Alright, something's wrong with my 'edit document' option on the site. Whatever. I'll just have to make do without line breaks, ect.
I actually drew up a 'movie poster' for this short story…and honestly, when I finished it I wanted to rewrite the story since I found the poster made it seem more, well, intense or possible badass than it actually is. That being said, I may just do a remake of this story later on, but I'll leave the original up since hey…it came first.
That being said, I hope you enjoy the second and final part of this two-shot!
Lila was screaming in his ear as he carried her over the marshy grounds. The ringing of gunshots was like a chorus from a crowd as their group fought through the sludgy ground. They had entered the swamp in the early morning and when they reached the middle it turned into a nightmare. It was almost like a nest of the dead, and they had practically been ambushed. The group had become scattered as everyone tried to get away. Adults had grabbed children, lifting them up and running as best as they could through the thick mud and water. They had managed to get away somewhat, but the creatures were right on their tails and it was hard to outrun them when it was close to impossible to run at all.
"Lila, you need to stop screaming! The noise attracts them!" Cole ordered over the terrified girl's screams. She slapped a hand over her mouth, tears streaming down her cheeks. Cole could understand why she was so scared. They had been walking next to a man named John who was Cole's 'guard' for the day. When the zombies had appeared, John had been grabbed before he could do anything but yell and they had witnessed his neck being broken so harshly that a bone stuck through the skin.
That was when Lila had started screaming and attracted the rest of the hordes.
Cole was torn as he struggled through the marsh. He wanted to keep Lila safe but he wanted to run back and find his brother. Worry for Cameron was burning at his heart, and he found each step away from the group harder than the last. There were three corpses chasing after him and the girl, and he had already emptied his only magazine trying to get Lila and him out of the group that had killed John.
His thoughts were shattered when he climbed over a log only to see a large labyrinth of hanging vines and broken trees before him. It was practically a dead end.
"Shit!" he cursed, turning around and holding Lila tighter. The corpses were slowly climbing over the log, their blank eyes surrounded by veins and their disfigured mouths gaping open. He backed up, his eyes darting around to try and find some kind of escape. There was a path out to the side, but a corpse was standing there, blocking the way as it ambled towards them. Lila was squeezing her arms around his neck so tightly he was having trouble breathing and it only served to make his panicking heart race even faster.
"Lila...Lila, you need to try and relax," he whispered frantically, taking another step back. They were running out of space and time and he still couldn't see any way out of it. Lila was shaking terrible, but her grip loosened a bit and he was able to suck in a full breath. His head cleared from the panic and he looked around again, this time letting his eyes roam upwards as well.
He turned, rushing towards the obstruction of nature. "Lila, you see that branch over there?" he said, nodding towards it. She nodded, her eyes still wet with tears as she glanced backwards and whimpered. "I need you to climb up onto it and climb into the trees. Can you do that for me?" he asked softly, rubbing her back soothingly.
She sniffled and nodded. "What about you?"
"I'll be right behind you, so you need to be quick," he assured as he lifted her up. "Now come on, grab it and start climbing higher!"
Lila grabbed the branch, hefting herself up with childish grunts. Once she was secure Cole let go of her and she continued to climb higher. He grinned, urging her on as he reached up to grab the branch.
"That's perfect Lila! Keep going! Just keep-"
He was cut off when a strong grip on his ankle yanked him back. His fingers slipped from the branch and he fell face forward into the mud. He could hear Lila scream above him, calling out for help. Lifting his head and spitting out mud, he saw that she was watching everything.
"Lila!" he coughed on some mud, spitting it out. "Lila, close your eyes! No matter what, don't look! Don't watch, no matter what you hear!" he yelled, feeling another dead hand press down on his legs. Lila was sobbing hysterically, but a glimpse showed her clutching the tree, her face pressed against it to avoid looking. He clenched his jaw when he felt the creatures start to yank on his limbs. They were going to tear him apart, limb by limb.
'God please, protect my brother and the others! Let them find Lila and escape to the survivor camps!'
He closed his eyes in pain when there was another yank on his ankle and he felt pain throb through it like a burn. Lila's sobs were still audible and he hated that she had to go through this.
His ears twitched when he heard what sounded like a whistle blowing. It was long and shrill, and he felt the way the creatures attacking him turned to follow the sound.
Then the shrill whistle was interrupted by the unmistakable crack of a gunshot. Once, twice, the sound thudded in the moist air of the marsh and Cole wondered if someone from their group had found them. Undoubtedly they would assume he was dead. He couldn't bring himself to move and he realized that he actually couldn't breathe. The muddy ground was pressing against his nose and mouth, blocking all oxygen from getting through.
Someone grabbed his shoulder and pulled him over roughly and he couldn't even blink the mud out of his eyelashes before a hand was roughly wiping over his mouth, clearing the mud away and allowing him to gasp for air.
"Well ain't you a lucky piece of a cow's cud," a gruff voice said. "Hey, little girl! Stop your wailing already; your daddy's fine!"
"Is—" he coughed, drawing air into his lungs through the remnants of mud, "Is Lila okay?"
"Yep, she's fine. A little shook up for sure, but she doesn't look hurt."
He reached up a shaky hand, wiping at his eyes. When most of the mud was cleared away, he could make out his saviours shape. It looked to be like a bulky man wearing an old cowboy style hat. He was holding a shot gun and was crouched over him, blocking out the sun.
"Come on boy; let's get you and the little missy out of here. No doubt the shots and her bawling have attracted more of the beasts!"
Cole grasped the hand offered and allowed himself to be pulled up out of the dirt. While he regained his bearings, whoever had helped him moved away to fetch Lila.
"Come on kid! I'll catch ya!"
Cole wiped at his eyes some more, wincing when his ankle was jolted. He turned, seeing Lila clutching the tree tightly and staring down at him with wide eyes.
He tried to smile through the muck on his face. "It's okay Lila. Just jump! He'll catch you and I'm right here!" he called, coaxing the girl down. She hesitated for a while but finally nodded and edged over to the end of the branch. With a small squeak, she slid off and dropped through the air. The man who helped them caught her easily, and hoisted her up to sit on his shoulders.
"Looks like you ain't going to be walking on your own. I'll help ya along," he said, moving towards Cole and yanking his arm around his shoulders as well. Cole nodded slowly, still disoriented and weak.
"Thank you...so much. You saved me. You saved us," he said softly. There was a grunt in reply before the man spoke.
"No need to thank me. In this day and age, us living folk have to support each other, stranger or no. It's the only way we can survive in this dead world."
Cole laughed at that, eyes sliding over the area. "Pun not intended?" he asked jokingly and the man chuckled.
They were led through the swamp to a small cabin a few yards away from where they'd been cornered. The man helped Cole up the steps, Lila clinging to his shoulders like an infant monkey. They quickly walked through the door once the man unbolted it, and scurried inside, after which the man re-bolted it with inside locks. Lila was let down and she immediately hovered around Cole, clutching at his arm nervously. Cole stumbled over to a seat, flopping down and letting out a groan.
In the dimly lit living room, the man who helped them knelt down, reaching out to peer at Cole's ankle.
"Wow boy, you're one lucky son of a goat!" he said in surprise, looking up and for the first time Cole saw his greying hair and brown eyes. "It looks like it's just a pulled muscle or a light sprain!"
Cole sat up slightly, looking down at his ankle. It was swollen and bruised for sure, he could see it easily. He tried to move it, wincing when it hurt like hell but it wasn't impossible.
"Heh," he grinned through his pain, "Lady Luck must've been on my side today!"
The man laughed, standing. "I'll go get some ice for ya. Just wait here and I'll be back. Oh and by the way, the name's Jericho! But you can call me Jerry for short!" he introduced, holding out his hand.
Cole smirked, extending his own dirty hand and firmly clasping the other man's. "I'm Cole, and this is Lila. Nice to meet you and thanks for the help."
Jerry nodded, smiling down at Lila briefly before he walked out of the room and deeper into the small house. Cole relaxed in his seat, closing his eyes. His heart throbbed angrily against his ribcage and his head was ringing with thoughts of the rest of their group. He was thankful that he and Lila were alive, yet now he was worried about his brother and the rest. He found that not knowing where they were was more excruciating than knowing if someone was dead or not. That constant wondering of who was still alive and who wasn't was like acid bubbling in his heart and mind, killing him so slowly it made him want to shoot himself just to get it over with.
The only relief he had, or could cling onto, was that it didn't feel like his twin was dead. As with most twins, he and Cameron had always had some kind of connection. They couldn't read each other's minds, per se, but he could definitely sense more about his twin than anything or anyone else. He could usually tell when Cameron was angry, sad, upset or such.
Then again, he'd always been with his twin, since day one. He couldn't recall a time where they'd been apart for more than a few hours at most or a day. And even then, they had known where the other was.
But something was telling him that Cameron was still alive. Scared, undoubtedly, and angry as a crack-addict denied crack, but alive. He hoped that they would be able to find the group again soon.
"Right, here we go!" Jerry said as he walked back into the room, holding an ice bag. He handed it to Cole who pressed it against his ankle, hissing at the cold sting before relaxing again.
"Right. Now, are you hungry or thirsty?" Jerry asked, looking down at Lila. "I have hot chocolate?" he said with a smile and Lila's eyes lit up.
"Really?" she asked, not quite being able to keep the eagerness from her voice. Cole and Jerry shared a knowing look and a smile before the older man nodded.
"Yes indeed! How about I whip up some for us all?" he suggested and Lila nodded enthusiastically. Jerry nodded, walking back into the kitchen. When he was gone, Lila turned back to Cole and her expression became solemn.
"Do you think everyone is okay?" she asked softly, standing closer. Cole glanced at her before staring out the window at the thick marsh. He breathed through his nose as he thought about his brother, his best friend and everyone else.
"Yeah. I think they're okay."
"I AM NOT OKAY!" Cameron roared into the soft rag that he had pressed over his mouth. Once he finished screaming, he looked up at the muddied and exhausted group before him, specifically at the brunette woman staring at him. "My brother is missing, along with Lila, and John and Mary are dead. So don't ask me if I'm freaking okay!" he snapped venomously.
Misty held up her dirty hands; a sign for peace. "Okay, I'm sorry! I was just...asking," she trailed off, looking to the side guiltily. Of course Cameron wasn't okay. None of them were. Two of their members had died and two more were missing. They had been fighting off the dead for about an hour now and had finally managed to kill them and give themselves a moment to rest and find the others. Finding John's body had been a shock to everyone and Mary's corpse had made several of the children break out into tears. She had been one of the caretakers. They hadn't found a trace of Cole or Lila and Cameron simply refused to state them as dead or lost causes.
Stone waded through the water and placed a calming hand on Cameron's shoulder. He towered over the other and Cameron shrunk under his shadow.
"Just calm down. We'll find them, alright?" Stone assured. Cameron clenched his jaw tightly, wrapping his rag back around his forehead to keep his hair out of his eyes. He knew everyone was watching him curiously. After all, it was his twin that was missing.
"Well, maybe this is for the best. He was going to become one of them either way," someone near the back whispered.
The reaction was instantaneous. Cameron pulled his shotgun out of the holster attached to his back, and pointed it straight at the man that had spoken. His eyes were cold and unreadable as he glared at the panicking man. Everyone fanned away from the two and Stone was tense behind him.
"Say that again and I will end you right here, right now!" Cameron growled darkly.
The man gulped, taking a step back.
Ross stood next to his sister, eyeing the red head with something akin to admiration and the faintest hint of awe. Misty looked nervous and disapproving; wringing her hands together out of habit.
"Come on, Cam, think about this!" she said slowly. "Pointing guns at people is what Cole does, not you!" she added as a joke. Her laughter died in her throat when Cameron cocked his shotgun swiftly.
"It's true that my brother is a cold bastard who could kill you in the blink of an eye if you crossed him," he said monotonously, his eyes sliding across the group, "But believe me...If you piss me off, I can be just as cruel. Perhaps even more so than he can."
He raised the gun until it was eye level and narrowed his eyes. "If anyone ever suggests that Cole is one of those creatures and is better off dead...you'll find yourself on your back in three seconds flat." The gun was pulled up and disarmed before he slid it back into his holster. "That's a promise."
Cameron turned, his face smoothing out into a relaxed mask. "We'll head out of the swamp, the same way we planned to from the start. Cole will do the same with Lila, I know it. We'll meet up with them there. Let's go," he called, waving the group forward. He led the way, and slowly everyone filed after him. Ross walked beside Misty and Lou slinked up to join them.
"He's kind of badass when he's mad," Lou commented thoughtfully, scratching his head. Ross nodded.
"I didn't think the little squirt could be so cold. He's usually the sane and compassionate one, isn't he?" he asked in a whisper, looking between them. Misty sighed, wiping some mud off her hands and onto her shirt.
"Those two are full of surprises. I swear, sometimes they're like the same person in two bodies."
They trudged through the muddy swamp, their clothes getting even dirtier than ever before but no one complained. They had travelled through mud and sludge before, so they were somewhat used to it.
Cameron continued to walk ahead, his right hand gripping the area above his heart while he ground his teeth together. Stone was walking beside him, occasionally glancing at him with a wary look in his eye.
"It's scary how much you two can act the same sometimes. When you're together, you're so different. As soon as you're apart, I can barely remember which twin I'm with," he mumbled. Cameron spared him a glance, his eyes still hardened with anger and worry.
Stone offered a weak smile, shrugging slightly. "It's not too bad, I suppose. It's just really scary since you're usually so sweet and kind. Back there, it was like the Cameron we all know and love vanished and in its place was the coldness that Cole always bears."
"Wonderful poetry," Cameron drawled, rolling his eyes, "Can we move on please? I want to reach the edge of the swamp before nightfall."
He carried on ahead while Stone faltered behind, his arms slackening slightly in surprise.
"Damn," he muttered as the others caught up with him, "Everyone, we better pray that Cole is waiting at the end of the swamp, because I get the feeling if he's not we're all going to be targets of that guys anger."
The group nodded in nervous agreement before following along behind the charging red head.
Cole almost laughed when he climbed into the hot bath that Jerry had run for him. It had been a while since he was able to get a good shower or bath in, with hot water too. This was a real treat and one which he planned on enjoying to its fullest. He washed off the mud and grime, and washed his hair as thoroughly as he could. After deeming himself almost clean he took the time to chill out.
He lay back, closing his eyes and letting his muscles fully relax under the hot water. 'Bro, if you were here right now, you would rip me a new one for getting to enjoy this!' he thought and smiled at the mental image of his brother screaming bloody murder at him for getting to have a hot bath.
There was a knock on the door that made him jump.
"I've washed your clothes and hung them to dry in the kitchen. There's a robe for you to wear when you finish while your clothes dry. After your done, you can run a new bath for little Lila okay?" Jerry called through the wood.
"Yeah, sure thing! Thanks a lot Jerry!" Cole replied, sinking back under the water. He heard the man's steps fade away and closed his eyes again. His mind drifted to the past once more, when the world was normal. In the silence and humid heat of the bathroom and under the water drenching his skin and washing away the proof the morning's trials, he drifted back in time to better days.
A seven year old Cameron was sitting on the couch, his nose buried in a book that was way too big for a child his age. His eyes were wide and intrigued as he read the fine lettering on the pages, and the only noise were the birds twittering happily in the trees outside the window.
So immersed was he in his story that he failed to notice his mirror image tip toeing towards him. His happy readings were brought to an end when his book was suddenly slammed closed, his fingers getting caught between the pages. He yelled out, more in shock than any form of pain and his eyes narrowed into a glare as he stared at his twin.
"Why did you do that?" he snapped angrily, his lips forming a childish pout. A cheeky grin was his answer, followed by an obnoxious laugh that could only belong to his twin brother.
"You were so into it! I couldn't resist!" Cole said cheerfully as if he was unaware of the heated glare boring into his forehead. His green eyes glimmered happily as he looked at his brother. "What'cha reading anyway?" he asked, releasing the book and climbing onto the couch to sit next to his brother. Cameron opened the book back to his page and Cole's eyes skimmed over the pages. A frown curved his lips and he turned to look at his twin in confusion.
"This book don't have pictures!" he said disapprovingly, shoving a finger onto the lettered page and causing a crease.
"You mean it doesn't have pictures," Cameron corrected, pushing the offending finger away and smoothing out the page. "And that's because it's not a picture book! It's a novel and it's very interesting!"
Cole stared at him before shaking his head. "You're such a smarty-pants. It's annoying," he said honestly. Cameron sent him an incredulous scowl but Cole shrugged. "Either way, you're my brother so I still love you. But stop sounding so smart!"
Cameron shook his head and rolled his eyes. He turned back to his book. "If you don't like my being smart, then go do something by yourself!" he said simply.
Cole shuffled his feet, feeling a little dejected. He hadn't meant to sound so mean. In truth he was glad that his brother was smart, because he often couldn't get things right and Cameron helped him with his homework. But he felt as if his brother was leaving him behind and doing all the smart things that he couldn't do.
"Uhm," he began slowly and Cameron looked up. It wasn't often that Cole hesitated over anything. Usually he said exactly what he wanted to and never bothered with tact or being quiet. He looked at his twin expectantly, waiting for whatever it was he wanted to say.
"S-so what is the story about?" Cole asked awkwardly, pointing at the book. "Is...Is it a love story or something?"
Cameron blinked before smiling, pleased that Cole was interested. "Actually it's about knights and kings and queens!" he said and Cole's eyes glassed over in excitement.
"Really? Are there dragons and stuff too?" he asked, scooting closer to try and read. "What's...what does 'joust' mean?" he asked, squinting as if it would make the meaning of the word appear on the page. Cameron laughed.
"It's a sport they used to play! It's when knights ride horses and use long sticks to knock each other off their horses! Whoever gets knocked off their horse loses and the winner gets to kiss the princess!"
Cole let out an awed whistle, scooting closer and grabbing the edge of the book to lean closer and read. "That's cool! We should try joust sometime!" he said and Cameron nodded eagerly. They leant closer, their cheeks practically pressed against each other as Cameron read aloud and Cole listened eagerly. Their mother appeared in the doorway, smiling at the two before shaking her head and going back into the kitchen to finish cooking lunch.
Cole broke through the surface of the water with a gasp and sat up. The bathwater sloshed around him and streams ran down his chest and back from his loose hair hanging by his shoulders. He raised his hands, pressing them over his face while he drew in breaths. Wiping away some hair from his eyes, he looked out at the steamy bathroom wall. A thin trickle of water ran down his face, and it was not from the bath at all. He sniffed, running a hand across his eyes to rid them of the unwanted liquid forming at their corners.
He wouldn't deny that thinking of those times made him almost desperate to kill the undead. They had ruined the world that he had once loved. He knew that once he hit his teenage years he had turned into a bit of a rebel and treated life like it was one big game. When he looked back on the way he spoke to his parents during those times, he almost wanted to slap himself. He had taken things like parents and life itself for granted. Now that everything was in ruins around them, he would've given anything to be able to go back to those times. Everything was simple then. Every day was spent fighting for reputation rather than for food and shelter.
Those days had been bliss, when it was him and his brother in their small little house with their less than average parents and their crazy aunt who came to visit and demanded they give her a foot massage whenever she arrived.
He missed them all. They had been taken away from him by the creatures roaming the world now and his hatred for them grew. They had taken his parents, had most likely taken his aunt and all his old friends. And now there was a chance that they had taken his brother too. He hated them and swore he was going to kill them all. Even if he had to do it alone, he would fight these hordes of corpses till the very end.
"You okay in there boy?" Jerry called suddenly, and Cole jumped so hard that some water splashed over the edge.
"Y-Yeah! Sorry, I got a little lost in thought! I'll be right out!" he said, rinsing himself off. He let the filthy water out, climbing out of the tub and grabbing the towel Jerry had supplied him with. Rubbing down, he got dry and wrapped the towel around his waist. He stepped out the bathroom and saw the robe hanging on the opposite wall on a small hook. He took it down and slid it on, letting the towel loose and hanging it back in the bathroom. Securing that the robe was closed he walked into the living room. Lila jumped up immediately, her cheeks burning red as she watched him fix the robe's collar and hide his exposed chest.
"I-I'll go bath now!" she declared and ran off before either man could say a thing. Cole blinked as she practically threw herself past him and he watched her vanish into the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind her. He continued to stare at the door in bewilderment until Jerry's chuckle met his ears. He turned back and saw the man was watching him with a smile.
"That little girl has a big crush on you, my boy!" he said and Cole tilted his head.
"She does?" he asked, genuinely confused. Jerry slapped his knee, grinning.
"You really couldn't tell? She's absolutely love struck! When I first saw you, I thought you were her daddy or something, but she explained that you saved her from those zombies a while back and that she was travelling with your group," he said, sitting back and motioning for Cole to take a seat too.
He collapsed into an armchair, running a hand through his hair and wincing when he realized he'd forgotten to dry it. Shrugging slightly he glanced back towards the bathroom before looking at Jerry.
"Well, even if she is, it's not like there's anything to be done. I'm way too old for her, and vice versa. Besides, I don't think anyone is interested in a romance during this time," he added, resting his head on his hand. Jerry laughed, nodding in agreement.
"Still, ya got it admit it's a bit cute. A little girl adores you!" he laughed while Cole grumbled under his breath; feeling embarrassed at all the talk of it. It's not that he wasn't flattered, but it was awkward. Lila was an elementary student and he was heading into his mid-twenties! Although he'd never been comfortable with romance, even when the world was normal and he was dealing with teenage girls flirting with him.
"Listen Jerry," he began, pulling away from the subject of crushes. "Lila and I need to meet up with our group again. They will be heading towards the edge of the swamp. We'll have to meet them there," he said. Jerry stopped laughing, his face turning serious.
"Right. And what time limit do you imagine you have?" he asked and Cole was grateful that he didn't question his group's survival in the swamps.
"If I know my twin," he grinned while Jerry chuckled at his joke, "then they will be at the edge of the swamp by nightfall latest. And they will wait until midday tomorrow latest before my best friend insists that they keep moving. We are only a few kilometres from the first survivor camp right?"
Jerry nodded. "That's right. The nearest town was turned into a survivor camp not too long ago. They're the ones who give me supplies."
Cole straightened, his eyes lighting up. "You've had contact with them?" he asked and Jerry nodded.
"Yep. They're wide open and waiting for anyone who's looking for refuge."
Cole grinned, jumping out of his seat. "Thank God!" he cheered, running his hands over his face. He had been worried that the first survivor camp they reach would be too overrun and that they would have to go to the next one. This was the best news he'd had all week. "Thank you God, Jesus and...and Allah, just for good measure!" he continued.
Jerry burst into laughter at his little outburst, slapping his knees and wiping at his eyes. "Oh boy, I have to admit it's been a while since I've had some funny company!" he wheezed with a smile.
Cole stopped his dancing, turning to stare at the man thoughtfully. "Jerry, why don't you come with us? We can all go to the survivor camp!" he said. Jerry smiled sadly, shaking his head.
"I'd love to, kid. But I can't."
Cole blinked, his smile sliding off his face. "Why not?" he asked slowly, confused.
Jerry climbed to his feet, dusting his hands on his shirt. He walked over to the window and looked out at the swamp. In the light of the fading sun, Cole finally saw just how old and worn the man looked. His bulky frame was weighed down by a burden that seemed to be crushing his very soul. His eyes held stress lines and an unending shadow to them and his lips cracked when he smiled, indicating that they hadn't been stretched in a while.
"I have to stay in this swamp and keep an eye out for any travellers. These swamps are damn treacherous for those who don't know 'em. People can easily get lost and those walking abominations often wander here and stay. I need to stay here so that I can help the poor bastards who get trapped. Like yourself," Jerry said, sending a sly glance towards Cole.
He bit his lip, wiping away a trickle of water from his wet hair and joining the man by the window. Together they looked out at the murky greens and browns of the trees and water.
"...It's lonely," he stated and Jerry's smile went up a notch in sadness.
"That it is, boy. That it is. Sometimes I'm tempted to just leave, but I couldn't do that. My being here means a greater chance of others getting to safety."
Cole looked at the floor, a bitter smile creeping up on his face. "'In this day and age, us living folk have to support each other, stranger or no. It's the only way we can survive in this dead world'," he quoted and turned to smile at the surprised look on Jerry's face. The old man stared at him for a moment before he smiled again, this time for real and not the one laced with sadness.
"You took the words right out of my mouth," he said fondly and Cole smiled. "You cheeky little shit," Jerry added and started to roar with laughter when Cole gaped at him indignantly.
He watched as Jerry doubled over, clutching his stomach as he laughed and Cole smiled, finding that the old man reminded him of his aunt when it came to attitude.
'That must be hard. Living all alone in this corpse infested swamp...all for the benefit of others. That's a lonely, heroic existence,' he thought, leaning against the wall. He turned, looking out the window again. His eyes narrowed on a wandering corpse, covered in mud as it stumbled through the water. A low growl rumbled from his chest while his muscles automatically tensed and flexed. Jerry ceased his laughter, sensing the sudden drop in temperature in the room. He peered out the window and glanced at the man next to him. With a slight smile, he walked over to a cabinet and pulled out a rifle equipped with a silencer.
"Here ya go, boy!" he said, tossing the weapon to the other man. Cole caught it, jerking a step back at the sudden weight. He looked over at Jerry and the man grinned.
"Go on! Take it out!" he said, pointing to the corpse. Cole blinked before a wicked grin slid across his face like a knife through butter.
"With pleasure," he purred. He unbolted the door, peeking out to make sure there were none standing near the door. Seeing that the coast was clear, he stepped out onto the porch. His ankle had gotten much better and he could stand on his own at least. Holding the rifle up, he took careful aim, peering through the lens to get a perfect headshot.
His lips curled in concentration as he waited for the creature to turn to him. "Come on, you walking shit-suit."
As if it heard his murmur, the creature turned its blank eyes towards him and he smirked.
A dulled thud echoed in the air as his finger pulled the trigger. He watched his work as if it were an artistic masterpiece. The trees surrounding the corpse were now speckled red as the headless body sank into the water and the dark brown sludge turned into a deep burgundy.
Cole lowered the rifle, unable to disarm the smile on his face.
"Feels good, doesn't it? Killing those sons of bitches," Jerry mumbled from the doorway, his eyes raking over the kill zone. Cole nodded slowly, his smile finally retreated.
"Sometimes...it feels a little too good for comfort," he admitted. Jerry stared at him with curious eyes.
"Boy, you're back is bleeding!" he said suddenly, straightening up. Cole's head snapped up and he reached around, pressing a hand to his back. When he pulled it away, it was indeed red.
"Shit!" he hissed. He had forgotten about the wounds on his back. With everything that had happened today, it hadn't crossed his mind at all. He rushed inside, Jerry locking the door after him. While Cole undid the robe and slid it off his shoulders, Jerry rushed into another room and came back with medical supplies. He passed the bathroom, knocking on the door and checking that Lila was okay before carrying on.
"Here we go, I'll patch ya up!" he said, opening the kit in his arms and grabbing ointment and gauze bandages. Cole winced as the man wiped away the blood on his back. He already knew what was coming next, and he closed his eyes, feeling the way Jerry's movements slowed gradually before he stopped altogether. Cole never knew that a soft gasp could sound so loud in the silence.
"...How long have ya had these, Cole?" Jerry asked quietly, his eyes gazing at the deep cuts on the younger man's back. Cole swallowed heavily, feeling unsafe and vulnerable.
"...Two days by the end of today," he muttered in reply. Jerry's hands tensed against his back before they were forcibly relaxed. Cole stayed quiet as Jerry proceeded to smooth cream onto the wounds and then bandage them up. When he was done, Cole moved away, pulling the robe back over his shoulders. He sat cross-legged on the floor like a child, looking up at Jerry with blank eyes that hid his sorrow and defiance.
"And are ya...?" Jerry trailed off, waiting for an answer.
Cole allowed a trickle of fear to drizzle into his voice as he answered. "We're not sure."
Jerry took a step back, realization framing his face and he cupped his chin. "Oh no. Ya...I'm so sorry Cole. I can't even imagine how ya must be feeling," he said, sounding genuinely sad for the man. Cole looked down, examining his fingers. They were the exact same shape, size and length as Cameron's.
'God I miss my brother.'
"Well...everyone already knows what'll happen either way. If not, we keep going like normal. If...if I am...then they put a bullet in my head and call it a day," he shrugged at the end and smiled bitterly. "It's as simple as that really."
Jerry sighed, running a hand over his stubbly chin. "It's frustrating just how simple that sounds when in reality it's never that easy. The solution is simple, yes. But the choice to do it is the hard part."
Cole chuckled. "I think Lila and I should be on our way once our clothes are dry."
Jerry looked down at him, a flash of sadness on his face. But he nodded either way. "I'll give a some provisions just in case." He went to the door, stopping and placing his hand on the frame. Sighing heavily he turned back to Cole. "Cole," he called and waited until the man had turned to look at him. "No matter what, I don't think ya should worry. God has a plan for all of us...we each have a role to play in this world. Yours might not be over yet." And with that he walked out of the room, leaving Cole to sit on the floor and get lost in thought once more.
Cameron growled angrily as another corpse lunged towards him, its decomposing face like something from a child's worst nightmare. He yanked his shotgun around and managed to catch it in the mouth. Without any hesitation, he pulled the trigger and watched as its head exploded backwards. Blood spattered across his cheek and he grimaced at the thought but there was no time to wipe it off. There were only a few zombies left now; they should've been able to deal with them easily. They had managed to reach the edge of the swamp and had camped overnight. There was still no sign of his brother or Lila and his nerves and anger were reaching their end.
Cameron turned and watched as Stone punched a zombie away from Misty; his powerful fist smashing into its face and shattering the few teeth it seemed to have left. After that, he put a bullet in its skull for good measure. Lou had ended up mowing down a pair of zombies with his shot gun and was helping the last stragglers get out of the swamp. Ross and Jinko were carrying the supplies they'd managed to save and Cameron smiled when Jinko got a spectacular headshot on a zombie blocking the way.
"Cam! Behind you!" Misty yelled and he spun around, cursing when a dead hand caught his arm and pulled him forwards. He slid through the mud, his stomach hitting a branch. It put a stop to his movement at least but his arm was jerked painfully. His gun dropped from his grip, landing with a splat into the muddy water below.
"Dammit!" he cursed reaching for the dagger he kept on a holster at his side. As his fingers closed around the handle, he felt another harsh tug on his arm and let out a cry when his shoulder cracked out of joint, rendering his arm practically useless.
Stone shoved another newly killed corpse away and turned, his eyes widening when he saw the situation Cameron was in. He jumped forward as fast as he could, but the terrain made it extremely difficult to move. He pushed through deep mud and water, trying to get to the struggling red head before the zombies could really start attacking him.
'Oh God...I'm not going to make it!' he realized in horror as his foot was sucked into yet another hole hidden in the ground. As if his thoughts were echoed through the minds of all the survivors, everyone's heads turned to watch as another zombie grabbed Cameron's head, its fingers sliding over his eyes. They all heard his sharp intake of breath and saw the flicker of unbridled fear flashing through his eyes before they were hidden.
A crack of thunder split through the air, and a short shower of red rain splattered down into the water and onto the trees surrounding Cameron. His skin was also painted with remnants of congealing blood while his eyes stared ahead, disbelieving and uncomprehending. The heavy splash of a body sinking into the muddy water around him broke him out of his stupor and his head turned slowly to the source of the man-made thunder.
"Oh yeah! I rock so hard!"
Eyes widened as several more cracks rang out and the last few corpses straggling through the marsh were buried under its dirt and vegetation. Cameron stared at the man standing atop a log as if he were a ghost, his eyes twitching and shimmering.
Green eyes looked down at the motionless group before cracked lips upturned in a pout.
"What? You guys don't think I rock?" Cole asked unhappily. "Well screw you guys! I know I rock!"
Cameron stared at his twin, his mouth slowly closing. Those around blinked when they heard a strange, keening groan coming from him. He clenched his fists, beating them together before grinding his teeth together so harshly that the others heard the loud squeaks. His face was going red in anger and everyone stepped away, nervous of being hit in the face just because they were too close.
Finally, Cameron snapped. He opened his mouth and a stream of loud and harsh sounding words poured from his mouth. Everyone did a double take when they realized he was shouting in another language. It sounded like something from the East.
Cole flinched as Cameron continued to curse his existence and shout all the ways he was going to tear him apart in Japanese, and he scratched the back of his head nervously. He hoped his twin was just overwhelmed with emotion and that he wasn't actually going to do any of the things he described.
Getting a pineapple shoved up his rear and then being thrown into a pit of angry and starving rats did not sound like something he wanted to experience in any lifetime, no matter how drunk or high he may have been.
With a small shudder at the mental imagery that thought brought on, he turned back to help Lila out of her hiding place and the two of them began to climb down from the log they were standing on. Cameron's voice, if possible, raised a notch in pitch and the curses came flying even faster and with greater description.
"Is Cameron mad?" Lila whispered, glancing at the raging man. Cole smiled grimly.
"He's not mad, he's just upset," he said and the curses came to an abrupt halt. Cole gulped as he finally reached the ground-if you could call the swamp floor that- and turned to face his brother. Cameron's face was as red as a ripe tomato and it clashed horribly with his hair. His eyes were wild with emotions while his lips were pulled back into a snarl.
"Upset? Upset?!" he roared, and Cole swore he saw bits of his life flash before his mind's eye. "You vanish in a dark, dirty and zombie infested marsh, after an ambush by the aforementioned zombies, and you're gone for a whole day and night. And then, all of a sudden, you show up again without so much as a bruise on your face, and smelling like...like," Cameron sniffed the air near him and his nostrils flared, "you smell like a bunch of freaking apricots, your clothes are cleaner than anyone's, and you've got a bunch of provisions that you seemed to have pulled out of your ass! And you say that I'm upset?" Cameron's tone was now extremely sarcastic as he drawled the last word. Cole gave him a weak smile.
"Okay, so maybe I under exaggerated just a bit—" he began innocently.
"I'm going to fu—" Cameron roared only to have a hand slap over his mouth.
"Hey! There are children among us!" Cole chided, acting as though he was oblivious to the murderous glare directed his way. "Now then, just admit you're pleased to see me and we'll carry on! The survivor camp isn't too far now. Only a day's journey if we walk fast!" he continued.
At that news, the others in the group huddled closer, talking excitedly amongst themselves. However, a hush fell when Cameron tore his twin's hand away from his mouth and stared at him. Cole stared back, wondering if he'd pushed his luck too far and if he had to be on guard for any pineapples coming his way.
"You idiot," Cameron hissed.
Cole would never admit that he squeaked when Cameron pulled him forward into a fierce hug, his entire body trembling as he practically crushed Cole's shoulders with his arms.
"I'm so freaking happy that you're okay," Cameron whispered, his voice shaking. Cole smiled, hiding the action from the rest of the group by pressing his mouth against his twin's shoulder and returning the hug.
"I missed you too bro," he mumbled honestly and Cameron let out a shaky laugh that bordered on a whimper if one denied his manliness. After a moment the two brothers parted, and relaxed blue eyes stared back into amused green.
"You ever do that again and I will shove that pineapple up your ass!" Cameron threatened with a grin. Cole laughed, whacking him on the arm. He noticed his twin wince and his smile fell.
"Yeah," Cameron said, massaging his shoulder. "One of those things pulled my arm out of its joint, but I clicked it back in by accident when I was threatening you," he admitted with a snicker.
Cole grinned again, shaking his head. "Let's just get out of this swamp. The stench is killing me here!"
"So let me get this straight," Cameron started slowly, his hands fixing a pole into place so that he could put up a tent, "you were attacked by some of the zombies, but an old man in a cowboy hat appeared out of nowhere and saved you, made you hot chocolate and let you have a bath and then gave you provisions and sent you on your merry way to the edge of the swamp?" he finished, letting his eyes roll towards his brother. Cole sneered.
"Well when you say it in that tone of voice, of course it's going to sound ridiculous!" he defended and Cameron smirked, shaking his head.
"Your imagination surprises me. But, at the same time," he interrupted before his brother could start arguing, "it is the only way to explain your cleanliness and provisions."
Cole smirked in triumph, crossing his arms. "I told you!"
Cameron chuckled, holding out a hand. "Hand me that hammer."
"Say the magic word," Cole replied, looking at his nails.
"Abracadabra, I want the damn hammer," Cameron rhymed with a roll of his eyes. Cole shook his head, tossing the object over while he sat down on his haunches and watched as his twin set about hammering in the pegs.
There was no more talking after that and he listened to the sounds around them. They were in another field. There was a car crash site nearby, but no corpses were found. The children were currently playing by the wreckage and it surprised him how even now children could come up with imaginary games despite the state the world was it. It gave him a sense of calm and familiarity to hear their softened laughter. While most of the men were setting up the few tents they had, the women were sorting out a campfire and deciding on what to make for food. It almost seemed like they were on a normal camping trip.
But one thing was missing.
"I wonder where all the birds have gone," Cole wondered aloud, looking towards the sky. Cameron paused in the middle of his hammering, his own eyes sliding across the heavens before settling on his brother. He gave a sad smile.
"They probably flew to a secluded island where no one was infected or diseased," he suggested. Cole hummed, falling back in the grass and spreading out his arms. He closed his eyes, listening to the sound of the grass wavering in the breeze and the whispered words of their small group.
'I wonder how Jerry's doing?' he thought, sending a small prayer of goodwill to the man in the swamp. He shifted and winced when his back was scratched by a stone. It reminded him of Jerry's words.
"The solution is simple, yes. But the choice to do it is the hard part."
Turning his head he watched as Cameron finished hammering the last peg in and sat back to admire his lofty looking tent.
"Tomorrow's the day," he said quietly.
"Yeah. We'll finally reach the survivor camp and we can relax without worry for once!" Cameron agreed cheerfully, wiping some dirt off his chin and grinning at his handiwork. "What'd you think? Not the most attractive tent but it'll keep us covered—"
"Tomorrow's the day I either live or die."
A gust of wind blew by several scattered leaves, the small pieces of nature fluttering by their faces and swishing over the camp like a blessing. The children were settling down now and helping to prepare the food while everyone started to gather around the fire. The sun was beginning to set slowly, bathing the sky in an orange glow.
Stone looked up from the group, spotting the twins a few feet away by their tent. He frowned, noticing the almost devastated look on Cameron's face as he stared down at Cole lying on the ground. For a moment, his heart clenched in fear and he thought the worst. Had Cole collapsed? But then he saw him move and worried that he'd turned into one of the undead.
Cole sat up, looking at his twin. He looked as if someone had just slapped him in the face and told him his dog was dead. He chuckled softly and smiled.
"Don't look at me like that, bro."
Cameron seemed to jerk out of whatever thoughts he had gotten lost in, and he clenched his fists tightly.
"Don't be stupid," he murmured shakily, "You'll be fine! We'll go to the survivor camp and then we can rest and...And...I don't know, we can just chill! Like we used to!" he insisted. Cole's smile was infuriating. It was sad, sympathetic and knowing. It was the smile he had when he was using the link they shared as twins to look past what he was saying and read what he was feeling. It was the smile that pissed Cameron off to no end, because he knew that that smile was always the beginning of some form of hardship. That was the smile that Cole had worn when he told him that they would be okay on their own. It was the smile he had worn when he told him that their parents would be waiting for them somewhere. It was the smile he had worn when he promised that they would never be split apart by death.
Cameron hated that smile. He wished he could burn it off his twin's face. He wished he could take a rag and wipe it clear off the human race. He wanted to punch his twin for daring to show him that smile again.
"Yeah. Things will be fine in the end," Cole agreed as his smile widened even while his eyes blanked of emotion.
Cameron closed his eyes and fell to his knees, gripping the grass angrily. 'Don't smile like that and tell me things will be fine! Don't lie to me again!'
Though the words never left his lips, he knew that Cole could read his thoughts by the way he patted his shoulder. When he looked up, the smile was gone and Cole was blank faced. Cameron wasn't sure if that was worse or better.
"Let's go join the others. We can help prepare food," Cole said softly and stood up, offering his hand. Cameron clenched his jaw so tightly that his teeth creaked under the strain, but he took the offered limb and pulled himself up, dusting off his pants.
"I'm only going to say this once," he mumbled before Cole could leave. When his twin was standing still, waiting for him to continue, he looked up. "The only time you will die is when we do it together."
Cole watched in silence as Cameron walked towards the campfire, plastering on a smile to greet the children as he took a seat next to Jinko.
'That could be interpreted ominously.'
He sighed, running a hand through his hair before making his way over to the group, making sure to sit just out of arms-reach of Stone.
They were only a few hours away from reaching the survivor camp. They were so close.
Cole didn't eat very much that night.
The silence was crushing the small group as they walked along the dirt road leading to the survivor camp. It couldn't be too far now. However, the excitement they would have felt was outweighed by the guns pointing at Cole's back as he led the way. Lila was walking next to Misty, clutching the woman's hand tightly as she stared at Cole's back in fear and anxiety. Ross was fidgeting, his own gun held down to the ground as he walked. He had blankly refused to point his gun at Cole unless it was necessary. Stone was walking just behind him, his gun not even drawn as he walked with his hands hooked casually in his pockets. His hidden eyes remained watchful, however.
Cameron was standing at the back of the group, anger radiating off of him in waves. Cole had told him to stay at the back of the group to look after the people less able to defend themselves. The very same people that were staring at him accusingly and pointing guns at his back. What if one of the idiots shot him because he sneezed? If that were to happen, Cameron didn't think he'd care about the people enough to not shoot them in return.
Cole tried his best to ignore the gnawing sensation in his gut. Today was his judgement day and he was ready to admit that he was scared. He didn't want to die; most people didn't. But he knew that if he really was infected, he was practically dead anyway and he would rather be put down before he had a chance to hurt anyone he'd worked so hard to protect.
He checked his watch, wondering how much longer they would have to wait. It looked like he still had an hour left. His vision blurred suddenly and he felt dizzy. He hissed softly, reaching up a hand to press at his head. He made sure to pass the movement off as wiping his face and scratching his head. If someone saw him feeling sick he had no doubts that they would jump to the conclusion that he was infected and blow his brains out before he could utter 'wait'.
The dizziness soon faded and he breathed out through his nose. He tried to convince himself that it was just the fear and anxiety getting to him.
'Oh God, please let it just be fear and anxiety. I swear, I will never not eat my vegetables again. And I'll even go to church, if they've built one in the camp.'
He wanted to snort at his petty bargaining. He wasn't stupid. He knew God wouldn't offer him assistance in trade for something like eating his vegetables. God had way to much class for that.
He looked up, wiping a hand over his eyes when something loomed in the distance. He paused in his steps, narrowing his eyes to try and see through the burning sunlight.
It was a gate. A large, heavily locked and guarded gate.
It was the survivor camp.
"Everyone!" he yelled, forgetting that he might get shot at any moment. "Everyone, we made it! There's the camp gates!" he said, pointing to them and turning to the others. There were gasps of disbelief before smiles, cheers and sobs could be heard as the small group rejoiced at their success.
They'd survived. They'd finally made it!
"Come on! Stone, you and Ross lead the group to the village! Let's pick up the pace! Jinko and Lou, you guys bring up the rear with Cameron. I'll stay five feet behind you all," he added the last part, hoping that there would be no protests. It seemed the prospect of a safe haven was enough to make the others compliant, as everyone did as he told them too.
They began to half-walk, half-jog towards the gates, chattering excitedly about how they couldn't wait to get inside and know that they would be safe.
Cole walked behind the others, smiling at seeing their excitement and joy. It gave him a sense of pride and accomplishment at knowing that for the most part, he had led the people here to safety. The past four days had been hard, yes, but for the rest of the journey they had relied on him to stay alive.
His smile slipped as he thought of the people they had lost, and he sent a prayer to the heavens for them, hoping their souls were in a better place.
"You're lagging! Come on Cole!" Cameron called, waving his hand frantically for him to pick up the pace. Cole chuckled at his enthusiasm and agreed, jogging to match the increased pace of the group.
They were several feet away from the gates when he felt it. It was like a knife had been pulled through his back and into his stomach. Pain burned through his body with such an intensity his vision blacked out briefly. He stumbled, landing with a loud thud onto his knees and hands. He gasped for breath and suddenly he was coughing violently.
He could hear someone screaming, and more voices sounding frantic. There was a shadow over him and he wondered whether it was his twin, his best friend, or maybe Death himself coming to claim him.
His coughing subsided and he clutched at his stomach, wheezing and trying to blink away the spots in his eyes.
"—No! I won't let you!—"
"—Out of the way! He's turning!—"
"—Please wait! It might not be—"
Broken phrases were swimming through his mind as he heard the arguments go on around him. It was obvious that most of the group wanted to shoot him now. But there was someone...no others...who wanted to wait; who wanted to spare him.
He knew Cameron was begging for his life. Perhaps Stone was also delaying it, since he could hear him saying 'wait' quite often. And it sounded as though Ross was joining in the protests as well. He wanted to laugh at how, even though he'd tried to be cold and distant, people were sticking up for him. He had always know Cameron would, but he had thought that Stone would know when it was time to call it quits and pull the trigger. And Ross? He barely knew the guy; why would he care for him?
"—He's going to attack you!—"
"He would never attack me!"
As if to prove his roared statement, Cameron was suddenly holding him close as he gasped for breath and fought off the dizziness threatening to engulf him. Cole wanted to throw him off, tell him to stay away. It was obvious what was happening. He was infected. He was turning into one of the very things he despised.
Life was full of cruel ironies. That's why it was such a bitch.
"C-Cam," he strained out, pressing a hand on the other's chest in a weak attempt to push him off. "Just go...Let them do it."
"No! Shut up Cole!" Cameron was shaking as he clutched his twin, looking at the oncoming group like a cornered animal. They were looking at him sympathetically, telling him to move away. Guns were pointed at them, pointed at Cole. He shielded him from view, putting himself between his brother and the people that wanted to take him away.
"Cameron," Cole's voice was stern through the obvious pain. "Move out of the way."
He wouldn't let them take his only family. He wouldn't let him take the only precious person left in his life. He would rather die than carry on being the only one left out of his entire family. He was a brother, a twin. He would not be alone. It was two or none.
"If you're going to kill him, then kill me too!" he said seriously.
There were shocked murmurs, pleas for reasoning and others telling him to stop being stupid and get out the damn way but he wouldn't budge. Even when Cole seemed to get stronger and started to push more insistently at his back; even when Stone stood over him, a look of blank resignation on his face as he cocked his gun and pointed it at his head...
He would. Not. Move.
"Dammit Cameron! Stop being so bloody stubborn, you stupid git! You're going to get us both killed!" Cole yelled in his ear and suddenly a hushed silence fell. Cameron turned his head, looking at his twin's face. His pale, flush-cheeked and anger-filled face. He looked into his eyes. His bright, angry and very much alive eyes.
Cole stared at him, his hand finally pulling away from his stomach. The pain had gone. His dizziness had stopped. In all the panic and fighting, no one had noticed him throw up onto the road, hacking up blood that seemed too dark to be normal. His lips were still tinged red but he was breathing air, his mind was functioning without any abnormalities that weren't expected, and he was feeling very much human. So human, in fact, that he reached up and slapped his twin right across the face.
"Idiot! What if Stone had actually shot you in the head, you douche bag?" he chided, and then turned his glare to the frozen man standing over them. "And you! Why the hell were you ready to shoot my brother in the head? When I said do the deed, I didn't mean shoot him because he didn't move out of the way like the moron he is!" he yelled.
"Cole?" Misty asked, her eyes glittering nervously as she stepped closer. "You're...you're okay?"
Cole turned his glare to her. "No, I'm not okay! My brother almost got us both shot, I threw up the most foul tasting thing ever, my stomach felt like it was torn open and then sewed back shut with a porcupine quill and a thread made of staples, and no one has even bothered to notice that I am obviously not infected. So put the bloody guns down!" he barked and those that had been holding weapons dropped them in fright.
Stone took a step back, disbelief still scrawled over his features. "But...How? What happened?"
Cole shrugged one shoulder, still on the floor. "Hell if I know. It felt like I was dying and I was sure I was turning, but then I threw up that blood and now I feel fine! Well," he grimaced, wiping his mouth and looking queasy. "Okay, no I still feel like crap. That was disgusting and I'm exhausted, but I'm human."
Misty failed to catch a sob, clapping her hands over her mouth a second too late. The noise started a chain reaction. Lila started to bawl loudly, tears running down her cheeks while the younger children followed her lead, crying loudly. Misty was trying to wipe her eyes and stop the tears. Ross was shaking, looking more than ready to follow along in the children's footsteps and cry too. Jinko was pale-faced, but smiling wide. Stone slumped down to the floor, sighing heavily with relief before he gave Cole a grin that clearly displayed his message of relief.
"You just love to torture us, don't you?" he said with a light chuckle. Cole just grinned back in reply. He was happy. Beyond happy. He knew without a doubt that he was clear. He didn't know how or why, but he knew he was. Perhaps from the start he hadn't been infected at all. Perhaps all the symptoms he'd felt were merely caused by his own paranoia. After all, didn't they say the mind could make things real? He was constantly wondering if he was infected; it didn't seem too farfetched to say that perhaps his body created the symptoms to comply with what his brain was saying.
But even though everyone else was suddenly cheerful and celebrating, there was one person who had yet to say a thing. Cole turned to look at his twin, his face falling when he realized that Cameron had moved away from him and was now sitting with his legs drawn to his chest and his head buried down. His arms were tightly wrapped around his knees and his entire frame was shaking.
Cole felt a tug on his heart knowing that his brother was crying. He crawled towards him and sat on his knees, placing a hand onto Cameron's shoulder. He let out a small sound of shock when Cameron furiously swatted his hand away without looking up. He just moved his arm, slapping away Cole's limb like it was a piece of filth flying his way. By now the rest of the group had realized something was amiss and they had quieted down, watching the spectacle.
"…Cam?" Cole called meekly. His twin hunched further, the trembles increasing. Cole was starting to get seriously worried. What if he'd taken it too far with that slap? He hadn't meant to hurt him, but he had been freaked out by the fact that Cameron had almost gotten shot! His own death was frightening enough, but he was even more terrified of losing his brother.
'So am I!'
The thought swam through his head, the voice saying it belonging to his brother. His eyes lidded in sad understanding. Of course Cameron was like this. They shared the same fears of losing each other. And Cameron had believed he was going to lose him.
"Hey, I'm still here! I'm still alive!" he whispered, scooting closer and trying to pull his brother out of his little ball of sorrow. "Come on and look at me! I'm not a hallucination!"
Nothing could have prepared him for the fist that rammed itself straight into his cheek, nearly dislocating his jaw in the process. He wondered just how rearranged his face was as he fell backwards, sprawled on the floor. Before he could make the world stop spinning and acknowledge that the birds circling his head were imaginary, he felt someone pulling him up by the front of his shirt, nearly strangling him with his scarf in the process.
"Asshole!" was spat into his face before he was crushed between two shaking arms, and his shoulder started to get wet with the warm tears leaking onto his clothes. He just sat there in a daze, blood trickling down the side of his mouth while he regained his bearings. Finally, realizing that the Earth was metaphorically still once more, he reached up to weakly returned the hug his twin was enforcing and rub his back soothingly.
"Tch, such a cry baby," he mumbled, feeling Cameron's tears seeping onto his skin. His reply was nothing but an angry curse in Japanese spat against his shoulder.
Slowly the group started to compose themselves. Or, to be specific, they apologised for almost shooting him and his brother and the children attempted to strangle them in bear hugs. They stood, his legs shaky but he had people to support him, and began to make their way to the camp gates. They were finally free!
"Survivors?" a man behind the gate asked, looking through a small peephole at them. Stone nodded, stepping aside to show him the group huddled around, looking eagerly back at him. "Wow, there's a lot of you! Usually we get people in pairs or four at most!" the man said, unlocking the gate. They were about to filter through when he stopped them. "Sorry, we need to go through a test to see if anyone's infected."
They nodded uncaring. They would gladly bend over backwards and dance the Macarena if it meant they could finally get to safety. The test wasn't anything amazing. It was just a blood test of some kind. They got a prick on the finger, blood was taken and dripped into a vial, and then they were declared 'clear' and granted access into the camp.
"How does it work?" Ross asked, curious.
"We've found a chemical that can detect infected blood. When the two mix, the chemical will start to fizz," the guard explained, letting through all the children and then the women. "Your hand," he said, holding out his own to start on the men. One by one they were let through, all positive until it was time for Cole and Cameron. They had been hanging back, and Cameron was pale. What if the blood test said that Cole was infected? What would he do?
Cameron started to hold his out, but then stopped. No, he couldn't go first. If Cole's results were negative, they wouldn't let him in the camp. They would send him away or kill him.
"You go first," he said, pushing his twin forward. Green eyes glared at him.
"Cameron, so help me God if you're thinking— OUCH!" he stopped, turning his glare to the guard that had pricked him during his rant. "No warning? Sheesh."
The man chuckled, letting the pinprick of blood drip into a vial. Everyone watched with baited breath as the blood started to spread in the water. So far so good.
Then three small bubbles formed at the top, bursting slightly.
Cole found himself shoved backwards, almost losing his balance as Cameron blocked him from view with his body. "Oh don't start this again!" he cried in exasperation.
Cameron didn't let him move back to the front. He stared hard at the guard that was staring back at him. His body was tense, muscles trembling as he wondered what to do. He wouldn't leave Cole no matter what the other said. If they weren't allowed in the camp then he would roam the world with him, surviving together until they both died. They would find refuge somewhere by themselves.
"Relax," the guard said placing the vial down. "This has happened before. He's not infected."
Cameron didn't relax. "Explain. It bubbled...what does that mean?"
The guard looked annoyed at his accusing and angry tone, but he sighed. "It means that there was a trace amount of infected blood, but not enough for it to cause a real infection. Did you receive an injury that was washed almost immediately afterward?" he asked, looking at Cole.
The red head nodded. "It was raining and I got scratched on the back," he said, thinking back to the time this issue started. "We didn't know for sure if I was infected or not, since no one knew if the rain had washed the wounds effectively."
"Well, it did. You most likely had small amounts of infected blood in, but nothing your body wouldn't be able to fight off on its own," he guard ushered them forwards. "And now you, give me your hand."
Cameron held his hand out obediently, relief flooding through him like a burst damn. He felt like he was floating on clouds; the euphoric feeling of knowing, at last, that his brother was perfectly fine engulfed him and he was happy to bask in its warmth for years.
"Alright, you're all cleared up!" the guard said happily, letting them through. "Welcome to the camp! If you all just head to the middle building, that's where we've set up a command centre, so to speak. Someone there will help get you all accommodated and explain how things work around here!" he directed them down the dirt road where small houses had been built up on either side. The structures were simple but cosy-looking and to them it felt like coming home after a long, tiring hunt through the wilderness.
The group began to walk, chattering excitedly and waving enthusiastically at the people they saw. Smiles were given in return, survivors pleased to see fellow humans finding safety.
Cole slung his arm over Cameron's shoulder, and then reached out to do the same to Stone. Lila came over to walk with them, her eyes glittering with happiness as she held onto Misty's hand. Ross was looking left and right, a wide grin on his face and even Lou had a smile twitching on his lips. Cole looked at their group, the people he had fought to bring to safety. He grinned, wide and cheerful.
"Well everyone," he said, looking up at the sun and laughing with real joy. "Welcome to your new home!"
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!
If you're curious to see the poster I mentioned before, here is a link. (Just remove the spaces)
http :/juuria66 .deviantart. com/gallery /#/d4k08ve
If I do make a re-write of this story, I hope you will enjoy it just as much! ^_^ And please leave a review with your thoughts on this story!