Story: “Last Stand”

(c)2011 Christopher Jayawardena

Good God, almighty, why in the hell did we stop here? Our backs to the wall, with only one exit out of this damn place. The room wasn’t cramped, but it was no place for a fight. I leaned against the wall and sulked, looking at it all. I had four shots left in my revolver and Kenshi didn’t like the looks of his sword at the moment either. Vlad and Ivan seemed confident when their machineguns ran out that the machetes would be enough.

Idiots. This isn’t your ordinary zombie apocalypse. This is when all hell breaks loose and creatures start mutating all over the place. Snakes with heads big enough to swallow your hand, bats with five arms to grab you and give you the disease, and not to mention that… big thing with the eyeball on its arm. Shit. We’re boned here and they don’t want to face it. Kenshi and I do, though. We’ve been like brothers, scuffling and fighting, surviving everything life threw at us. From the women to the deaths in the family to the jobs lost and all the other crap it tried to bring us down. He meditated, I exercised, and we lived this far. Now we were toast.

Vlad was typing on the typewriter, writing and writing. Why? So that the poor bastard that comes after us can read about our sad story of the last stand to come? Whatever. I wouldn’t care but, Jesus, that thing was loud. Takka-takka-takka…

Kenshi was staring at the door we’d come in through. We’d locked it, but no barricade yet. There wasn’t much to throw at it. He stared and I wondered. What was he thinking? Since all this began, he’d gotten quiet. That wasn’t his way. Not with me, it wasn’t anyway. He stared and I wondered.

Ivan finished loading the last few bullets into his clips. I hated them for having so much goddamn ammo, guns that you could reload easily since everybody and their grandma uses 9-milly. I had to choose stopping power and a caliber that nobody wants. Great.

“Ivan. How many we got?” I asked.

“Two mags full,” he replied, accent slipping thicker. I think he did that for show.

Kenshi shook his head. “It isn’t enough.” His accent was getting thick, too.

I sighed. “And how do you know that?” Kenshi didn’t bother looking as he said, “Vlad, stop typing.” And so the typing stopped.

Then we all heard it. The sound, the roaring sound of so many of those things, heavy pounding steps and hissing cries, all formed into one soft white noise that I swear I could feel getting louder. Yeah. Feel a sound. It seeped into that. Our eyes watched the door and we felt it then. All of us at once knew.

This was it. We’d gotten to a dead end and we were going to die here.

I pushed off the wall and took another glance around the room. Table, chairs, shelf unit, that stupid typewriter… that was all we had for the barricade. I walked over to that heavy metal shelf and tried to move it, feeling it not budge much. A moment of that and it started to give to my push, making me realize Kenshi was with me now.

We got it onto the door, sliding it into place. It was heavy as hell; it’d hold for a few moments and give us a chance to prepare. We started looking over at Ivan and Vlad to shout about helping us, but their expression stopped that intent. Their eyes were wide at something and when we saw it, our eyes widened also.

A fucking door! Right behind that fucking shelf!

I rushed for it, Kenshi close behind. It wasn’t like most doors; it was embedded into the wall and obviously slid to the right. I gripped the small handle portion, shaped like a van’s side door, and pulled. It wasn’t budging. “Kenshi, help me,” I requested, and his hand joined mine, our strength side by side. We heaved and the door slid open quite suddenly and fast. It revealed darkness that stank like death. But it was an opening.

Ivan, who had the flashlight on his MP5, came forward with it turned on.

“I can’t see much… shelves down there?”

“Yeah. But look what’s on them.”

“What the hell are plastic explosives doing in a sewer’s storage room?”

“Given the strange shit Umbrella’s done to this town, it wouldn’t surprise me if we found 10th century tequila and DaVinci’s body down there.”

One by one we made our way down, faster now. The noise behind us was definitely louder than it had been before. Those things were getting close and whatever was down here to help us, we had to hurry.

The smell of death came from the two bodies in the corner. They’d been blown to bits by something, more in fragments than anything else, and nothing was quite clear. But Kenshi had looked at one of them a little more than I expected him to. Usually he just had a disregard of the dead. Damn, he was acting odd.

We finally lit the place’s lights, backup generator still gassed up. In looking around it was plainly obvious: the storage room had a lot of shit. There were a couple of assault rifles, one of which was still usable and the other burned in weird ways, and at least three clips worth. I didn’t like that it was a Kalashnikov, but I can’t be choosy, I suppose. And on top of the guns (all pistols that had no ammo, for fuck’s sake!), there were the explosives. It was a lot and enough for us to make our last stand special. Hell, maybe we’d survive. Wouldn’t you know it? There were even detonators for it, with separate channels. We could have blown up the stash 10 different ways given the possibilities we had. There were multiple boxes to send the signal, way more than enough for us to pull this shit off. Fuck yeah, man.

* * *

Kenshi was the one who made the call, but I think we all wanted to say it. We’d put the majority of the C4 by the barricaded door above and fill the room. If we were lucky, it’d cause a cave-in or a flood that would let us get out afterwards, but if not, we’d keep some of the explosives down below, right by us. Then we could go out with a bang, something instant and too fast to let us feel guilt for killing each other. Handy.

Putting it together didn’t take too long, despite how damned sweaty we all got from carrying those things around. When you finally pick up a hunk of C4, you realize what kind of power is in your hands. Then again, maybe I watched too many Bond movies and thought this would be enough to take out whatever building was topside. Through the fear, we worked and got it into place. Kenshi hadn’t said anything since the plan and I kept looking at him. What was bothering him?

Shortly after it the explosives were put in place, Ivan and Vlad were arguing with one another again, mostly about the typewriter. Vlad wanted to bring it down below but Ivan wanted to keep it as part of the barricade. Back and forth like children. Geez. Glad Kenshi and I were never like that. I watched it for a minute before I broke that shit up and got them back down there. Left the stupid typewriter behind.

When we got back down there, Kenshi was looking a note on the ground by the bodies, comparing it to something else in his hand. When he heard me coming he put them away and grabbed his sword off the floor. I offered him the AK and he shook his head. The noise was getting loud, so I insisted. He took it from my hands reluctantly and put the sword on his belt.

Likely we didn’t have much time left, a minute at most.

Vlad closed the door to the upper room and hopped back down. After clearing the shelves down there we moved it to that door, made another barricade there. Then we got the explosives in our little circle. We got both detonators set. The Russian brothers would have the first; Kenshi and me would have the second.

Finally it was time.

* * *

We waited longer than we expected but the sound was near deafening. They could smell us and we knew it. Somehow these fucking things could smell the uninfected and would seek them out. I’d seen them sniff out children hiding in cars, taking the whole vehicle under the street and crushing it to eat the kid inside. I’d had nightmares the last two days about that. Kenshi always patted me on the back to wake me up.

I checked my revolver again. 4 shots of .357, that’s all I had. Fucking magnums. Wiped the sweat off my brow and looked at my partner in arms. He looked back at me, really at me, with an expression I couldn’t place. His eyes… what the hell was that?

SMASH! The doors burst open on the top level and we heard them scuttling around, filling that room entirely, tossing the barricade bits around. Sounds of slithering snake and flapping bats and crawling lickers and scuttling hunters; the whole party was coming for us. We’d been outrunning them as we watched the entire city get eaten bit by bit. Maybe we were the last ones. The final stand for Raccoon City, here in its dark smelly trashy underbelly, Jesus, what a fucking way to go.

Ivan held the detonator in his hand. He stepped forward. Ready. Almost there, just a little longer and he’d push the button. We waited, sweaty and smelly, waiting for the right moment when we’d take them the entire fuck down. The entire fuck down, I say.

They started smashing at the door now. There we go. Ivan pushed the button.

In movies, explosions are seen. Felt. Experienced. So you think, until it happens right in front of you, all around you, and the air is sucked away and instead of just exploding, the place you’re in implodes. It caved, blasting rubble and the door and everything into a humongous heap. I saw Vlad fall to the ground but it wouldn’t be for another forty seconds that I’d know he had shrapnel embedded in his skull. Ivan tripped and fell down just as rubble came crashing towards our little circle of plastique. He was buried almost instantly, a red splash coming from his body rupturing.

It wasn’t over in an instant. It went slowly, the sound taking its time to fade away, and the rubble and metal shards from the door taking their time to slow down into a restful place. Kenshi put his hand on my shoulder, almost protectively, almost that man-to-man comforting. I couldn’t move, so I didn’t shrug him off. I just watched it settle before us. Now we were trapped.

* * *

The hissing beyond the wreckage didn’t stop. It wouldn’t take long for the smaller ones to sneak their way in and consume us whole. They were insistent. This wasn’t going to work and we weren’t going to last. I looked at the detonator in my hand, considering it. Then I looked at my friend. I remembered the first time we hurt ourselves falling out of a tree, falling down so hard we felt we couldn’t get up. Why did I remember that now? Why did I remember my lifelong pal in all the shit life gave me, at a moment of weakness? I wanted to remember strength… but maybe it was a sign I didn’t have any left. Fuck, I couldn’t press the button, I realized then, and let the revolver slip from my fingers to the ground in a clatter on the C4 hunks.

Kenshi knew what I was thinking. He dropped his gun and grabbed my arm. He stared long into my eyes as his hand slipped something into my free palm. I looked down and saw that it wasn’t the note he’d been holding…  it was the one from the two dead bodies. He gestured for me to look at them, so I did.

“Do you see the necklace, Mark?”

“Y…yeah. It looks like my sister’s.”

“It is your sister’s.”

I stopped. What? But the necklace was in my pock-

“That note was on the other one’s body. Read it.”

So I did. And as I did, I thought, “huh, of all the things to write as your last words.” Confessions from one man to another, describing feelings and memories that seemed familiar to me. It was obvious whoever wrote it was in love with the person it was intended for. I didn’t finish it before I replied, “and?” Kenshi looked down now, almost… hurt? Okay, fine. I’ll look at the-

Aw shit.

Kenshi’s signature, right there at the bottom of this old note that’d been here for days, covered in blood and burn marks. After all the crazy fucking things I’d seen in the past four days, it didn’t surprise me. Alternate realities, time travel, I don’t fucking care. That was the norm now. But, my best friend since the age of four was telling me…? And that’s when it struck, whom the letter was to. It was to me.

Kenshi held up the note he had been holding. It was his copy of it. Freshly written, save for the signature, which hadn’t been put down yet…

The memories of all the good times came flooding back. The times I got a hug when I was five and my mom died, where I’d just start crying in the middle of class and the only thing that calmed me down was Kenshi’s arms around me. When his first girlfriend said I was cuter and I told him to dump her for it. That night when we were both alone and drunk on a hill, shouting out battle cries to the stars in the sky to kill us all. College. At my fiancé’s funeral, he spoke for me when I couldn’t make a sound.

And all the times I had been for there for him, had wanted to be. I thought of when his parents divorced and he almost moved away, how I told him no matter what, we’d still be brothers in arms. Fighting the good fight side by side every step of the way. I told every girlfriend who hated his laugh to go fuck themselves. because his laugh is fucking awesome. And that always made him smile.

I wanted him to smile again.

So I put my hand on his shoulder now. And I embraced him. Completely.

“We always knew it’d end like this, didn’t we?”
“Our backs against the wall… outnumbered…”
“Hah, out-clawed.”
“Haha. Yeah.”

I put my hand on the detonator trigger. It was going to be okay.

“… I love you, Mark.”
I nodded into his neck. My finger was right there now.

“I love you, too, Kenshi.”
We kissed and I pressed the button.

Writer's Notes:  So, this story was a total surprise. I started with the
idea of violence, a group of men in combat, mostly because I had
watched "The Backwoods" - a Spanish/Brit/French film that was a bit
Straw Dogs-esque. It sort of spiraled from men with guns to a group
of Samurai to then a mixed group of soldiers, to them fighting in a
forest to them fighting in a sewer against a monster. Then when that
hit, it suddenly turned itself into a Resident Evil fanfiction.
Something which I haven't written in probably about 10 years now.

The ending of the story was one of the many surprises that came on
the way to its conclusion. I hit on it very early on, as the ideas
altogether became very fluid as I was typing it, but how deep it
went and how emotional really surprised me.

A big part of the reason for a homosexual bond at the very end of it
was because it's something I've never done before. It was pretty new.
I'm glad I did it here. I came to care about these two and felt the
connection between them was more romantic than the Love Story that
I did on this series of challenges.

Hopefully this is the last story with a lot of foul language and
violence in it for a while. I need to create something gentler.

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