Last - (Tales of Wayward)
A/N: This is a "just for fun" horror ficlet AU based upon the characters of 'What We Learned at Rokudai,' formerly known as 'What I Learned at SRU.'
by Desma Palmer-Fettig
The gentle sloshing of the tainted pool's water offered a small amount of comfort in an otherwise traumatic evening. After a cursory glance on their way in, Jane had avoided gazing into the murky liquid's contents. What had once been a clean, clear swimming space filled with a soothing blue was now populated by browns, reds, blacks, and greens.
The girl in Jane's lap was shivering violently. Her once brown skin had turned an ugly, pale shade.
God fucking damnit. It took its course so fast...
They both knew what was supposed to come at this point.
But Jane refused to do it a moment prematurely.
"I'm...sorry," whimpered the pale-faced woman, her head in Jane's lap. Her hoarse voice rasped out the beginning of a sentence. "I...should've...-" It devolved into a grunting pair of coughs that echoed across the tile set room.
"Yea," Jane grunted with a subdued bitterness. "Well. We...'should'a' done a lotta shit different..."
Katrina's drowsy eyes stared up with a remorse that pained Jane to her core. She couldn't return the glance for more than a second, opting to shut her eyes. Jane took in a deep breath, and bumped her head against the cold, damp wall of tile she was sitting against.
"Sorry," Katrina croaked in earnest desperation.
"I fuckin'...told you not to...-" Jane trailed off, her voice crackling like a dying fire.
Katrina hummed in pleading acknowledgment of her error.
Jane ranted on.
"She was goddamn liability. I told you. How many fuckin' times? But you never...-" Another sigh.
"I never...turn my...-" Katrina's thought trailed off into more sputtering.
"I know," Jane conceded in a murmur. What had been a strength in Kat she had admired a mere week ago was now a most detested trait that had brought everything down.
Jane allowed herself to look down at her friend's trembling form, coughing away its final minutes. She could give Kat better than this angry bitterness. After all Kat had done in this mess, a more amicable end was the least Jane could provide. She cautiously pushed strands of sweaty hair out Kat's face and felt the girl's forehead – it was practically boiling.
Jane's eyes each spilled one tiny tear.
"You'll make it," said Katrina hoarsely. She cleared her throat, her good hand clamped over her blood-dribbling lips.
"Yea," agreed Jane solemnly. She knew it was true, sure. But what fucking good would it bring?
"Someone'll...be there." Kat tried to be optimistic. "You think?"
Jane's skull was rattled with the memory of Aaron's shrieks in the distance behind her fleeing form. With a broken leg, he'd chosen to offer himself up as bait when the horde had caught them off guard.
The memory of Zeke's un-lifeless body, shut down by a screwdriver to the base of his neck. Jane had uttered one last goddamn stupid zinger, just as she'd promised him: "Sorry, man...Looks like you're scr...-" But she had choked up too much to finish it. She'd figured his motionless corpse wouldn't mind if she'd skipped out on completing her promise.
The memory of Coral, brute-forcing her way through a small army of the cocksuckers, clearing the way to the gym where they sough refuge, only to be so scratched up that she only lasted a few days into their lockdown. Fuck, she had been one tough one to bring down, too. Nearly had ripped Jane's arm off after she'd turned.
"Sure," Jane placated her dying friend. "Mm, somebody'll...-"
There was a sudden series of thumping from the hallway behind them. It tumbled down the stairs. They both knew what it was. A moment later, the irritable moaning all but confirmed it. Jane recognized it, all right. Recognized the sound of that pudgy, legless body dragging itself aimlessly around the tile floor, nails scritch-scratching away in blind hunger.
"Is that...-?" Katrina whispered shakily.
"Prolly," Jane puffed with annoyance, slowly worming Kat's head off of her lap as she reached for her backpack.
"Don't...-!" Kat panted out, heaving her body up to its knees.
"She's fuckin' gone, man, I don't-"
"I want to...-" growled Katrina, crawling toward Jane and tugging at the girl's soiled jeans.
Jane stared into that deadening face, those sunken brown eyes of desperation, and she understood.
Katrina's last wish was to resolve her unfinished business. The business that was approaching.
"You can...barely...-" Jane breathed out, a lump in the back of her throat as she allowed Katrina to limply pull Jane's hunting knife from her legstrap. The poor girl wasn't even able to stand.
"I'll...do it," Katrina moaned through clenched teeth with a ferocity Jane only wished she'd demonstrated before that day. Katrina was now crawling on her hands and knees toward the back entrance door of the swimming pool lobby they presently occupied.
"What...What if it's not even her?" Jane seethed in a whisper, trying to keep her voice down as she crawled behind Kat.
The sound came from the hallway in question.
The unnerving movement coming from the door paused for the briefest of moments.
Stupid re-dead bitch had probably just whacked her thick skull against the wall, Jane decided. Useless when she was alive, just as useless as a goddamn zombie.
"Oh, it's her," Katrina darkly declared, shooting Jane an ice-cold glare. She coughed and wheezed, which was replied to with a hungry snarl echoing up ahead.
Jane began to plead in a tired breath, "Kat, juh-"
"Let me...-" Katrina groaned, cutting Jane's though off. "I'm...already...-" She could hardly muster the brainpower to explain, instead wriggling a tipsy, knife-wielding hand to her bandaged arm. "Just...-!" She panted with impatient frustration.
"OK, all right," Jane quickly conceded, heart-broken that she was leaving the girl with final minutes like these. "You got this, Kat...I'll...-" Jane sighed with a shrug. "-...get her attention, n' you take her out."
Jane knocked on the door twice.
"C'mere," she whispered with determination.
Jane and Katrina paused for a moment as Kat waited on baited breath for the door to open. Jane eased out her palm, gesturing Kat to back up. Katrina sidled along the tile wall a couple of steps.
The moaning was inches away now.
Jane's heart skipped a beat when that goddamn head pressed against he door, nudging her body. Then the nails began to claw. The moaning began to intensify. Bitch was hungry, all right. No fucking surprise there.
"Ready?" Jane checked, pressing her back against the door.
She exchanged glances with Kat. With one arm limp, shoulder against the wall, and the opposing hand clutching the red-tainted knife abreast, Katrina nodded. She was trembling from head to toe, sweating like a pig, her eyes bloodshot and her nostrils flared with determination. Jane studied Kat's eyes. Those eyes burned like a flickering candle in the wind.
Jane backed away from the door.
A snarling lump of flesh, tattered clothes, and raven hair crawled through the doorway with maw agape, snapping at the air. She was only a few hours gone – the golden satin music notes on her t-shirt were smeared in maroon gunk, and her hair was in shambles, but it was definitely Juniper.
Before Jane could fully process just how ravaged Jun was now than she had been when Jane had last seen her, Katrina thrust her weight off the wall, letting gravity do the heavy lifting for her. With a feral growl, Katrina fell over the groaning, moving corpse that had once been their dead weight friend. The knife cut through the back of Jun's neck, and Katrina's attack caused the creature to slow down immensely. Then the stabbing continued. Four more strikes were enacted, each one further transforming Jun's head into a less recognizable shape. For a couple seconds, Jane stared in shock at the mess before her. Katrina's sobs and heaves mixed with weak-willed groaning of the undead in an unsettling moment that would be engraved into Jane's brain for the rest of her few, fleeting days.
The knife clattered to the wet tiles, its sound bouncing across the pool room with finality.
Jane eased her bloodied friend off of the sack of undead flesh. Katrina rolled over onto her side, cheek stuck to a small puddle of her ex-friend's blood.
With her boot pressed against the dead girl's back, Jane grabbed her knife from the floor. She didn't need to double-tap this one – Katrina had certainly done a number on it. As Kat winced and sobbed on the floor, coughing and choking on her own saliva, Jane tiredly dragged the corpse to the water a few feet ahead. She unceremoniously kicked it into the watery graveyard before her, wiped her blade on her ravaged pants, and re-sheathed it along her thigh.
With a weary sigh, she pulled Kat back up, slamming at her back to clear her airway. She had to practically drag the dying girl back to their spot against the wall.
They took a minute to settle back down, sitting side by side, shoulders pressed. Jane nudged Katrina to rest her filthy head against a freckled shoulder. As they caught their breath – what little was left of it - pool whispered its sorrows through the newly formed ripples caused by its latest guest.
"I knew," croaked Kat, in syllables that were barely audible.
"I knew," Kat repeated, struggling to raise her voice a bit inbetween coughs. "You'd be...the last of us left...standing..."
Standing? Not the word Jane would've picked.
"Why'd you...-?" Jane choked out. She sniffled and scratched at her eyebrow, then cleared gunk from her eyes. "Why the fuck'd you keep her around? Keep draggin' her through all this shit? You knew it would only...-"
"I needed...a reason to keep...-" Katrina explained, her eyes resting closed. She trailed off with a rasped breath.
"...Gotcha," Jane whimpered with understanding. "So now...-" She sobbed. Katrina's chest was no longer expanding or contracting. She paused, waiting for another movement. It didn't come.
With a heavy, short moan of frustrated anguish, Jane shoved Kat's body sideways. It slid down the wall without incident.
A growl bridled heartache. A deep breath. A steadying sigh.
Jane pushed Katrina onto her back, then dragged her by the arms to the pool's edge.
Jane removed Katrina's dirtied denim jacket, and adorned it upon herself, tattered edges and all. It was a slightly loose fit on her boney frame. She left it unbuttoned, feeling around the pockets – so many pockets. Most were empty. There was a familiar lighter, emblazoned with that eagle design she knew well. No flicked at it, sparking a small flame to life, then closed it. There was a half-eaten pack of spearmint gum in one pocket, and a bloodied nail file in the other. Kat had probably killed three fuckers with that nail file. Jane had been proud.
Jane caught herself stalling.
She had to stop stalling.
She wanted to make herself stall there forever, but...she couldn't.
With another sigh, Jane pulled her knife out, plunged her knife effortlessly into the base of Katrina's neck, and wiped it back off. She wasn't going to wait. Kat didn't need to suffer that way.
A whimper of farewell. A slow headshake. A chewed lip. Fluttering eyelids. Fresh blood wiped against her reddened pants.
Jane kicked the body into the pool. She lamented the two corpses she could recognize amidst the pieces around them. She tilted her head down into her shoulder to succumb to another spilt tear. She could barely smell the traces of Katrina's perfume amidst the metallic scent freshly imbued into the dampened denim.
Jane stuffed her hands into denim pockets and left the pool room.
The water whispered its goodbyes behind her.
(Butterfly Soup) Runners at the Corners (Pt5)
Well, in my time inbetween SRU's completion and Rokudai's beginning, as I'm focused on DownRight Fierce, I'm trying to set time aside to keep writing some prose now and again. So I'm trying to go back to my old "just for fun" AU ficlet ideas.
Here was one of them -- it's intended to be read by those who are already familiar with SRU/Rokudai, so I didn't bother describing the characters' appearances. In case you need a refresher, or have never heard of these characters:
You might also dig this write-up about TellTale's The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 4.
There's this dark comedy aspect to that bit, where I could see him just going YOLO with a zombie apocalypse and finding every excuse to drop a one-liner, and insisting that when he turns, whoever kills his zombie form spews a pun.
I actually don't think revisions of Zuko or Johnny will exist at all in Rokudai. Their existence in SRU was pretty much purely to reference ATLA, as many of the more flawed aspects of SRU were. As a result, neither were developed much. Zuko existed more to serve as a plot-driving device for political stuff (which will be overhauled next time) and to have Zuko/Azula development. And the only reason Azula existed was so that I could play around with Azula/Zuko development. So she probably won't exist, either. Maya and Kylee will probably be a couple.
If a version of SRU!Zuko ends up existing it will be likely as a politician rather than a student, but my current plans don't really see much sense in that right now.
Aspects of Johnny's role will be blended into Jack (SRU!Jet).
Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!
He could be the example of what kat wants to be and the example of why its not also what kat thinks its made up to be.
I'm not trying to say don't get rid of him, but if he (as a surporting male character) is taken out of the picture your not left with many male friends for Arron or Siku. And some of the interactions between the guys really makes some scenes in some chapters.
And I should really apologise. I said ages ago I'd write my thoughts on how SRU was finished and maybe some ideas going forward but didn't get back to you. Life kinda dragged me down to the deep end and its been hecktic recently.
Anyway.... You should try and work this into the main story some how, maybe Jane stumbles across one of Kat's assignments and reads it out loud for Jun...
Anyway hope to read more of your work soon.
SRU was very female oriented as it was. That's part of the series' identity. It wasn't something I planned or intended -- it just was. And has become my writing style. Rokudai will just embrace that a bit more.
Having a Zuko-like character in JUST to have another dude around isn't really any better than having a Zuko-like character around just to reference Zuko.
Like I said, Rokudai doesn't really have a place for that character that means anything, at least not in the current plans for it.
Aaron doesn't have many male friends to begin with -- the characters in the story already tease him about that. This is an expression of my own real-life college experience. Siku/Zeke will probably have more male friends that just aren't relevant to the story (like he did in that scene I wrote where Kat and Jun meet).
As for this short, my current plan is to have AU scenes like this be interpersed through the story, as Kat's fiction she posts online or something like that.
Similarly, I have plans for the group to play D&D over time, and have a series of scenes from that interspersed throughout, and write those scenes back and forth between the fantasy story (from Kat's player's perspective) and the actual characters in real life as they play the game -- also inspired by my real life experiences with D&D.
I'll actually have a sample scene to that effect up some time soon-ish, I imagine, as I've already written a bit into one.
I want to use things like that (and maybe more stuff like Siku's blog posts) to help compensate for some of the stuff I'm taking out, like the song lyric scenes.