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Nothing Landon said made him happy. He couldn't eat real food, he couldn't get up, he had to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, but that was boring as hell! "Landon," he pleaded, but then Landon was fleeing and the doctor was there.
"Good morning," the doctor said pleasantly, smiling. "How's it feel to be back against the living?"
"Boring," he replied honestly.
The doctor chuckled. "We'll have you busy soon enough," she promised. "I heard you want the IVs out?"
"You know, you should be more grateful towards those tubes. They're what kept you alive all this time," she said, shaking her head.
"That one," he said, pointing towards his crotch. "Get it out."
She looked a bit skeptical. "Do you understand the shape your body is in? You can't stand, let alone walk to the restroom. Bear with it. You're still waking up."
Bell shook his head adamantly. "Out," he insisted, though his voice was a little weak.
"Maybe tomorrow," she suggested in a final sort of way. "We can take a few of these out, though, so how about that?"
Bell nodded. It was better than nothing. Small steps, small steps.
The doctor conversed with the nurse, and they started bustling around him, poking at monitors. As promised, she removed a few of the tubes, but there were still plenty hooked up to all sorts of places. And true to her promise, the catheter stayed in.
"What do you think about food?" the doctor suggested, and Bell nodded. The first good thing she'd suggested this whole time!
"Sarah, could you go get him some food?" the doctor asked distractedly. She propped his bed up further yet, then pulled the sheets off. "I'm going to run a few reflex tests, okay?"
After what felt like a whole doctor's checkup, from lights in his eyes to the good old freezing cold stethoscope, she stepped away, apparently pressed with the results. "You're in excellent health, you ought to make a full recovery in time. Sarah will be right back with your food."
Bell nodded,a little sleepy after all that. The doctor laughed. "If you're tired, we can do it later," she offered.
Bell shook his head. He was hungry and he wanted to get out of here. He wasn't going to skip a single meal, no matter what.
With a nod, the doctor left. Despite his refusal, Bell almost fell asleep before the nurse returned, but woke from his daze when he heard the door open. To his surprise, it wasn't Sarah from earlier, but rather some hunky male nurse! And blonde, too, what a bonus. He sat up a little sharper in his chair at the man's approach.
"Sarah couldn't make it, so you'll have to put up with me," he said.
Bell shrugged, but he couldn't really pretend he was disappointed. At least, until the food was brought into view.
"The hell's that?" he asked, staring at it. It looked like baby food, only more disgusting and more of it.
"All your nutrients for the day in one convenient package," the nurse replied. Bell gave him a suspicious look, but his blindingly-white smile was sincere. "Do you want to hold the spoon?"
Bell hesitated just a second, then grabbed it. Even Landon wasn't allowed to feed him.
With his hands as shaky as they were, the whole process was a mess, but he managed to get most of the food down. By the time Landon returned, though, there was still half left, and he felt equal parts exhausted and full. He set down the spoon, and no encouragement from the hunky nurse could get him to pick it up again.
"That's enough for now, then," the nurse agreed. "I'll be back later and we'll finish it off!" He flashed a smile as he left, and Bell turned to watch him go. He had a nice ass, too...
It would've been amusing, if Landon hadn't been in torment over Bellwether's health up until late night yesterday. At least it was never quiet with Bell being awake and Landon appreciated that much.
"You know the only thing they'll feed you for the coming few days is going to be liquid, right?" Landon surmised. After the goo they'd fed Bellwether, Landon didn't think the man could stand solids for a while to come. That and Bell had lost some weight. Sure, whatever they chugged down the tube was like space-food, high on protein and such, but it still didn't quite do the trick.
Taking the cup, Landon leaned over to put it down and returned to sit upright and placed a hand to Bellwether's chest when it seemed the other might actually go somewhere on his own. It was tantamount to how eager Bellwether was to get out of here, but seriously? What were they going to do on the streets with Bell being as weak as a new-born kitten?
"Yeah, where exactly? And with what army," Landon remarked regarding the half a dozen tubes snaking in and out of Bell. Never mind the electrodes still creating the steady, and now more aggravated, beep of Bell's heart-beat.
At last Bell seemed to clue on, because before long there was a perky nurse, whose mood was practically the polar opposite of Landon's. Stifling a yawn, Landon got up from the bed, assured Bellwether would wait at least as long as to get the tube pulled from his urinary tract. At being patted though Landon furrowed his brow at Bell in slight concern.
"You've been down for at least four weeks, Bell, just...no one's gonna kill us, relax," Landon said. For Bell it was easy; once again the man didn't understand time had gone missing, but to Landon, it wasn't all that sudden. He'd seen first-hand what Bell was put through while they played the waiting game. Landon felt slightly guilty about not being there for the first few weeks though, having been tied up in hospital himself.
And if they wanted the two of them dead, now would be an awkward time. Best to kick them while they were down, no?
"I'll help you walk after they get..." Landon gestured vaguely towards Bell's crotch, "...that thing out."
Rifling through his things, Landon decided he wasn't quite awake for this yet, and moody. He needed coffee to down the pills with.
A doctor entered just as Landon was about to exit for the trip, noticing it was another doctor than Alex. Just as well. If they compared notes, it'd become obvious Landon practically lived in Bell's room.
"Have fun, be back in five," Landon signalled.
"Move," he said in response to Landon's first question. Short answers were the best at this point. The bed raised into a sitting position, which was halfway to what he'd wanted--look, they were already making progress! He shook his head at Landon's suggestion, and gripped the cup weakly with both hands; if Landon hadn't been there to steady it, he probably would've given himself an impromptu bath. Male nurses were hot and all, but they wouldn't help him do the things he wanted to do. Like get the hell out of here.
Water first. He sucked it down a little too eagerly and could feel the chill in his stomach as it settled. Slosh, slosh. He'd have to pee again soon at this rate. "Hungry," he muttered, releasing the straw for a moment. There was no food around, though. Not that he could see. Well, they could solve that easily enough. He'd wanted to go for a walk anyways.
Bell pushed the cup away, back into Landon's hand. He started shifting again, trying to roll over and flop his legs out of bed. Mostly this resulted in him leaning slightly in one direction--towards Landon, because when he'd sat on the edge of the bed, the mattress had bent slightly under his weight and it was much easier to roll downhill than uphill. He still didn't succeed, but he got a little closer. "Gonna walk," he told Landon. It wasn't quite accurate, but it got his point across. "Gonna go f'r a walk."
The tubes were already tugging, even at him moving this little. He ignored them until the one between his legs pulled, deep in a very uncomfortable place and then he made a face and fell still, settling back into the bed. Okay, maybe a walk wasn't happening today. Or at least, not until he got all these tubes out. And who could do that? He didn't want to admit it, but a nurse.
He flailed about on the bed until he found the call button and pressed it. A female nurse came, and he made a face at Landon. Male nurses, yeah right! He wasn't that lucky.
"Do you need help?" she asked politely.
"Get these... outta me," he said, gesturing at the array in general.
The nurse gave Landon an amused look and Bell an indulgent smile. "You know what, why don't I get the doctor down here and the two of you can chat?" she offered.
"I don't wanna...doctor...wanna walk," he insisted.
"Okay, that's the spirit! I'll be right back," she assured him.
Bell made a face at her back, then patted at Landon. "Help, I wanna... get up," he said. Maybe Landon could help him out. He wasn't staying in this freaking bed though.
Legs resting on the table, laptop on his legs, head propped against the window, Landon was the epitome of being relaxed in an awkward position. Landon's arms were folded around his stomach, still protective of the areas that still sported some soreness after everything had been said and done.
Bellwether-goat's had healed Landon for a good measure, but apparently he hadn't exactly been the most cooperative whilst being locked up in the hospital's psych ward. Restraints and other drugs had come into play before things calmed down -of course, Landon faintly recalled the carers concern at him vomiting up dark blood.
After some tests however, it was pushed off as something weird he ate. Landon didn't think they actually investigated any further in what the substance was, considering his health made a miraculous one-eighty after that incident.
At hearing his name called out, Landon shot awake, too curled up to really make a jump and frankly, too subdued by the lovely anti-psychotics. First order of business after they fled the lovely hospital was to wean off of those again. They made Landon feel less like himself and more like some faded version of himself. Lazy eyes ventured over towards Bellwether, who had obviously worked himself into some sense of discomfort.
Closing the laptop, Landon put it away and stood with a stretch.
"What're you trying to do?" Landon asked, rubbing sleep from his eyes. It figured Bell would be a different patient than your regular old 'I just got out of a coma'-fib.
Sleepily grabbing the remote to Bell's bed, Landon stood and slowly adjusted the other to sit up-right a little better. They'd been giving Bellwether food through a tube the last couple of weeks, but they hadn't done that yet today -maybe they wanted Bell to actually try ingesting stuff again.
Someone at least had the sanity of mind to leave some ice-chips next to the bed. How much had he missed exactly? The drugs were messing with his grip on reality.
"Water?" Landon offered, pouring a plastic cup with some and added a straw for good measure. Shame they didn't have anything to liven the fluids up with. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Landon figured Bell would need help keeping the cup steady.
"You know? They do have some nice male nurses too," Landon suggested he was doing work they were paying other people to do.
Bellwether woke up again, greatly more rested for having taken a nap than he'd felt from sleeping for however many weeks. He shifted, slightly, trying to get a feel for his limbs again. Ten fingers, ten toes. They responded fine, though a little weakly. Next wrists and ankles. They rolled at his instruction, moving just fine, and he slowed and used them one at a time--right wrist, left wrist, right ankle, left ankle--just to make sure they were all moving.
That much was enough to tire him out, so he turned his head instead, taking in the room. Wires and tubes going everywhere. Wrist, face...he raised a hand to touch the apparatus in his nose and was surprised, a moment later, at how easy it had been. His hand was a little clumsy, and the tubes jostled painfully when he touched them--it was an odd sensation that went much further into his body than he was comfortable with, and he removed his hand quickly. Blinking around, he found he was in the same room as yesterday--as earlier; he wasn't sure of the time, but it was bright out now.
He was going to take a walk, he decided, thrusting his tiredness behind him mentally. It was high time he jumped ship. His knees bent, hips creaking and kneecaps popping, and his muscles sent pain like a river through his body as they reminded him how long it'd been since he'd moved anything. Grunting, he laid still again, and decided to focus on sitting up instead. Elbows and shoulders creaked at taking his weight, his shoulder muscles in particular exclaiming at having been aggravated; he barely lifted himself a few inches off the bed before his arms gave out and he fell back into it. He felt like a mummy, like some dried-out and undead thing trying to work fluid back into desiccated muscles. Even his neck felt stiff, but he couldn't roll it out while he was lying like this.
His skin had some problems with his situation, too. There were two points of acid-hot pressure on either side of his hips, like blisters; bed sores? Freaking embarrassing, for him. The mattress was uncomfortable as hell, and the pillow felt thin. He couldn't see anything beyond the sides of his bed, not really. He tried to roll over, but it was too much effort. Couldn't sit up, couldn't stand, couldn't even roll over. How pathetic was he? He couldn't fight like this!
"Landon," he said, "help." He needed help rolling over, maybe sitting up and having a drink. His throat felt dry as the Sahara desert. And he felt hungry, too, like he hadn't eaten in...in a month. Food would be nice. He disparaged the nurse's call button. They'd just make him do boring things and tell him he couldn't do what he wanted to do. Landon would be much more useful.
It seemed everything was still in place. Bellwether was talking -did the man's tongue ever stop moving to begin with?- and responding accordingly. For all practical purposes, Bell's mind was always less fragile than Landon's.
Landon snorted when Bell mentioned he had to take a piss. That was the most pressing concern, really? As if they hadn't taken care of that for the man for the last what -month? now. Did he really want to alert Bell to the tube? He'd find out on his own, surely and so Landon merely kept toying with Bellwether's hair. It'd gotten longer now.
That was something else entirely.
"Soon as you can walk," Landon told Bell. He didn't feel much for being stuck any longer than necessary. Of course, even if Bellwether was well enough to be annoyed, walking might be something he'd need revalidation for. Or was it that because the nature of the coma was due to a goat, the effects the prolonged inactivity had on the body were lessened? Landon certainly hoped so, but there was no telling and so Landon left it at that.
Pressing his lips against Bell's temple, Landon watched as the man fell back asleep. A restful sleep this time, not the still kind he'd witnessed for days on end.
When the doctor arrived it seemed like everything had just been a delusion.
"Mister Turner," the man greeted him. Alex, Landon though the man's name was. Without much further exchange of conversation, the doctor checked the charts and made some notes, adjusting some of the medication and Landon just sat back down after a while.
Rubbing at his face, Landon regretted not having slept somewhere more comfortable, though this had the added bonus of seeing Bell wake up for the first time in a long while. Now what?
Was he going to try and convince Bellwether that the thousand were a hoax?
It was hard to tell which goat was lying. So far Bellwether-goat's arguments were all good and well, but there had never really been a purpose for the goats' presence. Maybe Bell would know more.
The doctor faced Landon and surprised him slightly.
Raising his eyebrows expectantly, Landon wasn't entirely sure about which emotion Alex was expressing currently.
"Have you been here all night?" the doctor asked.
Landon looked away and shrugged.
"Go home, get some rest -he won't go anywhere," Alex emphasised. "This is just the start of a long process," the doctor tried to push through. "Yeah," Landon said, "I'll go in a bit."
Alex hovered for a short moment, fully aware Landon was lying through his teeth, but finally left. Landon didn't take his eyes off of Bell.
A hand took his, brushed his hair back. Landon. He was here. He gripped Landon's hand weakly, unable to do much but lie there. He wanted to get up and run away; he couldn't afford a hospital, and all the things they'd pin on him...but he couldn't really move. Everything felt really heavy, like someone had strapped a thousand pounds to each limb.
He nodded along while Landon spoke, just a little. It took too much effort to do anything, even the littlest movements, and it worried him. How would he fight like this? How long would it take before he could live on the streets again? He squeezed Landon's hand a little when the man reminded him he'd died again. He'd protect Landon no matter what, as long as he lived. As long as the goat lived. As long as Landon lived. No one was going to take Landon from him.
The nurse came in, and he recognized her. It took him a moment to place it while she hurried about, checking one thing after another, though he didn't much appreciate the glance up the hospital gown's skirt. It felt funny, which worried him. Had he gotten some kind of infection, after everything? But that didn't make any sense.
No, he was getting distracted. He was tired, she was right. Exhausted, as though he hadn't just woken up. But she looked familiar somehow.
Oh. In his dream. She'd been the goat in his dream. Only there'd been no double take, no sign. But she'd been caring for him for...for a few weeks, Landon said. There wouldn't be, necessarily.
But what was the point of worrying about that now? He was back in the land of the living, and Landon was still there waiting for him. Bell gestured weakly. "...gotta pee," he informed Landon, a little embarrassed. Getting carried to the bathroom once had been enough for this life, but it seemed like he couldn't avoid it.
Once. How long had he been out? How many trips to the bathroom would that have been? What about baths, showers? He tried calculating it, then gave up. It was just too embarrassing.
"How long..." he asked weakly, voice dying. What was his voice going out for? It wasn't as though he'd worn it out sleeping here! "...Leave. Until...go." How long until I leave the hospital? He didn't want to be here. It was freaky. Reminded him too much of Robert. And worried him about getting arrested, too.
His eyes began to close again, and he fought it. He hadn't even gotten up to use the restroom yet! Oh--wait, that didn't matter anymore. Hopefully the nurse didn't get too angry about the sheets. Except they didn't feel wet. He got a sneaking suspicion about what that strange sensation might have been from, and made a face. Yuck, get him out of here already!
But even so...at least everything had turned out alright. Bell smiled up at Landon, happy to find Landon here beside him. He didn't let go of Landon's hand even as he fell back asleep. He didn't want the man to leave him all alone.
If the anti-psychotics hadn't made him drowsy, Landon wouldn't have such weird dreams or half-way hallucinations about Bellwether clutching the sheets. Landon woke with a soft groan, rubbing at the back of his neck and hair, stifling a yawn. His muscles were sore from working out and sleeping in a crooked position. A small sound however got Landon's attention. Bell?
Was it a hallucination?
Was it real?
What were the reprimands if he called a nurse for nothing? Maybe a foul look?
Landon stood, carefully taking Bellwether's hand in his and brushing the man's hair back. He wanted it to be real so badly, Landon couldn't bring himself to get a third party to debunk his delusion if it wasn't true.
Gently hushing Bellwether's agitation, Landon smiled.
"You're in a hospital," he said, as if that hadn't been clear yet. Looking around to see whether they were really alone, Landon took a deep breath.
"Stage three is a coma, remember? You...died during our escape," Landon looked embarrassed. Bellwether had died protecting him. Did Bell remember?
If he didn't, the information wouldn't sit very well.
Landon trusted Bellwether-goat to secure its shell however. "Goat brought us to town, close enough anyway..." he said. "The others arrived too -it was a mess; be glad you didn't have to live through it," Landon mentioned. The media had had a field day with that news, for sure. Perhaps that was much to their advantage, because being pictured as a victim had surely helped with the mild sentence they'd gotten for the trouble they caused at the mine.
"You've been out for a few weeks," Landon mentioned at last, reaching for the nurse's button. It just had to be true now. Not once did Landon let go of Bell's hand. The man was here now, no way was he letting go of that!
The nurse that responded didn't feel a particular rush, until she found Bellwether was awake. Swift hands checked all the regular spots Landon had observed them do for a while now: the nasal oxygen, the meter attached to Bell's finger, the catheter stuck down a spot he didn't feel eager to tell Bellwether about and the IV dripping fluids and otherwise into the man's veins. The heart-monitor still beeped steadily.
"You must feel tired," the nurse said, "it's not uncommon, being in a coma is not quite the same as sleep." She looked up, smiled at Landon and nodded.
"I'll send in the doctor, but if he goes back to sleep, don't try to keep him awake."
There was a dream he kept seeing, in and out; the goat, black on black, merely watching, watching, watching. He couldn't get close, or draw its attention; it watched so much, so many details, that he was lost in the noise. He felt as though he were being eroded, details erasing slowly from his body, then his mind, until he was a little blot on the horizon; and then the goat blinked, and he unraveled completely, dust on the wind.
It wasn't so bad, that dream. In it, he drifted. He saw a hospital, nurses. Landon, every now and again. He looked soft again. It was almost embarrassing.
One of the nurses in this dream of his was a goat; he could see it through the goat's eyes, or however he could see this world. It greeted him and chatted familiarly with Landon, then left again, and he was left behind on the bed, untouched. It was an ordinary goat, not a Mindy. And as long as he watched, it never harmed a soul.
It spoke to him, in that dream. [i Why do you hunt us?] it asked.
"Because you're monsters," he replied simply.
In his dream, the goat tilted its head, and he saw a story, a life--lives--unfolding behind its eyes. Beauty. Preservation. Healing. The goat had never intervened; in its few lives it had never hurt a fly, much less its shell. It had done a lot of good in this world, as much as anyone could.
"But that wasn't you," Bell told it.
[i Wasn't it?] the goat asked.
The dream wound away, leaving him in the darkness, and the nightmares returned--the nightmares that always waited, when he wasn't dreaming of the goats.
The hospital was empty.
At first he thought it was a dream, but then he could move. Not much. Everything was so...weak.It was like waking up after the goat had come out, only somehow...worse.
His eyes flicked around the room. It was white, white as could be. A hand tensed, digging in to the sheets. Robert. Was he going to be killed again? Was he going to be--
There was a window. It was dark outside, nighttime. This wasn't...No, they'd escaped. The hand let go. It was much more difficult than it should have been to hold his grip. And everything ached. There were a few strange sensations that he couldn't quite place, some which he didn't want to.
"...n?" he said. Landon. Where was Landon? What was going on? What had happened? Why was he here, why was he so weak?
So goats got tired too?
This world must not want them, or like them then.
Blood trickled down his throat, the goat's voice enough to send Landon careening and finally, mercifully, passing out.
The sudden arrival of over fifty 'missing' people sent the nearby town into a fit; it was all over the news. Landon had woken up after healing, partially, carrying Bell on his back into the city. Fifteen minutes sure had felt a lot longer. Without question, they were taken to the nearest hospital upon arrival, and were transferred not much longer to a more specialized facilities.
For Landon, this meant a hospital with a psych ward.
After the story had started to be come to life, their stuff was recovered at least. The facility had been abandoned and there was no sign of Robert or Angela. Landon presumed Robert-goat had simply claimed a new identity, but he hadn't 'heard' any goats where he was. Angela was probably just smart about disappearing.
It took Landon two weeks to convince people he wasn't insane.
They wrote it off as a passing psychosis, something which was a common in Landon's history anyway. The prescribed medication was a forced constant and did nothing to sharpen reality. It just blurred the lines. He had to take it to escape conviction for their break-in at the mine. Did goats even exist? If they did, Bell at least couldn't be found while in a coma.
Three of Landon's fingers were still in a cast by the time he visited Bellwether for the first time. Landon made an attempt to look normal. Normal clothes, a new phone, a duffel with clothes and other stuff. Amongst which was the bat, but no one needed to know that. There was also a laptop now.
Bellwether-goat had mentioned Bell could be out for a long while and so Landon decided he might as well make money during that time. They may not need it for hunting goats, but maybe...if they allowed it, there could be a future for them both.
Another two weeks had Landon's hair cut back to only blonde.
He'd rented out a room close to the hospital, but spent most of the time watching Bellwether sleep.
Another night, another waiting game.
Landon stared drowsily at Bell's peaceful face, running his fingers through the man's hair. "C'mon Bell, wake up, will you?" Landon sighed out, putting a hand to Bellwether's chest. Warmth radiated through Landon's cool hand. There was a heart-beat there. A regular old normal human heart-beat. As if.
Sleep hadn't really been a thing lately, the anti-psychotics sure didn't help it any. Whenever night fell and nurses forgot about Landon still being there, he liked to stay up and watch, hoping Bell would wake up, gripe about something or other and then they'd get out of dodge. Fantasy. Bell didn't wake up, and if the man did, being in a coma had a tendency to weaken the body, never mind that Bellwether had always felt weak after turning goat. Landon did make it a point to eat well and gain strength, like Bell suggested. If they did went about fighting goats again -out of necessity or otherwise- Landon wanted to be prepared. At least the fever had gone from Bell's body.
Landon put his elbows on the bed and hung his head. How long was this going to take?
The goat was largely amused by what it found, the chaos all around it. It looked around calmly as the other goats tore and ripped. One stopped and looked at Landon, but the goat stood over him and hissed, and it backed off. There were almost no inmates left human; the forest flickered with goats, with their shadows.
Of course, it couldn't stay here long. Sooner or later the panic would wear out, or one of its fellows would notice it for what it was, and then there would be too much fighting even for it.
Pleased that the human had escaped so far of its own volition, it scooped him up. He was worried about carrying its young; it laughed at him. He had gotten far enough to satisfy the goat; he could carry its young another day.
It took off, blurring through the woods, slaloming past trees so fast they would only be blurs to the human eye. The other goats were still distracted, busy panicking and ripping each other apart; it moved with purpose, moved more quickly. A few goats lunged as it passed, but it dodged them easily and passed quickly through the forest. It found a road, and ran parallel. Some of the goats kept pace, ignoring it as it ran amongst them, even with a human gripped to his chest. They were all headed to the same place--the outskirts of the city.
As they drew close, they split off, until Bell's goat ran alone. At last it, too, stopped. It laid down on its side, curled around Landon and exuding an air of exhaustion. Gold-rimmed eyes stared blankly through his, and it offered its blood, thumb pressed against his lips.
[i He will not wake up for some time,] it informed him, [i when your lover returns.] It had not yet been enough time; the goat had emerged too many times, too quickly. Bellwether would lie comatose when he returned. For how long, the goat wasn't sure. Weeks, months, years? Perhaps days, if he were lucky.
A map passed between them, directions to the city. It wasn't far now. Fifteen minutes' walk. [i Do as you please,] it told Landon, meaning with Bell, with the directions, with everything. With all the knowledge he'd learned. Knowing that the thousand were no threat, would he continue? Or would he abandon Bell, who would be useless for some time anyways? It was curious.
The goat reverted slowly, limbs sucked away more jerkily than usual, as though it took some effort to retake Bell's form. As it had predicted, the Bellwether who returned was unconscious, feverish, sick; he didn't so much as twitch where he laid.
The world twisted and moved too fast for Landon to truly grasp; one second he was standing, the next he was on the ground with Bell for a mattress. Actually, that bit was sort of comfortable. Bellwether wasn't experiencing lying down quite the same way though and Landon found himself teetering to an unsteady stand at Bell's insistent pulling and pushing. They were barely through the fence when Landon felt himself pushed away from Bell. What the-?
Shit. The noises were more than descriptive enough for what was going on. Landon had landed on his stomach, trying to catch his breath, one hand already to the floor in poor attempts at pushing back up. They had to move, they had to-
They had to...
Landon's eyes met Bellwether, saw the blood and guts pouring out onto the dirt floor. Shit no! Not again. Not now! They'd been such flipping close. Why now?
Landon scrambled to get closer to Bell, making sure to stay low, to stay hidden like the ant he was from the rushing gods tearing everything to tiny little pieces, warring amongst themselves. Using his good hand, Landon managed to grab Bell's, pull the man in closer and could already feel what he hoped was a dream, some facade.
"Bell, fuck-" Landon cursed. Why had the man tried to be a hero again?
This dying all the time had to stop.
At least Bellwether-goat and Landon agreed on that much.
And then the goat was there. Landon wasn't sure their semi-escape qualified or whether he'd be impregnated, or infected, or whatever the technical term was for carrying alien spawn. Tears of both pain and emotional stress escaped from Landon's eyes. Where was Daniel now, huh? Landon tried to catch his breath, tried to get back up. So what if Bell was Bellwether-goat now? They still had to get the fuck out of dodge. More goats would come and they didn't exactly discriminate. Actually, if they knew about Bellwether-goat's actions, they might attempt a 'Mindy' on their ass.
Focussing the best he could, Landon transmitted an image of the running goats he'd seen. They needed to get out of here -it needed to flee; Landon cared for losing Bell, but if Bellwether-goat's fleeing alone offered it better chances, that would be fine too. Would Angela be fine? What about Robert-goat? Inside the facility would be fine, probably, with the magnetic fields.
Catching his breath, Landon tried to push up to a stand. He had to run.
Landon stumbled and let out a muffled cry, falling against him, but Bell couldn't stop; he just caught Landon and kept on going, carrying the most of both of their weight. Landon was barely awake at this point, and his stumbling steps didn't do much to help them along. When they came to the fence, Bell just about gave up. But the other prisoners had already climbed up and over, were still in the act; he and Landon could do it, too. Or he could. He wasn't too sure about Landon.
When Landon tossed something at the fence, he only grew a little more concerned. That was weird. Was he thinking straight? Well, probably not! It'd have been more surprising if he had been, after the abuse he'd been put through.
"You think you can?" he asked Landon. The guy had one good arm and could barely walk; they both knew he couldn't. Hell, he probably couldn't even stand without Bell's help. And Bell couldn't possibly carry the both of them over. But he wasn't going to leave Landon behind. Not now, not ever.
There was a scurrying sound in the grass, and he turned. A goat was rushing at them, moving impossibly fast. Bell threw himself to the side, dragging Landon with him so that the man landed on top of him; he hit the ground with an omph, all the air going out of him, but the goat missed them. It crashed through the fence without pause and passed them by, as someone might pass by a beetle they failed to squish, and launched itself at the men ahead of them. Again, the squelch of flesh as they were torn apart, black churning as the goat climbed out from under their skin.
Bell climbed unsteadily back to his feet, hauling Landon up as well, and limped through the fence. There was an air of desperation to his actions, an air of hopelessness. They had to get out. They had to get away. But how? There were goats before them and goats behind. He couldn't escape from this.
Another goat lunged at them, and Bell pushed Landon aside and held his arms out. Black teeth tore into his throat, black claws ripped his guts open. Gagging, he fell to his knees, and the goat leapt away, uninterested in Landon.
Lying in the dirt, he reached out and grabbed Landon's hand. His eyes fluttered shut, and his grip went weak--and then black began to churn as the goat climbed free of his skin.
Goats. They were chasing them? Just what they needed. Landon figured it'd be the guards busting their chops, but matters weren't so simple after all. Was it Robert, or were they the other inmates. Either way the goats would want to get out as well and were probably moody as all hell for being forced out of their shells once again. They had no shape. Landon knew this and still was surprised by the stretched hand squeezing the man's neck to pulp.
Shit was right.
Another one. And this one didn't have to gather itself back up into a proper shape either; this was one churning on the floor, climbing out. Bellwether's presence urged Landon to move faster, into a staggering run. His lungs weren't very grateful at this point.
Before long Landon could barely see straight, just focussed on getting one foot in front of the other without tripping over. They moved in sync, then out of sync, Landon misstepped, caught himself and tried to prevent himself from crying out in pain.
A goat only need a simple excuse to pick a target.
What use was running anyway? In this sort of situation, a goat was way, way quicker. What they ran in five minutes, a goat would cross in less than a second, it was redundant. Telling Bell as much wasn't really in the charts either. Right now, it was important they got away from the facility as quickly as they could anyway. Let the guards deal with the goats. Wait. Robert did mention a dispatch team.
How good were they?
Landon's breathing came in wheezes, and there wasn't quite enough oxygen. More and more of his weight came to rest on Bellwether's shoulders as they progressed. By the time they'd reached the grated fence, Landon was closer to falling unconscious than to remaining awake. Was there power on the fence?
Maybe Bellwether-goat would aid them.
Or would it sit there, watching how they were going to try and get through this fucked up situation, like a young child picking apart an ant -without remorse, or conscience for the consequences of its actions? Landon reached into his pockets and took out the first thing he found, tossing it against the fence.
Anti-climax wasn't exactly how Landon would describe the solemn bopping back of the item.
"Climb?" Landon slurred, slightly concerned with his own lack of awareness.
The duct sloped upward. It was a tough climb on hands and knees, his hands providing the only real traction with his knees encased in cloth. A few times the duct shuddered beneath him, and he glanced back, but either the goats hadn't noticed or didn't care about escaping. The duct remained empty behind him. Almost too empty.
At long last, there was light, the tunnel coming out into somewhere well-lit. Hands grabbed his arms, hauled him out, and he looked around, panicked. Where was Landon?
There. There he was. Relieved, Bell almost didn't hear what was being asked of him, until one of the inmates shook his shoulder. "What?" he demanded.
"Anyone behind you?" the man asked.
Bell smirked. "No," he said. And then his expression turned grim. "Except for a bunch of--" they wouldn't understand goats, so what did he say?
The man nodded understandingly even without him finishing. They hurried out the door, and Bell rushed over to Landon's side and offered him a shoulder. "Let's get the hell out of here," he said, half-carrying Landon towards the door.
"There's one more!" someone called, and Bell turned back just in time to see a hand grip the edge of the pipe. A pure-black hand. The goats had followed them after all. Its arm extended, impossibly long, and gripped the man who'd shouted's neck. He let off a single high-pitched squeal as his neck was broken, and then his flesh, too, began to churn as the slender goat climbed free of the pipe, every limb elongated as though it had been pulled through a taffy stretcher.
"Shit!" Bell shouted, and ran outside.
They were in a forest of some kind; there were a few bunkers and low, ugly buildings above ground behind him, but for the most part the complex was hidden underground. Ahead of them, the other inmates were fleeing through the trees, running to all directions of the wind, some sticking together in pairs or trios. Jim's red hair was just visible through the trees--so he'd abandoned Landon after all. What an asshole.
"C'mon, c'mon," he said, encouraging himself as much as Landon. He was tired, sore from goat-sickness and sore from having been pulled out of the air bent. But if he faltered now, they'd both surely die.
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