"As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment."
- Of Mice and Men
"I know about the two of you."
Jill and Wesker looked up.
She tucked her hair behind an ear, wanted to speak. Didn't know what to say.
"Don't." Chris rubbed his eyes. "Please don't."
They were silent at the table.
"What would you suggest be done now?" Wesker asked.
He sighed. Exhausted. And the tears welled up in his eyes. "I just want to rest. I'm so tired. I'm so tired of fighting."
They watched him.
"You should rest then, Chris," he said. His voice was soft.
Chris put his head down on the table. "Yeah."
Some monsters were too big to fight.
Some problems were made not to be solved.
Sometimes, things went on forever, losing their sting, their venom, after a time.
He could live with the monster of them.
He'd lived with much worse.
"We'll all rest," Wesker said. "All of us."
January 1, 2100.
The bag was light.
He wouldn't need much now.
He didn't even need the virus anymore.
Her last gift to him - undoing what he'd done to himself.
Wesker tossed everything (some clothes, ammunition) to the surface.
He closed the bunker up carefully.
To leave it open, exposed, felt wrong. It would mean leaving them open, exposed.
And that was too much for him to live with.
Wesker wasn't one for sentiment, but the hatch itself had become a character in his story.
It deserved a proper burial.
He walked for years.
Perhaps a decade.
He couldn't be sure and didn't want to be anyway.
He walked from one end of it all to the other. And back.
Walked through mountains and forests. Along coasts and rivers. Across deserts and plains.
He made his way down what he believed was central California. It would be his second trip there.
This time felt different though.
The air was different.
It was all different with some intangible possibility.
A little creek.
Rabbits stopped, watched him. Like wary little stones.
He thought of his favorite Steinbeck.
"Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land."
His hands itched to hold it again, read it cover to cover.
He would - he would find a copy somewhere, someplace.
He sat down, trying to remember.
A bird trilled in the tree near him.
He tried to remember.
It called wildly.
It screamed over him.
He turned and unleashed five shots into the tree with the Samurai Edge.
The bird paused.
And then continued.
Wesker whipped the gun up into the branches.
He watched the bird fly off.
The gun stayed up in the tree though, caught on a limb.
And then he smelled them.
Out of curiosity alone, he let them take him down.
April 28, 2046.
At the age of 71, Chris Redfield died.
It wasn't a hero's death.
He didn't die defending the world, or saving a life.
He died holding her hand with his sworn enemy at his side.
It wasn't a hero's death, but it didn't need to be.
A funeral pyre burned, curls of smoke echoing into the starless night.
Jill stood by herself on the other side, eternally beautiful, looking like she had the day her body first died - but feeling every bit her real age. She was rubbing her nose, her eyes swollen and red.
As the flames surrounded and then engulfed his body, she disappeared into the darkness - unable to bear witness to that one last loss.
Wesker stayed though.
Watched it burn higher into the sky, reaching out to whatever heaven he was destined for.
As the fire raged, he brought his heels together, straightened his spine, and drew his hand up.
As the fire raged, Albert Wesker saluted Chris Redfield.
Wesker sat in the dark, cross-legged, yogic. A chain was around his neck, tethering him to the piling of the run-down warehouse.
Outside, he could hear the calls of children, the laughter of these New World people. Through the broken windows, the smoke of a fire floated in, the sickly sweet odor of cooking flesh.
They spoke English. Sometimes broken and mixed with something else. Other times, pure.
It was strange.
A creak, the industrial door opening, the light of the flames silhouetting a person.
She came to him from the shadows, the moon streaming through the jagged glass.
He noticed her bare feet.
She crouched, curious brown eyes. He was stone.
Before him, she laid down a battered plate.
Before him, she offered her portion of the kill.
Her hair was braided back, wispy curls coming loose about her face. She was lean and small. Her hollow stomach a reminder of a difficult life.
"Take it away. I don't want it." He rumbled.
She studied him, sitting back on her heels.
"What are you called?"
She smiled, her teeth a brilliant white against the shadows. "Your people must have given you a name."
His cold eyes narrowed at her, thought on her. "I have no people." He replied.
She sat down then, knees pulled up.
Wesker was reminded of Jill, on the hood of the Aston Martin, watching the ocean. He swallowed, looked away.
The chain around his throat clanked against the metal of the pole.
"How old are you?"
She seemed satisfied with that and moved on.
"You have been here for four days. You do not eat, or sleep."
He didn't respond.
"The Elders call you The Devil," she said. "They are afraid of you."
Wesker turned to her. "Do you believe I'm The Devil?"
She shook her head.
"Well, you're a foolish little beast then."
He went back to watching the moon.
She stayed near him for several minutes and when she went to leave, he grabbed her hand.
She didn't jerk away, or tremble, or wince. She grasped his hand in return.
He shook it slowly. "What do your people call you?"
"Ninti." She watched the strange ritual - hand-shaking.
He let her go and watched her walk away, back into the night, back to her people.
He had considered breaking the chain around his neck and killing them all.
He decided to wait.
She was interesting.
She came back morning, noon, and night, staying longer every time.
She stopped bringing food on the third day.
He wrote her name in the dust.
She stared at it. "What does it mean?"
"It's what your people call you."
She traced the letters with her finger. "You should teach me this."
He said nothing, knowing he would not stay long enough.
"The Elders have a book. Only they are permitted to read it."
Wesker frowned. "A book?"
"Yes. It is the only book."
"And these Elders read it? By themselves?" He had a good idea of the title of this book.
She traced her name again. "For as long as any of us can remember, it has been that way. The Elders say that every law comes from the book. Everyone must follow the book."
He watched her. He thought carefully before speaking. "... And who chooses the Elders?"
"Well, they choose each other. Why?"
But then she paused, reflecting on what she'd just said - a new-born thought, a thinking for the first time.
They choose each other.
Wesker smiled. "What if someone who is not an Elder reads the book? What would happen then?"
"Shh! Bite your tongue!"
"You should steal this book and bring it to me."
She looked shocked. "I could not! It's forbidden! If the Elders knew... if they knew I was even talking about this..."
"Nonsense. Bring me the book."
She glared and shushed him, whispered, "That is wrong."
"Yes. It is not allowed. We shouldn't speak on this." She was very nervous with the topic.
"Who says that it is 'wrong'? The Elders? Who appoint themselves?" He raised his eyebrows.
He leaned in so that she could feel his heat, look directly into his primordial eyes.
"Ninti... do you ever wonder if The Elders aren't telling you what's really in the book? Or the book... What if the book is wrong?" He hissed. "I can tell you if the book is wrong. I can read it to you. You need only bring it to me."
She bared her teeth. She was angry. A righteous anger. "Shhhhh... Hush now."
She swiped at the dirt, smearing out her name.
He sat back, staring at her.
He didn't have to say anymore.
The seed was sown.
The men came in occasionally to stare at him.
Sometimes, when he felt like putting on a show, he would lunge, pretending to be stopped at the end of the chain.
They would scatter, a sea of dark hair, tan skin, fleeing.
When they ran, he would smile.
"Tell me about the monsters."
He leaned back on the piling. The chain swayed.
"They were called Uroborii. Well, Uroboros. They were like... a mound of black worms. Or... snakes."
She looked at him intently, wanting nothing more than to listen. Innocent.
"They ate. They were uncontrollable. They killed everyone."
"Where did they come from?"
Wesker was careful. "They were created. By a man. An Elder, maybe."
"Why would a man do that?"
He looked at her. He was at a loss. "Perhaps he was unhappy. With the world, the way it was."
"It's very bad now though? Worse than before?"
He looked down. "Yes."
"So... this man was wrong. What was he unhappy with?"
None of his reasons made any sense when he looked into the eyes of that foolish little beast.
He was ashamed.
"I don't know."
She gnawed on a bone.
"Why do they keep me?" He asked, one knee pulled up.
"They're waiting for a sign."
"I'd like to speak with your Elders. Can you arrange that?"
"The Elders forbid it."
Wesker looked at her. "Forbid a request to meet with them?"
"No. I am forbidden to speak to them. I'm a woman."
His was shocked, tried to hide it.
"I am female. I'm forbidden to speak unless spoken to."
He thought back to every conversation he'd had with her... and indeed, he'd spoken first.
He listened and saw glimpses.
These people were nomadic.
There were a couple hundred, at most.
Regression back to oral language (he reasoned because they were consumed with survival).
No modern tools.
And strangely enough, few weapons.
It was human development in its infancy.
As he sat on the dirty floor, Wesker came to realize that there were no "Chosen". He hadn't reclaimed the earth for superior beings.
All that he had done was hit the reset button on the homo sapiens species.
She reached out, fingers grazing his hair.
He pulled back, glaring.
"It is white." She marveled at it. "And your eyes, like suns. I have told the other women about you."
"Yes. I told them about you. They want to lay with you."
He laughed, loud - like dishes breaking. "Do they?"
She smiled, though she wasn't sure why he found it funny. "They would try to beget a white-haired son with you."
"That would require a miracle..." He looked up and out the broken windows, still smiling.
"A wish come true. Something rare." He explained patiently, softly.
She frowned. "How many sons do you have?"
Wesker picked up a pebble, tossed it, watched it skip over the cement floor. "None. I had a daughter."
He thought of Sherry, the last time he'd seen her - Paris.
"She was not my daughter, really. But I raised her as such." He sighed.
"A son is better than a daughter." She said it so naturally. An idea drilled into her from birth.
"That is a human notion, Ninti. One sex is no less valuable than the other. Females, males - it doesn't matter." He bit back, surprising even himself with his defensive tone.
"Well, it is best to have both girls and boys. Of your own blood. You must be laying with dry females."
He remembered Jill then. The feel of cool skin on his.
She was the only one who could put out the fire in him.
Anything but dry.
"No. No, it wasn't her fault." He thought of his sperm, wriggling haplessly in a Petri dish.
"How many females do you have?"
He smiled at her strange ignorance.
He turned thoughtful though. Nostalgic. He decided to be honest. "One."
"One?" She looked hard at him, not understanding.
"You have many men, I take it."
"Many men have me. I belong to my people. I am a woman."
He nodded. "Well, I have no people and I will never be with another."
"What is your one woman called? Where is she?"
Wesker's mouth drew into a tight, unreadable line. "Her name is Jill. She passed away."
She repeated the name to herself, memorizing it. Then she asked: "It is common only to have one female, where you're from?"
Ninti frowned too. She was silent for a moment. "What do you call that - one woman, one man?"
He felt a pain in his chest. "Love, I suppose."
December 12, 2099.
"Are you very afraid?" He whispered to her, in his arms.
"You are more brave than anyone I have met in my life." He told her the truth.
She smiled, weak. "I can't see."
"Soon you won't be able to hear. Then you will slip away."
Jill was loose in his lap. He was cradling her in the shadows.
She was 123 years old.
She looked 32.
But her cells knew better, no matter what the antibodies in her system told them.
She was dying.
"You won't... you can't bring me back?"
"No." He fought. He lost. A tear ran down his cheek.
She couldn't see though. She'd never know. No one would ever know. That gave him comfort.
"You are stronger than me, Jill. You would only eradicate my virus."
"It's okay," she said. "It's okay."
He shook his head. "You were the only one. My only success."
She patted his arm, weakly. "You're gonna be very bored when I'm gone, Al. No one to pick on."
His eyes burned so with those infernal tears. "Yes. So very bored."
"Do you still hate me? Passionately?" She almost laughed.
He smiled, another tear carving down his face. "Oh, passionately. Yes. Always, Jill."
She coughed, her lungs failing.
"And do you hate me, Ms. Valentine? Do you think me the most vile, miserable creature on Earth?"
"I've always... hated you. More than anyone else." She whispered, a whistle between each word. A rattle.
The tears fell steadily then.
"I'm going to go now, Al."
He gritted his teeth. "Are you sure? Can't you fight, Jill? Just a while longer?"
But she was already fading.
She died in his arms that day, an hour later.
She died in his hands.
Not the hands of a god.
Not the hands of a man.
The hands of some wretched thing stuck in-between.
Stuck in-between like a naked stag hanging from a tree.
On the tenth day, she came to him very late at night, and very bruised.
A swollen black and blue ring around her eye. An abrasion at her mouth.
He stared, eyes glowing. "What have they done to you?"
She sat slowly, easing down, in pain. "I have grown disobedient."
"I am too used to you. I am too used to speaking with men. I questioned a man. I was punished."
He didn't speak on it, disgust choking him.
This was not how the New World was supposed to be.
He grew furious. "Do you know that you are with child again?"
He could smell her pregnancy. Her men had beaten her while she carried.
Her hand went to her stomach. She inhaled sharply.
"There is more to life than this. You do not have to breed for these men." He was close to her, hissing as the chain clanged against the piling. "You do not have to rut on command. You are better than an animal..."
"... How?" Her voice was shaky, uneven.
"Tomorrow night, bring me what they've stolen from me."
"Don't be afraid, Ninti. I'm going to give you everything you've ever wanted."
The next day, Wesker had visions - day dreams, hallucinations.
He remembered the last card - The Tower. The ruinous fall of man.
He remembered Chris's words about religious zealots, headed for California.
He remembered his own thirst for power, his desire so overwhelming that nothing else mattered.
He remembered burning up with it, the power keeping him warm at night when no one else could stand to be in his bed.
And then Jill.
Madame Delassixe had been right.
Albert Wesker had died.
He'd died a thousand fiery deaths.
That night, Wesker lifted the chain from his neck. Free from his false prison.
She slipped into his darkness, handing him the clothes they'd taken from him the first day of his captivity. The clothes they had been praying on, mesmerized by.
He pulled on the jeans, then the t-shirt.
She watched him in the waning moon. Bare feet.
He held out his hand to her.
She laced her fingers with his and followed him into the night.
He came back down The Tree.
She stood to the side.
He handed her the Samurai Edge, barrel down.
She took it, uneasy.
He put his hand on top of hers. Reassurance.
"I'm going to teach you to use this. It's a gun. It must be handled carefully."
She turned the metal piece over in the moonlight. "What does a gun do?"
"Many things. It brings power. And death."
He paused, watching her, eyes glowing red.
He clicked the safety off.
"It will teach you everything the men don't want you to know."
He taught her that night, under cover of the clouds and the moon.
He moved her feet apart, adjusted her, helped her as he had Jill a lifetime ago.
She learned quickly.
He felt her breath quicken and her body tense.
And best of all... she liked it.
"I'm leaving, Ninti."
She looked at him, the gun in her hand at her side.
It's right for her, he thought.
"Where will you go?"
"Anywhere...," he said. "Nowhere."
He held out his hand again.
She shook it, recalling the ritual at their first meeting.
He walked through the brush, away from her.
"I know now what your people call you." She yelled after him. "You're in the book."
Wesker turned, listening. "The Elders' book?"
"Oh? And what does their book name me?"
His heart all but stopped. She waited for him to say something.
There was a veil between them then.
"No," he said quietly.
"So you are The Devil."
He smiled. "Not quite."
"What then? What will I tell my sons and daughters of the white-haired man? What will I call you?"
"If you must call me something... call me The Serpent."
But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vein:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blessed, compared to me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
Oh prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear.
- To A Mouse, on Turning Up in Her Nest with the Plough
And... that's it for The Serpent.
Thank you to everyone for reading and to those who reviewed. We can't believe how big it got. Way more than we could have asked for.
If you don't want the story to end, it doesn't have to:
The Garden, by sad little tiger - 11/22/11