A/N: I've been dying to write a fic about this for ages; as it's maddening not knowing what happens to them all. I just thought I ought to point out a few things for reasons of clarification:
1. Any surname speculations are entirely my own (what I basically thought suited the characters I gave them to). Valve never designated surnames for some reason, perhaps for ambiguity, with the exception of Bill Overbeck.
2. For reasons I'm about to go into, the town of Rayford for the purpose of this story is set on the coast, south of Savannah. I realise that L4D Wiki states that it's technically in Griffin county, but, going from the dialogue from The Sacrifice, in my opinion, it makes much more sense if it's there (and still in Georgia).
3. Any relationships between characters are also based on my own judgement. I have tried to keep in character for them all the best I can. It's up to you to tell me whether I have succeeded in doing so.
4. I apologise for how sporadic my chapter sizes are.
Anyways, I hope you enjoy this as much as I currently am writing it. Know it's a lot to have submitted all at once (case anyone's wondering how a ten chapter story just sprung out of nowhere) but felt I wanted to get the bit that drags on a little out of the way and done, so the good stuff can begin :)
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I will fear no evil..."
- Coach, Psalm 23:4
These noises, even in the haze.
They had made it to the island. It was all over.
They were finally safe.
The beach is warm and welcoming. Lying down, it feels like there is nobody else in the world. No fear, no tragedy – no more death.
(Why is it so hard to)
(Oh God please help)
(I'm choking I'm choking I can feel it in my lungs)
(Breathe you have to)
Moaning sounds echo in the distance made by unspeakable creatures. There is, unbeknownst to them, a sort of hell on Earth. Those monsters are, in some ways, luckier than those who have to live. Nobody can help them. They are lost in their own little worlds; feeling pain sure, but certainly no more than they are capable of inflicting, which, as demonstrated by the countless bodies strewn over the muddy Georgian ground, is a great deal and then some.
But they don't know, either. They have no fear, no conscience or use of their higher brain functions and there is nobody who can help them. The ones that do suffer are the ones that know.
Some short way out into the Atlantic Ocean, not far from the harbour, there is a gasping noise; too quiet for the creatures to hear; with the main noises in their head being the respective grunts and squeals of their kind. A hand squabbles above water for a moment, reaching for something,anything – and, with some luck; clenches onto part of a boardwalk; most likely washed ashore from the strong currents that had come from the stormy weather shrouding most of the south. There are no seagulls in the harbour anymore, or other birds; no familiar noises for the person short of air to tread water closer to – only the grunts to symbolise the inevitable danger ashore.
A young woman's head emerges from the water; eyes ringed red from exhaustion, but still coloured a deep green that distinguished her from the rest. Human green – uncorrupted, unchanged – untouched. She is breathing, but shallowly; rapid gasps entering and leaving as sharply as the pain at her temple. Her escape had been but a dream. She touches her head gingerly and feels what she feared; viscous blood staining her slender, pianist's fingers. She looks at them and thinks of things to motivate her to stay alive; how she had wasted their grace on videogames in her college dorm, alone. Would she try and teach herself if she got through all this madness – this shit?
As she reaches full consciousness; closer and closer still, so does the pain increase. It burns inside her head, so much so that she sobs; the corners of her vision staining red. She feels in her pockets below the water for pain pills with her free hand or adrenaline and comes up with nothing. In despair she realises that the water must have claimed them; taking them so that they would be useless, spent – like the way they had treated, almost, the old man's death at the bridge a day or so before. She feels a pang of guilt and longing for the man of whom she had become so close to, nearly as a daughter over the weeks they'd travelled south and she retches. Sure, they had been running away at the time and it she knows it was very human of her to block out feelings of emotional trauma with jokes or silence, but now the feelings are coming and they are vast.
Still a way off from the shore; she drifts in her misery – a tiny island of fading hope in a vast sea where the odds were so against those who were still fighting. She knew nobody would come for her anymore. Why should they? They were safe; they saw her fall in, head knocked to shit from where it struck the side of the boat as she fell –
She gasps a little as the memories flood back and zones out again for a little while; the world turning from red-tinted to black.
When she reawakens; arms still gripping the driftwood holding her afloat, she has come very close indeed to the shore, twenty metres or so, give or take. She knows that it's only a matter of time – soon, she knows that she will have to face them. Bleeding, weapons gunked up from the polluted sea-water and no medicine or company meant that at that point, she is feeling very alone and very, very helpless.
What could she do?
Could she die here, after she had gotten so far?
Would she stand a chance at all?
(This one time, my buddy Keith repaired a combine harvester for his Pa to drive to cut his crops and, like, he didn't know that there was gonna be a zombie apocalypse and shit, so he used it instead of mowing corn, to mow down zombies. His Pa was dang prouda him, till he turned and it was blade-time. Made Keith sad and all but he said that it's what his Pa would've wanted; to go down like his Granddaddy did in the nineteen thirties...)
She smiles to herself; thinking of the odd tales the strange young man on the bridge had yammered on about to his buddies in his thick Georgian accent and felt a piece of herself come back again. She most likely would die and that was a fact that she could not doubt. But she sure as hell's going to go out with a sense of humour about it.
As she drifts closer towards land; able now to put her feet on the sandy floor she thinks wistfully of things she wishes she had said and how she now never could. She could see them in the distance – eyes reflecting light even though there was little in the heavy rain; their breaths thick and laboured. In the north where they had come from; many had most likely starved to death – but down here, the spread is fresh and rampant amongst the citizens; the swampy place she had come through ripe with disease and the stubborn, relentless lives of the damned –
An idea springs to her mind as she takes the first step or two onto the beach. A crazy idea that she's just about nutty enough to try.
Could she maybe, just possibly... pretend to be them?
The visibility of the place is poor, her torch is broken and it would be difficult to smell her in such stormy weather. They are more aggressive amongst each other if they are provoked; but then and only then. If she just kept to the shadows, could she maybe make it back to the closest safe spot; with its heavy steel door? Her party had not spent long there; knowing that they were close to where they needed to be, so food 'ought' to be plentiful. She could exist there; curling up in her skin until the nightmare was over for her; by any means necessary.
She'd started studying for a degree in Film and Psychology before all of this. The Minor would be a pretty sure test to see if all that time and hard work was truly worth it. She stifles a hysterical laugh which comes out as a few, fairly convincing muffled snorts; thinking of all the times she'd spent holed up in that dorm watching those stupid horror movies and takes a very deep breath. She spies tracks on the muddy ground; a floral pattern recognisable as her own and realises that it would be less of a search than she first imagined to find the hideout along the shore, though it does very little as a means of consoling her fear.
(It's two miles just two miles just)
She closes her eyes for a brief moment – and lets her body go slack.