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A stabbing pain suddenly woke Logan from a relatively decent sleep. Thanks to his healing factor, the effects of the alcohol had already been purged from his system, but waking so suddenly left him with a sense of disorientation.
His claws emerged with a loud ::snick:: in the otherwise quiet room. Most times in the past when he had felt a stabbing pain in his gut, it was because he was actually being stabbed, so the reflex was perfectly reasonable.
As he searched with all his senses, trying to find an enemy to eviscerate, another stab of pain occurred which caused him to double over.
In a moment of clarity, he realized that what he was feeling was, in fact, the virus within him causing one or another of his internal organs to fail or explode or do some other nasty thing to cause this sensation.
He pulled up his shirt to find a blackish, bluish, greenish bruise rapidly expanding to cover the entire left side of his abdomen.
Then, the familiar warmth of his healing factor, hard at work, kicked in and he watched as the bruise faded, almost as suddenly as it had appeared.
He glanced at the window to find that it was light outside.
Not feeling any desire to linger in bed any longer, he got up and went through the motions of getting ready to start his day.
* * * * *
More out of habit than thought, he made his way to the kitchen and began making himself a cup of coffee.
It pained him to find that the coffee container was nearly empty and that this would be the last fresh ground coffee that he would have unless he went into town and found some there. Emma only kept a small supply on hand at any given time, so the coffee that they had would always be fresh.
Fortunately for him, Emma also had a taste for antiquities and happened to have an old fashioned, hand crank, coffee grinder. Although he was certain that the thing probably hadn't been used to grind coffee in the better part of a century, he was grateful for it. Because if he hadn't remembered it being on the mantle in the common room, he would have had to resort to something like a canvas bag and a hammer to get the job done. He needed his coffee.
Once the coffee was in the old fashioned percolator that he had retrieved from the camping supplies, he put it on the gas stove to heat. While the coffee was brewing and filling the kitchen with it's life giving aroma, he started rummaging through the kitchen for something to have for breakfast.
Then he realized that the thought of food was disgusting to him. Intellectually, he knew that he should eat something to help keep his strength up, but no matter how much he tried to convince himself, he couldn't quite manage it.
Although he suffered through some minor pains in his abdomen, he mostly enjoyed his coffee as he contemplated his plans for the day.
After his encounter with Travis the day before, he felt compelled to go and seek out other survivors. Even if they were infected, it was preferable to doing nothing to help anyone else.
* * * * *
Since his motorcycle had been destroyed, a few months before, Logan had resisted the urge to ride again. He had always had the feeling that if he got on another motorcycle and felt that sense of freedom, that he might be inclined to go and not come back.
This morning, that thought didn't hold as much sway as it once had. If he were to get on the motorcycle and go, he wouldn't be letting anyone down. No one would be hurt. No one needed him. If he didn't come back... it wouldn't matter.
As he finally arrived in town, he went directly to the downtown area and began his search for survivors, reasoning that anyone who wanted to be found, would probably go to the city center.
He got off the motorcycle and started to walk, watching and listening carefully for any indication that he wasn't totally alone.
Unfortunately, all his ears picked up was the distant whistling of the wind.
The only scents he could detect were the putrid odors of rotting flesh.
As morning gave way to afternoon, his pace became more insistent.
Going from storefronts to offices to banks, he found no one... at least, no one alive.
As would be expected, doctor's offices and churches were the worst. The stench alone was enough to drive him away. Add on top of that, the evidence of the futility and empty hope that people had suffered in their last moments as they put their faith in science or God, only to have it proven equally ineffective. It was more than he cared to endure.
As the sun began its descent to the horizon, Logan finally made his way back to the motorcycle, carrying the only good news of the day, a backpack filled to capacity with coffee beans.
Throughout his entire day, he hadn't detected a single indication that anyone was still alive. He saw the futility of his wasted effort, but also knew that the next day he would set off in a different direction and explore another town, exercising his diminishing hope that he might find someone... anyone, still alive.
* * * * *
Another town, another empty hope dashed.
Given the futility of the previous day and the threatening look of the weather, Logan decided to take the truck and conduct most of his search from the street.
There were a few times when something would catch his eye and he would get out of the truck to investigate, but none of them led to the discovery of anyone alive.
By not investigating on foot, he was able to search two small towns in the time that he had done one the previous day.
As the sun was setting and he was about to start back toward the mansion, he jolted with surprise when he saw a light turn on in one of the houses he was passing.
He slammed on the brakes and ran to the door, not concerned with how psychotic he might appear to whomever he may be interrupting.
When he knocked on the door, it swung open under the force.
Cautiously, he walked into the room and found a quaint little home, like something from a Christmas special on TV, not that he watched such things.
There was an artificial fireplace with the simulated fire burning in the hearth. There were lights, not only on the tree, but also strung around the room, giving everything a warm, festive glow.
"Hello? Is someone here?" He called out, then listened carefully for anyone who might answer, or for anyone who might be cowering in fear, trying to be quiet.
He heard nothing.
As he walked across the room to the fake fireplace, he found a picture on the mantle.
A father, mother, and three young school aged kids were all smiling in the photo. But the most notable one in the picture was the Great Dane grudgingly wearing a santa hat.
He couldn't help it, the silly sight made him smile.
"Hello? I'm not going to hurt you. Is anyone here?" Logan called out again as he placed the picture back on the mantle.
He stepped toward the hallway and his hopes fell, as the stench of rotting flesh assaulted him.
Even though he didn't need to, he walked back and verified for himself what he already knew.
Three of them were in one bedroom, still holding on to each other. The other two were each in their own beds. It seemed they had been dressed in their best clothes and positioned very precisely for their final rest.
Logan shook his head as he walked back down the hall toward the living room, when out of the corner of his eye he spotted something on the floor of the kitchen.
The body of the Great Dane was laying there, unmoving.
Logan thought back over everything he had been through since this whole ordeal began and realized that in the entire time that he had been searching, he hadn't seen a single dog, cat or even a bird.
Flies were definitely thriving, but as far as any higher life form... he hadn't seen any.
As he was contemplating that, a snowman on the lawn suddenly lit up.
Realizing what might be happening, he walked to the Christmas tree by the front window and discovered that it was on a timer.
With his hopes once again dashed against the rocks, he made his way out of the house and to his truck.
He immediately proceeded to the nearest purveyor of alcoholic refreshment and loaded the bed of his pickup with all he could carry.
* * * * *
After the multiple disappointments of the previous days, Logan decided that the search for other survivors was a futile one.
Breakfast had been coffee. And the rest of the morning was spent considering what supplies he might need in the long term. He wasn't sure where to find all that he needed, but if he were going to continue on at the mansion, he would need to get various other camping supplies to compensate for the luxuries of civilization that were falling away.
Around noon, Logan was surprised to find that he actually had an appetite, so he ventured into the pantry to see what was available.
The mansion had lost electricity early on, but a few of the surrounding communities still had power. So, for as long as that lasted, he could pick up frozen foods to increase the variety in his diet.
Today, however, he was satisfied with a can of corned beef hash, heated on the gas stove.
Just as he was sitting down to his lunch the sound of a honking horn startled him.
As quickly as he could, he ran to the front door and threw it open, not giving a thought to whether this person might be some sort of a threat.
He stepped onto the porch in time to see a teenage girl climbing down out of a Hummer.
"Hello!" Logan called with uncharacteristic excitement.
"Oh my God! I knew it! I knew someone would be here!" The girl cried as she ran to him.
Even though the girl was a complete stranger to him, he hugged her like a long lost friend.
"I can't believe it! I drove and drove and... I couldn't find anyone..." She said before breaking into uncontrollable sobs.
"I know. I been looking, too." Logan said as he continued to hold her.
"You're real, aren't you? Please be real." She whimpered into his chest.
"Yeah. I'm real. I promise." Logan said with a smile.
After a moment more of hugging, the girl pulled back slightly to look him in the face.
He waited, not knowing what she was looking for.
"Logan, right?" She asked cautiously.
"Got it in one. How'd you know?" Logan asked curiously.
"I talked to Paige and she mentioned you."
"Well, since you know who I am, maybe you could tell me your name." Logan said gently.
"Oh, right." The girl said as she pulled fully out of his grasp. "My name is Monique."
"Pretty name. So you're a friend of Paige's?" Logan asked, already missing the feel of her against him.
"We were roommates before our school got destroyed. When everyone else was on their way here, I took off so I could see my family." Monique finished in a diminishing voice.
Logan didn't need to ask. Her expression told him all he needed to know.
"Is Paige here?" Monique asked hopefully.
"I'm the only one left alive." Logan said in almost a whisper.
Monique froze for a moment, but didn't seem to be too surprised by the announcement.
"What about the others? Did they all end up coming here?" Monique asked quietly.
"I wasn't here when it happened. I know that Mondo, Angelo and Paige arrived together, but I don't know if they were here at the end." Logan said honestly.
Monique slowly nodded.
"I think I should tell you, I've got the virus. It just ain't killed me, yet." Logan said quietly.
"Yeah. Me, too." Monique reluctantly admitted.
"You got the healing factor?" Logan asked curiously.
"Yeah. That and exceptional strength... a lot of good it does, now." Monique finished with a shrug.
"You're still alive." Logan said simply.
"Somehow, I can't make myself feel happy about that." Monique said honestly.
"You and me, both, Kid." Logan chuckled.
* * * * *
Logan woke to the sound of movement in the house.
He tried to ignore it, but after living in silence for so long, he found that he couldn't.
Finally, he got out of bed and went downstairs to find Monique busy in the kitchen, fussing over something.
"Mornin, how's it goin?" Logan asked as he walked to the stove.
"I'm not sure what I'm doing. I've never had to cook without a microwave before." Monique said frankly.
"Takes some adjustment." Logan said as he reached up to the cupboard to take down the cannister of coffee beans.
"I bet you could live out in the wild without any trouble at all." Monique said with a smile.
"I wouldn't say that. There's a few things about civilization that I miss when I'm up in the hills. But you make due with what you've got." Logan said frankly as he poured the beans into the grinder.
"Yeah. I'm just not good at doing that." Monique quietly admitted, then reluctantly asked, "Am I doing this right?"
Logan looked at the frying pan with hacked up pieces of spam in it, then at her look of frustration.
"You might try cutting them more evenly. And the fire could stand to be a touch hotter." Logan said honestly.
"Yeah. I know about the cutting. But I didn't want to touch it. It's gross." Monique said with a sour look as she adjusted the flame under the skillet a little bit higher.
Logan smiled as he set up the coffee pot.
"Do you want something to go with this? I couldn't really find anything I know how to cook in the pantry." Monique asked as she watched the spam cooking.
"Not feeling much like eatin, ta tell ya the truth." Logan said honestly as he put the percolator on the stove.
"Yeah. I was like that yesterday. I'm a lot better today. Maybe I'm beating this thing." Monique said happily.
"Maybe." Logan said quietly as he stared at the percolator for a moment, then finally turned to her and said, "Professor Frost checked me out when she found out I had the virus. She said that because of the way the virus is made, it kind of homes in on the X gene and, I don't know, bonds to it, or somethin. So, what's happenin inside me right now is that the virus is getting stronger while my healing factor is fighting the damage it's causing. Because of that, I have times when I'm not too sick, then something hits me real bad and my healing factor has to fix it."
"Is that what's happening to me?" Monique asked cautiously.
"Dunno. Maybe." Logan said honestly.
"So, did she say... I mean, will you get better?" Monique asked quietly.
"No. She didn't think so. She figured that the virus'd keep gettin stronger until it finally did somethin' that was too bad for my healing factor to fix." Logan said regretfully.
"When Mr. Cassidy found out that I had the healing factor, he said that I was a level four... whatever that means. Do you know, is that good enough to beat this thing?" Monique asked cautiously.
"I don't know if your healing factor works the same as mine. Yours might see the virus as a threat and fix you right up." Logan said honestly.
"What level is your healing factor rated at?" Monique asked curiously as she started to turn her spam with a spatula.
Logan picked up the percolator from the stove and poured himself a cup of coffee before quietly responding, "Eight."
* * * * *
"So? What do you think?" Monique asked with a smile of accomplishment.
"You fried it right." Logan said as he fought to keep his stomach contents in place.
"I guess all it took was the end of the world to finally get me to want to learn how to cook." Monique joked.
"You get hungry enough, that happens." Logan said with a smile.
"Well, I need to learn to cook if we're going to be the parents of a new generation." Monique said teasingly.
Logan looked at her with wide eyed surprise.
"As far as I can tell, we're all that's left. Either humanity is going to die out, or we're going to have to repopulate the earth." Monique said with a smile.
"This virus inside me is getting bigger and stronger every day. I don't know how long it's gonna take, but I think Em was right. It's eventually gonna kill me." Logan said seriously.
Monique sobered at the serious words.
"Besides, I wouldn't want to bring a kid into a world like this, knowing that I probably wasn't gonna be around to help them." Logan added in a grim tone.
"Yeah. I guess that'd be kind of a rotten thing to do." Monique quietly admitted.
"You ever thought about what happens when you die?" Logan asked cautiously, not sure what her reaction would be.
"No. I figure when the time comes, I'll face it and deal with whatever's there. Until then, there's no use worrying about it." Monique said simply.
"I like the way you think." Logan said with a nod of approval.
* * * * *
"You slept late. I was just about to go check on you." Logan said as he sipped his coffee.
"I've been up for a while. I've just got a bad headache." Monique said as she shuffled into the kitchen.
"How bad?" Logan asked with concern as he noticed the dark circles under her eyes.
"On a scale of one to ten? About one hundred and thirty seven." Monique said as she settled into a chair at the table.
"Hang on. I'll get you something for that." Logan said as he stood.
"Painkillers don't work on me." Monique warned him.
"We'll see about that." Logan said with a grin, then hurried out of the room.
* * * * *
"If your healing factor works anything like mine, then this will sneak in under the radar and take the edge off the pain." Logan said as he handed her two pills.
"What is it?" Monique asked before popping them into her mouth.
"Let's see if it works, first. If it does, then I'll tell you." Logan said seriously.
"The way I'm feeling... I think maybe you're right about the virus. I haven't ever felt this bad before." Monique said as she rested her head on her folded hands.
"Just wait for your healing factor to fix whatever the virus is doing." Logan said gently.
"Yeah. I think I'm just going to go back to bed." Monique said quietly, then slowly stood.
"I'll be up to check on you in a little bit." Logan said seriously.
"You don't have to worry about me. I'll be fine." Monique said wearily.
"Nope. I've got to worry about you if we're expected to repopulate the earth." Logan said with a grin.
"Not today, I've got a headache." Monique said as she left the room.
* * * * *
"How ya feelin?" Logan asked as he walked into Monique's room.
"It still hurts, but those pills helped. Thanks." Monique said tiredly.
"You need anything? We got chicken soup." Logan said quietly.
"No. Nothing. I think I just need to rest to get over this." Monique said honestly.
"Okay, then. I'll check back later."
* * * * *
"You doin' any better?" Logan asked a while later, as he carried a tray into Monique's room.
"Honestly, no." Monique said as she seemed to struggle from the effort of opening her eyes.
"I brought you some of that chicken soup I was telling you about." Logan said gently.
"I can't." Monique gasped.
"You need to eat to keep your strength up." Logan said imploringly.
"No. But I could use some more of those pills... It hurts... It really hurts." Monique said past labored breaths.
"Be right back. Hang in there." Logan said before dashing away.
* * * * *
When Logan hurried back into the room, he was stunned to see Monique ineffectually trying to stop the flow of blood running from her nose.
"Let me help." He said as he ran to the bathroom and grabbed a towel.
"It won't stop." Monique struggled to say.
"Just hang on. Give your healing factor the time it needs to kick in and fix this." Logan said as he held the bath towel to her nose to stop the flow of blood.
"Did you bring the pills?" She struggled to say.
"Right here." Logan said as he pulled the bottle from his pocket.
"Give me four." She demanded with what seemed to be the last of her strength.
Although he wanted to warn her about the possibility that her healing factor might adapt to make the painkillers ineffective, one look at her convinced him that she needed the relief from pain here and now more than she might in the future.
"Here you go. You need some water?" Logan asked as he handed her the pills.
Monique popped the pills into her mouth and swallowed them down without hesitation.
"How that nosebleed coming along?" Logan asked cautiously.
"I think it's easing up." Monique said as she fought to keep her eyes open.
"You're doin fine. Just hang in there. The pills will kick in any minute now."
* * * * *
"Is it gettin any better?" Logan asked gently as he pulled a chair up to her bedside.
"When did you get here?" Monique asked curiously.
"I've been here all the time, makin sure that you're going to be okay." Logan said gently.
"Get your big butt over here and give me a hug. I thought I'd missed you." Monique said happily.
"What?" Logan asked in surprise.
"What about Mondo and Angelo? Are they here, too?" Monique asked hopefully.
"I'm guessin that four pills was too many for you." Logan said slowly.
"Doing 'Boy Things'?" Monique laughed joyfully.
"Monique, this is Logan. I need for you to listen to me." Logan said firmly.
"Paige, remember when you told me about Logan? He's just like you said." Monique giggled.
"Tell you what. I'm gonna leave you here talkin with yer friends, and I'll check back later." Logan said cautiously.
"Yeah, I bet he's hung like a horse." Monique chuckled.
"I'll just go."
* * * * *
Logan checked back multiple times, and each time he found Monique holding in depth conversations with people who weren't there.
Finally he cautiously walked in and found her quiet.
"You doin okay?" Logan asked gently.
"Mama said I can't have a puppy." Monique said as her eyes filled with tears.
"That's some kind of trip, you're takin." Logan said hesitantly.
"I'll be good! I promise!" Monique called out in a begging tone.
"I know. I believe you." Logan said softly.
"I wanna puppy! Please Mama!" Monique screamed as tears flowed down her cheeks.
"Why don't you just settle down there, now, Monique. It's time for you to get some sleep."
"I wanna puppy!" Monique said firmly as she crossed her arms across her chest and stuck out her lower lip.
"Go to sleep and we'll talk about it tomorrow." Logan said reasonably.
"When's daddy gonna be home?"
"I don't know, darlin." Logan said wearily.
"But I still want a puppy." Monique said quietly.
"Try to get some sleep." Logan said as he got up from the chair.
"My puppy's gonna be named Bobo."
* * * * *
"How you feelin now, Monique?" Logan asked as he took a seat in the chair by her bed.
"Nana booboo, Mama."
"I see." Logan said as any hope that he had held, fell away.
"Meemaw, hoosaw." Monique giggled.
Logan took a tissue from beside the bed and gently wiped the drool from her cheek.
"Go to sleep now, little angel. I'll be right here watching over you." Logan said softly.
Monique smiled at him, then closed her eyes.
* * * * *
Around three in the morning, Logan woke in the chair by Monique's bed and checked on how she was doing.
He wasn't surprised to find that she wasn't breathing.
Although he didn't know the medical explanation for what had happened to her, part of him understood the regression and expected this outcome.
He gently picked up her body and carried her down the hall, without a word.
The ride in the elevator was silent, as was the walk to the medlab.
"Here you go, guys." Logan said as he opened the containment room door. "I got another one for you."
He picked up her body and carried her into the room.
He originally had thought that heaping the bodies in the containment room might be considered disrespectful. But now that he'd had time to live with the idea, he believed that these people who were so close in life, might have chosen to be together in death, had they been given the choice.
"I guess we won't be repopulating the earth." Logan said with one last look at Monique, then turned to leave.
When he saw Emma's body, he quietly said, "Watch after the new kid for me, will 'ya, Em? Make sure she fits in."
After a long, silent moment, he closed and sealed the door.
To Be Continued...
I am having a very difficult time trying to keep from crying my eyes out. I feel so sorry for Logan. He must be having a very difficult time, realizing that he may very well be the last person alive on the planet.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher