This fan-fiction is based on the theatrical release of the 2007 movie I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, which is loosely based on the 1954 novel by Richard Matheson. This story and all characters in this chapter are my own, with the exception of Robert Neville and any mentions of Alice Krippin. Any quoted works in this fan-fiction not cited within the body of the text are cited at the end of the chapter in which they appear.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
–Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
The big infected man was not feeling so well. All that rowing to get here, and every second of it, he could feel the vacuum of his missing Delight, sucking the very nerves from his body. It hurt. He struggled just to breathe. The combination of drug and nourishment could ease the pain, quiet the voices in his head. But he was long overdue for Delight now. Withdrawals and cramps were setting in. The last time this happened he had almost gone vampire. If it had not been for Dr. Rynd rescuing him at the last moment, he would have been a goner. But not this time… This time Rynd had stood him up.
One simple thought tortured the large man's mind. Why hadn't he thought of coming to Neville sooner? Night had now fallen. And with it, the skinny black doctor's courage had gone into hiding. It was useless for sure. The man would not come out, no matter how much yelling…
The sound of boots clacking rapidly across pavement toward him brought the large man to attention. He spun his head and looked. There in the moonlight was the girl's mother—alone—coming toward him with bare hands and a look of fight in her eyes. She had tracked him!
Instantly a feeling of sheer panic seized him. He staggered backward, surprised at the woman's audacity. But he caught himself. Wait. She was half a block away. And he still had hold of her daughter. He looked down at the little girl. Easily, he could break the child's neck right now…or sink his begging teeth into it just the same. This, he had been craving the entire night. He thought about it for a second longer, relishing the image, and then realized the girl's mother was now quickening her pace toward him. Oh well, he could deal with a single puny woman.
Swiftly as he could, the man pulled a roll of tape from the pocket of his jacket and peeled back the end. There was enough left to made a quick turn around the girl's ankles, which he did, then pushed her down to the pavement. He stepped over the fallen girl toward the mother and the woman slid to a stop thirty feet from him. Predictably she began circling to her left, moving toward the same building which he had only moments before been vainly serenading.
What in the world did this bogger molly think she could do to him? Next to his great bulking muscles, she looked like a tiny house cat. He would have them both—the cat and her kitten. Ah, more bargaining power. Rynd or Neville, either one, would pay dividends for the healthy girl. This much he had planned. But how much could he get for the woman? Perhaps a whole mountain of Delight!
The woman had worked herself between him and Neville's building. She reached into her pocket and withdrew some kind of metal cylinder. The infected man breathed in relief. At first he had thought she was reaching for a firearm. Sure, guns no longer held the same fear for him that they once had—he had been shot several times since getting infected and found he healed efficiently enough—but on the other hand, he did not like the way they felt, either. Bullets had a way of stinging.
"Wwhhhat doo yyou want, Juudy? Yyou look at mme like I hhave ssomethhing of yours."
"You know my name." She stated it calmly, but it was a question. He could hear the surprise in her voice.
She didn't remember. Ha! Had he changed that much? The thought of it nearly drove him mad right then. Did she not know all the outrage she'd caused? His mind was already fuzzing over from physical withdrawals, but, digging deep, he managed to come up with the details. Ah, yes. A very nasty set of tricks she'd pulled on him all those years back. Escaping captivity, for starters. Wounding some of his men in the exchange. Then, worst of all, the woman had come back later and stolen some of his latest captives!
It wasn't fair. She should pay for those hurts she'd caused. In fact, when he thought about it, maybe this woman standing here in front of him so brazenly right now, was the cause of all his suffering. She'd hurt his score way back then. And getting a fix of Delight at the right moment was like making points in a game of strategy, a leverage of the wills. He had done well for himself otherwise, rising in rank and keeping his intelligence while the others fell behind. But Judy had cost him. And Judy should pay.
"Yyou evil little wwench!" He could no longer stand it. The infected man lunged toward the woman suddenly and she quickly jumped back, putting a parked car between them. Still, she clung to the cylinder as if it could somehow save her from him. She circled when he went left, keeping the vehicle in the middle, and holding the can up at an angle toward him. He could now see it had some kind of nozzle on it. The device looked somewhat familiar. Maybe it was a weapon, the way she was pointing it at him.
"Wwhat are you hhiding for? Yyou wwant thhhe girrl or nnot?"
He jumped for the top of the car and landed in a squatting position glaring down right above her. The woman muffled a scream. She shoved the nozzle end of the can up into his face. But for some reason she hesitated, her eyes darting for just a second to something behind him. The moment was more than enough. He reached out and deftly swatted the can from her hands. It clanked uselessly to the sidewalk and rolled beneath the rear of the car. A delicious look of horror came across the woman's face and she began backing away. But, now curiosity had gotten the better of the man. What was going on back there, anyway? He turned to see what was happening with his girl.
The situation had changed. A skinny man now stood in the middle of the street, tall and straight, calmly meeting his gaze with cool eyes. There was a silly pair of oversized goggles pushed up on the man's forehead, making him look like a four-eyed giant insect.
The large man on the vehicle blinked, slowly reopening his eyes. The apparition was still there. The skinny insect man seemed to have appeared silently from no where. Squinting at the creature now the large man realized this was the same man that Judy had with her before. He'd watched their advance on camera, back in the warehouse and some in the tunnel. The lab rat. The little rodent! Why had he assumed they would not follow him this far?
There was a shining long blade in the lab rat's hands which slowly began to rise until its tip was pointing directly at him. The large man's mouth suddenly felt dry. He struggled to swallow, glancing down at the skinny one's feet. The girl had also been cut free and was now clinging to the man's waist, sobbing.
"Mama!" the girl screamed.
The infected man spun back to the woman. She had disappeared completely. Not again! Wildly, he looked about but didn't find her. Turning again to face the man, the situation finally dawned on him. The skinny little freak was still standing there, sword drawn, waiting for him.
This night just kept going from bad to worse. Heavily, the large man got down from his perch and stood panting next to the car for a second. So, the lab rat had finally gone and gotten himself some guts. No matter. The rodent was going to die tonight.
The front bumper of the older model car he'd just been squatting on happened to be hanging loose. The big man reached down and tore it the rest of the way off. Hefting it like a great sickle, he took a few swinging steps toward the little man and smiled as the rodent stumbled back, studying this new development. Ah, not so brave when your opponent is packing, too, eh? The large man began moving toward the sword wielder, carefully circling to the left, carelessly swinging the bumper like a pendulum. He would wait until just the right moment and then spring. With the little girl hanging on those skinny hips of his, the little guy wouldn't be able to react fast enough. It would all be over rather quickly.
Suddenly the woman burst from the front bumper of the car as he circled by. So, that's where she had gone. He turned just in time to see her shoving that insistent nozzle into his face again and was about to remark that he was getting tired of her doing that. Only, this time there was a whoosh! And from the end of the nozzle a fog came out and enveloped him, filling his eyes and delicate pores.
Indescribable pain shot through his senses, clear up his nostrils, stabbing into his brain like twin daggers. It didn't help that he had also gasped in surprise a little, inhaling the cloud into his lungs. He staggered backward, blinded and choking. This was not good. No, indeed. This night was definitely headed in a downward spiral.
He could hear the swordsman moving smoothly toward him across the pavement near his lowered head. Somehow he had to get away. But where could he go? He was blind. He could not breathe. Nothing else mattered. The passages in his lungs were swelling, and suddenly the physical withdrawals kicked in as well, bearing down on his muscles all at once in a tight contraction. He felt his knees give; then the hard pavement was caressing his cheek…
They stood over the fallen giant for a minute watching him trying to get his breath. It was obvious there was something seriously wrong with the guy's health, besides just the pepper spray. Jeremy was in favor of immediately running him through with the sword, getting to the heart of the matter, but Judy held him back.
"I think I recognize him!" she said, sounding surprised as she held Jeremy's sword back, pressing it flat against his chest with one hand. She clutched Victoria to herself with the other. "He hasn't been in his right mind for years. I think I know him." She stared up into Jeremy's eyes. "He lives. Okay? He's going to live."
The absurdity of the moment swept over Jeremy. The woman was up to more of her salvation stuff. A regular Betsy Ross…
"Juudy, yyou're crazy. You know that, rright? Thhis time you've ccompletely losst your mind." Jeremy stood back, disgusted. But he released the sword. He didn't want to cut her hands trying to tear past her.
Somewhere in the near distance a vampire howled.
Judy tossed the bladed weapon across the pavement beyond them. The sword spun to a stop next to the parked car. Next, she reached into her jacket once more and pulled out yet another long cylinder. This object was easily recognizable as a hypodermic syringe, but looked like something more designed for horses than people. Jeremy remembered having seen Dr. Neville tranquilize a vampire with one like it. Judy pulled the protective cap off, exposing a gleaming three-inch silver needle, its diameter roughly the size of a toothpick.
"We'll bind him," she said, and she stooped next to the large man's neck and held the syringe to his skin. "We'll feed him!" she shouted, plunging the needle in and immediately depressing the plunger with the palm of her hand. Jeremy and Victoria both jumped, startled by the violent movement. They watched as Judy injected the entire contents of the shot's reservoir into the large man's body. He immediately stiffened and, for a few seconds, fought to rise before coming to rest again in the street.
Judy had jumped away from him. Her shoulders sagged in resignation as she surveyed her work. Slowly she lowered her hand and opened it, allowing the spent syringe to fall. She took her daughter in her arms now, looking right at Jeremy. "...And we'll bring him back, keep him caged until a cure is found. Okay? We'll get all the information out of him that we can about what has been going on around here."
She held little Victoria back and bent to look her over. "My baby, are you hurt badly?"
The girl did not reply. She buried her face in her mother's jacket; her tiny body shook visibly in the moonlight. The sight both melted Jeremy's heart and made him angry. This monster lying at his feet was going to live? And even worse, he was supposed to accept this, and to aid Judy in keeping him? For a few seconds, he considered how satisfying it might feel to feed the kidnapper to those hungry vampires the intelligent ones had been holding in cages back at the warehouse.
Jeremy stood there gaping as Judy walked her daughter down the street, back toward the subway at west 4th. She was starting to call instructions behind her to him, telling him to roll the large man onto his side so he could breathe, and to look for something to use as a stretcher.
A commotion down the street further to the east grabbed everyone's attention and cut Judy off mid-sentence. Jeremy looked in time to see a pack of Manhattan vampires rounding the corner two blocks away. A collective howl suddenly rocked the night air as the vampires pinpointed their location and immediately began swarming up the street toward them, noses to the wind. Jeremy's blood ran cold.
What happened next caught everyone off guard. Jeremy was already beginning to move toward Judy and Victoria when a sudden burst of green erupted from the north side of the street, and Green Jacket appeared before him wielding his dropped martial arts sword. For some reason Jeremy had forgotten all about the fiend.
The small vampire raised the sword above his head, let out a hideous banshee-type scream, and rushed at the body of the fallen larger man. Jeremy stumbled sideways in horror as Green Jacket leapt to the top of the man's mid-section and went into a frenzied roar, shaking the sword above his head. The little vampire stood there fearlessly, facing the approaching vampires.
"Éirrrre Abu!" Green Jacket chanted. "Do ghhhrá ár dtír dhúcáis! Do Éirrre!" He planted his feet into the sleeping giant and stood rising and falling on the heaving chest.
Jeremy put the image behind him, rushed to Judy and Victoria, grabbed their hands and pulled them away. The subway entrance was their best bet, but it was too far. Instead, he lunged them toward 5th Avenue into the shadows. Behind them, the reverberations of dozens of heavy bare feet thudded up the street as the vampire horde rushed to meet the raging green little monster.
A brand new Shelby GT Mustang sat on the corner. A loose and flapping sticker on the rear window was what caught Jeremy's attention. Besides a few dents and dings in the red paint, the car looked as if it had just come from the showroom floor.
Neville! The Mustang had to be one of the doctor's vehicles. Jeremy stopped. It was a chance, but he had just gotten a flash of brilliance. No room for error now, but on the other hand they really didn't have a lot of options, either. He swung off to the side, drawing Judy back over to the car, and looked inside. Yes! There in the middle of the backseat sat a humble jug of white vinegar, plainly half full.
He breathed a prayer and yanked on the door handle. It swung open to them like a red carpet welcome. Victoria and Judy tumbled in and immediately hit the floor, hiding. They knew the drill. Jeremy snatched up the jug, slammed the door on the womenfolk and began showering the car and surrounding area with the vinegar. He could see Judy's pleading eyes, glinting in the moonlight up at him from the dark interior, but it was no use. He could not take the chance of hiding inside with them. He shook his head at her, their eyes meeting for a second, then he lifted the jug to his lips and allowed some of the liquid to run into his mouth. The reaction was involuntary, he sputtered it out, blowing the tiny molecules of vinegar into the air around the car. Hopefully it would cover everything. He backed away along the path they had taken, still spitting to get rid of the burning in his mouth and shaking the remaining droplets from the jug over the street as he went.
It would be a miracle if this worked.
He knew he was about to die. The worst kind of death. Jeremy turned slowly back toward the vampires which were nearly upon Green Jacket. The small vampire shrieked and waved the sword. "Éirrrre Abu!"
Brave little bloodsucker, thought Jeremy, he doesn't deserve to die alone.
Two bounds and Jeremy was standing at Green Jacket's side. He tossed aside the empty bottle and steeled himself against the coming impact of bodies. Grimly they faced the vampires together, just as the horde reached them.
And Jeremy wished just for a moment he could have seen how things turned out for Judy and Victoria…