the corners of his vision.
The tower block… thinking of it now was strange. How many days had it been? How many miles away was it now? It was strange, also, to think that he hadn't felt truly safe since they had left the flat.
It was surreal even then, to have escaped death so narrowly and then to have suddenly found himself in the company of other people, being served a drink with a Christmas jingle playing in the background. Jim had always hated Frosty the Snowman, but back at the flat, it had meant something apart from a child's story. The unbearable song had come to symbolize a feeling, and though he could do without hearing it again, as long as the Christmas song had played that night, he had felt safe. Like he was back at his parents' house in London. But instead, he was in the company of strangers: Frank, his daughter Hannah, and Selena.
The name stirred something inside him. Something akin to the Christmas jingle. Something that felt alarmingly like… hope.
He thought it again, wrapping his mind around the single word, thinking of the way it would sound if he spoke it aloud. And then the word gave way to other things. Memories. Warmth, amber eyes that reflected firelight, smooth and glowing dusky skin; a pleasant, faint scent and the crush of lips together as he tasted her- breathy desperation mixed with a salty tang of tears. Tears of hopelessness, shed for Frank, but mostly out of grief for Hannah's loss. It was a loss they'd all endured before, but it never got easier, especially to watch.
He recalled a tinkling laugh, and the matter-of-fact tone with which she spoke blunt truths in a manner that belied her age. Freckles, and youth. She had given them the most important gift of all; hope for a future, no matter how bleak and faraway it seemed.
The flashes of memory and feeling faded away, and Jim was left staring skyward again, his head pounding out an uncomfortable rhythm.
There was nothing there, nothing except gathering clouds that rumbled with the distant promise of thunder.
But then, there was something else.
Could it be? But, could it possibly be?
"They're eatin' dinner and they're watching the fucking Simpsons; they're sleepin' in beds next to their wives..."
A jet, a metallic, honest-to-God jet carved its way through the sky, vapor trailing in its wake. Someone had to be flying it. Someone alive. Alive.
His gaze followed the jet until it was out of sight, a faint dot on the stormy horizon, and then watched the vanishing traces of its trail. As he did so, the sounds of the forest came slowly back to him.
There was life here. Unseen creatures shuffled about through the underbrush, going about their business as usual, blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that had obliterated the race of man. At least, the people of Britain. Was it possible that on the other side of the Earth, people could be similarly unaware and unaffected? That Rage had never entered their homes, tearing loved ones away in a tide of blood and mindlessness?
It was possible that what Sergeant Farrell had said was true, then. It was possible that there were other still alive- thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of ignorant souls going through the motions of their lives. Not survivors; just people. People who hadn't had to survive the horrors Jim, Selena, and Hannah had endured. Just everyday people, coming home after a long day's tedious work, or heading to the coast for a vacation, or taking a trip to the grocery store.
The jet had probably belonged to a military, though whose Jim wasn't sure. But that meant there was a military somewhere. The British military had been destroyed, save for the pathetic handful that had taken him captive.
But… there are other people.
The vapor was long gone, but Jim's heart was beating faster. He could almost feel the blood pumping through his veins as the encroaching darkness was beaten back.
He was alive, and he wasn't the only one. There were others, and there were some close by, with whom he had unfinished business. Some of those who were still alive, who shouldn't be. Some who didn't deserve the breath they clung to in such cowardly fashion. One could scarcely call it living. They had deceived others- Jim and his companions, into believing they had a chance at safety. They were those who had sat idly by, watching while a good man died in front of his daughter; the soldiers who had killed one of their own, Sergeant Farrell, for nothing. The same soldiers who fought the infected, yet treated the first outsiders they'd come across as little better cattle, for breeding or slaughter.
The way Mitchell had leered at Selena, undisguised animal lust in his cold dark eyes; the kind of eyes that held nothing but blankness. Scarlet or not, his eyes were as dead as those of the infected he so ruthlessly destroyed. The others were little better, comfortable in their human hyena pack, content to laugh and jeer as they scraped together what they called a "life" from the ruins of society.
Jim felt different now, thinking of the soldiers. It was a difficult emotion to place, but it rose from some place in him, some secret dark place that had never been disturbed. Every time he thought of Mitchell's sneering face, or the impact of the rifle butt that had crushed the bridge of his nose, it threatened to flare out of control. He breathed deeply, allowing it to fill him, but managing to quell it before it overtook him entirely.
Feeling returned to his numb fingers, and the aching in his head subsided slightly. He felt a certain kind of clarity come over him.
The soldiers still had Hannah, and Selena too, and God only knew what the men had done to them, or were planning to do. Jim couldn't even be sure that they were still alive.
"I promised them women…"
And I promise, Jim clenched a handful of earth in his fist, that I'll wring the life out of each and every one of your men for that promise.
Hold on; Selena, Hannah. I'm coming.
He rose from the forest floor awkwardly, his bound hands making it difficult to balance. He stretched, gingerly testing his weight on his exhausted legs. Curiously, the heaviness seemed to have left them for the most part. Jim wiped the blood away from his nose and mouth as best he could, casting one last glance at the forbidding sky, from which the last shining beacon of hope had shown itself. The first crashing thunder of the storm split the air, and he felt the patter of frigid raindrops on his naked shoulders. He set off through the trees, towards the direction of the road blockade.
It took him some time to reach the Manchester blockade, but luckily it hadn't been as far away as he'd initially thought. The rain was now pouring down in sheets, drenching his feverish, overheated body. Still shirtless, Jim felt no relief. It was as though his blood was boiling underneath the skin.
If he was going to keep the soldiers from harming Selena and Hannah, luring them away was his best bet. He certainly couldn't take all of them, even if he had been armed. There were eight of them, and only one of him. Not to mention his hands were still tied together.
That was the first order of business. He scanned the abandoned blockade, taking in as much as he could. He would need to know the layout for the plan that was brewing in his mind. The entire road was blocked by elevated buildings; makeshift watchtowers and sniper's nests. A single metal catwalk stretched between them, with only one outdoor ladder that he could see. He wouldn't bother going inside unless absolutely necessary. He didn't want to give them a chance to corner him. Abandoned army trucks, cranes, construction equipment, and assorted other vehicles were parked haphazardly at the bases of the buildings, providing ample cover.
He strode over to the metal scaffolding beneath one of the towers and searched for something sharp with which to cut his bonds. Sure enough, one of the metal support beams towards the bottom had been rent in two, leaving a keen edge on the part that was still attached to the scaffolding. Jim crouched down and cautiously began a back-and-forth sawing motion. Try as he might to be careful, his wrist still caught the edge. He swore softly, grimacing at the blood trickling from the shallow wound, but his hands were free. Besides the fresh gash, his wrists were raw from having been tied for so long. Jim shook them out, trying to rid them of the stiffness, and once he had achieved that, it was on to the next step of his plan.
The distraction. He knew there was a crank-powered alarm that the soldiers had once used, and could only hope it would be loud enough to reach the house. It was his only option.
He turned the crank as hard and as quickly as he could, and the siren immediately pierced the air, carrying over the tumult of the storm. It definitely sounded loud enough. He turned the crank for at least two more minutes, making sure the soldiers got the point.
Come and get me.
Now, for somewhere to wait. Jim ran back to the ladder and clambered up behind the watchtower, hands trembling slightly but otherwise quite still. He stared down at his borrowed boots, listening for any hint of an approaching vehicle.
It took some time, but his ears finally picked out the hum of an engine and the sound of churning gravel over the storm, as a Jeep turned off an unpaved trail and on to the main road.
Squinting through the mist, Jim could make out two figures. One was driving, and it was difficult to make out his face, but the other profile was unmistakable. Major Henry West himself had come to eliminate the threat. The other man parked the Jeep and the two soldiers slammed the doors closed, shooting randomly. They were both armed. Now that they were closer, Jim saw that the second man was Private Davis.
Crouching as low as he could, Jim sprinted down the catwalk and dropped down the ladder chute, the clatter of the rain covering any sound he made. He sidled behind one of the parked convoy trucks, knowing Davis was mere feet away. Jim needed to lure him away from West so he could dispose of him quickly. One armed man would be a challenge, but two would be impossible. Davis did have a weapon, but it would come at a disadvantage one on one. He would be slower than Jim, and would have a harder time climbing.
Jim glanced back towards the chute, thinking it might be his only chance. He dashed up the ladder nimbly, and by the time Davis rounded the corner of the truck, his Claymore was aimed only at thin air. Up on the catwalk, Jim looked around him for a weapon, knowing Davis would likely follow him up the ladder for a better vantage point on the ground below. He found it in the form of an old crowbar. It would have to do. He gripped the warped metal tool in his right hand, ducking down near one of the watch buildings.
Below, Davis slowly began to ascend the ladder, one wrung at a time, his gun slowing him down as Jim had predicted. Rain drops blinded the soldier as he tried to watch above him, and Jim knew his opportunity had arrived.
As soon as Davis pulled himself up the last wrung of the ladder, Jim struck. He ran full tilt, whipping the crowbar with all the strength he could muster. The blow connected with Davis' skull with an almighty crack- he cried out, falling, dead, back to the ground.
It would be easy work with Davis down- all he had to do was avoid West long enough to slip away. Jim would also need insurance, however, to make sure the major didn't get to the house before he did. If West would make it at all.
Jim vaulted back down the ladder, bending down to retrieve Davis' dropped gun. Dimly, he could see West's silhouette through the impenetrable sheets of rain. He was on the alert now more than ever- he had heard Davis' shout of pain.
"Davis?" West called, aiming the Claymore and turning warily on the spot. The major's voice held all of its usual authority, but Jim detected something else beneath it.
If there was one thing all men were frightened of, it was the unknown. Jim had learned from experience, and knew it better than most people.
Time was running out, and a new stroke of brilliance occurred to him. If executed correctly, it would buy him the precious moments he needed, and would stall the soldier as well. West was apt to get trigger happy if he didn't hurry, so he had to act quickly.
Jim seized the fallen Private Davis and began dragging him back towards the Jeep. Despite his bulky uniform, Davis wasn't particularly heavy. Even if he had been, Jim would have found a way. He had made a promise, and he had every intention of keeping it.
First placing the Claymore gently on the ground, he lifted Davis bodily into the driver's seat, positioning him upright. The soldier appeared perfectly normal at first glance, except for the glassy, staring eyes, and on closer inspection, the gaping head wound that was oozing blood. Jim glanced up every few seconds, fearing the unexpected return of West, but his work was not yet done.
Jim wasn't exactly possessed of a wealth of knowledge about cars, but he did know the basics well enough to recognize that if he severed the cables beneath the ignition, the major would be stranded. He examined them, unsure of which were essential to the vehicle's operation. He settled by sawing through all of them at once with the bayonet of the Claymore. The last fibrous strands of the cables frayed, and then split.
Jim hurried away from his handiwork, slipping on the wet pavement but keeping his footing. He followed the same unpaved trail West and Davis had driven up to reach the blockade, back towards the country manor turned stronghold. He was careful to keep to the tree line, in case more troops arrived for backup. So far he had been fortunate, no soldiers or infected. Just as this thought occurred to him, shots rang out behind him. From the direction of the blockade came the sharp report of a Claymore, followed by screams of inhuman fury. And then… silence, except for the pouring rain, Jim's own ragged breathing, and booted footfalls.
Jim didn't pause or slow down in the slightest, but it seemed West would be out of the way for good.
He'd been running for a long time. Driving in the back of the army vehicles to the house had taken no time at all, but in the dark it was difficult to tell which way was right. He'd gotten off track at least twice. The storm had picked up, now wreaking its full might on the earth. Lightning alternately cracked the sky in forks, or lit up the entire landscape. The thunder had reached such a pitch that Jim swore the trees shook around him. And still, the unrelenting rain lashed down upon him.
Somewhere along the way, his mind had shut down thoughts of hope- those of Selena's smile, and Hannah's long-absent laughter, and replaced them with something altogether different. That same barely repressed, coursing something that thoughts of Corporal Mitchell produced. A roar that threatened to engulf him every time he even considered the possibility of being too late.
All was not lost; not yet. At least, not for him, Hannah, or Selena.
At long last, he broke free of the forested path. The old house loomed on the horizon, and his weary heart nearly leapt at the sight of it. Another obstacle awaited him, however- the lawn of the house itself.
He recalled, as though in a half-remembered dream, West pointing out the defensive measures the troops had taken to protect the house. The grass was rigged with land mines and trip wires that would trigger alarms and floodlights. He'd have to go around. Just the sight of the house had galvanized him into renewed energy as he jogged along the dirt driveway, eyes peeled for any movement. Jim reached the pull-away barb wire fences without incident, and separated them, letting himself through.
The heavy weight of the Claymore was somehow reassuring as he drew nearer his destination, though he knew it would slow him down against his opponents in the long run. He would only need it for a short time if all went according to the plan he had formulated while fleeing the blockade.
He would release one of their own upon them. The soldier called Mailer, Rage victim turned science experiment. Jim knew the risk he was taking and the variables he was leaving open, but it was the only way he could hope to scatter the remaining five men keeping watch at the house. Besides, it was no less than they deserved. They'd left him for dead, he'd leave them for worse.
The driveway ended in a circular shape, and Jim trotted away from the imposing brick façade of the manor and into the side yard. Snarling and choking noises greeted him immediately, and Jim peered down into the brick enclosure. Unused laundry lines criss-crossed the makeshift prison, and the walls were topped with more ropes of barb wire. Mailer was down there, alright, howling and coughing up blood. He froze at the sight of Jim, soulless scarlet irises fixed on the new arrival.
Jim took careful aim, the hairs on the back of his neck standing at the sight of the ex-soldier. Not hesitating a moment longer, he shot the heavy chain that had been holding the infected man.
Mailer stared at Jim, who stared right back into the red eyes. It seemed they understood each other. The infected wasted no time, barreling towards the door of his cell, and into the house itself.
Jim wouldn't take the risk of going inside so soon; he needed to wait until Mailer had caused enough panic and the soldiers were running scared. In the meantime, the many stained windows would serve as his eyes into the action. Jim was somewhat familiar with the layout of the lower levels, but he couldn't be sure of where the women were being held.
He darted from window to window, flashes of lightning briefly illuminating the cavernous rooms. Mitchell was nowhere to be seen, nor did he spot Jones, Clifton, Bell, or Bedford. Wherever they were, it seemed they were in a group and had Hannah and Selena nearby. Jim pushed unwelcome images to the back of his mind and repressed the implications of such a thought, needing to keep a clear head.
He noticed movement in the house and froze, not daring to move a muscle, before realizing he'd caught his own reflection in a large mirror in the corner of a hallway. Jim hadn't even recognized himself at first, and watched the stranger in the mirror mimic his motions. Despite the urgency of the situation, he was taken aback at what he saw.
He looked wild, like a man possessed. Jim's slight frame was now sickly thin, his ribs visible through nearly transparent skin. His chest was mottled with gashes of varying degrees of seriousness, standing out angrily against the ghostly pallor of his torso. That wasn't what startled him most, though. The cuts on his face were still weeping blood that channeled like grim rivers down his gaunt cheekbones. Jim had always gotten attention for the sky blue of his eyes, but instead of alluring, they were frightening. Twin pits of ice that glared out of his sunken face; piercing, and unblinking, watching his every movement in the mirror. Just weeks ago, he'd been nothing more than bicycle courier. Days ago, he'd been asleep, ignorant of the hell that awaited him upon his awakening. He wrenched his gaze away from his reflection and glanced down at his raw, blistered, and bloody hands. They were hands that had never before seen exceptionally hard work, and yet tonight had taken lives without hesitation.
Just then, a commotion rent the air, jerking him out of his reverie- screams, gunfire, and the unmistakable sound of shattering glass. It seemed Mailer had made his grand entrance, and the diversion Jim needed. He took off at a run again, following the noise, praying all the while that Selena and Hannah hadn't been in the same room as whoever was screaming. Selena was smart; she would have found a way out. She'd been fighting hordes of infected in worse conditions than these when she'd rescued him in London, after all.
He paused at another window and found himself peering into the dimly lit kitchen, just in time to witness Private Jones dive into a cupboard under the sink to hide.
That had to mean…
Sure enough, no sooner had the cupboard door snapped shut than Mailer entered. The brick walls and glass muted his howls, but he was clearly out for blood. Jim dodged away from the pane just as Mailer looked up. He flattened himself against the brick wall of the house, hoping against hope that the rain had blurred his outline.
Shit, shit shit shit….
He imagined he could hear Mailer's rasping breath on the other side of the window, just feet away…
But fortune, it seemed, was on Jim's side.
Even through the walls and over the storm, Jim could hear the fired shots, and the blood-curdling shrieks. He squinted into the kitchen in time to see Private Bedford being handled by Mailer and a newly infected Clifton, still wearing his trademark ear-flap hat. Clifton's appearance might have been comical, if crimson liquid hadn't been pouring from his mouth as he snapped and snarled.
Jim watched as Bedford's former comrades ripped and tore at his skin, bending his back and neck at angles they weren't meant to bend. The wails of terror increased in volume.
He clutched the Claymore loosely as the gruesome scene unfolded. The thought of intervening on Bedford's behalf never so much as crossed his mind. Instead, the dark something roared its satisfaction as he remembered Bedford's jeering laughter...
"List'n sweetheart, you ain't gonna be needin' this anymore, eh? 'Cause you got me to protect ya now…"
Mitchell was miming something foul with Selena's machete and Bedford's eyes roved over the infuriated woman hungrily…
"Fuck you," she'd spat at the corporal, pure loathing in every syllable. The men only laughed harder.
"How 'bout right now?" Mitchell crowed, gripping her wrists and pulling Selena toward him, pressing against her. Jim felt the first stirrings of the something then as he lunged at the corporal, wanting to tear, rip, smash any part of Mitchell he could reach... Jim had barely made contact before Mitchell had slammed him to the floor.
"Woah, easy tiger! You don't wanna go pickin' a fight with me, son…" Black eyes glittered maliciously above, and Jim could do nothing, nothing…
… Jim tore down the stairs headlong, Hannah and Selena following in his wake.
The front door was ajar feet ahead. "We'll get in the cab and we'll go-"
A girl's high-pitched shriek of fear. And then pain. Absolute, crushing agony. Blackness. He came to, lying on his back, so close to the door… he could feel the hot stickiness flowing from his smashed nose, dripping into his open mouth… raucous voices and blurred shapes wheeling overhead. Farrell was pointing his gun at his comrades, shouting. Bedford's rifle butt was spattered with blood that pooled around his boots… The mob of yelling men bore Farrell away…
Farrell had paid the price for Jim's weakness. Both times, he'd come to his aid. He would be the last victim of Jim's inability to act…
The two infected seized Bedford's head, and Jim took it as his cue to move along. He'd wasted too much valuable time already.
He pelted back towards the front of the house, using the Claymore to bash in a window. He wasn't sure if anyone was left in the entryway, but he'd take the odds. Jim placed his hands on either side of the window frame and climbed in, but his wet boots slid out from under him, causing him to scrape his face against the jagged glass that hadn't fallen out. He gritted his teeth against the pain, and dropped down, catlike, to the hardwood floor.
Lightning flickered again, casting the Grecian statutes and portraits into sharp relief. Their shadows loomed ominously above him, but he felt no fear of what could be lurking there. He found he had no fear left in him at all.
He glanced about the room, unsure of where to begin his search. He stood for a moment, thinking, ruling out the downstairs as a possibility, when suddenly a clatter arose from a hall close to him.
They grew louder and more rapid, and Jim was ready. He positioned the Claymore's bayonet, taking cover in the shadow of one of the larger statues.
Seconds later, a terrified Jones burst into the room, so busy fleeing that he didn't notice his surroundings. He never saw Jim until it was too late.
Jones gasped, and Jim thrust forward forcefully. The knife blade sank easily into Jones' chest as he impaled himself upon it.
The private's eyes widened, and his moth was agape- the picture of perfect surprise. Jones took a shuddering breath as life seeped out of him. He choked. The men were inches apart, each watching the other.
Jones' youthful, shining brown eyes stared into Jim's azure ones, as though searching them for some kind of answer. He found nothing but penetrating, icy blue staring back.
Still neither man moved.
In his last moments, Jones took in the rest of what was before him. Jim's mouth was open slightly as he panted from exertion, and Jones saw with his failing vision the crimson rivulets coursing from open wounds in stark contrast to his killer's pallor; he saw the same fearsome creature that Jim had beheld in the mirror. Jones searched Jim's eyes one more time, almost pleadingly and Jim could see the light in them fading. Likewise, Jones saw no glimmer of compassion in Jim's; nothing but hard, hollow blankness. Whatever light had once been there had long been extinguished.