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All Things End: Volume II - Part 107

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Chapter 107: The Problem With Bad Dog Food

It was with a grimace that Courage watched the slot in his holding cell door slide open and a can of dog food was deposited. He hopped down off the all-too-stiff bed that he had become well acquainted with over these last two months and trudged over toward his lunch.

He picked up the can and frowned harder at it. While he had never been one to say 'no' to a good bowl of dog food, the stuff the SCC was having him eat was some of the most disgusting mush he had ever had to subsist on. It was the only thing they had been allowing him to eat for weeks now. Apparently it was a vitamin rich blend meant to boost the health of sick dogs like him, but that didn't change the fact that it was just nasty to eat and sat heavy in his stomach for hours afterwords.

More than once he had thought back to the beginning of his journey, when Computer had made him some disgusting 'nutritional' mush that was about as bad as this stuff. Maybe the SCC were using the same search engine....

A pit formed in Courage's stomach at the thought of Computer. With every day that went by, his worry for him only grew. He was now completely certain that something had to have happened to him. It was the only explanation for why he had not even attempted to rescue him by now. Computer was just too reckless of a person to not try and stage a rescue attempt, unless something was physically stopped him from doing so.

Courage dutifully opened the already half-opened lid on the can and chowed down on the nasty stuff, knowing that the veterinarian the SCC employed to keep monitor of his health would never leave him alone about it if he dared to stop eating the gross vitamin mix.

As much as he hated to admit it to himself, it had taken a very, very long time to get himself walking again. That was the one and only thing that had been keeping him from trying to stage his own escape attempt. Perhaps when the doctors had said that they thought he'd have brain damage, what they really meant was that he had broken the 'walk' part of his brain. He'd pretty much had to teach himself how to walk all over again from stage one. This room being so small had not helped him much either. Regaining his balance had been an easy enough task, if maybe a time consuming one, but it was working some strength back into his weakened legs that had been the hard part. Pacing had become a daily routine of his, if not the only thing he did most days.

It was only within the last day or so that he had begun to feel confident in his mobility enough to start thinking of ways to break himself out of here. Lately, the SCC had not been keeping as close of an eye on him, now that it was clear that they weren't going to get any useful information out of him on Computer's current whereabouts. Elizabeth had been a near constant visitor of his within the first week or so. There was no doubt that he had let more information about himself and Computer slip thanks to their long conversations, but none of it was helping them actually locate Computer.

While Elizabeth had been nothing but polite to him, albeit in a rather forced and disingenuous way, during their last few conversations the mask had started to slip and she had inadvertently made it obvious that she was getting frustrated that their Construct was still at large and they were no closer to recapturing it. It wasn't long before she stopped visiting Courage entirely.

He was pretty glad to have her gone, but it was a lot harder for him to find out what was going on outside of his cell without her. The vet was only concerned with his health and refused to talk to him like a fellow person, and the guards were even worse. Only Elizabeth had been willing to make accommodations for him, and he had not seen her in at least a month. Not that he had ever asked for much in the first place, and the few things he did want changed, like the gross food, wasn't going to be allowed to change.

He had to admit though, the treatment for his illness had actually done wonders for him. Even though Elizabeth had made it sound like it wasn't going to do much for him after having it applied during an emergency situation where his illness had reached its final stage, but he was still feeling so much better than he had in a long time. In fact, he'd not had even one attack since the treatment! Well, that wasn't to say he had become invincible. While he had not exactly had to strain himself since being put in this prison cell, he was certain that if he pushed himself too hard again, he'd likely find himself in the middle of another attack, no matter how much better he was feeling. Perhaps he could push himself a little harder now, but that painful threat still loomed. Like it or not, he was still a dying dog living on borrowed time.

...If only he could get out of here and find Computer.

Fighting back the convulsions in his stomach that the food loved to cause him, he went over to the bed and climbed back up into it. Laying or sitting, it didn't matter. Both had become uncomfortable thanks to that flat slab of a bed.

Now that he could walk again and wasn't devoting himself to it almost all waking hours, his mind was constantly wandering off to worry about Computer, Muriel, and Eustace instead. He was certain that Muriel was worrying about him by now, after well over two months of no contact. If only he could call the farm again, like he had at that mall, but the SCC would never allow him to do such a thing. If he ever managed to figure out a way to escape, finding a phone was the first thing he was going to do.

Speaking of escape, he had been thinking about that a lot lately too. Even if the SCC wasn't watching him as closely, they never let him out of his cell, nor did any of them ever come in very often. His only opening was the veterinarian and he was always accompanied by two armed guards.

It seemed that he was going to have as hard of a time getting out of here as Computer was apparently having at getting in.

Courage closed his eyes and managed a smile at that. How ironic would it be if Computer finally broke in the moment after he managed to escape? Given their luck, maybe it wasn't as unlikely of a thing to happen as it might seem.

Deciding that he'd rather try to sleep off the dog food than have to feel his poor stomach attempting to digest it, he laid down to take a nap, despite knowing that he'd wake up with a stiff neck that would take ages to loosen back up.

…..He woke up tossing and turning on his painful slab of a bed. Groaning, he clutched at his stomach. Somehow his digestion pain had ignited into something far worse. It felt as though the dog food had suddenly mutated into something else and was punching him in the gut from the inside out. It was so painful that he wished he was nauseous so that he could aid the mutant in its escape.

He quickly noticed, much to his surprise, that the lights in his cell were off. That...didn't seem right. Not once during his entire stay here had the lights been turned off, not even for sleeping.

That was also when he also noticed....the blue glow that was reflecting off the darkened walls.

Still clutching at his stomach, Courage sat up and looked to find exactly what he was expecting.

Computer was there, standing in a corner, with his back facing toward Courage.

Wincing, Courage put on a painful smile. He was having one of 'those' dreams again, huh? Must have been brought on by the stomach ache.

He dropped down onto the floor and took a single step forward, wishing that his stomach would stop hurting so much.

“Hey, Compute.” He said, weakly waving a paw at the statue-like dog. “It's been awhile, huh?”

He took another step forward. His stomach rolled painfully. It really did feel like there was some sort of mutant moving around in there. He wouldn't have put it past the SCC to accidentally give him bad dog food and now he was suffering from food poisoning.

Computer still did not so much as twitch. Courage was not bothered by it though.

“Look, we both know how this is going to go.” He went on, wincing even harder as the pain only continued to worsen. “You're going to flip around with a creepy robot face and 'screech like a drunken granny's screaming converted into dial-up'.”

It was only then, after getting a little closer, that he noticed the blood...

A steady trickle of blood was dripping down Computer's side and landing in small but growing puddle beneath his feet.

“That's....new.” Courage hesitantly commented.

Computer slowly, ever so slowly, turned to face him. He looked normal, but...

“It has to be this way.” He muttered out, his voice completely monotone.

His face was dull and lifeless, like Computer was not actually there and the dog body was a puppet being moved by...someone else.

Courage could now see the stab wound in full view and it was horrific. Even though it was still bleeding, it and the skin around it was dark and rotting. The smell hit Courage's nose like a punch to the face. And...and was s-something moving around inside the wound?

Courage cried out and nearly doubled over. The pain inside himself hit levels that only an attack could rival. Now he was certain, absolutely certain, that there was something moving around inside himself, just...just like that wound.

“This is the only way.” Computer went on, just as monotone.

Courage could only watch, in absolute horror, as his own stomach split open, as some sort of machine wormed it's way out of the newly made cavity. It was a mixture of sharp bits and worm like appendages, and something that only vaguely resembled a head and face turned to look up at him....and it screamed.

He began to choke. He could feel something clawing its way up his throat.

He vomited a stream of wires and bits of claw like metal that remained attached and hanging from his mouth. He wanted to cry, but he could feel those things cutting up into his brain...to take control.

He suddenly had no control over himself what so ever...

“The only way that we can be rid of your influence...” Computer spoke, utterly neutral to the horror befalling Courage.

“-is for you to...”

Computer's face exploded into a mess of wires, metallic worms, and sharp spider-like legs that did not even mildly resemble the face that had just been there. The same machinery began to spill out of the stab wound as well. It was as if his body had been hollowed out to act as false skin for the eldritch machine hidden within.

'...is for you to die! There is no other way!' The voices screamed, as Courage continued to watch, utterly paralyzed, as his body was ripped apart from the inside and out.

….......

There was a muffled boom and the police station rocked so violently that Courage was knocked out of his bed.

Awoken by the impact and freed from the nightmare, he screamed.

He screamed long and hard, enough so that he was sure that he had rocked the police station just as hard as the boom had.

Once he was done with that, he then lay there gasping and clawing at his torso over and over again to make sure that it was still whole. There was no hint of the stomach pain that had been the catalyst for such a horrific nightmare. That too had merely been a produce of the hellish dream.

As soon as his heart rate began to slow, he curled up into a ball and cried. Nothing could have hoped to stop the tears once they began to fall. His entire body trembled and he could not control it.

He had never imagined that after everything he'd already been through that he could have a nightmare that was somehow worse than the ones he'd already experienced. He so badly wished that there was someone there who could give him a hug at the moment. Anything to take away the sting of what he had just seen and...and felt.

…He missed Computer so badly, regardless of how that nightmare had tried to portray him, and he was so desperately worried for him too.

Why else would he start to have nightmares like this again after two months of a complete absence? Something was very, very wrong....

Another boom rocked the police station.

Courage got to his feet, fully alert. What the heck could be making the police station shake like that?

He could hear a commotion outside of his door too. People seemed to be running past and yelling, but he could not make out what they were saying.

He pressed the stump of his missing ear up to the door, desperate to find out what was going on.

...Another boom from somewhere outside shook the station, and-

“Hey!” A voice called. It became much louder when its owner apparently stopped just outside the door. “You gotta get out of here! I was just at the hospital, and-” The man was near breathless as he spoke and he had to stop for a moment to take several gulps of air.

The person he was speaking to took that brief moment he was catching his breath to say, “Astor would have my hide if I abandoned my post. Guarding this dog is top priority and I ain't getting demoted over-”

“To hell with Elizabeth! You don't get it! The whole situation has gone to hell! We had to abandon the hospital. It-” He stopped for a moment, seemingly to shudder. “You can't even begin to imagine what it was like. We need to get out of here before-”

“Slow down, son. Explain it to me. If the situation really has gotten that bad, control would have radioed me by now to get the dog out of here.”

“I-I don't even know where to begin. M-my squad mate, he, I-” The man needed to stop again to collect himself. “He...he left for his lunch break like normal, but when he came back, he was acting...different.”

Courage could hear the man's breathing increase all over again.

“I-I kept asking him what was wrong, and he just kept talking in this monotone, like a zombie, and then...t-then he...he exploded!” The man's voice had risen to a panicked scream. “No, no, it wasn't an explosion! This mechanical t-thing cut its way out of him so quick it was like an explosion! H-he was hollowed out! It...it was wearing him! Then the same thing started to happen to a bunch of nurses and doctors too! These sharp, tentacled machines burst out of people and started attacking everyone who wasn't already infested! We open fired, but-”

Courage found himself gasping involuntarily. He clutched a paw to his chest as his heart rate rose. No, no, no! It couldn't be! It just couldn't be real!

“Everything metal and mechanical in that hospital turned on us! Even our guns stopped working! I-I ran after that. I watched the very walls of that hospital rip itself apart to try and get me. Others...weren't as lucky as I. Wires were coming out of the ceiling and hanging anyone who didn't have something sharp on them to cut themselves down. A few people tried to help, but...but the wires, they would grab them a-and...and p-pull them apart!”

“Astor was at the hospital. Do you know what happened to her?”

“Y-yes, she got out of the building about the same time I did. We had to run away on foot. The vans, no, all of the vehicles within the vicinity just sort of began...tearing themselves apart. The hospital wasn't looking much better by then either. I got separated from her in the chaos, but before then, she was ordering the few of us who escaped to rally at this station. If she is still alive, she'll probably be here soon, b-but I'm not staying to find out. It's-”

Another boom.

“-It's coming this way!”

“M-maybe you've got the right idea, kid.” His companion admitted fearfully. “There's nothing about this dog that's worth dying for.”

“W-we only got away because 'it' was too busy tearing the hospital apart and killing everyone who didn't get out in time. Once it gets here though...”

“Okay, let's get the hell out of here then. I'm not throwing my life away for-”

“You're not going anywhere.” Elizabeth's sharp voice broke in. “Get that door open. NOW! We don't have time for your incompetence!”

Courage stumbled backwards, away from the door.

“You-” He heard hear her say. “Do you have your issued combat knife?”

Any answer was drowned out by the sound of the heavy door sliding open.

Elizabeth stepped inside, looking disheveled and dirty after her frantic escape from the disintegrating hospital. She held a serrated combat knife in her right hand.

Looking down at Courage with a surprisingly calm expression, she said in an equally calm tone, “Well, then. It's time to see if saving your life was worth the expense.”

Courage's eyes remained fixated on the blade as it gleamed in the light. Apparently he had been right to think that they were keeping him as a hostage...

End Of Chapter

A/N: Elizabeth is just the best. She's already in this situation because she threatened to kill Courage, so let's just threaten to kill him even harder. I'm sure the angry murder machine is totally going to appreciate that.
courage the cowardly dog
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