A/N: Warning, this is not a normal fanfiction - but a retelling of Chapter 32 and 33 from the point of view of another character. In this work, you'll be reading as Travis, not Mary, and, though you'll notice this within the first few lines, I figure it won't hurt to tell you beforehand. To deaden the shock.
I own nothing. Not Travis. Not Mary. Not the Forest. Not the Unconsecrated. This work was solely done because I felt Travis needed to speak.
So I lent him my voice.
I've never given much thought of my death before.
Which made little sense, given that I once happened to live in a village surrounded by reminders of it. The Unconsecrated, with their putrid stench and unending moans, served that much of a purpose, if you would call it one at that. But my own death seemed as unlikely as Mary finally reaching her beloved ocean, as much as it might pain me to think. As alien as an endless stretch of briny water. Fathomless. Impossible.
But here I sit, out of breath and quickly becoming one of them. I'm Infected. Dying. And what do I have to show for it? A few scratches and a bloody shirt - what a valiant way to go.
And to make matters far more worse, I can hear Mary chanting her breath away, begging God to keep me alive and well. Oh, my love, how I am sorry. I'm already walking in a different world than you are.
I curl my fingers, blood slicked, into a shaking fist as I recall the conversation Mary and I had just a day ago. When I believed she had been bitten, Infected, by those pitiful Unconsecrated. She had told me that she would have known if she were Infected - I'd frowned at her then, thinking her a liar, though I hoped her words rang true and she was fine.
Now, I realize, one does feel the shutting down of the body, of the heart slowing its music, of the muscles contracting and remaining taunt. Of the blood thickening throughout, turning like molasses. My skin feels loose around my bones, a coat of flesh and fat, and I know that I don't much time remaining.
I should have noticed how my beloved sister went through this same decay. I should have listened to Mary and not take her words as false. I should have loved them better, for longer, much stronger. I regret it now, when all I have left is mere moments to breathe and hold my mortal conscious.
The Sisters always told us that before one succumbs to the Infection, they should pray. They should pour their hearts out for God to see and to ask for forgiveness. So the soul could be permitted into Heaven, even though the body stays to work out the Devil's mischief.
Yet I don't pray.
I might have started to, if Mary had not appeared before me like a phantom; I hoped then, with a pierce of panic, that the Mary before my eyes was an illusion. For she should not be down here, when danger lurked so near.
But as she pulls my broken body to her chest, I know that she is real.
"Travis," she cries as I feel her sway back and forth, soothing me like a frightened babe. "You'll be okay." She sucks in a breath, amending her words as she lays her cheek against my hair. "You're okay."
I'm everything but okay. I want to tell her to leave me, but the words stick in my throat and all I can do is try to remain awake. My body is far too weak and the gentle rocking motion is lulling me close to the darkness of the Infection.
Mary says something again, screams it at me, but I don't hear it. And, suddenly, she's no longer rocking me but shaking me senseless. As if to wake me. I try to give her a reassuring smile, but it's cut short when I feel blood slide from the corner of my mouth.
"We'll fix this," I hear my Mary say, though I don't understand what she wishes to fix. Me? I like to believe not - I'm far too broken for mending now. "Maybe there's another village." I cannot walk even if I were healthy. "Maybe there's a healer." If there's another village out there, Mary, it's probably in the same state as this one - barren and forsaken, overrun with the Unconsecrated. "Are you sure you were bitten? Are you sure they're not scratches like mine?"
Her hope is too much and I have to say something to her. The truth pours from my mouth when I had wanted to tell her a lie. "It wouldn't have mattered if they were scratches or not. I was bitten during the escape from the house."
I feel her arms go weak around me and it takes all I have to tell her, "I was already dead."
I open my eyes to look at her, to see her beautiful face once last time. Her lips move and I can see the ghost of the question, Why? there. It breaks my heart to not have an answer.
"Let me pray for you," Mary tells me and at once I notice her tears. They splash on my face like drops of summer rain.
"You were never very good at praying," I say with a tiny laugh, the vibration of which hurt my aching chest. "That was never what drove you. It was always the stories."
Mary shakes her head, lovely locks of her dark hair catching in the wind. "I was you," she tells me.
"I wish it could have been." I try to laugh again, but the pain and weakness makes it come out like a sigh. And I really wish I could have been the reason why her eyes were so bright and full of questions, the reason she was Mary. But I wasn't. I have never been the reason for anything but the slight blush on her cheeks.
She pulls me into her lap and continues to sob, her tears sliding down my face, falling into my hair, soaking my clothes. And she apologizes for something I can't fathom. She has done no wrong. She has been as she always has - herself.
"Tell me about the ocean," I tell her, trying to help her forgot about what's happening. "Tell me how it is the last place untouched be all this."
Shaking her head again, she says, words as soft as a sigh. "The ocean is nothing. It's just like the rest of the world."
I nearly bite my tongue to reprimand myself for ever telling her about what Gabrielle told me of the ocean. But I don't have time to regret what I've said in the past. My time is almost up.
I grasp her chin in my hand, forcing her to look at me. "Promise me you'll go to the ocean."
She tries to shake her head again. "But you said -"
I'm getting weaker. I can't keep my hand on her face for much longer. "Forget what I said," I tell her, hand slipping down from her chin. "Promise me that you'll taste the salt for me."
Crushing me against her body, I hear Mary say, "No! I choose you. I choose you over the ocean."
Mary, if only that were true. But your ocean is everlasting, and I am on the verge of death. Now is not the time to pick me, so broken and defeated, over your fantastical ocean. I can't argue that, however, and can only sigh, "Promise me."
I would never know her answer. For it is then that the Infection takes hold and I 'die', giving in to the disease thrumming through my body.
And the last thing on my mind wasn't of God or saying simple prayers. But of my ocean - of Mary and of the days we spent together in the manor.
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