Warning: Do not read if you are prone to triggers from self-harm, depression, or abusive situations.
Natural Selection is co-written by two separate authors: Alexis and Alice (ChemistryOfLife)
Throughout the story Alexis and I will rarely leave authors notes at the end of chapters. This will be our only time to ask you to consider following and reviewing as you read or following ChemistryOfLife if you are eager for more updates. There are a total of 55 chapters for Natural Selection already prewritten on a document, and I anticipate daily posting.
The two authors went back and forth in writing a new chapter in their designated character's perspective. Alice wrote in the point of view of Natalia Baranova and Alexis from the point of view of Nathan O'Connell.
Aside from the basic facts about the characters and plot determined by the coauthors at the beginning of the story, nothing was planned, mapped, or laid out in explicit detail ahead of time.
This is the story that the characters gave us to tell.
No one was… really certain where the disease came from. It just… suddenly appeared. Everyone brushed it off like no big deal. Another common flu. Because… that's how the world was. No one panicked over things that felt so far away.
But… diseases spread. Diseases kill.
Natalia didn't even worry over the disease too much herself. She was far more concerned over different issues - closer issues. Like… her own husband. Victor.
In high school, Victor was a genuinely nice guy. He was caring and sweet. He just… well, he liked to go fast. After their first date, they kissed. After their second, Natalia… was no longer a virgin. After graduation, Victor proposed. It didn't help that Natalia's own mother supported the engagement and even encouraged for a quick wedding.
So it was… a very short amount of time until Natalia was no longer a Baranova but rather a García. Suddenly Victor had a job opportunity in a small town in Canada - Sarka, Canada to be exact.
From there, Natalia was excited to just… settle down. To stop taking things so fast. To breathe, for once. Initially it turned out that way. That happy path Natalia envisioned. But then things started to turn south at Victor's work. Instead of coming home happily like he usually did, he started to return home angry and frustrated. His seemingly calming voice turned angry more often than not.
Then Victor turned to using his hands instead of his voice to show his frustration.
But… Natalia brushed it off. If she ever received a bruise, she told herself that it was just one bad day at work. It wouldn't happen again. That it was an accident. That he loved her, and if he knew about the bruise he would have apologized profusely.
However it just… kept happening. Over and over. Bruise after bruise. The bruises stopped appearing under her clothes and started appearing on her arms and face - places that Victor could see… yet he still didn't apologize. He didn't say anything.
Victor just… saw her as a possession. As his wife to love, or hit, as he pleased.
The bruising continued and skepticism towards Natalia started as well. Victor started to claim that she had been cheating on him. Yet, the only way to calm that sensation was getting his name tattooed onto her right ankle.
The tattoo seemed to get Victor to take a step back, though the break was only temporary. His possession over her began to grow again as he treated her as a toy to push around more and more. His 'toy' eventually turned into an object for sex, even when she said no.
It… was around that point that Natalia started to realise that she needed out. That she needed help.
The only part that was hard about it was the fact that… well, Victor took her to not only taken her to a foreign country but she was yet to grow familiar with the neighbors. She felt as though she didn't have anyone to turn to.
At this point in their relationship, fear of the disease in Sarka wasn't a concern at all. Even Victor wasn't concerned about the disease. Therefore, one week, Victor decided to get some space from Natalia and work and head back to the United States to visit family. Specifically, to Chicago.
It was while Victor was in Chicago that the disease hit the city. Millions started to die… and, with no word from Victor, Natalia found it safe to assume that he was one of the millions.
The 'Yellow Plague' at this point… started to stir concern with smaller towns. Though a handful of lucky individuals were genetically immune to the disease, majority of those who came in contact with the plague usually didn't survive.
After Victor's lack of returning to Sarka, the small town began to buckle down and prepare itself for the worst. Sarka began to turn itself away from housing strangers, for the small town's own safety. Any stranger that walked in could be holding the plague at this rate - and the last thing Sarka wanted was to let someone carrying the plague in and expose the whole town. After all, it had become known that some individuals who were naturally immune to the plague can continue carrying the plague, it lying dormant inside and ready to kill the non immune individuals.
Natalia, who had lost her late, abusive husband, was relatively okay with turning away strangers. She was scared of dying herself. On top of that, she was scared if Victor did return. If he did… a part of her felt that she could use the plague as an excuse to… to keep him away.
But it wasn't really until the first stranger showed up for sanctuary that Natalia realised she wasn't… fully okay with turning people away. Innocent people who might be begging for sanctuary… to only get the door shut in their face.
Nathan O'Connell was one of those first few strangers that showed up, seeking sanctuary. Like planned, the nominated leader of Sarka, Kennedy, turned Nathan away. Told him that they didn't have room to feed any more and that he would need to find sanctuary elsewhere.
It might have been the look on Nathan's face. The defeat after, most likely, traveling so far… only to get another safe place yanked out from under him. Natalia wasn't sure what it was, but she spoke out and told Kennedy that they should… try to let him stay.
Kennedy and her second hand, Thomas, agreed - but only if Natalia kept an eye on him. If she wanted to speak out and let in strangers then she needed to be willing to put her own life on the risk for these potentially disease infested individuals.
At the time, that terrified Natalia. Nathan was thankful, of course, but Nat… well she was frightened on being infected. Not only that, but if she was to 'keep an eye' on him it meant that she had to share her home with him.
It wasn't like she had the best history in sharing a home with men before, either. Not with Victor and his abusive tendencies.
Regardless, she bit her tongue to the matter and just focused on the positive. That she was trying to do the right thing and save someone's life.
And, in a way… Nathan had saved hers.
It didn't take all that long of the pair living together for Nathan to figure out Natalia being a bit… over sensitive to certain things. Like, any fast movements out of him had a tendency to make her flinch or scream.
Most likely it was Natalia's screaming that put Nathan on edge.
From there, day by day… month by month… The constant looming threat of the plague hung over them, of course, but they just… focused on what they could handle. It didn't matter that electricity and flowing water was shut off entirely. It didn't matter that phone lines were down and likely never coming back on. They… adapted to that. The entire town adapted to that.
As time went on, Nathan began to ask Natalia prodding questions. They began to get to know each other, though Nathan was much more open about his history than Natalia was initially. Natalia spoke about Victor at times, though her speaking primarily happened as she was twisting around the wedding ring on her fourth finger. She told Nathan almost everything and from what she didn't tell him, he was usually able to piece together on his own.
Thankfully, Nathan was patient with Natalia. Healing, if anything.
Being able to… talk about Victor was nice. Having Nathan here, in her home, was nice as well. It was like he was a shield for her, in case Victor… did return, somehow.
Somewhere between the months of getting to know each other and living together, Natalia and Nathan began to get a bit more… romantically invested in each other. It was slower. It was much slower - but Natalia liked it that way. She liked how it was so much slower, unlike how it had been with Victor. Nathan was patient, making sure that any touch or kiss didn't send her into a panic.
At one point, it had.
But, time past. A lot of time.
Seven years, to be exact.
The plague, last they heard, was still alive and kicking. Sarka was still under lock down and had completely become self-sufficient in supplying food, water, and supplies to the people. The town as a whole was far more social and communicative than they likely ever had been before. Communication was key in order for survival through something like this.
However, despite it having been seven years with Nathan… well, there were still certain things she was keeping from him. Things she wasn't comfortable with sharing to him, for fear of his reaction and response. Things that just seemed safer to keep to herself.
Things that… stopped her from doing things like sleeping with Nathan. Despite being with him for seven years… she still hadn't consummated their relationship. At first, using the excuse that she just wasn't ready was more than enough. Given her history with Victor, Nathan was understanding with that.
But… seven years with the same excuse made it seem less and less reliable and understandable.
It wasn't even that Natalia didn't love him. She did love him. In fact, she probably… was ready to sleep with him, even though she has a slight underlying fear of picturing Victor when they do consummate.
However, Natalia's primary reason of avoiding sleeping with Nathan was solely due to the fact that she doesn't want Nathan to see her unclothed. In time, Victor had covered her body in some scars that were never going to go away. That, and… Natalia had grown a habit of putting scars on her own body on her thighs.
Natalia knows that self-harm is wrong. She… she does. Yet, it somehow made her feel more in control of her own life. Whenever she was overwhelmed if she had flashbacks of Victor or even just her life as a whole before the plague, cutting helped.
It was her own messed up form of meditation…
That she never wanted Nathan to know about.