[Possible Shane x OC]
[Possible Sexual Content in future chapter]
It's the end, as far as we know, anyway. Maybe not for others, maybe not for the world, but for us, it looks like the end of everything else.
All communications from any facilities, CDC or otherwise, had gone dark. Of course, that doesn't mean any aren't still running, that none aren't still trying. My dad still was. This still made it difficult to have any kind of optimism. So I don't. I feel no hope, no curiosity. Life is over, and I accept that.
For the most part.
Dad has given up too. I could tell whenever he spoke, whenever he looked at me with those sad, misery-filled eyes as he poured a coffee. What I didn't know was why he was still trying. Every day, hours are wasted in the lab trying to figure out any answers or solutions. But I knew he'd given up, so why did he keep doing it? It was easy to see he expected nothing to come of his 'trials'. Still, he continues to spend the remainder of our days locked in that lab. Or drinking at his computer.
Dad was never a drinker, the occasional wine when we went out, maybe a bit more on celebrations. This was out of caution and respect for my mother, who had once been an alcoholic. She'd been sober for seven years before she passed, but he was still cautious about drinking habits in front of her.
Dad was often drinking now, of course; he had a reason: we would die. There was no question we were going to die. The countdown on the clock that glowed in the dark is proof of that. He still showed some restraint, not often getting drunk but tipsy. This was much more than he used to drink.
Mom is dead, and we're waiting to die. What is there to stop him?
"Vi," I address the AI system built into the facility. "What time is it?"
"It is six-fourteen PM."
"Oh, fuck me," I exclaim, running a hand over my face. I finally reached over 24 hours without sleeping. As tired as I am, I'm still somewhat wired. So much energy and nothing to do with it. I wish I could sleep the remainder of the time away.
I used to cry about the decision to stay here or try and find help. The decision, the knowledge that when the clock ran out, we would die. I cried more about that reality than when my mother got infected and died. I hate myself for that, knowing I'm not processing her loss well at all. But what's the point? We are dying.
I thought that was the worst part, the decision, the dying, deciding to die. I changed my mind. It wasn't the dying; it was the waiting.
"I'm so tired," I mumbled absently, getting up from the bed. Promising myself that I wouldn't try sleeping again unless I were sure I would pass out. Tired of what? Life, waiting, tired in general? Maybe all. I wasn't even sure.
After wandering the halls blindly, I end up at the main setups of the workstations. Dad isn't in there, but I wasn't looking for him in particular anyway. I purposely avoid looking at the countdown, certain we had less than 24 hours, but I didn't want to see it.
The alarm rang from a different part of the building, echoing through the halls and reaching my ears. I look toward the hall it was coming from.
"Fuck. What now?" I got up and started over. I push myself faster when I heard a deep rumbling sound, some kind of crash. "Dad?!"
I was nearing the lab as the automatic door slides open. Dad steps out, his head hanging low in defeat. He was stripped down to his boxers, hair and body soaked, dripping.
Without looking at me, he sniffs and wipes the wet drips from his face, "I thought you were trying to rest."
A sound escapes his throat as if it could have been a laugh but failed, "Yeah, me too."
"What happened? Some . . . contamination?" I motion to his almost naked body while examining him for burns or signs of injury.
Dad nods and turns to meet my eyes, the devastation clear in his expressive eyes, "The TS-19 samples are gone."
I'm speechless. I know what that means. In ways of research and experiments, it's terrible. But it didn't really matter. Even if he'd found some kind of answer before the clock ran out, what then? I was sure he only did it as a way to pass the time and make the clock run out faster.
That thought makes me curious if the devastation on his face isn't from losing the samples. But losing a task, losing the goal, losing anything we had left.
"I don't like when you call her that," I tell him finally, crossing my arms anxiously.
"That isn't your mother. It's samples, tissue samples of the Infected. Not your mother. I won't refer to them as such."
I shrug, seeing no reason to start an argument. "So, what now?"
"I'm going to go record a log and have a drink," he answers before gently caressing my shoulder as he passes.
That meant I can't go back to the workstations, at least not for half an hour, maybe forty-five minutes. He needs quiet to be able to concentrate when recording the live broadcast logs. Even though I have a hard time sitting still and staying quiet, I could control myself long enough to listen in. But I don't want to. I hate listening to him talk about the samples, words I don't know or understand. I was never as smart as he was, and I never would be. Also, it was just depressing. No one is out there to listen. No one would find or look back on his logs.
"Do you want something to eat?" I call out as he turns at the end of the hall. He either doesn't hear or ignores my question.
Frowning, I contemplate what to do. It's hard to find anything to do while waiting. There's no point in reading, no point in eating, no point in anything. Even breathing is just a way to pass time.
I wander the halls for a while, relying on my time blindness to make it go by faster. Some of the dark hallways I passed through were illuminated by the automatic motion light. Other hallways stayed dark. Only certain areas were permitted to use electricity.
My brain shuts off as I go. And later, when I end up in the kitchen, I'm unsure what I was really thinking about the entire time. This kitchen wasn't entirely a real kitchen. It used to be a simple breakroom for employees. Now all the employees are dead, save for dad.
I open the fridge, then the freezer, only staring at the objects. I have no appetite or energy to do anything about any of it.
I sigh and decide to go to the workstations, hoping enough time has gone by or at least most of it. I hear dad's voice echo around the room as I enter.
"I don't even know why I'm talking to you," his tone is neutral, not revealing much. As he continues, I walk up the few steps to get onto the platform.
"I bet there isn't a single son of a bitch out there still listening, is there?" his voice lowers, but with my close proximity, I hear it. Even though it doesn't matter, I'm surprised by the swear. Dad doesn't swear.
I stand behind him, watching over his shoulder at the screen, his face reflected back as he leans into the camera, "is there?"
"Dad?" I never interrupt the logs. He either wants or needs to do them, so I always leave him alone. Today is different, our last day. I hate seeing him agonize over what's left of the world. But I did the same.
He turns to me, hesitating, before smiling. He says nothing about my interruption, only waves to the computer, "saves me the embarrassment."
Dad stands, an eerie expression passing over his face before meeting my eyes, "I think tomorrow I might blow my brains out. I haven't decided."
I'm shocked at the indifference of it, unsure what to say. I want to get mad and yell at him. How dare he even think of doing that to me? To himself?
But what's the point?
My stomach churns at the thought of the clock. I know there are mere hours left. But I can't bring myself to look.
Dad reaches for his wine glass on the desk, looking back into the camera, "but tonight, I'm getting drunk."
He downs the rest of what's in the glass and then reaches for the bottle. I watch the red liquid fill only half of the glass as it emptied.
My mouth opens to ask how much he drank today, but I was able to keep it to myself.
Once again, there's no point.
"How far do you think I can chuck this, huh?" Dad's eyes meet mine again, brandishing the empty bottle in his hand.
He sounds like himself, like dad. Carefree, happy, like everything, is normal. That makes me uneasy, his tone shouldn't be like that. But am I any better? What am I expecting? How exactly is he meant to sound as we wait to die?
"Pretty far, I bet."
"With what arms?" I force a smile and poke him in the bicep. "I bet you can't even hit the wall from here."
The wall is far, I couldn't hit it if I tried either. I enjoy his amused expression at my challenge.
Dad swings his arm, throwing the bottle hard in the air. I laugh a little when he surprises me by actually doing it. The bottle goes high and shatters against one of the metal railings on the ceiling. I jump at the sound.
"Oh! It is out of the stadium!" His arms go up in mock celebration.
"You don't even know what a stadium is. Nerd."
"Such a brat," his hand ruffles my hair, and I jerk away.
Dad plops himself into the computer chair once again.
"You want to go eat something?" Stupid question, but I don't know what else to say or do. I know I don't want to be alone.
With a shake of the head, he motions behind me. I look to see one of the other rolling chairs. I drag it to where we are and sit across from him.
"Have a drink," he held the wine glass out to me.
Rolling my eyes as he smiles playfully, I take the glass. It's a funny joke to him. His grin widens enough to show his teeth when the alcohol reaches my lips. I'm only indulging him, but still flinch and stick my tongue out at the sour taste.
I give it back and clear my throat, "still no."
"Worth a shot."
"Is that a pun?"
Dad thinks it over, "huh. Maybe. It's wine, so . . . not sure."
I shake my head, "well, that bottle's gone. Whatever will you do now?"
"I guess I'll have to take the long, treacherous march to get a new one."
"Why, that's just terrible. I hope you make it, good sir."
My smile is no longer forced as he returns the happy expression, taking another sip. "You were calling me the nerd."
"Where do you think I got it from?"
Dad chuckles again, then grows silent. After several long moments, he looks at me again. "What is one thing you would have liked to do before . . . before dying? If you could choose one thing."
I give the large room around us a brief glance before answering, "blow bubbles."
"Blow bubbles. I want to get one of those bottles you buy for kids, you know? And just fill this entire room with bubbles."
Dad's smile is back already, and I love him for it. We're somehow able to enjoy this small moment among the inevitable, impending doom. Then he's laughing, chuckling while shaking his head in disbelief. "I asked you for anything, anything, before we die. And you would choose to blow bubbles? You barely hesitated."
"Because I've already thought about it! Bubbles are severely underrated."
"I don't think you've had anything to do with bubbles since you were maybe, maybe nine years old."
"That's my point!" I exclaim. "Why did I ever stop?!"
"Because it's for kids. You're twenty."
"Who says? Why is it just for kids? Who deemed bubbles an exclusive enjoyment only for children?"
"Is this going to turn into your breakfast-egg rant? Because I cannot hear that again."
"Oh, you know I'm right. There is no reason that eggs are exclusively a breakfast food. No reason they have to be or are known to be. Same with bubbles, no reason bubbles are just for kids."
"Are you going to say the same for Trix? Because I can assure you, there is some factual information behind—"
"—Oh, you mean slander?" I joke.
Dad shakes his head again, "Very funny. Forget that, I was being serious. Before."
"I've been serious the whole time, kind of. But if you're talking about the eggs—"
"—Eileen, no," his smile is gentle but no longer playful. "There is nothing else you'd like to do? How about swimming? You love swimming. Go hiking, go outside, see nature. Go to the movies . . ."
"You know I hate the sun," I scrunch my face up in distaste. That is the one thing I was enjoying while living at the facility, no windows, all darkness. "And as great as movies are, I'd rather be home to watch one. Sitting through one for more than an hour is just . . . just no."
"Oh, I know," dad laughs. "I've been put through that torture enough, trying to keep you quiet and still so I could actually enjoy it."
"Fuck off! I mean, it's torture for me!" I'm laughing but stopped when I see his face. His expression falters. He wants to correct me and scold me for swearing. "Sorry."
As much as I know, I don't have a lot of control over my words or any kind of filter. I still wanted to try harder. I did try, I think. It's hard to tell how hard I'm actually trying.
Dad shrugs it off, taking another drink. There's no use arguing, no use scolding me.
"I'm not kidding," I quickly fill the awkward silence, attempting to redirect the conversation back. "It's what I would want to do. I just . . . I would want the last thing I do to be relaxing and simple. Like how everything is when you're a kid. I just want to sit back and enjoy something I used to, no stress, no worries, and it to just end in that moment."
"I love you," Dad says suddenly.
I was zoning out when his voice snaps me back to reality. Staring around the room and Imagining the bubbles floating around. "I love you too. What about you? What would you want to do?"
"I had a few ideas. I couldn't decide. But I think I know now."
Dad stands, sad eyes but grin wide and sweet. I see and feel the love and loss between us. I want to hug and cry into his shoulder, but hold back.
"I want to see bubbles."
I grin and tilt my head, "don't make fun of me."
"I'm not. We have soap. Maybe not the right kind. I could be wrong, but I think if we make a mixture with that, sugar and water, we have a very blowable bubble solution."
"Are you serious?"
"Mm-hmm. Stay here. I'll go grab it all and another bottle of wine. You want one?"
"A bottle of soap or wine?"
"Wine, I'm getting you the soap and ingredients."
"I'm good. You can have it all. I just want bubbles."
Dad's grin softens to a small smile before turning and walking away. As I watch him go, reality hits again. My own smile disappears, and with it, the content feeling.
My eyes went up before I could stop myself; seeing the glowing red LED numbers made me dizzy. My stomach lurched violently. I quickly search for the small waste basket that was usually kept around. Hurriedly, I lean over it, dry heaving a small amount of bile into the pale.
Twelve hours left.
There's no fighting the sob or tears that escape. I wipe my face, hoping to calm down before dad comes back and notices. I don't want to spend our last ours like this.
I hear the beeping from the computer and look over, startled. Something was blinking as the beeping continued, followed by a loud, incessant chirp.
"DAD!" I keep calling out for him, staring at the computer while listening to the several different types of beeps and chirps. I hear his quick footsteps bounding toward me in a run.
"It just start—" I point at the computer. He approached and leans in close to the screen. I watch over his shoulder as a dark map of the facility appears, red dots glowing on the edges. Dad presses a few buttons on the keyboard, and frame by frame, the screen zooms into the map where the dots are.
"Dad, what's going on?"
He doesn't answer, pressing more keys, and a window opens up. Showing a security camera with several figures walking under it. My jaw drops. They're dirty and unkempt but not dead. They are not sick.
"No," dad murmurs.
One man is leading the front, carrying a large duffle bag at his waist and a gun. His hat reminds me of a cowboy, and it blocks his face.
"Oh my God," This whole time, for weeks, I had no clue. I couldn't even contemplate if anyone could be alive, especially out there. This fact, this proof of living people, shatters my reality. My whole picture of everything, things I've been thinking, things I've come to terms with. Gone. Ruined. They're alive?
The camera switches to another as they reach one of the doors. My hand is over my mouth, speechless and staring. A man with thick, dark hair starts banging on the door. The others are searching around, frantically turning their heads, scared.
Suddenly, one person yells, and they all turn around. The infected far behind them are moving, stumbling. They start to shout at each other, voices rough and demanding. So very panicked, I can't make out any words.
"Dad?" I really need him to speak. One of my hands goes to my opposite wrist, pinching and twisting the thin, sensitive skin out of anxiousness.
"They'll leave. They have to. It's not safe."
"Dad, they have kids," my voice shakes.
"We can't let them in."
"—You want this for them? You know what happens when that clock runs out."
"You said out there isn't any better!"
"It's not!" His head snaps toward me as he retorts. I can see his own anxiousness. Neither of us knows what to do or how to feel about it. We don't want to leave them to die out there, and we don't want to have them die in here.
Their arguing on the screen continues. Oblivious to our internal struggles. They were furthering, backing away from the cameras. It was hard to follow what was happening with them. The people that were yelling keep turning, changing direction. I can easily read the fear, panic, and anxiousness in their body movements.
Dad is silently begging, just as I am. Leave, just go. Leave.
Even though they are turning to leave, the brief possibility of the choice, those lives in our hands, is absolute torment.
Almost all of the people were turned, leaving, except the man in the hat that was always at the front. The camera screen shifts down to keep his movement in the frame, and he freezes.
"The camera!" I hear the muffled audio over the speakers. "It moved!"
The others stop, and the one man went back to the other's side, talking in his ear.
"We can't be here!"
"We have to leave!"
The man in the hat is perplexed, walking forward confidently, eyes trained on the camera. "It moved."
The dark-haired man at his side follows, and closer to the camera, I can hear him. "Rick, it is dead, man. It's an automated device. It's gears, okay? They're just winding down now, come on!"
Yes, that's it. Just go. In a way, he's right, it is dead, this whole facility, dad and I. Everything dead.
The dark-haired man starts pulling him away, voice raising to a yell again as the man continues to refuse. "Look around this place, it's dead, okay?"
"No, just go away," Dad mumbles to them.
The camera follows the man in the hat as he lurches forward, banging roughly against the metal shutters. The camera continues to follow the movements. I raise my fingers to my teeth, chewing my cuticles as I realise he wants the camera to move, demanding more movement. I wish the camera were turned off.
"There's nobody here!" they continue to yell.
The man in front stands straight, looking right at us, "I know you're in there, I know you can hear me! Please, we're desperate!"
I hadn't realised dad was sinking to the floor until he's on his knees. My fingers leave my teeth and I cover my mouth with my palm, trying hard to suppress a reaction.
"Please help us! We have women! Children! No food, hardly any gas left!" A woman runs in front of him, pushing him back, but he ignores her, still pleading with us, "we have nowhere else to go! If you don't let us in, you're killing us!"
Tears fall from my eyes, both hands over my mouth now, pressing hard into it to keep myself together. I feel as if my insides are being shredded as I watch the desperation. More of the people come forward, grabbing onto him and pulling him back. With the help of many, he was finally being pulled away.
But he doesn't stop, "please! Please! You're killing us!"
A loud sob escapes, and I turn my whole body away. Palms over my mouth to cover my whole face, feeling the muscles convulse as I cry. They're still yelling into the computer behind me. I wish I'd eaten something in the past two days, so that I had something to puke up. The dry heaving is so much worse.
My sobs are loud, at least to me. I feel as if I'm breaking. The sounds of my sobbing almost drown out the pounding of footfalls.
I spin back to the computer, hands leaving my face. Dad is gone. "Dad?"
I turn, seeing him bounding out of the workstation, "Dad!" My panicked screech causes my voice to crack.
I think about following, but I'm frozen. I look at the screen. The man had even turned away, giving up and leaving.
As the camera shifts, I can see more of the distance. Infected were wandering, coming closer.
Then they all stop, spinning back around toward the camera. Artificial light from inside the building floods over them, illuminating the dusk of nightfall.
After some hesitation, they run forward, hurrying and disappearing under the camera into the facility.
Even though they had all gone from the camera's view, I can do nothing but stare at the screen.
Dad had done it. He'd opened the doors. He let them in. When I can finally move, after so many long moments, I turn to the LED clock with red, glowing numbers.
Whatever is happening out there, they were saved from it. But damned all the same.