Epic: The Third Survivor
By. Indigo Siren
Disclaimer: Resident Evil is copyright to Capcom. I do not own any of the characters and situations depicted from the games. They are merely being used for entertainment purposes only. I do however own this story and any characters and scenarios that were not featured in the franchise. All rights reserved.
They'd walked for hours – many truly excruciatingly hours. At first, it had been miles and miles of rocky, barren terrain with the barest flora and fauna to gaze upon; though eventually, with much relief, it became lush, green landscapes as the environment led to the more fruitful Arklay Mountains. It was almost bliss to hear birds chirping high up in the tall tree branches.
Throughout their journey, they'd said very little to each other; in fact, Leon had pretty much said next to nothing at all as he led the way. And really, there wasn't all that much to say anyway – not anything that didn't require a lot of thinking, and that just didn't bode well for holding emotions together. They wanted to – if only for a while – put the thoughts of Raccoon City far behind them.
Sherry held Claire's hand, mostly out of need for comfort, but also for a welcomed need for support for her tired body. She didn't want to hinder their progress because her stamina wasn't quite as good as her companions, but was afraid to ask that they stop for a moment to rest, and forced herself to try to keep up with their pace. Claire had seemed to sense her discomfort and had slowed down a little, not too concerned when Leon started to get quite a bit ahead of them. He was still within their sights and easy to catch up with if had been necessary.
After a long mornings trek, they finally managed to find a road – one of the smaller mountainous ones that meandered around the furthest outstretches of the forest region before winding its way back around to Stoneville, the next town over. It wasn't one of the most used roads, almost off the beaten track, so they were extra cautious, not sure what they could encounter. They might have left the city behind them, but they still hadn't been far enough away to feel truly safe.
Sometime later, they were surprised to come across an abandoned car on the side of the road. A slightly dinged up old blue, four door Chevrolet, just sat there out in the middle of nowhere, completely out of place.
Leon, being ahead of the trio, checked it out ahead of his companions. Experience had told him to check the backseat first, just in case there were any hidden surprises lingering there. And it was a relief that there was nothing to find, apart from a discarded blanket and a bag of groceries. There wasn't anything out of the ordinary about the vehicle, besides a flat tire, quite badly punctured. No blood or struggle could be found in or around the vehicle. It was just an abandoned car. Whoever had owned the car hadn't stuck around to fix the problem, and had simply vanished to God knows where. What's more, the key was still sat quietly in the ignition.
Claire had checked the trunk, which was packed with suitcases. It was clear someone was trying to get out of town. Was it a vacation, or more likely an escape from the horror?
After pushing the cases aside, Claire had found the spare tire, along with a wrench and a jack.
"You stand guard," Claire insisted to Leon, "us girls will deal with this." With a wink to Sherry, she set about showing her how to change a tire – a skill, she'd said, her brother had shown her at a young age. And Sherry was very keen to see how it was done firsthand.
The tire change went without drama or interruption, and they clambered into the vehicle, hoping it had enough gas to get them to next city. There was half a tank, which didn't seem all that bad. Leon took the driver's seat, with Claire joining the passenger side. Sherry occupied the back seat to herself, pulling the blanket over her lap. She helped check through the groceries, which revealed some unopened bottles of water, some fruit – which was sadly starting to go mouldy, some bags of potato chips and a mixed catchment of tinned fruit and meat. Before they set off, they shared the chips and a bottle of water between them.
It was a wonderful sound to hear their purr of the engine come to life and feel the car vibrate as it moved across the uneven road. Leon drove carefully, just in case anything else wanted to hinder their progress with bursting another tire. Claire turned on the radio to either silence or static. Of course, none of Raccoon's stations were in operation anymore, and they were out of range of any other networks to pick up anything significant. There was a tape in the stereo, which was a mix album of some of the latest pop music, so let that play on low volume.
Sherry tiredly settled down on the back seat, curling up to catch a brief moment of sleep. As she turned over onto her side, she felt something nudge against her ribs. She rolled swiftly onto her back and shoved her hand into her pocket to find the offending item and pulled out. Much to her surprise, it was her pendant, which she had lost overnight.
How did you get in there?!
Her memories were jostled back to what seemed like an eternity ago. She remembered Ada had been wearing it. She'd even shown her a vial hidden behind the little photo inside, something that was supposedly a deadly virus. Sherry opened the pendant to see that familiar picture of herself with her parents, which drew a quiet sigh from her lips.
Sadness sat like a heavy weight in her chest. Was everything that happened in Raccoon City really their fault?
She managed to fiddle with the photo until it clicked open to reveal the secret compartment. But unlike before, there was now nothing inside. The purple vial was gone.
Ada must still have it... But what would she want with it? It was a question she would probably never get an answer to.
As she scraped through her memory to figure out how she could have possibly come to repossess her pendant, a fleeting memory drifted through her head. It was from when she was on the train, in her nigh on delirious state; a figure had come to her, and if she recalled correctly, they had put something in her pocket. It must have been Ada.
She was quietly thankful to have it returned to her, and wondered what had become of the woman. Did she get out in time before the labs blew up? Another thing she would probably never come to know.
She put the pendant back where it belonged, back around her neck, pressing it tightly to her chest. She clung tightly to her most precious possession as she drifted into a dreamless sleep.
It was less than an hour later when the car came to a stop. Sherry awoke to see Leon getting out of the car, with Claire hanging back, hand on her gun. The young girl sat up, stretching her limbs, nervous albeit curious over what was going on. They were somewhere on the Arklay stretch, and to her astonishment, there was a rundown motel in the middle of nowhere. A battered wooden sign with red flaking paint read: 'The Forest Range', featuring a telephone number that was barely readable and something else about it being a 'hikers dream'. The building had seen better days, its wood panelling weathered and discoloured.
Leon had cautiously approached two people who had materialised from the front of the motel, which Sherry had just noticed was being protected by rudimentary fences erected for protection. They were an elderly man and woman, both armed with hunting rifles. Though seemingly stern, they had kept their weapons pointed to the ground. Leon had even kept his shotgun shouldered, offering no threat as he spoke to the pair. After an exchange that lasted for about ten minutes, Leon turned to beckon Claire and Sherry from the vehicle, who stepped out to the scrutiny of the pair.
There were brief introductions. The couple were the Kerns, and they were the owners of the motel, who'd taken in survivors from Raccoon City. They were, as it seemed, holding out until news came that they were safe to move. They couldn't get much word from Stoneville, and were uncertain how far the catastrophe had spread. For now, they'd managed to keep out the infected, and were regimented with having all three checked for bite wounds or signs of the contagion before even letting them into the motel. It was an embarrassing situation for Sherry to have a small number of strange women – other survivors taking refuge at the motel – checking her over, especially when she was so dirty; she had, after all, been crawling through the sewers.
More attention had been drawn to Leon whose bullet wound came under examination. There had been a lot of uneasy discussion about this between the Kerns and some of their fellow survivors, but after much defence from Leon and Claire, they relented on the subject of possible infection for the time being, thought wanted to keep an eye on him aside. After which, the Kerns showed them to a room on the other side of the building.
Sherry had never been so glad to see a bed. She stared at it like it was some kind of rare commodity; and even though covers were a little colour-faded and the headboard cracked, it still looked appealing. Their room was a fair size and decorated as if it was still the 70's, with too much orange on top of cream. There was an area for a small lounge to one side with a little kitchenette with a washing machine to the other, nestled in a corner. There was also a connecting bathroom through a door at the back, complete with small bathtub and standalone shower.
The Kerns gave them spare clothes and soap powder to wash their others. Leon gave the tinned food from their acquired catchment to the couple as a good will gesture and they were left to their own devices.
Sherry immediately went and showered, tossing her clothes into an unceremonious pile on the bathroom floor as she turned on the water. She didn't mind that the temperature was a little too hot as she scrubbed her skin until every ounce of grim was gone. There was shampoo and conditioner in dispensers on the tiled wall and she used them liberally to wash both her hair and skin. How satisfying it was to feel clean again, unsullied and pure; she could almost feel herself glowing radiantly.
After she finished in the shower, she dried off with a towel that had seen better days and put on the t-shirt and shorts that had been lent to her. They were far too big, and she had to pull the drawstrings on the shorts to their tightest and double knot it so they wouldn't fall down.
After both Claire and Leon had used the bathroom to clean up, the former gathered their clothes together and sorted them out for washing, and then set about helping Leon redress his wound with the help of a first-aid kit in the back of one of the kitchenette cupboards. Sherry watched proceedings as Claire disinfected the wound, with Leon having to grit his teeth the whole time, before giving a helping hand to tape the new bandage in place. All patched up, Leon went out for a while, leaving the girls to the settle in.
Claire set about making some coffee from a bag she'd found in the cupboard, and Sherry sat down on the battered leather couch and turned on the TV to see if anything was on. Most of the channels were dead. Not surprising – just like the radio stations. Though, she did find a national news station, which, besides reporting a few topics on world affairs, was primed with news about Raccoon City itself. It featured footage that had come from someone's handheld camera, showing some of the carnage, zombies included. The report was rife with speculation about what was going on. Was it some kind of cannibalistic madness or to weird staged hoax? They had all kinds of specialists and crackpots offering their views, all of which irked Sherry with their candid armchair theories and ill-placed humour, almost treating it like it was all some big farce. Tired and cranky, Sherry eventually turned it off and went to stare out of the front window.
Leon was talking with a couple of other people in the central courtyard, discussing the overall situation. She couldn't make out every word of the conversation as it was muffled behind the glass. One of the people, a middle-aged man, pointed over to a far corner, sectioned off behind another erected fence, gesturing animatedly about something. She thought she heard something about 'infected people' and 'stopping it spreading' before turning her attention to where he was pointing. There did appear to be a large stack of something nestled in a shadowy corner. It looked mostly liked burnt wood; but the more she stared, the more she began to make out what appeared to be charred limbs.
"Are you okay?" Claire asked softly. "Did you want some coffee?"
"Oh... uh, I'm okay," she responded, turning away so she wouldn't linger on the images of people killing the potentially infected and burning their corpses. "Could I just have some water, please?"
They had retained the last bottle of water from the car and Claire poured her a glass from that. They couldn't trust the water that came out of the taps. It was only acceptable for cleaning purposes.
After drinking her glass dry, Sherry settled onto the double bed, watching the sun start to set on the horizon. Claire came to join her, and they sat for some time saying nothing. There was a tenseness in the elder girl, which Sherry initially took as remaining trauma of the horrors they'd experienced, but it was quickly revealed to be something else.
"There is something I need to tell you," Claire eventually said. And that's when Sherry was told about her parents deaths. Though, unbeknownst to Sherry, Claire left out the part regarding her father's mutation and his involvement with infecting her with the G-Virus. She mostly brushed over his passing in place of discussing the demise of Annette Birkin, and passed on her final message, that she had loved Sherry very much. It was a very painful situation for the both of them.
Sherry didn't hold back the tears. She wept in the comfort of Claire's warm arms, wept for her lost family, wept for all the birthdays and Christmas's she knew she would face alone. No matter what her parents had done, they had been her family. They hadn't been perfect, and she might have almost been an afterthought in many cases, but there had still been love and understanding. She clutched her pendant harder than before, crying until her whole body was thoroughly exhausted. By that time, it was dusk, and she was ready to sleep, whether or not she feared the nightmares that might come.
Claire tucked her in, stroked her hair soothingly and stayed at her side as she settled into that lumpy mattress. She fell asleep quickly, greeted by ghostly images of people who had perished in that God forsaken city. She could see her parents in the distance, standing watching her, but she couldn't reach them. They just seemed to get further and further away the more she ran towards them. Then came the zombies, amassing on her with mindless hunger, gnarled fingers outstretched, ready to rip apart her tender flesh.
Sherry awoke in the early hours of the morning, ears pricking up to hear Claire and Leon having a hushed conversation on the couch on the other side of the room.
"We can't tell how far the virus has spread," Leon was saying. "They said they haven't had too many problems with zombies, but have had to put some people down who've been on the verge of turning. They've managed thus far to keep it contained."
"I don't think we should stay here for too long, just in case..." Claire said, though stopped their conversation when noticing Sherry was awake. She stood and went back over to the bed. "Are you okay, sweetie? Did you have a bad dream?"
"I don't want to be on my own..." She said, taking hold of Claire's hand when she came close.
"You girls get some sleep," Leon insisted. "I'll stay up a bit longer."
Sherry settled back down with Claire cuddling her back, and once again fell back into troubled sleep. This time, she was accosted by lonely images of the RPD, wandering alone surrounded by the scent of death. She called out desperately for her father. Her footfalls on the polished flooring were so loud it was almost deafening. She could see her reflection in one the windows – she was ashen, her eyes bright white and empty, black veins pulsating under her skin. She screamed, but the sound that came out was a hungry moan.
She snapped awake, looking up to see Claire stood by the window. It was just after sunrise, and the room bathed in a gentle orange hue. Sherry sat up and looked over towards Leon, who was now asleep on the couch, his breathing even.
Claire turned to look at her and offered a gentle smile.
"Couldn't you sleep?" Sherry asked.
"Not really. I stopped trying hours ago."
They both gave up on sleep altogether, and the pair redressed back into their original clothes, now clean and smelling of camomile instead of sewage. Claire gave her jacket back to Sherry to wear again.
"It can carry on keeping you safe."
Leon awoke shortly after, groggy and dry mouthed. Claire made more coffee while he washed and dressed in the bathroom.
That's when the commotion started.
With all the shocked shouting and banging, it was easily assumed that they were suddenly under attack from a wave of the undead. Leon and Claire immediately took up arms, just as the door to their room was kicked in. To their surprise, in poured armed soldiers, pointing semi-automatic weapons at them. Sherry screamed and ducked down behind the TV. There was little time for the young girl to comprehend anything as she watched Claire and Leon being quickly disarmed and ordered out of the room. Before Sherry knew what was happening, Claire had took her hand and pulled her against her as they left. The motel was in chaos as the Kerns and other survivors were rounded up and escorted by the soldiers out of the grounds. There was a mixture of fear and relief rife with the small crowds of people.
The trucks awaiting them were US Forces owned by the insignias marking them, and despite it seeming like they were being rescued, it all felt very tense. Leon, Claire and Sherry boarded a vehicle together with a group of others and were quickly sent on their way, clustered together in confusion in the gloomy metal confines of the van.
A hatch to the front cabin opened and a gruff voice called back.
"There's no need to panic. You're being taken to a military facility for your own safety."
Some of the voices in the back fell silent, not sure what to make of everything on top of the nightmare they'd faced in Raccoon City, though most with their sleep-addled brains just accepted the situation and let themselves be led. Leon tried to ask the guy in front some questions, but he brushed him off, saying there would be time for that later and shut the hatch.
Half an hour passed before the truck stopped, and they were quickly herded out into an unfamiliar, barren area, taken up by a temporary facility erected on the far side of the Arklay Mountains, with the zombie-infested Raccoon City a safe distance away. Tall mesh fences had been constructed, with guards patrolling the inner perimeter of the facility. It was a hive of activity, with people being escorted to and fro between portable buildings. There were so many dishevelled people walking about in a daze, people who'd somehow managed to escape Raccoon City alive.
All the motel residents were taken for screening in a huge tent. They were stripped, scanned, hosed down and had blood samples taken, before being redressed and guided to a cabin to await instruction. Sherry rubbed her sore arm where the needle had been practically jabbed in to take her blood, watching army officials and fellow survivors milling around in an overwhelming sea of humanity. Hours seemed to pass by in an instant, and yet they sat there in uncertainty, waiting for something to happen.
Claire was agitated. "How long are they going to keep us here?"
"God knows," Leon said with a shrug. "It seems like they're interviewing people."
"This could go on for weeks!" The redhead said, fists clenching on her lap. "I need to find my brother. Who knows what shit he's getting himself into."
After a long time, an officer approached them and told them they were to move to another building, which would be accommodating them overnight before they'd get their turn to be interviewed. The three, along with a few others, were then herded out.
Claire had finally had enough.
The young Redfield took up her holstered knife, which she had somehow managed to keep a hold of throughout proceedings. "I can't wait for them to find time to fit me into their busy schedule. I need to get out of here."
"You're going to leave us!" Sherry couldn't believe after everything that Claire would just up and go.
"It's what I've got to do," she told her softly.
When they'd been left alone in their new accommodation, which was a very depressing, sterile dormitory, Claire decided to make a break for it. With the chaotic processing and handling of the situation, it was by much surprise Claire managed to manoeuvre unseen it to the back fence, followed closely by Leon and Sherry. It wouldn't be long before the soldiers noticed something was going on, so Claire had to act fast. By luck, there was an unguarded gate there. Claire opened it, but was stopped by Sherry's hand.
She turned to take in the teary blue eyes of the young girl. "Please, don't go."
Leon sighed gruffly and gave Claire's shoulder a push, so that she stumbled back a few steps out the gate. The action startled Sherry, who tried to step out after her, but was held in place by his firm hand.
"If you've got to go, then get out of here! Leave us!" He said. "If you need to find your brother, go while you have the chance!"
Sherry wanted to cry, but bit her lip. She might have lost her family, but Claire still had hers, and she needed to find her brother.
Claire nodded at him. "I'll be back. I promise." She cast a solemn but soft glance towards Sherry. "Don't give up, okay?" And with that, she hurried away into the fading light, disappearing into the wilderness beyond.
They stayed where they were, even after she was long out of sight. Sherry clung to Leon's hand, trying to seek comfort as best she could from him, but it wasn't the same as with Claire.
"Do you think she'll be okay?" Sherry asked.
"She's tough. It'll take a lot to stop her."
Leon and Sherry eventually returned to the dorms, where they were engaged by a patrolling soldier.
"What are you doing out here?" His eyes narrowed behind a pair of dark glasses. "Where's the other one?" By the time the alarm was raised, Claire was long gone.
After a restless night's sleep, both Leon and Sherry were called up early in the morning to go to the main building in the centre of the encampment, where a group of government agents greeted them. They were separated into different rooms, though not without commotion.
"You leave her alone! She's done nothing wrong!" Leon clamoured after the suited man taking Sherry away.
"Come this way," another man said to Leon, trying to keep the disruption as low-key as possible.
"Don't worry, Sherry," she heard Leon call to her. "Everything will be okay!"
The door was quickly shut on him and the world beyond, and she was guided to take a seat in makeshift office. It was a disorganised mess, with heaps of box files and paperwork all over the place.
Sherry moved slowly over to the window and sat on the ledge there. The view overlooked the forest in the distance, kept away from her by that ugly surrounding fence. It was for her safety, she had to keep telling herself, trying to stave off the thoughts that she might actually be a prisoner. She was quiet and dejected, brushing off the offer of a hot drink. Before her interview could begin, a knock came at the door, and the suited man answered to a soldier, who informed him they would have to move everyone by nightfall as word had come from higher up that a decision had been made over Raccoon City. Whatever it was meant by 'cleansing operation', Sherry knew that it probably wasn't good.
After the soldier left, the suited man settled into the interview, asking her simple questions mainly, from her name and age, to her home address and school.
"Do you have any relatives?" He asked her.
She said nothing. She had nobody left, nobody of blood anyway. It became all the more daunting to realise how very much on her own she was now in this big scary world. She drew her arms tighter around her knees and bit her lip, not wanting to cry again at such miserable thoughts. She focused instead on Claire and her promise.
She'll come back... She won't forget me...
Throughout the questioning, she talked very little about her parents and their work, and didn't mention the virus she had been unwittingly carrying in her pendant, now thankfully nowhere to be found. She also didn't mention an incident that happened the night before when she'd cut her hand on some stray glass and had watched with great surprise when the wound had healed in seconds. Something inside told her that her experiences from Raccoon City were going to stay with her in more ways than one.
Sherry didn't know what her future held, or who might take care of her. As long as she saw Claire again, she wouldn't be afraid of the unknown path ahead of her. She knew she'd have to be strong, no matter what. She had faced the truest form of horror and lived to tell the tale. Maybe one day, she would be strong enough to stand up and fight back against such atrocities, knowing deep down that an incident like this was most likely to occur again.
She closed her eyes, vowing that from that day on, she would no longer be afraid. She would face every day as they came. She was, after all, a true survivor.
A/N: And after nearly seven years (taking in the fact I was on a three year hiatus from writing), I finally completed this story! I probably need to go back at some stage to correct some things, but I'm truly proud to have finally brought this story to its conclusion. Thank you everyone who supported this story in your own way. It was quite the adventure, for both myself and Sherry!